The UK VFX Elite Move In New Direction

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Soho's top VFX companies get added to the list of major facilities using Fusion

For the past 18 months, a quiet phenomenon has been sweeping over the UK VFX industry. Many facilities that are widely recognized and generally considered to be the cream of the crop have made a definitive step in a new direction to incorporate a different application into their pipeline; many in the midst of production. Recognized as the industry standard by a large majority of the North American VFX market, the post-production landscape in the UK is evolving. English facilities are making a big change to their technological infrastructures by expanding their pipelines to facilitate a full featured, multi-threaded, node-based compositing solution from eyeon Software, a Toronto-based company. With many reasons for making the change to a new compositor,one fact remains clear and certain, Soho and the rest of the UK are making the switch to eyeon Fusion. Steve Roberts, co-founder and CEO of eyeon Software, started a legacy in the 1980's of creating custom tools to solve some of production's biggest VFX problems. With a rich history in the development of its tools for compositors, Fusion has emerged as a leader in innovation as eyeon celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2008. Hundreds of major facilities in the fields of feature film, game cinematics and broadcast television around the world use Fusion, and Roberts has realized his dream of making the best tool possible available to thousands of artists. At the top of a long list of Soho studios that have converted their compositing suites to Fusion and comprised of several former Soho powerhouses, such as Clear, Blue and the VTR Group, Prime Focus London has made its pipeline Fusion-centric. Prime Focus London is the Soho division of the much larger Prime Focus World Group, consisting of additional divisions in India, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Fusion has given Prime Focus London a very solid advantage, contributing to their latest work on Tales Of The Riverbank, Agent Crush, and BBC Rugby. Streamlining their compositing globally, Prime Focus recently purchased an unprecedented 1000 full licenses of Fusion in efforts to achieve higher levels of visual effects and finishing. "Fusion is the only tool for us! Its robust toolset allows us to complete any job in whatever way our artists prefer to work. 64-bit and resolution independence is a Godsend," compliments Theodor Groeneboom, Head of Fusion at Prime Focus London. Derek Moore, Creative Director, adds, "Fusion has revolutionized the way we tackle many visual effects. The way it handles 3D space, its great particle engine, and the super fast rotoscoping and keying tools allow us to take a lot of pressure off the 3D departments. This allows our artists to concentrate on what they do best and specialize in a much more effective way, be that in CGI or Fusion."

In the eyes of long time operators of the product, Fusion has been heralded as the next big thing in compositing. For Ben Haworth, creative Director at Smoothe, it is no different. "I started using Fusion at version 2.0 with the old pipe and tile format. It opened up whole new realms of what was possible. Ever since then, Fusion's gone from strength to strength, leading the way in both its own area of the market and punching way above its weight into higher markets. I'd opt for Fusion over Flame to do my work 90 percent of the time. I always like to tell people about it. To me it's second to none for compositing." Built as a multi-threaded compositor since its inception, Fusion boasts resolution independence while in integers up to 32-bit float colour and in 64-bit architecture. eyeon has constantly pushed the limits of the product's design, with the ever growing desire for projects to be finished in 3D. Facilities are able to experiment with aspects of Fusion that have been incorporated into the source-code since it was first brought to market in 1996. "At Envy, we recognized Fusion as the ultimate desktop compositing package," comments Jason Farrow, Envy's Senior Smoke artist. "We are impressed that Eyeon has continually developed Fusion to give artists the creative tools they need in an intelligently managed workflow environment." Development is nothing without the flexibility to work on tight deadlines inside ever changing pipeline configurations. Fusion's speed and UI design have consistently resulted in production-proven success. With the ability to work in a 64-bit environment, combined with render farms numbering in the thousands, UI speed and quick render-times have always been crucial elements in a production environment. Anthony Hartley-Denton, Creative Director and Founder, AHD, comments, "Here at AHD we've been producing high quality animation work for some time now in the field of architectural visualization. As the scope of our animations expanded and we started rendering most plates in HD with multiple passes, we found that run of the mill comping packages didn't allow the flexibility we needed and were not robust enough to handle the huge 16 bit open EXR files outputted from the render. We looked around for a while and found ourselves opting for Fusion and its node based pipeline. The package is arranged in a really logical fashion with everything laid out clearly and concisely." Chris Zeh, a lead compositor at Framestore CFC adds, "In the field of integrating CG with FX, it is becoming more and more important to push the envelope in terms of realism. At the same time, shooting live action elements sometimes lacks flexibility in terms of how they can be used. A tool like Fusion offers me the best of both worlds." Fusion's speed is not limited merely to its rendering and UI. Fusion's state-of-the-art and only true 3D particle system on the market has been a favourite among producers of well known commercials and immensely complex game cinematics, many of which call Soho their home. Andrew Morgan, Head of Production at Digi-Guys, attests, "Fusion's excellent particle tools allow us to rapidly prototype smoke, fire and any number of complex visual effects without having to move back and forth between software applications - this allows our Director a great deal of freedom in getting exactly the look he's after with a minimum of time and effort." We all know that owning a truly great compositor means nothing without the under-rated ability to play nice and work well with others, from 3rd party API's to industry leading plug-ins and multiple scripting languages. For hundreds of facilities around the world, many factors play a role in the configuration of a pipeline, whether they are budgets and staff preferences or demands of production. This main issue has never been a problem for artists working with the .flw or .comp file formats, as Fusion tackles open-source communication like no other program on the market, and supports more file formats than any of its competitors. "Some of the more complex VFX shots previously handled exclusively in dedicated 3D animation software are now completed directly in Fusion. Working with 3D camera data imported from 3rd party tracking software, we have been able to work on difficult shots with confidence, while delivering for our clients on time and on budget, high quality results. One of the greatest discoveries for us in Fusion has been the 3D Camera Projector to image project directly onto 3D geometry imported as FBX data. The freedom to have all the tools in one application is very liberating. As a node-base compositor, the functionality is also very intuitive," Martin Ashford, Head of Graphics at The Sanctuary. Continuing the momentum into 2008, the latest facility to make a Fusion pipeline their backbone is VFX powerhouse Pepper Post. Pepper, a leading VFX company in Soho, has followed in the footsteps of many high-end post production facilities by choosing to make Fusion the primary compositing application. Of the new VFX facility, Chris Mortimer of Pepper said, "This Fusion-led VFX department forms the core of the department. We currently have ten seats, and are fortunate to have access to the rest of the Pepper suites, meaning we can do VFX reviews on Pepper's 4.5m screen in DI Theatre 1 which makes this a very attractive proposal to our clients." Chris continues, "Starting this department from scratch means that Pepper has been able to tailor a more efficient workflow, saving time and money, and enabling us to put this right back onto the picture." It would not be fair to view the recent adoption of Fusion by the top facilities in Soho as merely the tip of the iceberg, nor the beginning of a trend, but more accurately as the next generation of an evolutionary cycle. Fusion has managed to outlast more than 20 of its competitors during the last two decades thanks to a large and loyal client base who praises the product and respects the philosophy of the company that stands by its clients, and remains honest in eyeon's original mission statement of making the best possible tools available for all artists. Image Copyright AHD-imaging, Gareth Thatcher (Associate Director).



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