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View Full Version : Cost/logistics of small multimedia studio setup



Steamthrower
10-14-2007, 12:36 PM
First, a few explanations. I am not out of college yet, but am fairly advanced in multimedia production. I have developed almost a dozen websites for various companies from Texas to Sweden who work in anything from construction to nanotechnology research. I've done arch viz work on everything from churches to skyscrapers and have done a lot of scientific medical visualization. But still, all that said, I'm very new to the multimedia world and I want to have some plans so that when I graduate I will be able to know what's possible.

I am wanting to eventually (maybe five or six years down the road) start a small studio to work in multimedia. Anything from low-end arch viz to VFX. I've had some experience in game modeling for AAA games, which made me not want to do that anymore if possible (too stressful somehow). I already have $12,000 or more worth of equipment (PCs, Macs, pro video cameras, very nice audio equipment). I'm also not wanting to get into debt for any of it, so budget is an issue.

My question is: what equipment does a small studio need, how much could it cost, and what's the minimum number of people required for a professional workflow? As right now I'm working for a small architectural-service company, I am slowly getting the "hang of operations" but eventually I want to work for myself (that's the bucking-up part of me).

Any advice for beginners/dreamers like me, even if it's pessimistic advice, will be greatly appreciated. A note to make might be that I am majoring in international studies/art. So though I have no "multimedia" training per se, I am actively involved in communications & production.

So with that poorly worded and completely incomprehensible thread...

Sarford
10-14-2007, 05:32 PM
Well, I think it's a good idea to wait five or six years and work for a boss during that time. That way you'll learn the tricks of the client handling without much risk (you already figured this out ofcourse).

The price? Who knows... the market can be changed so much in five years due to economics, technological advances, market movements etc, that ist near impossible to tell.

Steamthrower
10-14-2007, 07:03 PM
Good point(s) Sarford, you seem to understand where I'm coming from. I guess what I'm asking mainly is, what capabilities should I have before even considering going full-time?

Say I'm wanting to get into VFX for small stuff like independent films or TV. I have the skills and software for the 3D aspect. But what stuff (manpower included) is necessary? Will I need a green room, $30k cameras, a Shake expert, a render farm, etc.? Or do I need an education at the Dave School or Gnomon or some similar place to be qualified for this work? Is it a field that requires personal connections to enter? Or will a professional demo reel suffice?

AbnRanger
10-15-2007, 10:58 AM
Good point(s) Sarford, you seem to understand where I'm coming from. I guess what I'm asking mainly is, what capabilities should I have before even considering going full-time?

Say I'm wanting to get into VFX for small stuff like independent films or TV. I have the skills and software for the 3D aspect. But what stuff (manpower included) is necessary? Will I need a green room, $30k cameras, a Shake expert, a render farm, etc.? Or do I need an education at the Dave School or Gnomon or some similar place to be qualified for this work? Is it a field that requires personal connections to enter? Or will a professional demo reel suffice?You don't have to run a full-service studio. You can simply operate under a business name (Sole Proprietorship or LLC), and be a "Specialist"... letting other, more established studios and Ad Agencies know what you CAN do.
As far as Green-Screening and such....you can contract that out (there are businesses that specialize in that type of work), and just add it to your project budget...until or unless you have the space an capcity to do that yourself.

Yes, you will want to keep all the PC's that you upgrade from, to use in your render farm, plus you can build your own boxes rather cheaply (skimp on everything but the CPU and RAM) one at a time...as your budget allows.

While you are still in school, learn Shake or another compositor yourself! That's such an integral part of 3D work in general, you really need to know first-hand what tricks you can use in post, so that you aren't spending needless hours inside the 3D program istelf.

Steamthrower
10-15-2007, 12:21 PM
plus you can build your own boxes rather cheaply

Right, I've built decent computers before, basically out of dumpsters, that end up having 512 MB of RAM and a 3 GHz CPU for about $20.


While you are still in school, learn Shake or another compositor yourself!

Thanks for the advice. If I went with any compositor it'd be Shake, and the learning curve has deterred me until know. I guess I will go ahead and splurge on it however. Anybody know if an educational version is available? I haven't been able to find one.

