Movies or Games: “Advance and Retreat” of Chinese Visual Effects Talents


Games and film and television are invariably rushing on the road to expand the scale and establish the industrialization process. As an essential and scarce production factor, high-quality talents naturally flow to the more attractive side.

In the “Three Tone” interviews with film and television animation practitioners in the past year, a key issue has been repeatedly mentioned: the scarcity and loss of talents.

While the film and television animation industry, which has not yet found a long-term revenue path, is transforming to industrialization, an all-round quality upgrade competition and head project competition are also taking place in the Chinese game industry. Correspondingly, the game industry with strong ability to attract money provides more competitive salaries.

When the “Hollywood dream” of Chinese film and television collided with the “3A dream” of Chinese games, the film and television industry suddenly “flashed”.

In November 2020, Newzoo released the 2020 Global Game Market Report, stating that the global game market revenue in 2020 will reach US$174.9 billion and the total number of players will reach 2.68 billion. Among them, the Chinese game market performed exceptionally well. With 44 billion U.S. dollars, it became the game market with the highest share in the world. It is expected to form 49% of the global game market revenue together with the United States.

Newzoo predicts that the first half of 2020 will be the peak of market growth. After the epidemic is over, consumers’ attention to games will still have a long tail, and most of the growth trends in game revenue and participation will continue.

The rise of games against the trend in the epidemic has stimulated the enthusiasm of major domestic manufacturers to invest in games. According to the statistics of Game Grape, there will be at least 103 investment and financing cases for domestic game-related companies in 2020, and the number of investment cases at the end of the year has increased sharply, with a single amount ranging from several million to more than one billion. In addition to companies such as Tencent, NetEase, and Xindong.com, traditional companies such as Bytedance, Kuaishou, Ali, and even Mingchen Health have also launched games.

The rapid increase in the number of projects is the demand for people, and talent is the decisive factor in the game industry.

In 2021, the Spring Festival advocates the Chinese New Year on the spot, and various game companies use “thousands” as an overweight unit to issue new year subsidies. In the end, it has almost become a competition to show off each other’s muscles. The follow-up news that Lilith’s annual popular mobile game “Sword and Expedition” project team has a total year-end dividend of 190 million, and the average dividend per capita exceeds 2 million, making the game company’s ability to attract gold once again a topic.

Behind the high-profile bonuses and benefits and generous large dividends, the competition for talents among game companies is becoming fierce. However, the number of talents in the industry is limited, and no one can fill up the huge vacancies no matter how much they move.

Giant Network Co-CEO Wu Meng gave a speech on “How to Deal with Talent Challenges in the New Era” at the China Game Industry Annual Conference in December last year, saying that the game industry is booming to this day, driven by good products, and good products are driven by talents. . “Basically every company is short of people now, and the competition for talent is far greater than the competition for products.”

In August 2020, the domestic game “Black Myth: Wukong” quickly reached the top of station B with the concept film and the hot search on Weibo. The team chose to announce the game at this time. The original intention was to recruit talents. Unexpectedly, the superb production quality will let other game companies. After hearing the wind, he came to dig a corner. Team leader Mei Yang Qi said in an interview with Touch Le that there is a shortage of technical art (technical art, positions that understand both procedures and art) in the team, and there are not many mature technical art in China, and some of them are in large factories. He had no choice but to “please let HR greatly spare” this small team of only 30 people.

There are too many people in the industry, and the scope of digging has expanded to industries with similar employment needs, such as film and television special effects.

To understand how the talent competition in the game industry affects the film and television industry, you can first look at the main types of work in the game industry. They are roughly divided into three categories: game planning, game art, and game programs. Among them, game planners are responsible for formulating the rule system and gameplay of the game, building worldview output copywriting; game programs are responsible for building game development software to achieve planning needs; game art is responsible for visual effects and packaging, and the main positions include 2D art, 3D art, and UI , Action, special effects and graphic design, etc.

It can be seen from the breakdown of positions that the technical talents required for game planning and art, whether it is 2D3D character original painting, animators, special effects artists, scene design, or virtual engine development, are all related to the film and television special effects and animation industries. There is a lot of overlap.

With the successful proofing of new head games such as “Original God”, an all-round quality upgrade and industrialization competition is taking place in the game industry. The original buying thinking is still applicable, but the importance of game quality and player experience is quickly highlighted, and game art is no longer a marginal role back then.

