Has the time come in which we will see big changes in VFX production? Projects like The New Kind just might do it. Roninfilm’s new VFX production model employs Kickstarter and crowd-sourced visual effects to create its slick looking CGI-heavy project that can challenge the best big studio work. But is this enough to go up against the tightly controlled, heavily marketed big studio production model?
Roninfilm’s The New Kind attempts to prove that case with an animated/live action series that combines top freelance talent that help lure hundreds of unknown CGI creatives from around the globe. Hugh Hart’s article on Roninfilm’s principal Peter Hyoguchi on Wired’s Underwire blog makes the case. Hart shows how one inspired person with a knack at convincing others of his vision can go on to create a slick looking project without the massive studio infrastructure we’ve grown used to.
Hyoguchi, the project’s founder, is a 30-something director and animator who has kicked around the Hollywood scene for years with limited success that looks to have only whetted his appetite for running his own anime-inspired show. As he says in the Hart article: “Our production company, Roninfilm, is the first international, crowd-sourcing movie studio. We collaborate online and remotely with hundreds of artists. We use our Facebook page to publicly review and hash out ideas.”
While crowd-sourcing can work with the VFX, it won’t necessarily make for good writing. But not to worry, as the series goes after a Japanese anime style that has never been about creating deep, affecting characters. Nonetheless, Episode One creates a credible atmosphere that takes a note from LA street culture to push the narrative along.
This isn’t the first effort to fuse web-based, crowd-sourced VFX work within an overarching structure to provide management and a ready narrative. Mass Animation, begun by former Sony Pictures vice chairman Yair Landau in 2008, also sought to create a new “virtual animation studio” production model. Like Hyoguchi, Landau also employed Facebook to distribute the VFX assets to unknown artists around the world. The LA-based company claimed some 58,000 artists as part of its virtual studio.
Some in the animation community not only saw this as set to fail, but saw it as simple spec work that undermined artists and sacrificed quantity for quality. Justin Cone’s article Mass Animation-Mass Exploitation? lays out the argument for the failure of the model. Cone was on track, it seems, since the Mass Animation website doesn’t seem to have been updated since mid 2010.
The recent bankruptcy of Rhythm & Hues, though, shows that even well-run VFX houses can fail. In a Variety article, Eric Roth, executive director of the Visual Effects Society, wondered if “maybe we need to take a fresh look at how we do business?”
Another striking aspect of the debut of The New Kind — this ain’t your father’s DreamWorks or Pixar. Many in this new generation of animators are more familiar with the latest anime and manga, rather than the now traditional style of those two dominent companies.
What do you think? Can an approach like that of Roninfilm really be a part of the future of VFX? Please add your comments!