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August 07
2018

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

End of Spreadsheets? VFX Producer Joyce Cox Releases New VFX Budgeting Tool

By IAN FAILES

For many years while working as a visual effects producer on films such as The Dark Knight, Avatar, Men in Black 3 and The Jungle Book, Joyce Cox relied on spreadsheets to deal with VFX budgeting and financial management.

Spreadsheets are a common and flexible way for producers to handle visual effects bidding and budgeting, but Cox says their flexibility was also a downside. “Everyone has their own systems, from the studio to the VFX producer to the VFX facilities,” she says. “On a large project, this can add hours to the processes of the initial budgeting, as well as to forecasting and managing the financial impact of changes that stem from the creative evolution of a project.”

That experience led Cox to develop her own visual effects budgeting system, which has just been released as an online software solution called Curó – a name that translates to ‘cure’. The tool takes a script and allows the user to generate a breakdown of scenes, action and dialog. Shots and sequences can then be organized and lists of assets and FX elements made. Curó tracks shots and, importantly, costs.

Cox designed the tool to be a unified system used across the VFX industry, and believes that there is currently no other similar tool available.

“My experience is with quite large VFX-heavy projects, so I found myself spending hours interpreting bids from multiple vendors, all in different formats, to create useful comparisons and arrive at a final budget,” says Cox. “Once a budget is approved and production begins, everything begins to change. During prep, production and post, there are hundreds of creative changes that can impact the VFX budget and schedule.

Joyce Cox.

“Curó is being designed to simplify what is inherently a complicated, volatile process.”

—Joyce Cox, Developer of Curó

Watch a demo of Curó

“I have been hired to rescue three major films that ran into obstacles during post-production,” Cox adds. “In all cases, one of the common ailments was the lack of a system to not only track approved spending, but to forecast financial changes that begin the first day of pre-production and continue through final delivery. Curó is designed to simplify what is inherently a complicated, volatile process.”

The tool was developed as a collaboration with UST Global Media Services and developer Thom Miller, and followed Cox’s own spreadsheet system she had established. It’s intended, says Cox, for both large and small projects. “The v1.0 release is focused on the initial breakdown and preliminary budgeting work, which is generally done by a bidding producer working for a studio, or by a VFX producer or supervisor hired for the film. VFX facilities have also responded positively as they are often asked to prepare preliminary budget estimates.”

Curó’s budgeting interface

“Once a budget is approved and production begins, everything begins to change. During prep, production and post, there are hundreds of creative changes that can impact the VFX budget and schedule.”

—Joyce Cox, Developer of Curó

There are already several beta Curó users, and the system is designed to provide secure connections. While it’s still early in the tool’s development, many additional features are already planned. “The next step,” explains Cox, “will be to create tools for bid packaging of the data and bid comparison tools, followed by the locked budget, financial forecasting, budget reports, accounting tools to issue purchase orders, change orders, etc., and a separate but connected module for VFX facilities’ more granular budgeting tasks.”

You can find out more about Curó and try it for free for 30 days via www.curovfx.com. The software will make its debut at SIGGRAPH 2018 in Vancouver.


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