“Mi Painter”, a drafting platform that has undertaken a large number of art outsourcing needs of leading game manufacturers, told “Sansheng” in September 2020 that the domestic game industry still grabbed demographic dividends in 2013, but a large number of mobile games began to emerge in 2015 to allow users We have consciously raised the selection criteria.

“Gameplay, quality, originality, these things have entered everyone’s attention. The art style must be unique, high-quality, eye-catching, and the possibility of IP. For example, create a favorite and willing to buy its surroundings. The role may be derived in the future, even movies, animations, etc. Game companies will have deeper requirements when submitting drafts.” Mi Painter’s co-founder Tu Jingdong observed.

Zhang Feng, head of the game at Station B, also told “Three Tones” in August 2020 that they can feel that game users are slowly evolving. Today, people who have experienced 3A masterpieces such as “Soul of Tsushima” may find it difficult to accept low-quality games.

For example, Quantic Dream’s large-scale interactive game “Detroit: Become Human” released in 2018 can already be viewed as an animated movie. The Nomad Star column comment even believes that the sensory impact it provides surpasses most console games and is close to Hollywood special effects blockbusters. The production process and standards have also moved closer to film and television works.

Thousands of pages of unfinished game scripts were first handed over to the development team. 220 live-action extras participated in the 3D scanning, and their models were then made into the characters in the game. Then there was a lot of filming and animation work. The development team spent one year and six months to complete the motion capture of all the actors.

“The (game) industry has increasingly higher requirements for industrialization capabilities. We call it Production Value internally. The threshold for fine art, technology, production, etc. will become higher and higher. And in this process, PC The orientation between host and mobile platforms is getting closer and closer.” Ma Xiaoyi, senior vice president of Tencent, said in an interview at the 2020 Tencent Game Annual Conference.

Take Tencent’s national mobile game “King of Glory” as an example. Tencent’s game studio is paying more and more attention to the fineness of character modeling and the richness of derivative content. All the old version of the character models have undergone renewal and adjustment. The CG of the story before the start of each new season, the scene, the complexity of the action, and the length of the animation are also increasing at a speed visible to the naked eye.

The similar “precision update” is more obvious in the two-dimensional game. NetEase’s well-known old-brand mobile game “Onmyoji” made its debut in 19 years with the gorgeous animated CG chapter of “Sun Wheel City”. This 10-minute plot was produced by the animation company “Two Ten Tens”, which has undertaken in recent years. It has produced a large number of mobile game animations including “Glory of the King” and “Tomorrow’s Ark”, and produced multiple game CGs with more than 10 million hits.

The animation company Black Rock Network reported by “Three Voices” also started from the production of game CG. After its establishment in 2013, Black Rock Network has maintained cooperation with well-known domestic and foreign game companies such as Tencent, NetEase, and Game Workshop. It has participated in 3A masterpieces such as “Warhammer” and “The Elder Scrolls” and popular mobile games such as “Wild Action” and “EVE”. Art design, 3D production, CG animation production.

When creating the first original animation drama “Skeleton Knight”, Black Rock Network abandoned the traditional rendering method and directly carried out more efficient and convenient animation production in UE4. UE4 was originally an engine for game development. As its functions are updated and improved, it is being used more and more in film and television production.

Similar intersections continue, the roads to be taken overlap, and the need for talents from film and television special effects and animation companies naturally occurs.

In January 2021, Xu Jianyi, the founder of MORE VFX, a well-known domestic visual effects company, attracted the attention of film and game circles at the same time. Xu Jian wrote that due to the crushing talent plunder in the game industry, the film visual effects industry is facing the embarrassing situation that no one will be available within the next year. In order to retain a few talents, MORE will increase its offer in stages.

As a leading domestic film and television company, MORE is responsible for the special effects production of films such as “Xiuchundao”, “The Wandering Earth” and “Assassination of Novelists”. Even with a long record, Xu Jian still feels that the special effects company can’t make money and can’t keep people.

Xu Jian told “Three Tones” in January 2021 that MORE has been focusing on undertaking advertising business since its establishment. The number of people has expanded dramatically to more than 80 people. Both the management difficulty and the cost and expenditure have risen geometrically. After the film was completed, MORE posted nearly 3 million in it, while the company’s total annual revenue was only 6 or 7 million. When I did “The Story of Wukong”, I lost money again.

