Frenzy of success for Frantic Films

Frantic Films' status as one of Canada's hottest companies has recently been affirmed with the Winnipeg-based production and FX company receiving two prestigious national honors, for talent and innovation in technology.

Frantic Films’ status as one of Canada’s hottest companies has recently been affirmed with the Winnipeg-based production and FX company receiving two prestigious national honors, for talent and innovation in technology.

The National Research Council of Canada has named Frantic one of Canada’s Innovation Leaders. Announced at an April 13 ceremony in Winnipeg, the honor was bestowed largely because of new technology developed by Frantic for its FX work on the Warner Bros. hit sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. The fluid simulation technology, which will be unveiled at the SIGGRAPH 2004 computer graphics conference in L.A. in August, was developed to create the Tar Monster character by Frantic’s R&D team, including Ben Houston, Mark Wiebe and Christopher Batty.

The fluid dynamics technology was in the works at Frantic a year before the company pitched for the Scooby-Doo project. Creating FX for director Jon Amiel’s US$74-million sci-fi feature The Core sparked Frantic’s interest in physics simulation and fluid dynamics, says COO & visual effects producer Ken Zorniak.

The new technology is an offshoot of physics simulators, which reproduce the motion and interaction of solid objects. Frantic’s variation allows artists to create realistic fluid motion in a CG environment.

Zorniak says the software, originally intended for creating large water FX such as tidal waves, required at least six months of custom development to create the Tar Monster.

‘We reengineered the software so we could actually apply the fluid dynamics to a character with running properties,’ he says.

Frantic might consider commercializing the software somewhere down the road, according to Zorniak, but for now the propriety advantage of keeping it in-house is a definite asset to the company.

80% FX

Zorniak says about 80% of Frantic’s business is FX related, and because they have to compete with Hollywood, developing signature FX capabilities helps to set Frantic apart from other FX companies.

‘Fluid and physics dynamics is something that is very unique and specialized right now, and it really extends the powers of the artist,’ says Zorniak.

Frantic has created FX for the features Swordfish, X2, The Italian Job and Paycheck.

In addition, Frantic CEO and executive producer Jamie Brown, who also chairs the Manitoba Motion Picture Industry Association, was selected from among more than 1,400 nominees as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2003. Last year marked the ninth year that the program, managed by executive search firm The Caldwell Partners, celebrated Canadians who’ve become outstanding leaders in their fields before their 40th birthdays. The program also promotes professional development by introducing winners to the business community in the May 2004 edition of Report on Business Magazine.

Brown joined Frantic in November 2002, and became the driving force behind its live-action production. Previously, the company had focused primarily on FX. Since Brown joined the team, Frantic reports revenue growth of more than 700%, its staff has grown from 12 to 68, and the company has added offices in Vancouver and L.A. to its home base in Winnipeg. Frantic reports 2003 production volumes of more than $6 million.

Brown is the creator behind doc/reality series Pioneer Quest and recently produced projects such as the CTV MOW Zeyda and the Hitman (coproduced with Miracle Pictures of Campbellville, ON) and Last Chance for Romance, a 13-part reality series for Global, which shot in the Caribbean over March and April.