Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime

2020 and Beyond: How Tech Will Drive the Future of Content

Production Company
London, UK
INFLUENCER: Ntropic ECD Aidan Gibbons on the tech that is changing the VFX landscape

Technology is ultimately making the world a smaller, more connected place. We’re living in a world of immediate gratification where, on average, teenagers (frighteningly) spend two hours a day looking at content, both online and off, delivered straight to their devices. Demand for content is higher than it’s ever been. It’s no wonder that the people consuming the content are now also creating it. Content and creativity have been democratised. 

Universities and colleges are still full to the brim with students learning design, VFX and animation. But there’s also an ever-increasing amount of self-taught artists picking up work and starting their careers long before graduates emerge from college. They're learning on YouTube, Patreon, Vimeo and Gumroad, sharing their findings with the community and also giving back to it.

Tech has connected this growing creative community. Artists from all corners of the globe can easily Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp for free, working remotely across continents on the same job and collaborating in the cloud with little to no overhead. Studios suddenly have access to a wealth of talent from all cultures. Studios and clients can avail themselves of time zones and therefore be more efficient.

I'd argue (controversially, no doubt) that VFX is far less ‘special' than it used to be. It’s no longer this ‘voodoo’ that people (including myself) used to think it was. You just have to look at the cool stuff that Corridor Crew are doing to see how accessible it is now. Creating realistic CG furry animals or water simulations as recently as 10 years ago was far more difficult to do than it is now. The advanced tools and wealth of talent out there today have made doing this kind of work way less special, less appreciated, and therefore cheaper. So, the VFX industry needs to find new ways of providing value as we enter a new era where VFX is a commodity and the most efficient player (with the best service) wins. 

While advancements in tech could have an adverse effect on outdated VFX business models, my inner geek is really excited about what’s in store. 2020 will be a huge year for GPU rendering. Artists and designers will be able to get their ideas down almost immediately, allowing more time to make more great stuff. I'm also really excited about the virtual production tools developed for The Lion King. We'll hopefully start to see this tech trickle into commercials, bringing tools normally reserved for CG artists and animators into the hands of directors and actors.

2020 will, I think, also introduce more AI and machine-learning into software. It’s already starting to seep its way into software, automating processes that used to take artists days and days to create, or even creating the art itself with minimal input. We’ll also see more and more studios embracing the cloud for both ridiculously fast GPU workstations and server storage.

The sweet spot is in the many intersections and overlaps between tech, design, storytelling and VFX. In practice, this means leveraging VR and AR experiences with storytelling and designers. It means skilled CG and 2D artists directing commercials and using their knowledge to plan, produce and post produce them. 

Unless you’re a prolific, hotshot director, the average director will have to do far more than just direct to service a client’s needs - they will have to be a multi-skilled artist to really stand out and stay busy. Everyone will need to embrace new ways of harnessing tech. For example, in a project for Google recently, we harnessed the power of the cloud to render 36 hours of CG content for large screens at a music festival, which then dynamically and interactively changed as the days went by. Projects like these are the future of our industry and evolving means being open to new challenges which require all of us – designers, programmers, producers – to come together to find solutions for the demanding new wave of content approaching. 

Aidan Gibbons is ECD at Ntropic