SVOD as a boon for the VFX industry

The rise of subscription video on demand (SVOD) has revolutionized how film and TV content is consumed, and we always hear about the impact it’s had on directors, writers and actors. But what often gets overlooked is how transformative it’s been for the VFX professionals behind the scenes.

It’s clear that Netflix is a key force driving all this change, including all the technical requirements and all the volume. Crucially, it’s also driving up the quality of content on the small screen, because it’s now both providing and distributing content that traditionally went to cinema.

And this quality extends beyond the storylines of films and TV series. The biggest SVOD players are setting new standards on hardware and software fronts, creating both opportunities and challenges for people in VFX.

For example, Netflix adopts the ACES system, which keeps images in a high dynamic range (HDR) and wide colour gamut, ensuring images are stored in the widest possible color space until the final stages of the pipeline. In basic terms, this means that the color your customers see is the one you intended them to see.

This may sound trivial, but it requires an enormous amount of technical expertise. It also ensures that what you’re watching looks the same across all your devices, whether you’re watching it on your computer, a TV or on a PlayStation.

Netflix laptop screen

But SVOD has also led to a proliferation in the sheer volume of content being created, and this in turn has opened up the market. Netflix may be the first to come to mind, but Amazon’s Prime has built a comparable reputation. Their success has spurred many others to create, or plan to create, their own SVOD platforms—from HBO Go through to Disney Life and the BBC.

And, because companies see how much appetite there is for this type of content, they’re willing to take risks by green-lighting shows that would have never made it in the past. This has proved to be hugely beneficial for the VFX industry: not only does it create more work, but it also means VFX professionals are constantly having to up their game and innovate.

Of course, this boom comes with its own set of challenges. For example, Netflix’s demand for 4K resolution and its push to offer HDR content, and the new trend of producing entire seasons of shows all at once, means companies have to keep growing their infrastructure to meet the greater storage requirements.

But despite the added expense and complications it can bring, the rise of SVOD is certainly proving a boon for the VFX industry. 

And, as more traditional networks and entertainment companies announce their intentions to enter this space, we can expect increasing mainstream interest in the crucial role VFX plays in making it all possible.