How much are VFX people usually paid

Hard bread for pixel wizards

"In the US, the main upset is, you would normally say: A studio goes bankrupt? Well, they did a bad job!"

Sebastian Stanek, producer for visual effects in Cologne. From the USA, the eye-catcher: the tiger shipwreck drama "Life of Pi". And the work of the American studio Rhythm & Hues for the Ang Lee film "Life of Pi" was judged to be very good, both by the audience and by the Academy, which awarded the Academy Awards. Rhythm and Hughes was unable to pay its 1,400 employees at the time of the Academy Awards, although the film has grossed over $ 500 million so far. And other, quite large and respected companies, such as Pixomondo, are also in crisis. How can it be that an industry that stands for breathtaking perfection and that would be considered economically sound has to be so tight?

Sebastian Stanek:

"It's actually its own fault: they've all pitched themselves down."

Underbid each other with cost estimates.

"Profit margin, you always hear that, three percent, and, you have to say, it's a really decent profit margin when it comes to a 60, 70 million dollar effects budget. But so many people are working on it if 800 effects people are working on a film, then you can count down the salaries, then 60 million at one time is not that much anymore. "

In addition, the visual effects usually do not participate in the sales of a film.

"In my opinion that would be the only solution: that the effects companies really get a share of the profits, because that is currently so tightly calculated that only one thing has to go wrong and the studio goes bankrupt."

VFX is a booming digitization industry. Sebastian Stanek opened his small studio in 2008 and now has four permanent employees. The "green screen", basically the empty space in the color green, is the playground. Advertising that makes drops on beer bottles appetizing and a shaved face appear attractive - those are the bread jobs, and big cinema productions are then prestigious. Stanek was engaged in the feature film "Henri IV" to provide a kind of holistic support for the visual design. It starts with retouching a wristwatch that an actor forgot to take off to the extremely complex digital scenario.

"All the big success films, all blockbusters are effect films. Now with" Life of Pi "in the special case: The entire ocean is digital, the tiger is digital, all animals are digital."

For some settings, the software for composing the scene is specially programmed in the first place. That costs time and money. Another risk factor in the young industry: the costs for the technology are difficult to calculate. Sebastian Stanek stands in his - comparatively small - server room, a back room with a huge computer tower in it. The power cable is always very hot. "Feel it!", He says. From here he works as a small "fabbing" company, as a micro-factory, to the productions. This is how the VFX industry works for the most part, worldwide. And the entrepreneurial risk is high: if a production schedule gets mixed up, the freelance VFX team quickly loses it


"Sure, ILM," Industrial Light and Magic ", that's the giant market leader, it won't happen to them, they now have Disney as a backup, but all other companies - I shouldn't even think about it: If something goes wrong here, then we'll be gone straight away. I don't know too many jobs where it's so tough. "

Stanek watches the news with eagle eyes. He thinks the protests at the Oscars, where banners were held in front of news cameras "I'm outsourced - all I have is this banner" or the Facebook page "VFX Solidarity" are good and overdue. For too long one has given the appearance of an intact world and allowed oneself to be exploited. Incidentally, Hollywood is not that far away for the German entrepreneur. The scene is globally networked and maybe it will work out with the application for the visual effects team of a blockbuster. Even if he will probably not become a star for the time being.