2021 State of the VFX Industry

2021 State of the VFX Industry

February 25, 2021
Ben Thompson

2020 was a year full of challenges, adversity, and most of all — innovation. Here's our State of the VFX Industry address.

While the effects of a global pandemic have impacted filmmaking and VFX in so many ways, 2020 demonstrated that resilience, flexibility, and innovation have continued to provide success for the industry.

With movie theater attendance still in limbo, streaming TV has reached peak demand. The landscape of cinema is changing and uncertainty about the future is still there, but the need for VFX production is at an all-time high.  

With major tentpole blockbusters hitting streaming and theaters simultaneously, along with astronomical budgets for streaming TV shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision, it’s clear that even though business models are shifting, audiences are more engaged than ever before. And the VFX industry isn’t going anywhere.

Today, we’re taking a look back at some of 2020’s biggest technological breakthroughs for VFX artists, as well as a few predictions for 2021. 

Major Advancements in AI

As Adobe Sensei and the DaVinci Neural Engine continue to push the envelope for AI-enhanced features in industry-leading software, incredibly powerful standalone platforms like Runway ML are also emerging that allow you to leverage machine learning to automate tedious tasks, find new inspiration, and explore VFX possibilities in a whole new way.

Imagine having an assistant at your side with their own dedicated hardware, and all you have to do is point them in the right direction and they take care of it from there. Hours of roto work, green screen keying, and more can be accomplished in mere minutes.

In the tutorial below, learn how you can quickly rotoscope your VFX shots in a matter of clicks, all with the free Runway ML web app!
Here's the best part! Since all the work is happening server-side, there's no need for powerful hardware or dealing with slow render times on your local machine. Plus, you can even output alpha channels in 4K! 

Additionally, deepfake software is quickly approaching the point where it's not just a gimmick, but instead has the potential to truly aid in improving CG shots by filling in the cracks with a detailed synthesized pass, making it possible to overcome the infamous uncanny valley.

Tighter VFX Pipeline Integration 

Tools like Nvidia Omniverse are standardizing 3D workflows like never before, offering artists a much more intuitive and streamlined process for working across multiple apps.  

With remote VFX work becoming even more common than it was prior to 2020, having an integrated toolset like Omniverse that can easily be shared, iterated, and transferred to the next phase in post-production can keep your team on track and ensure things flow much more smoothly.

Cloud Computing Could Further Democratize VFX Production 

If you’ve ever dreamed of being able to supercharge your computer without the need for a costly hardware upgrade, Shadow brings one of the industry’s most alluring cloud PC experiences for a low monthly fee.

These aren’t just nominal mid-range computers, either. The beauty of their service is that their servers are built with high-end gaming in mind, making VFX editing over a low-latency cloud connection a reality, even on iOS and Android devices, along with any other PC or Mac you may have lying around.

This is a perfect solution for start-up VFX companies or those who are looking to get into VFX work without breaking the bank.

Virtual Production Continues to Blow Everyone’s Minds

Thanks to mainstream interest in virtual production techniques from The Mandalorian and Epic Games' commitment to making the Unreal Engine more accessible than ever to game devs and VFX artists everywhere, demand for virtual production skills is higher than ever.

Recently, an incredible tech demo was unveiled that showcased a new application for creating digital humans with ease: MetaHuman Creator
This new interface allows artists to design virtual actors in the same way you'd create a character in a video game menu. Additionally, the character is fully-rigged and ready for motion capture as soon as it's imported into the Unreal Engine.

And even prior to MetaHuman Creator, the line between fan films and feature films has blurred tremendously, and soon they could be indistinguishable.

Check out what's possible with a single (albeit very talented) Unreal Engine artist in just two weeks!
As you can see, full-body motion rigged input is becoming one of the most powerful CG animation tools yet.

Expect virtual production to continue growing as safety protocols are much easier to manage on closed sets, and the quality of virtual production pushes the envelope even further.

This also means roles in filmmaking and video game production will begin to see a significant overlap, so the horizons of those skilled in virtual production will be truly vast.

Mobile Devices are Becoming VFX Tools

As seen in the end of the video above, mobile devices are becoming ideal in the indie VP pipeline for acquiring motion capture data, as well as turning your mobile device into a virtual production camera.

But for traditional VFX artists, it doesn't get more exciting than FXhome's release last year of CamTrackAR.
CamTrackAR makes complex 3D scene solving as seamless as it could possibly be on a mobile device.  Simply open the app, film your scene, and use the tracked camera data to composite your scene to perfection.

More Opportunities for Learning VFX and Working Remotely

For anyone interested in a degree in VFX, remote learning is more possible than ever before with so many schools turning to online education. And one of the biggest drawbacks to pursuing a career in VFX could soon be a thing of the past: having to relocate for work.

Teams all across the globe adapted and learned to leverage remote technology in more useful ways than ever before. What's most significantly changed in many industries is the mindset that workers must be on location, even if their job doesn't physically require them to be.

VFX artists can hopefully look forward to many more remote work opportunities. This not only makes for a better work-life balance, but also opening the door to work on projects they otherwise may not have been able to, had relocation been a requirement.

ActionVFX's "Crowd" Assets Will Fill the Gap That COVID Left!

We're super excited about our new Crowd elements that are in the works. COVID has left its mark on the VFX and filmmaking industry, yet innovation supersedes it, and we want to be a part of that.
On set with a green screen.
The Crowd elements will help productions of all sizes be able to have real human background extras to aid your scenes that need other people.

As you know, if we're going to do it, we're going to do it right. During these uncertain times, we will give your scenes the full scale of a non-COVID production with stock footage.

Stay tuned as we grow closer to officially unveiling these elements!

First time here? From Fire and massive Explosions to Blood and Gore VFX, we have the largest VFX library in the world ready to be composited in your project. Check out over 3,800 VFX stock footage elements right here. You can also download our free products!

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