The Rhythm and Hues of Hollywood

Like anyone, I love a good movie or television series.

I was hooked into Lost and Heroes all those years ago. I couldn’t afford any merchandise at the time, being a high school student; but if I could have I am sure I’d still be stuck with figurines and posters. I even named my indoor plant Ando!

Sadly Ando is no longer with us (the plant, not the actor), but it was around to see the Writer’s Guild of America strike occur way back in 2007 and 2008. All of Hollywood was brought to its knees when screenwriters went on strike, demanding better working conditions and ultimately, payment. (As you’ll know, if you’ve watched Lost or Heroes, both of these shows suffered in terms of storyline through the strike.)

It was at this time that YouTube took to the stage. Many television shows created by actors and budding writers in those months came to light through internet distribution. Probably the most notable is Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris and featuring Nathan Fillion. Internet distribution meant that people could keep the world entertained without having to be a “scab” and deal with studios, who were the people not paying the writers who create from scratch the product they make money from. That all sounds reasonable, right?

Wait, what’s that sound?

My DVD collection of Spartacus, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead call to me; heavy with visual effects in every episode. My House Stark scarf is being delivered from the USA as we speak because I’m so in love with the show! I even saw Oscar-winning Life of Pi at the cinema to be sure I got the entire experience.

Yet, I am horribly saddened. The Visual Effects studio that created the amazing CG tiger Richard Parker (above), has gone bankrupt.

Rhythm & Hues; a studio that even worked on X-Men, has filed for bankruptcy while accepting an Oscar for best visual effects in a movie and passing half a billion dollars in profit. If it wasn’t for Rhythm & Hues there wouldn’t have been a life for Pi to live and therefore an Oscar to be won… and no half a billion dollars in profit.

‘Grading’ done on the boat, pants and skin will be done through all scenes to ensure consistency.

When about to mention the issue in his acceptance speech and thank all of the VFX artists in particular, Bill Westenhofer, VFX supervisor at Rhythm & Hues, was cut off by the dramatic “you can’t talk anymore!” Jaws music and his microphone muted. Disrespect much? Absolutely.

VFX companies sign on to bad deals, typically at a loss, to at least secure a job for their portfolio. This in theory will bring in more clients that will pay the big bucks. But the Hollywood production companies walk away with the profits, and artists who dedicate their lives to the industry get short changed on salary and risk job security.

This isn’t the first studio to go belly up, despite great work.

Digital Domain (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), Asylum FX, Cinesite (The Dark Knight) and Cafe FX, have filed for bankruptcy protection or closed their doors.

You may think this means an end to all of the superhero and fantasy movies; perfect if you prefer alternative films! Well, no.

Visual Effects and Post-Production houses and departments also make the news ticker on CNN. Any form of video that appears on a television or movie screen has gone through “the Post department”, and it will never be otherwise. A tweak of colour, a blur of a streaker’s junk, the lotto numbers, blue cat-like animals in Avatar: it all appears on-screen just right because of Post-Production. A writer makes the recipe; the talent and film crew bake the cake, but post? In a poorly lit room with three PC monitors crammed on to a tiny desk ice the cake. Over and over and over and over… until it is perfect. And they aren’t getting a slice.

Not convinced? Have a look at the set of Life Of Pi below. That would have been a boring movie, no? Rhythm & Hues going bust is the last straw for the VFX industry. In protest, the internet is “going green”, to represent the green screens used to compose effects in behind actors on set and support the artists across the world who make the movies we love so much!

So please, save the green bar below and upload it as your avatar across all social media networks. You can even choose a shade that best suites you!

Will you be supporting the VFX industry by ‘going green’? What are some of your favourite VFX moments? Let us know below, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Filed under Buttons & Screens, Square Eyes

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