AbnRanger
10-15-2007, 02:39 PM
...If I went with any compositor it'd be Shake, and the learning curve has deterred me until know. I guess I will go ahead and splurge on it however. Anybody know if an educational version is available? I haven't been able to find one.Shake used to cost in the thousands, but last year dropped to, what, $495?...the reason is that Shake is no longer under development. What you get is what you get. Sometime down the road, Apple will unveil a replacement...and it will probably be in line, price-wise to compete with Fusion (about $5000).
IMHO, Combustion is your best bet. You can get an Academic version pretty cheap, and afterward the commercial version can be purchased for as little as $775 (at Videoguys.com). You have a MAC or PC version available. That's what I use, and I love it. Being the desktop brother of Autodesk's Flame (costing in the $100,000's), it has a heck of a pedigree.

It's also a Hybrid. For example, Fusion and Shake are "Node-based", while After Effects is "Layer-based." Combustion has both, so you can choose which ever work flow suits you best.

Steamthrower
10-15-2007, 02:53 PM
Good points. Combustion could be a serious contender for me, but I have had really poor experiences with all things Autodesk, especially dealing with upgrades and support.

Do you know of any compositors that are developed by small companies, such as LW is developed by Newtek? Support and upgrades and bureacracy in general are so much better here than at Autocrat.

Shake might still be the best bet for me in the long run, it'll just take a bit more research to make sure if so/if not.

Does Combustion allow for installation on multiple computers at the same time, if not being used concurrently?

AbnRanger
10-15-2007, 04:23 PM
I know what you mean, but regarding compositing applications, eye-on (makers of Fusion) would be the closest thing to a Newtek sized company, or smaller. If you have $5000 to spend, that would be a good option.
Having said that, Fusion does have a free Personal Learning Edition. You might check that out first.
Shake is a nice piece of software, no doubt...but since it's no longer being developed, you would end up having to relearn another program in a few years. Tough call to make.

Now, regarding the portability of a Combustion license...with 3ds Max you can use a Portable License utility to go from PC to PC, much like you would use a dongle, but I'm not aware of anything like that for Combustion. Not sure why.
By the way, Jarrod Davis (from Zoic) has a good LW+Combustion DVD (scroll down to the 3D fx compositing DVD):
http://www.desktopimages.com/VFX.shtml#Davis

Steamthrower
10-15-2007, 04:39 PM
Yeah. I'm not even out of college so $5000 is an enormous amount for me. That's like a year's worth of Doritos, man. I will seriously look into either Combustion or Shake. Both are fairly mainstream at the moment, which is a definite plus as far as industry standards go.

Surrealist.
10-16-2007, 12:17 PM
I would continue working to get products and deliver services with what you do have now. Use the resources you have to get work in the general field. That is if you have 3D stuff and are good, you can get working producing these assets first. If you have cameras and other gear put that to work also. The overall idea is work gradually, step by step up to your goal. Don't worry so much about what you need to have in order to do what you want. As you work toward your goal, you 'll learn what that has to be and you will be much better off in the long run, more experienced and able to make good decisions along the way to expand.

Seems like you have done well for yourself so far. Think about the idea of looking over what you have done in the past that was successful and continue doing that but expand on it.

The idea of setting up a company and farming out work is a great idea. Business of all types do this all the time. How many mechanics actually own an entire machine shop? But if you take your car in, he'll gladly "rebuild" the engine for you and install it. All he does is take the engine out and send it to a shop. They send it back, he installs it.

In closing, don't try and bite off too much at once.

Your largest asset will always be your knowledge and skill. The time it takes to learn a new program and develop skills is time well spent. Time actually working in the field and the experience you get in doing that is priceless.

Steamthrower
10-25-2007, 08:12 AM
Thanks a lot.

I guess now my question is this (very common question I'll admit): Which is more important to get into VFX, an education from a film/special effects school or a demo reel? And just how good of a demo reel can land me a job, and can I get that good without a dedicated education in CG?