Digital Workshops of the World: Software, Source Code and Skills Migration in the Global VFX Industries

Presented by Leon Gurevitch, Victoria University Wellington

Date: Friday 28 February 2020
Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm
Location: Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37) 


Over the last three decades, a network of globally distributed digital visual effects (VFX) companies have arisen from Hollywood’s traditional base in Los Angeles. As Hollywood visual effects production adopted computational practices and technologies, what started out as a branch of computer sciences and their IT industry correlates hybridized. Neither ‘inside’ the Hollywood studios traditional financial structures, nor entirely outside the value chains attached to Hollywood’s film output, the VFX industries have functioned as networks of precarious creative industries, offering work for hire on a film by film, contract by contract basis. All of this has led to an industry defined by the migration of labour to an extent that has dwarfed even traditional Hollywood production. This talk considers the effects and migration of precarious labour, as well as the ensuing implications for the future of a Global Hollywood structured around computational production pipelines. Central to this research are both quantitative and qualitative research approaches that combine interviews with Movie, Games, and Animation professionals (Pixar, Dreamworks, ILM, Weta Digital, Blizzard, Square Enix) with a big data migration visualization tool. The tool details 80,000 migration paths of 30,000 digital image professionals — animators, coders, engineers and artists — across industry and the world over the past 30 years in order to tease out the networked relationships between software, source code, skills migration, and precarious labour in global VFX industries.


A/Professor Leon Gurevitch works in the School of Design in Victoria University Te Herenga Waka, Wellington. He currently holds a New Zealand Royal Society research grant for a three-year project to study digital image industry work cultures and global skills migration. This project maps out the interconnected networks of software, skills and source code in the visual effects industry. This research is part of his larger interest in areas of convergence between art and science, design and technology. It has led to numerous collaborative and cross-disciplinary projects with a focus on Digital Simulation and Imaging Industries. His research covers both traditional academic analysis and less conventional design research outputs (usable software tools, visual representations, social science communication videos, photography and data-visualization). He has a particular interest in the possibilities emerging from software culture and publicly available data.



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Joyce Ackroyd Digital Learning Space Bld (#37)