Magazine article American Cinematographer

FrameStore: From Post House to Visual Effects Facility

Magazine article American Cinematographer

FrameStore: From Post House to Visual Effects Facility

Article excerpt

When FrameStore won an Emmy on September 7 for creating the digital effects in the miniseries Gulliver's Travels, the triumph brought home the fact that this one-time postproduction house has a new identity as a visual effects facility. Though the London-based company has actually been creating digital visual effects for a few years now, FrameStore joint-CEO William Sargent notes that Gulliver's Travels has given the outfit a high profile in Hollywood. For that project, which aired on NBC during sweeps week, the firm completed 450 shots in 16 weeks, delivering the job three days ahead of schedule.

Winning the Emmy isn't the only big news at FrameStore. The company recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and, on July 29, went public, merging with Megalomedia P.L.C. via an exchange of cash and stock. Megalomedia is a corporate entity consisting of advertising giants Maurice and Charles Saatchi, Adidas chairman/CEO Robert Dreyfus, Jakob Rothschild, Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun, and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Prior to forming Megalomedia, this same group had owned approximately one-third of FrameStore since 1990, a fact that was not known publicly.

To fully comprehend why FrameStore went public is to understand its founders' vision of the digital future. Though its most recent evolution has been from post house to "visual imaging studio" (as Sargent says the company now defines itself), the ambition of its founders was always to work on film projects.

Consistent with that aspiration, FrameStore began in the field of video opticals. In 1986, it had the first Quantel Harry site in London. Along with Sargent, joint-CEO Sharon Reed and production manager Alison Turner, two of the company's founders were Paintbox artists, Mike McGee and Jonathan Hills. To them, the Harry was the perfect tool for performing opticals and, along with Charlex in New York, they became pioneers in using the system to create multilayered graphic images for commercials and music videos.

But FrameStore's management soon discovered that though they were capturing many high-end jobs, other tasks were going to post houses which could package graphics with editing and telecine. As a defensive move, they added D-1 digital editing suites in 1990, which also streamlined work on the Harry, and, in 1992, telecine.

"We built the company block by block, dependent on having the talent," explains Sargent. "We only opened the edit suites when we could have the top two editors, and the telecine suite when we could have the top colorist."

FrameStore also expanded geographically. In 1989, a Barcelona facility was opened with the local production company O Video. For a few years, the strategy focused on continuing the geographic expansion, with planned sites in Germany and Italy. But, in light of what management believed was a coming recession, the firm's strategy was changed to consolidate resources in London so that the company could become "a global player. …

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