The discussions surrounding the use of CGI in modern blockbusters have been heated. Most use it as the basis for their take on what makes or breaks a modern blockbuster, even going as far as to break down an entire film into one single screenshot. What is lost in the shuffle is the dire state of the entire industry, as many VFX companies are forced to close shop and work under problematic deadlines.
While a general industry issue, it has been boiled down to the MCU due to their film’s reliance on special effects. Still, VFX veteran Todd Sheridan Perry sat down with Inverse to discuss the general situation in the industry and how VFX has to be created within short deadlines, as the count grows while postproduction time windows shrink.
It falls squarely on the shoulders of studios that set a release date and then work backward from there. The time isn’t enough to live up to the ambition of the project.Todd Sheridan Perry
Perry has worked on the infamous Black Panther third act, where the effects have struggled even as the film received critical acclaim. He highlights that “there were multiple things going on in act three” that played a factor. What does paint an interesting picture is that Marvel Studios actually recognized the time crunch and wanted to support the production studio. The only issue is that the good intention accidentally leads to a different issue as they utilize very different software that doesn’t cooperate as well.
We’d already done tons of development work on the vibranium mines and it all had to be packaged up and sent over to DNEG. Even if you’re in the same company and sending it to a different department, packaging all that up and having it work requires a lot of elbow grease. DNEG didn’t have the time to polish their shots as much as other companies who’d been working on the film for seven or eight months, and they were caught at a disadvantage. I’m not saying DNEG is a bad company – they have a closet full of Oscars. They thankfully took it on and it actually got done. We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it otherwise.Todd Sheridan Perry
Understanding the context adds up a lot to what exactly happened. Marvel Studios seemingly had good intentions in supporting its VFX company. Yet, they also still fall into some old issues such as some of their biggest films getting finished a week before release, which is something that they hopefully start learning to avoid moving forward.
Even the Marvel films, which have all the resources in the world, play this dangerous game. Avengers: Endgame had 1,000 VFX shots delivered one week before the film was in theaters.Todd Sheridan Perry
Yet, there are some productions that also push it to their brink, such as the infamous work on Cats, which he also highlights in his interview.
The worst example is Cats. Cats didn’t just suffer from bad CG, but missing CG. And it’s for all the reasons we’ve talked about.Todd Sheridan Perry
He has praised productions like Parasite and Little Women for “absolutely invisible” VFX work. These films work under very different circumstances with less pressure of putting out a high-budget blockbuster within a specific release date. There’s a general issue in the modern-day that content needs to be dropped at a fast pace, as it is believed to keep interests and franchises alive. That issue is definitely affecting big-budget projects, especially Marvel which only can rely on its singular IP. Demand and supply have created a cycle that will be hard to break. Yet, hopefully, the cycle breaks before the talent that manages to provide amazing work under extreme pressure.