In my most recent post, I explained how real-time animation is radically changing the filmmaking process by making video effects (VFX) happen as the movie is being filmed rather than through post-processing.

That column was based in part upon an article in Variety magazine describing how real-time animation is being used on set. Variety also pointed out something that I believe may have an even greater moneymaking potential:

Real-time holds the promise of being a lot cheaper than traditional production technologies. This opens up opportunities for a new crop of filmmakers to produce Hollywood-like fare at much lower budgets, especially when it comes to animation."

If you're an entrepreneur the phrase that sticks out in the quote is "much lower budgets." Why? Because cost reductions always means that somebody will make beaucoup bucks making those reductions happen, right?

You're probably thinking... what level of cost reductions are we talking about here? Half as expensive? A third, maybe? Well, hold onto your green eye-shades because here's the real scoop.

Immediately after typing "the real scoop," I popped over to my animation PC and, in ten minutes, made the following animated clip of a Disney-style princess (I used iClone from Reallusion, if you're curious):

Frozen it's not, I admit. But consider: I have absolutely no formal training as an animator but was able to custom-build a princess character (my daughter helped with the design), lip-synced some dialog and animate the character... in a mere matter of minutes. 

Let's do the numbers! An animated feature like Frozen costs upwards of $60,000 a second to create. The three second clip above cost about $1 a second.  At most. So real-time animation is, at the very least, many thousands of times cheaper than traditional animation.

"This is a watershed moment," explains former 20th Century Fox VP and filmmaker James Dodson, "It represents the democratization of animation so that mere mortals can do the same things that in the past only big studios could accomplish."

Dodson is already using real-time animation to create pre-visualizations of his projects so that they can be filmed at a much lower cost. Here's an example of his work:

Now, that's obviously not intended to be the finished product, but it's pretty clear that with more detailed models and fancier animation (all quite doable with modern real-time tools), it could be eminently watchable. 

So, put on your entrepreneur hat and consider: what usually happens when technology makes a product exponentially cheaper? If history is any guide that's exactly where the big fortunes are made.

Just to be clear, I haven't the slightest intention or inclination to turn my animation hobby into a business. But it's very clear to me, and to others in the industry, that new studios and animation houses will cropping up like crazy over the next few years.

Dodson explains: "It's only a matter of time before an animated feature done with real-time or a live-action feature done with real-time VFX will become a huge hit, even though it only cost a tiny fraction of what it would normally cost."

Just remember, folks. You read about it here first.

Published on: May 20, 2019
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