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Visual effects: Cinema's problem child

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

By Reagan Liu October 13, 2022

Visual effects, or VFX for short, have undergone major technological advancements—the most significant being computer generated graphics, or CGI. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a film that does not utilize any form of VFX. But while creating imagery after the shoot has the potential to bring key elements into films, many fear that the overreliance on effects and eye-catching visuals detracts from the soul of a film while alienating those who produce them.

“Visual effects do not create real cinema. They lack the psychological experiences that traditional film provides. Real cinema does not rely on VFX—instead, it depends on human beings to convey their emotions to the audience,” Senior Micheal Que said.

The overuse of VFX in film has introduced a myriad of issues within the movie industry. For modern films to be more profitable in the box office, VFX artists are often overworked and underpaid. The Daily Orange, an independent student-run newspaper, reports that 38% percent of VFX workers exceeded 100 hours of work per week, with 90% of these workers not compensated for overtime. When accepting a job from a client, VFX studios are paid upfront based on timelines set by movie producers. However, film studios such as Marvel Studios are known for making many last minute changes to scenes that can exceed estimated work times and budgets. This method of under-informed commissions result in the overwork and underpayment of VFX employees.

The inefficient business model has been the primary reason that many VFX companies are going bankrupt and failing, even after working on largely successful projects. According to No Film School, the VFX company behind the live action Lion King film, Moving Picture Company, shut down due to the expenses involved in the project. Despite working on a film that pulled in more than $1.7 billion dollars, the cost of development exceeded the upfront payment the company had received from Disney.

The rushing of VFX projects has also affected the quality of finished films. As mentioned by Inverse, many fans criticized the noticeable flaws in Black Panther’s special effects. Thus, unrealistic deadlines not only cause stress for workers, but also detract from the quality of films.

“There is so much for VFX artists to do, in such short amounts of time. You can see it in the suits for the Spider-man movie, but unfortunately, the end product does not look as real due to the time constraints,” Senior Brandon Vu said.

VFX artists have begun to speak out about their displeasure. According to IGN Entertainment, multiple VFX employees have criticized Marvel, revealing that the company sets unrealistic deadlines for production problems, with many workers calling for a change to the inefficient process. Some are even quitting the field of visual effects entirely, blaming long work hours and low pay.

But for now, the movie industry remains unwilling to improve their treatment of VFX workers. Producers with tight budgets are reluctant to switch business models since penny pinching on the visual effects department helps cut down on production expenses. Many high-level executives are simply unaware of the problems artists face as most VFX companies are independent of movie studios. Perhaps as workers continue to speak out, these issues may eventually be addressed.

Kailey Hu Art


About the Contributors

Reagan Liu

entertainment & student spotlight page editor

Reagan is a senior at Leland High school and a page editor in Leland Journalism. He likes producing music and cooking.

Kailey Hu

art director

Kailey Hu is a senior at Leland High school and is one of the Art Directors for The Charger Account. During her free time, she likes to spend her time drawing, going on walks, sewing, reading, and crafting

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