Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Reel Has Left the Building

In my continuing education in the affordances and constraints of particular software packages, I am now taking a course in After Effects. At our first class meeting, instructor Devin Uzan typically told a number of industry anecdotes. What I thought was interesting was how he described ways that the seemingly closed world of digital animation could reach the more general marketplace or the public sphere.

Apparently digital artists often have difficulty getting footage for their demo reel and generally must wait to rip the DVD version after it enters the consumer market. This can pose challenges to them as members of the labor force, because "before" and "after" shots that illustrate their expertise as individuals in this highly collaborative process can be helpful to them as jobseekers. Like other forms of film-making, these reels often reflect the conventions of a specific genre.

Copyright is also one of the big barriers to replication, particularly since studios are anxious that those who have access to large files of high quality footage might leak the material to allow pirated copies of the film to circulate, perhaps even before the movie premieres. Uzan retold a story from Rhythm & Hues about an artist who had been deported after an FBI investigation showed that he had shared stills with a family member, and that these images then migrated to URLs all over the World Wide Web.

There may be concerns about privacy as well as publicity in the world of computer animation. For example, when working on The Hulk, animators created test footage that showed themselves doing Hulk-like activities and making Hulk-like expressions. Although there was some facetious contemplation about releasing these potentially embarrassing images on YouTube as a prank, the footage never left the building either physically or virtually.

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