How much are visual effects for Hollywood movies (and why)?

VFX budget for movie production can reach over hundreds of millions. But there are very good reasons why the expenses are so high…


What really stands out when looking at the numbers of international movie industry, is that: the era we are living in today is without doubts Hollywood’s golden age.

If not for the quality of movies (which is a matter we leave to the film critics debate), surely for their costs.

Budgets for big American productions companies have never been as high as today.

On average, they are never lower than 100 million dollars, but they can easily reach over 200 (as for X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbeans or Superman Returns) and even 300 millions (record figures reached by Spider-Man 3 and the Avengers saga).


Technology costs more than actors

But why do big screen movies cost so much?

In the past a significant share of money was needed to pay the most famous star actors, who attracted to the big screen so many millions of fans, eager to watch their latest work.

Nowadays audience exspections have changed: special and visual effects, as opposed to the cast, are at the core of a film success.

Further more movie production Studios have consequently adapted to this new request.

It is no coincidence if VFXs can cost from a fifth up to a half of the overall budget, that is to say between 40 and over 100 million dollars.

Even the costs for a single movie scene can range from 10.000 to well over 60.000 dollars.


A VFX studio’s exspenses

Why are visual effects so expensive?

Because they require so much labor and, above all, so much time.

A large scale project may take over 200 people (all experienced and trained specialists, who are paid wealthy salaries) to work on post-production, over the course of several months in a row, or even years, in the case of big animated movies.

That is to say the VFX crew can easily be bigger than the live-action set crew itself.

Then you have to take into account at least one computer per worker: these tend to be top of the line powerful and fast machines, with high-end memory, graphics and softwares.

Moreover, each visual effects studio must typically have at least one render farm: a large room with racks and racks of computers, which are only used for rendering the images you see on the movie screen.

They usually have special power and air conditioning needs that make them very expensive, as well, which significantly contributes to further increase final costs.


Big expenses, big gains

Huge investments have to be considered for this kind of productions.

But Hollywood Studios surely wouldn’t spend so much money, if they weren’t paid back with even higher incomes.

For example, Avengers: Infinity War, the most expensive movie ever made, with its estimated 350 million dollars budget, earned over two billions.

James Cameron’s Avatar, which cost over 230 millions with its groundbreaking VFX, earned over 2,7 billions, becoming the highest-grossing film of all times.

That’s why the era we are living in today is truly the golden age of Hollywood..

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