VFX Pioneer ILM Sets Up Shop In London 

It should come as no surprise to you that we here at Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio have a great interest in what’s happening in the rest of the VFX world. We recently heard some juicy news about Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), which is based in San Francisco, CA and currently one of the largest VFX vendors in the film industry, with over 500 artists; one of the largest renderfarms out there, with over 7500 nodes, and over 325 films to their credit.

3d-animation-company

The news is that ILM is in the process of creating a new branch of the company in central London. Furthermore, they are seeking to hire over 200 seats worth of talent based in the UK.

In a recently published interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lynwen Brennan, ILM’s president and general manager explained that ILM has had a global expansion plan for some time, and opening a London studio is the beginning of that plan. The London unit will work on Marvel projects as well as Disney and of course Lucasfilm. It will also be strongly suggested that they work with other local production studios as well. Lynwen remarks that “London has such a lavishness of filmmakers. The team that we are creating there has those affiliations already, so we are really looking forward to the London group developing their local work.”

There are several obvious reasons that led ILM to set up shop in the UK. First off, they’ve needed to expand for some time. And London already features a diverse talent pool of VFX professionals, each capable of reaching the high standards that ILM is already used to. ILM also stated that they desired to work with directors based in the UK. There’s already quite a number of excellent films being created in the UK, and the government recently introduced its support as well, in the form of tax incentives. It seems that Parliament hopes to pump up the industry in the UK, and it seems to be working quite nicely. Incidentally, it was last December that these incentives were announced, and it will be April this year when they take effect.

It shouldn’t be terribly hard to hit ILM’s target for their UK team, which is about 200 people. Already working out of a minuscule office in Soho they’ve got Director of Operations Sue Lyster (Framestore), VFX Producer Nina Fallon (Double Negative), Animation Director Michael Eames (Prime Focus World), and Creative Director Ben Morris (Framestore – Gravity). ILM also hinted that expats in their Presidio office might want to consider returning to the UK just for this.

ILM looks forward to being good members of the London VFX community, and trusts that coming to London will have an agreeable effect on the VFX industry in the UK.

Looking ahead, ILM has an impressive list of films in their pipeline. Some of these include Star Wars: Episode VII (currently scheduled for release December 2015) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 2015). Additional films without more solid release dates are Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Luc Besson’s Lucy, Warcraft, Tomorrowland, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Finally, they are finishing work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014) and Noah (March 2014).

Lastly, you may be interested to know – we at Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio certainly are – that ILM is also investing a lot of money into R&D. They are working on technology they are hoping will remodel the industry over the next five to ten years or so – such as real-time rendering. With regard to ILM’s rapport with Disney Research bases in Scotland and Zurich, Brennan says that ILM works with them currently using Medusa, their facial animation software. There will definitely be some continuing close collaboration with Disney Research.

Don’t get us wrong – we’d love to work at ILM. But until they open up a shop in Austin, we’ll stay right where we are, thanks!