Supporting DNEG in Vancouver
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An Academy award-winning VFX studio, Double Negative was established in 1998 in the thriving VFX scene of Soho, London.
Since then, the post-production outfit has grown exponentially, establishing it as a major player on an international scale; Double Negative now spans across the globe, with locations in LA, Vancouver and Mumbai.
The 2,500-strong company has earned a reputation for high-end work on the world’s biggest and best feature films, from Harry Potter and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
For Double Negative’s Vancouver branch, work on Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond stood as some of the studio’s broadest in scope and most challenging to date. A multitude of tools and talent were required to get the job done.
“When Vancouver tech finishes for the day, Mumbai takes over, followed by London, making sure everything works well overnight before we get in again and do the same for them – it’s a 24-hour cycle,” begins Stephen Willey, Double Negative’s Head of Technology in Vancouver. “We’re a unified, global tech team.”
Of course, establishing such a structure from the ground up will always come with its fair share challenges. In order to meet the demands of such an approach, Double Negative’s plan was to scale up at a rate of 200 people in the first year-and-a-half when the company branched out into Vancouver. However, expectations were far exceeded: the team grew to encompass over 400 artists, producers and team in that short timespan.
Willey’s team needed to set up and furnish the entire Vancouver office. That meant ensuring the influx of new staff had the right equipment to tackle their workflow. From colour correct monitors to Wacom tablets, the company’s needs were varied and immediate.
This process also had to take place during production, ensuring that the existing Double Negative team could work unaffected by the disruption.
“It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure!” recalls Stephen. “To carry out a project of this scope, you need resellers that you can rely on. Resellers that don’t put any false shine on anything.”
This is where Annex Pro came to the rescue. A local reseller, Annex Pro provides a near-endless array of software, hardware and IT infrastructure to the media & entertainment industry. The team also offers consulting, training, and support in the creation of visual effects, animation, games, TV/film and all kinds of digital media. It was exactly what Double Negative Vancouver required to scale to its growing talent base.
“When we first came to Vancouver, we had to go from 0 to 60 in no time whatsoever. Annex Pro really understood that and what needed to be done,” says Stephen. “They had equipment that we could borrow, rent, buy, and were always on hand to offer support and advice. The Annex Pro team always made sure we had what we needed.”
Thanks to Annex Pro, Double Negative’s persistence in assembling a Vancouver branch paid off. The artists are now able to work across multiple sites, on the same project, in different time zones.
The globalisation of VFX comes with its fair share of problems, however, as Stephen explains:
“Hardware requirements have been developing faster as demands get bigger, ever since I started VFX in 2003 – however, what we’ve seen even more of in the last 3-4 years is a need to make it work internationally.
“It’s not currently possible to traffic a petabyte of data from London to Mumbai in one night, but both teams will probably need to work on that petabyte of data. You’ve got to work out what you need, how to get it transferred and how best to go about the process.”
As such, standardising equipment becomes absolutely essential in order to maintain compatibility across each location. “It’s really important that the guys in each office know how to repair equipment,” confirms Stephen. “Not just from a tech point of view, but from a knowledge point of view; everyone know how to keep everything working. As far as possible we like to maintain uniformity. Working with a partner like Annex Pro really helps with that.”
An impressive roster
Double Negatives feature slate is as impressive as it’s ever been, sporting some of the biggest blockbusters due for release over the next few years.
“Right now, we’re working on Annihilation, the latest Fast and Furious movie, and the new Blade Runner,” says Stephen. “In Vancouver specifically, we’re also working on a good chunk of The Mummy and Wonder Woman.”
These are huge projects, with a multitude of complex needs that range in scale and scope. But with Annex Pro standing by as technology partner, Double Negative knows it is equipped to tackle whatever challenges may arise, enabling it to deliver ever bigger and more impressive Academy Award-winning effects, from one corner of the globe to the other.