Sony Pictures Imageworks Celebrating 25 Years of Innovation, Imagination and Creativity
Sony Pictures Imageworks, the Academy Award-winning visual effects and animation studio, has created extraordinary and visually stunning images for more than 100 live-action and animated productions over its 25-year history. The studio is a leader in technology, developing software and tools that have helped solve industry-wide challenges and deliver spectacular visuals to the big screen. Join Imageworks President Randy Lake as he highlights the studios’ contributions to the VFX industry and reflects on the innovation, imagination and creativity that has inspired audiences worldwide.
Sony Pictures Imageworks is the Academy Award®-winning visual effects and animation unit of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group known for live-action visual effects, dynamic creature and character animation and all-CG animation. The company, headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and recently completed work on SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE for Sony Pictures Animation, the Warner Bros. feature SUICIDE SQUAD, STORKS for Warner Animation Group, Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS, Disney’s ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE for Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animation. Sony Pictures Imageworks is currently in production on Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THE EMOJI MOVIE for Sony Pictures Animation, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE for Fox, MEG for Warner Bros. and Warner Animation Group’s SMALLFOOT. Other notable work includes, Marvel Studios’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the Warner Bros. feature EDGE OF TOMORROW, Disney’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, Columbia Pictures’ THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, Sony Pictures Animation’s CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA as well as Disney’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
SPI was founded in 1992 with just five employees, with the focus on providing visual effects for live action films. One of those original leads is still a senior Visual effects Supervisor at SPI, Jerome Chen. Their first office was sharing the space with TriStar Pictures production executives in what was then called the TriStar building (now called Jimmy Stewart). Their first office conference room becomes SPI’s first data centre.
The first thing that Jerome Chen, Senior VFX Supervisor Sony Pictures Imageworks, worked on at SPI 25 years ago was So I Married an Axe Murderer with Mike Myers. “I was brought on a modeller and I made a digital pickaxe – but it ended up being cut from the movie! So the first thing I ever did was never used,” he fondly recalled.
The team’s first major film was for Director Wolfgang Petersen, placing Clint Eastwood as a Presidental secret service agent in In the Line of Fire. Chen recalls that at that time everything had to be invented, “we actually didn’t have any pipeline to use, for even something as simple as getting the film scanned. So we had to create technology to scan the film, how to scale it down, the colourspace – I learnt a tremendous amount on that film.” The film was supervised by John Nelson (who would go on to win an Oscar for Gladiator and be nominated multiple times for films such as I,Robot and Iron Man).
In the film Stuart Little, Imageworks solved hair, cloth and water sims for the show. Stuart Little was released in 1999 and also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects featured the first-ever CG-animated character to star in a live action feature. For Chen Stuart Little is still, today, one of his favorite films that he worked on, although he jokes about suffering PTSD when watching clips, and recalling just how hard it was to pull off. “We had no guidelines for doing his fur and cloth. His hair took a long time, and our pipeline to this day has grown from that initial work,” he says, adding that he would not be surprised if some of the brilliant code from the hair solvers was not still used in some form at SPI today.
2001 Hollow Man was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. For Hollow Man, visual effects artists needed to create a photo-realistic and anatomically correct human with animation and mocap techniques.
Congratulations to Sony Pictures Imageworks team!
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