The strategic significance of these projects is greater than the actual revenue. Through these two films, MORE proved that domestic visual effects companies have the ability to manage a large-scale film and television project, and more cooperation will come to the door. But at this time they found that their energy was not enough. “The main reason is that we can’t keep up with the training speed of project directors, and the number and energy are limited.” Xu Jian said that they decided to cut off the advertising business, which was MORE’s main source of revenue at the time.

Today, MORE VFX has shown a high degree of connection with Guo Fan, Lu Yang and Rao Xiaozhi, a group of directors who intend to learn Hollywood. From the large-scale post-production work of “The Wandering Earth” to the full-process management of “Assassination of the Novelist”, running through a series of problems such as motion capture, virtual shooting, facial capture, virtual and real shooting, MORE is becoming a technical supporter. A deep participant in the large-scale experiment of China’s film and television industrialization.

In Xu Jian’s view, special effects companies like MORE, which are deeply involved in the whole process of production and industrialization, are different from general outsourcing companies that win by quantity. They need very advanced talents and have high requirements for comprehensive capabilities such as art, technology and innovation. .“His industry experience can really bring value to the company. He should have been working for three or five years. It really won’t help if it is short.”

However, these talents are exactly what the game industry desperately desires.On the official website of Lilith Games alone, there are more than 80 urgent recruitment positions in the art category. The positions include senior storyboarder, character original painting and 2D3D animator, etc. Many positions require applicants to have senior animation or special effects industry experience, Familiar with the virtual engine.

Compared with game companies with “rich wealth”, the salary in the film and television industry is seemingly unattractive. In 2019, “CG World” used crawlers to count the CG positions of major recruitment websites. Taking Beijing and Shanghai as examples, junior positions (1-3 years of work) in the three-dimensional modeling, rendering, special effects, and animation industries, and the visual effects industry. The given monthly starting salary is about 5K~10K, and the senior position (working for three years or more) is 8K~25K.

In contrast, hunting data shows that the average salary of a game art artist who has worked for 1-3 years is 21k. According to the “Spring Job Competition Weekly Report” released by Zhaopin Recruiting in March 2020, the average salary in the gaming industry is 12,158 yuan per month, surpassing the financial industry to become the highest-paying industry.

In the large-scale school recruitment initiated by major companies in the second half of 2020, the demand for game-related positions and starting salaries have risen again. This is not only related to the overall performance of the game during the aforementioned epidemic, but also related to the product incubation of major manufacturers and the dock department. Mihayou invested 100 million US dollars in research and development of the mobile game “Original God”, which swept the country and abroad, making friends and businessmen feel the need to raise costs.

According to the game grape report, the basic cost of the slightly more important projects within Tencent is around 300 to 500 million. Many R&D companies that have the strength to compete in the top market have also raised the cost line of key projects to 200 million. This price is no less than the investment of a theater-line movie, and exceeds the total cost of many dramas and animation dramas.

Xu Jian is full of regret for the departure of the MORE employees. Some employees have been working for seven or eight years and have worked well with the company. The accumulation of experience and skills is already sufficient, but because of the forced life, they can only choose to leave the visual effects. , Go back to his hometown to engage in other industries.

A similar departure is also happening in the animation industry. After the first animated film of the Fengshen series of chasing animation, “New Gods List: Nezha Rebirth” was released, the box office has not been very popular. Director Zhao Ji sent a long Weibo to indicate that a colleague who is very important to the Fengshen project will change careers.He wrote with a complicated mood: “Dreams can wait, but life can’t wait.”

To make matters worse, the situation of the rookies is not optimistic.“The visual effects industry has not been able to recruit high-quality newcomers for many years.” Xu Jian said.

The most source of talents, college education itself is misaligned with industry needs.The founder of Black Rock Network, Ni Zhenjie, told “Three Tones” in December 2020 that the number of students graduating from animation and art-related majors is small every year. In addition, many college teachers are not in the front line of the industry. Skills and knowledge are not understood. Newcomers entering the company need 3-6 months of pre-job training to match the needs of the project.

“It’s as serious as the lack of water resources in the Loess Plateau.” Li Haoling, the founder of the well-known domestic two-dimensional animation company Huameng, described the animation talent gap as an example. He told “Three Tones” in January 2021 that when this group of practitioners just started to make two-dimensional animations, they can be described as a desert of talents, without dripping water.

