Northwest Imaging & FX gets animated

After more than 15 years in the post-production industry, Vancouver's Northwest Imaging & FX has launched an animation production division to bring greater stability to the company.

After more than 15 years in the post-production industry, Vancouver’s Northwest Imaging & FX has launched an animation production division to bring greater stability to the company.

‘It’s so natural for post-production [shops] to go into animation,’ says NWFX VP and GM Alex Tkach. ‘A lot of animation is all the computers and rendering equipment – the technology. We’ve sort of been doing animation for 15 years, but we’ve been doing it in small doses and called it visual effects.’

The inaugural project for the animation division – which launched in August – is Jibber Jabber, a kids series for YTV from Vancouver’s Bowes Productions. To meet the production demand, NWFX has hired 25 fulltime animators – bringing the company’s staff up to 65 – and added 17 new Maya 3D animation workstations and beefed up its rendering capabilities. Jibber Jabber will keep new hires and equipment busy for at least 15 months.

When series creator/director David Bowes decided to make Jibber Jabber in 3D rather than stop-motion animation, like his previous projects, he found partnering with NWFX a natural fit.

‘What Alex has done with his team has recreated the look of stop-motion,’ says Bowes, who has been posting his productions at NWFX for 15 years.

Both NWFX and Bowes have equity invested in the series, which has a price tag of more than $450,000 per half-hour. The series was championed by Bonita Siegel, director of development and production at YTV parent Corus Entertainment. Patti Poskitt is exec producing.

Twenty-six 11-minute episodes – following the imaginary adventures of twins Jibber and Jabber – will air as 13 half-hours on YTV starting September 2007.

Tkach says that U.S. service work has traditionally accounted for 90% of NWFX’s business, but with the addition of Jibber Jabber, 40% now comes from within Canada. NWFX previously relied exclusively on post-production contracts, which are often only for a short period of time.

‘That’s always been the difficult part,’ Tkach says. ‘We’re always waiting – wondering if the Americans are coming up here to shoot their pilots… [Animation] is bringing a great deal of stability to the post industry – something that hasn’t been there for a while.’

NWFX’s move into animation is only the latest in a series of expansions. The company started in 1977 as a mobile equipment rental service that transitioned into post and FX by 1990. In 1998, NWFX began offering telecine services, and three years ago it made a serious push into HD while also launching a film lab, which brought in new feature film clients.

The opening of NWFX’s animation division came one month after rival B.C. post shop Rainmaker announced its acquisition of animation house Mainframe Entertainment.

On the post side, NWFX is currently working on film transfers for the 20th Century Fox feature AVP 2: Alien vs. Predator 2 and continues to do dailies and VFX for series including Battlestar Galactica, as well as the new sci-fi series Eureka (for NBC) and Kyle XY for (ABC Family).