Vfx house Framestore is making a concerted move back into television visual effects after working on new Nat Geo series Mars.

Framestore, best known for its work on movies and commercials, has not worked in TV vfx for several years.

Framestore created a model for the Mars series that involved it managing the entire vfx and graphics package while partnering with a variety of smaller vfx houses in London as well as Australia and Asia to deliver the shots.

Framestore will use the same model for television projects in the future.

Global md, Integrated Advertising Helen Stanley, who’s heading up the new television division, says “obviously we do features, we do adverts, VR, massive billboard sites, dark rides for the US and China so it makes sense we also do television.”

For the last few years though, working on TV shows hasn’t been a viable option, she says. “It was just very difficult to make it pay. Now there are potentially healthier budgets for TV.”

Stanley says that Framestore has wanted to move back into television for a while as “TV is becoming increasingly sophisticated and interesting. It was really a case of trying to find the right programme” but also a case of finding a model to make it feasible.

Stanley says that on the Mars project, production company Radical Media was “very willing to work with us and collaborate to get what they wanted on the screen and make it look great but within the budget constraints of television.” Framestore came in a script stage to ensure the vfx required would be achievable.

Framestore took on all 1000 vfx shots for the show as well as all the on-screen UIs and the titles too but rather than “employ 200 people ourselves to do a TV series, we’ve been trying to work as more of a production partner and creative consultant with Radical Media.” And that involved sub-contracting groups of shots to other vfx houses while ensuring an overall uniformity.

The model, says Stanley, takes the headache of organizing the vfx away from the production company but also takes the headache of a vastly increased permanent overhead away from Framestore. “This model means if there is a gap between series or you’re waiting for the next one, you’ve not got 200 people sat there. It’s a more stable model.

“If we can umbrella a really big show, manage the budget to make it easier for our clients and the network and then work with partner companies it makes. sense.”

Stanley says the plan is to bring those big shows into Soho. “It’s not that we want to do it all at Framestore, we really don’t. We want to partner with other companies, manage the project and do some of the shots ourselves. Our skillset is organizing very big vfx shows.”

Michelle Martin- Richards, who came on board to head up the Mars project, is now based at Framestore permanently to lead the TV division. “She has been a very successful addition to Framestore. She’s been generating interest because of her background in TV and gained momentum for us,” says Stanley. Russell Dodgson, who’s been with Framestore since 2009 working on ads and movies, and Rob Harrington from the company’s commercials department will now both work as vfx supers on the TV projects.

Jon Creamer

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