I don't have detailed data but the "Chuang Constant" is 200 pixels per seconds independent of how much computer power you have. Which translate to about 3 hours for a film frame and 30 minutes for a video res frame (that's an average number). So at the end it is just the patience of the animator. You will fill it with as much stuff as you can and now days often much more than you need.
1. Blinn's law isn't just about complexity and quality, sloppiness plays a major role. Disk space, CPU, time, etc. will all get used up if they are available.
Recall also the oft-referenced-but-never-actually-cited paper about how sloppiness increases faster than efficiency, leading to a longer total time to complete a task if the iteration cycle is too quick. [Anyone have that citation?? --EE]
What's perhaps more important is how sloppiness increases overall as a new people grow up with the faster tools. I'd love to see a study of how many useless renders are made today as opposed to 10 years ago. That is, today's artists with today's tools vs. artists 10 years ago with those tools.
I posit that there is a "culture of sloppiness™" which has developed in part because of the faster tools.
2. Extra quality early in the pipeline is a mixed blessing. Consider for example the blocking stage. Some people would argue (and I would agree) that blocking should be done with proxy objects and not fully-rendered ones.
It’s interesting that all of the speedups that you mention are a constant factor. There just don’t seem to be many opportunities for polynomial or exponential changes in workflow, as there are for algorithms.
I find it enlightening, too, that you focus on focus. That is, the ability of the artist to maintain engagement with the task is of utmost importance -- a change that increases that ability could have a larger-than-expected effect. [...]
Finally, uber-artist Carter Burwell went around Siggraph ’83 with a tape recorder asking everybody “What is computer graphics?” He stopped after asking Tom Duff, who said “Waiting too long for pictures that aren’t good enough.”