Do you remember the glamour that attracted you to the world of 3D stereo conversion industry? Maybe watching a 3D movie with your friends or family? Or the thought of getting your name up there in the credit list of big Hollywood projects? Or maybe (honestly speaking) the wish to earn a lot pulled you towards this industry. Or even the lack of any other option after a 3D animation and Vfx course (now this is being brutally honest! Check out The woes of 3d animation and vfx students) lead your way into the so-called glamorous world of 3D stereo conversion? Whatever the reasons for joining were, one thing is certain. You aren’t completely happy or satisfied with your job.
For all those who are unfamiliar with the term 3D Stereo Conversion, it’s a method of transforming a flat 2D movie into a 3D one by creating a separate image for each eye, thus creating the illusion of depth.
When I first stepped into this industry, my expectations were quite high. Don’t get me wrong here, I wasn’t being an overly excited employee. I was made to believe that working here would be a dream come true. Such classy interior decoration, amazing office cabins, high-tech review rooms and an impressive food court. Like an awed little child, I handled my first 3D interlaced glasses (spectacles to view 3D on screen) with utmost care. Even the training period was so interesting with the wonderful instructors making us laugh in between as they lead us through the process of converting a 2D image into a 3D one.
But the reality sunk in when I first stepped into the Production Floor. Shots were assigned on my name and were expected to be completed asap. And asap here meant forget-about-lunch-and-everything-else-and-do-it-as-soon-as-possible. I delved deep into the tasks and gave it my all. Each and every shot was a challenge that I loved to complete before time. It was an exciting experience for me to be recognised for my hard work. Until the day I received my first pay. After all the hard work I put in, it was less than a maid’s income. I wondered about the fancy office interior at that point. With all the huge projects they worked on, wouldn’t they be able to pay us at least a decent amount for all the efforts we put in? With the hope of getting a high increment next year, I looked at the positive side. I was working with an amazing group of friends and it felt wonderful to go to work each day and spend time with the people I loved.
But then, the project deadline loomed large on our faces and the reality of this industry started to sweep in.
Everything that I loved about my work changed drastically. The usually encouraging management team turned into highly demanding shot-monsters. They piled shot after shot on my name and the immense task lying ahead made me compromise on the quality of shots I produced. Even the friendly team leaders who used to joke around with us while checking shots, lost their sense of humor. They were made to stay longer hours (sometimes they didn’t leave the office for days at a stretch!) and I could see them turning paler and meaner by the day. They snapped at us, and demanded impossible tasks. All my seniors went crazy at times like these, but I could understand the pressure they were put through from above.
As an answer, my fellow artists found loopholes in the production process and started inventing new techniques to fool the stereographer. The quality dropped considerably and people like me who stick to the rules were looked down upon because we couldn’t complete the shot as fast as the others. The frustration from above swept through and rained down upon us in crazy measures. The workplace I loved turned into a living nightmare. And then, when we somehow managed to meet the target, I hoped that things would return to normal. Just as when an angry parent calms down after the initial outburst.
But it wasn’t the case. A new deadline came up. And then another one. And they kept on coming and we got used to being in such conditions. The only thing that kept me going was the hope that at the end of the year we will be rewarded for our work. And being able to joke about the work conditions with my friends was soothing too. Instead of complaining non-stop, we made fun of our situation. Hard times are special bonding moments between people going through the same situation.
Then the increments in our salaries were announced and it felt like someone kicked sense into me finally. After staring at the paper in my hand, I looked around and saw everyone mumbling about the pathetic raise in their salary.
Was all our hard work worth it?
It was then that I had the intense foresight that got me out of this industry finally. What would be my end goal if I stayed in this field? I looked at the condition of my team leaders. Even if they were being paid better, was this the kind of life I wanted for myself? Would money matter at all if I didn’t have the time to enjoy it? I asked myself what was the real reason that drew me into this industry in the first place. After becoming familiar with the whole process, was I as excited about working on Hollywood projects as before? Even after all this hard work, did I get to see my name in the credit list of any blockbuster? Holding the pathetic increment letter in my hand, was I happy with my finances? Was this industry my only option after completing my studies? Was that why I stepped into this mayhem in the first place?
That’s when I made up my mind. I haven’t looked back since then and am quite happy where I’m today.
Do I regret investing 5 years of my life into that field?
No. I don’t.
The best part of all this experience was the special bonds I made with people out there. We are still in touch and exchange old jokes of the trade even today. People talk about the experience they gained and that nothing ever goes to waste etc etc. But the fact is that, yes those 5 years were precious to me. I did invest it wrongly because I didn’t have the proper guidance from anyone. It was a relatively new field when I first stepped into this industry. I learned along the way and realised that it didn’t suit me.
While it wasn’t meant for me, I doubt if its the same case for everyone else. There are people who love that kind of life- the adrenaline rush they get by being on their toes days at a stretch, sleepless nights and the challenges they conquer. It must be an exciting way of life for them. They don’t mind the low paycheques as long as they get to work on some of the major blockbusters. They are truly passionate about their jobs.
This brings me to my main point. Step into this industry only if you are genuinely interested in this kind of work. If you fancy conversion techniques and adore the 3D output, go ahead. This is the dream place for you to be. But if you are in for any other reason, my advice would be to seriously reconsider your decision. It’s not a place for everyone. There are different kinds of creative people. Some like me get smothered in such an environment while others flourish and reach their best in the same work place. Find out which one you are and then take the right step. My best wishes are with you 🙂
Image copyright with the Artist