The latest releases from the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) such as Thor: Love and Thunder, and the series She-Hulk, which premieres August 17 on Disney+ are being the subject of greater scrutiny from fans, due to the special effects that are lacking. Among the numerous criticisms of the script for the new Thor movie, which has one of the worst ratings on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes of MCU productionsmany people pointed out that some of the VFX effects (special effects applied in the film’s post-production) resulted in poor quality sets.
Now the The Vulture published a An anonymous open letter from one of the VFX employees who work at special effects studios, hired by Marvel to produce the film’s effects. Long working hours, reduced teams, pressure from Marvel, fear of losing job opportunities reveal the appalling working conditions of the studios hired to work on the MCU. Below you can see the full translation of the open letter.
Open Letter from VFX Employee: “Not Every Customer Has Marvel’s Bullying Power”
It’s well recognized within all special effects houses that working on Marvel movies is difficult. When I worked on a movie, it was six months of overtime every day. I worked seven days a week, an average of 64 hours in a good week. Marvel really makes you work hard. I saw colleagues close to me break down and start crying. I’ve seen people having anxiety attacks when talking on the phone.
Where I would have a team of 10 VXF artists on non-Marvel film, on Marvel film I have two including myself.
The studio has a lot of power over the special effects houses, simply because it has so many blockbuster movies coming out one after the other. If you go against Marvel anyway, you have a pretty good chance of not getting these projects in the future. So special effects companies bend over backwards to keep Marvel happy.
To get the job, different special effects studios bid on the project; everyone is trying to outperform other studios. For Marvel, bids always come out below the expected value, and Marvel is happy with this relationship because they save money. But the thing is, all Marvel projects are understaffed. Where I would have a team of 10 VFX artists on non-Marvel film, on Marvel film I have two including myself. So everyone is working harder than they should.
Another thing is that Marvel is famous for demanding several changes during the process. So you’re already working too hard, but Marvel asks for too much change, far more than any other client. And some of those changes are huge. Tmaybe a month or two before release, Marvel will have us alter the entire third act of the movie. The turnaround time is very tight. So yeah, it’s not a very good situation. One of those special effects houses couldn’t finish the number of shoots and reshoots that Marvel was asking for in time, so they gave my studio the job. Since then, that house has been banned from getting new Marvel work..
Part of the problem is with the MCU itself, because of the amount of movies it has. They pick dates and are super adamant about those dates. Yet they do reshoots and major changes close to release dates, without changing the release date.. This dynamic is not new. I remember going to a presentation by one of the VFX studios about one of the first MCU movies and people were talking about how they were being ”Pixel-Fucked” – a term used when the customer complains about all the pixels. Even if you don’t realize it, a customer might say ”this is not what I wanted” and you keep working. But they have no idea what they want, so they’re like, “Can you try this? Can you try that?” they’re going to want you to change an entire setting, a setting, right around launch.
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A good example is what happens in one of the battle scenarios at the end of Black Panther. The physics is all wrong….It looks a bit cartoonish and breaks the visual language of the film.
The main problem is that most Marvel directors are not familiar with working with visual effects. Most of them made small films for the Sundance Film Festival and never worked with VFX. They don’t know how to visualize something that isn’t there yet, that isn’t on set with them. So the Marvel often asks for what we call Final Renders. As we work on the film, we send in production footage that isn’t pretty, but it shows where we are. Marvel asks that they be sent in high quality very early on, and that takes a lot of time. She does this because directors don’t know how to look at images and make decisions.. But that’s how the industry needs to work. You can’t show something super cute while the basics are still being decided.
Another problem is that when we’re in post-production, we don’t have a director of photography involved. So we created the shots most of the time. This causes many inconsistencies. One A good example of such cases is what happens in one of the battle scenarios at the end of Black Panther. Physics is all wrong. Suddenly the characters are jumping, making these moves like action figures in space. Suddenly the camera makes movements that didn’t happen in the rest of the film. It looks a bit cartoonish and breaks the visual language of the film.
Things need to change on both sides of the spectrum. Marvel needs to train its directors to work with visual effects and have a better understanding right away. The studio also needs to bring the director in close so they can commit to what they really want. Another thing is the formation of a union of workers. There is a growing movement to do this because it will ensure that VFX houses do not accept projects without assessing what the impacts will be. Because most of the time, it’s like, you’re working on a Marvel show, and you’re going to work for less because it’s cool..
Some of the issues I mentioned are universal to all films and projects. But you do less overtime at other shows. You also get to talk more with the directors. When they say, “Hey, I want this,” you might say, “But that doesn’t make sense.” Not every customer has the Marvel Bullying Power.
As we can see in the open letter, it seems that Marvel’s relationship problems with the special effects houses are quite extensive and open up terrible working conditions, where small teams have to work excessively, under the firm hand of Marvel, which doesn’t want to. change your schedule. All of this leads to disgruntled workers and problems like those cited in the Black Panther movie. It’s also important to point out that this isn’t the first time that special effects workers have generally commented negatively on what it’s like to work in the MCU.
Source: The Ringer, The Vulture
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