English Majors

Four post houses to call home in the U.K.

Ascent Media
Ascent Media claims to be the world's largest provider of content production, management and distribution services for the entertainment industry, but Ascent Media senior vp and chief technology officer Adrian Bull says the current economic climate means competition is tough to secure business. "We're a service provider so we don't own content or sell content. We provide a very high level of creative talent and we have the integrity of technology systems that can guarantee results in the time scale required," Bull says. His company, with offices in London, Dubai, Singapore and across the U.S., has invested about £5 million ($7.4 million) during the past five years in keeping up with the latest equipment requirements for filmmakers and other users. "From a U.K. perspective, we don't have a particularly high visual effects offering but where we have got a big advantage is the lab and D.I. (Digital Intermediate) grading operations. All major feature films are posted in D.I. these days and most effects happen in the digital world," Bull says.

Double Negative
Fire and brimstone is a specialty for Double Negative with the visual effects specialist developing its own stand-alone system for conflagration and water effects. Named Squirt, the system has been heavily used, creating imagery for everything from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" and the "Harry Potter" franchise. It also created the sea surrounding Universal's upcoming comedy "The Boat That Rocked." The company recently formalized a joint venture in Budapest, called Cube Effects, taking advantage of Eastern Europe's reputation for achieving cost cutting without losing quality. "We don't want to compromise creativity but we have to be mindful of our clients and their economic situation," says Double Negative managing director Alex Hope. With Universal and Warner Bros. historically the company's biggest clients, Double Negative is well placed to grow. "With the end of the writers strike and the weakening pound against the dollar, we are seeing more films looking to go into production over the coming months," Hope says.

Framestore CFC
Diversify or die is a mantra most businesses are mouthing in the current global economy. Framestore CFC, one of the U.K.'s visual effects powerhouses, is doing just that. The company has established an in-house, fully serviced movie production division, Framestore Features, which invests in projects as a partner executive producer. The newly established division aims to provide support, creatively and technically, to filmmakers whose budget might not necessarily lend itself to include state-of-the-art visual effects. Framestore Feature Animation kick-started efforts with last year's animated movie "The Tale of Despereaux" from Universal. "Despereaux" was the realization of a long-nurtured idea of Framestore CEOs William Sargent and Sharon Reed to mount an animated movie production. "We aim to demystify the process of computer-generated visual effects, and to encourage filmmakers toward a more commercially ambitious style of filmmaking," says Framestore Features head and former British film commissioner Steve Norris.

Pinewood Post
Located at one of the U.K.'s most storied studio facilities, Pinewood Studios, and home to the 007 stage, Pinewood Post's re-recording mixers Richard Pryke and Ian Tapp received an Oscar this year. The duo's work on "Slumdog Millionaire" grabbed the achievement in sound mixing prize, firmly planting Pinewood Post on the map. While shot in Mumbai, the postproduction work on the movie was done in the U.K. The post facilities at Pinewood have recently undergone a major overhaul. Pinewood Post managing director Dennis Weinreich says the upgrade at Pinewood and at Shepperton Studios (part of the Pinewood Studios Group) are beginning to pay off. "After what I believe is a few years in the wilderness, the work that has been done here and at Shepperton to update facilities and hardware is starting to pay dividends," Weinreich says.
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