There are too few animators with realism skills in China. At this stage, some animation projects avoid the problem of “portraiting people” in a personalized way, and use a more cartoonish and personalized way to reduce the audience’s requirements for modeling, but this is not long-term. Plan. “The evolution of all industries is inseparable from industrialization. In this case, three-dimensional animation has gone a long way, and two-dimensional animation still needs colleagues to work together to catch up.”

Through the efforts of the past few years, the domestic two-dimensional animation has been restarted, with the support of the platform gradually, and increased investment in the project. The company has the money to recruit and train people, and now we can see green hair growing on the barren land. . “But to say when it will become an oasis, it’s a lot short of time.” Li Haoling said.

Newcomers who grow up will soon receive an olive branch from the game industry.Xu Jian jokingly said that MORE has become a training school. When they set up a branch in Chengdu, they thought that the cost of living in Chengdu was lower and that they could retain more people. However, they did not expect that “people were poached at the door every day.” More than a hundred people dug up to sixty or seventy now.

To retain people, the most direct way is to make the entire industry rich and able to offer high salaries, but Xu Jianxiang said three times that the entire Chinese film industry has not yet established a stable long-term revenue model.

Compared with movies with a fixed release cycle and box office as the main income, and drama animations with copyright procurement and advertising placement as the main income, the game undoubtedly has a longer revenue life and a richer and more effective means of monetization-birth The mobile games “FGO” and “Glory of the King” in 2015 are still the evergreens of their respective manufacturers.

In a recent media sharing session, Chen Wei, founder of 52TOYS, a fashion company, used Transformers as an example. A successful IP should make the film and television work itself become a product advertisement for more than 100 minutes, and then earn several years of long-term income through derivative sales. . This is also the ideal state of China’s film and television industrialization. But as Sansheng pointed out when discussing the development of the movie universe, the smooth operation of the Hollywood IP development mechanism is inseparable from the collective industrial structure.

After decades of mergers and acquisitions, Hollywood’s entertainment giants have owned corporate groups spanning various entertainment and media industries. Under the coordination of the parent company, these companies can be transformed into business units that develop and promote the same movie IP in different ways. , Maximize the value of IP. In addition to the heavy-duty project of movies, lighter and more flexible content such as comics, drama series, and games is also being promoted simultaneously. This can effectively mitigate risks and prevent improper operation of a single project from causing huge losses to the company.

China’s content industry is still far away from this complete system.Also as a special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic is a subsidiary of Lucas, supported by the entire group system, and Industrial Light & Magic does not need to bear specific revenue pressure. But China does not yet have Lucas. Film development is mainly carried out in the form of joint investment, and the degree of capital investment in visual effects is limited. Special effects companies such as MORE need to independently pay for their own survival.

“The real solution to the core problem is to change the revenue structure of the entire film industry.” Xu Jian believes that it takes time for both the director and the company to grow. “The Chinese are fast, but I think it will take three to five years before we can achieve our line and basic cognition, and then slowly run the entire industry chain together. There will definitely be many pits and many losses to eat. “

To retain talents requires change, and change takes time, but the loss of talents prevents the continuous flow of time, and things seem to fall into a temporarily unsolvable cycle.

The games and film and television industries are on a longer timeline or in different ways. Just as “Onmyoji” and other games plan to launch animation movies to increase IP influence, Black Rock Network plans to develop games for the original drama “Star Skeleton” to generate revenue. In the vision of IP diversification, games and film and television content can be a starting point for each other And the end point, they are all part of the circle.

However, the two industries are invariably rushing on the road to expand scale and establish industrialization processes. High-quality talents, as an indispensable and extremely scarce production factor, naturally flow to the more attractive side. This is a normal market behavior, and there is no need to impose moral harshness on temporary winners.

Xu Jian also understands these digs, “Actually, I have no malice against them (the game company), and we are also helpless. This is normal market logic. The game industry is more money.” But the possible situation is that the content of the film and television will be more. It mostly appears downstream of creative output rather than upstream.

In his speech at the Game Forum, Wu Meng also called on all game companies not to fall into endless competition for people. “The core idea cannot be solved by digging people, and it is not conducive to the healthy development of the industry.” The most fundamental solution is Sink down and train young people.

This is obviously a long process.

The flow of people will never stop, and it seems that gaps and regrets can only be made up by the development of the market to a relative balance.


Source: Three Tones
Address: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/oPFlMdCB6bEkdfqPBk3F1g

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