Pip Animation benefits from tax credits

Amberwood Productions is the biggest client for Pip Animation Services, a three-year-old, Ottawa-based company which provides a range of services from project planning and management to color design, background rendering, digital ink and paint, final color and post-production....

Amberwood Productions is the biggest client for Pip Animation Services, a three-year-old, Ottawa-based company which provides a range of services from project planning and management to color design, background rendering, digital ink and paint, final color and post-production.

Dave Fortier, Pip’s studio director, says it’s been a little weird working on seasons four and five of Amberwood’s resurgent Katie and Orbie series.

‘Several of us running this company worked on the original series,’ Fortier explains. ‘It’s nice to have it come back, although it’s slightly different now with things being done digitally.’

As with the original run, all work on Katie and Orbie is done in Ottawa. Amberwood sends the animated material to Pip, which then scans the animation and layout packages and performs background color design and unit backgrounds. Fortier says Pip has also assisted Amberwood in figuring out the financing, scheduling and budgeting of the show.

Pip sometimes uses Adobe Photoshop, Painter and Illustrator for backgrounds, but it has chosen the complete 2D animation system Softimage Toonz as its main platform.

‘No one would ever notice the difference between the output on Softimage Toonz and any of the other systems, such as usanimation,’ Fortier says. ‘They all have pros and cons, but as far as we’re concerned, Softimage Toonz is one of the better-priced systems and has the easiest interface. It’s straightforward – when you’re working on it everything makes sense.’

Pip has about 45 full-time staff members. Fortier says the company has recently experienced a growth spurt and is relocating as a result.

Why is business on the rise?

‘I could be self-righteous and say it’s because we’re really, really good, but another reason, I think, is the way tax money is now set up,’ Fortier says. ‘The Canadian and Ontario content rules and tax credits really help to pull some of the work back here. Our costs pretty much compare with what is done overseas. For the technical side of things, at least, the money is better spent here in Canada.’

Fortier reports Pip is taking on customers from the u.s. and Europe as well.

‘[Foreign animation companies] are stuck in a schedule and have to get out x amount, and they subcontract out material to us just to help give that big push,’ he explains.

One of the highest-profile projects that has passed through Pip’s doors is Anne of Green Gables, the animated series consisting of 26 half-hours which launched Sullivan Entertainment’s animation studio last year. Pip did the digital backgrounds on some episodes, and Fortier did substantial breakdowns for timing.

Pip is currently working on its third season of Amberwood’s Hoze Houndz as well as the Nelvana series Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, which airs on Nickelodeon and Teletoon. Fortier expects Pip will be seeing additional series work from Nelvana as well. It will also soon be contributing to The Ripping Friends, a coproduction among Montreal’s CineGroupe, Toronto-based Cambium Entertainment and Ottawa’s Spumco Canada. The half-hour animated show, which is slated to debut on Fox in the spring, is the latest series from animator John Kricfalusi of Ren & Stimpy fame.

Fortier says Pip has not had problems finding the right people from the local talent pool, thanks in large part to the goings-on at nearby Algonquin College.

‘The gentleman who set us up in Softimage Toonz also helped set up the college in that system,’ Fortier explains. ‘So we have a lot of really good talent coming out of Algonquin College that knows how to animate and background paint and do layouts. They understand that process, plus they understand the software.’ *

-www.pipanimation.com

-www.softimage.com