MMA members and Dean Lyon

On Wednesday, February 15, Dean Lyon, founder and CEO of Splinter Studios, discussed the past, present, and future state of visual effects (VFX) and computer graphics in motion picture and television production with members of the Media Management Association. Lyon is best known for his work as visual effects supervisor on The Lord of the Rings franchise.

In 2010, Lyon started Splinter Studios, a VFX services company located in downtown Fort Lauderdale. He is currently working on a three-dimensional movie that is best described as a blend of Frozen and Madagascar. Funding for this animation project is likely to originate through crowdfunding and well-established contacts.

Lyon’s goal is to expand the film industry outside of Hollywood to provide more opportunities elsewhere. He explained that jobs in the movie business are not limited to Los Angeles alone. This taste for diversity and outreach had initially landed Lyon the opportunity to connect with director Peter Jackson. Lyon had spent enough time working in Los Angeles in the early stages of his career and had decided, upon a whim, to experience life in New Zealand, which worked wonderfully in his favor.

Although most notably acclaimed for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lyon has also worked on other feature films, such as Avatar, Star Trek, Quantum of Solace, and The Devil’s Advocate. He referred to his older works as "effects BC," short for "effects before computers." When discussing visual effects, he distinguished them from special effects, which often involve setting off explosions on the set. In contrast, visual effects would be used to dramatize these explosions in post-production.

Currently, there is a division between real time, two-dimensional, and three-dimensional processes in creating visual effects, but Lyon argued that eventually all types will merge into one. When asked about his thoughts regarding virtual reality and its consumer appeal, he felt that this technology has engaged consumers prematurely, making them grow weary of it rather quickly.

Lyon concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of storytelling in visual effects and reminding students to keep abreast of VFX trends through trade press magazines and peer conversations. For students interested in working with his company, Lyon said that “you can’t teach experience,” urging them to branch out elsewhere before potentially remaining in Fort Lauderdale.