Former ImageMovers Employees Launch Atomic Fiction

The new full-service VFX business will aim to cut costs for clients without sacrificing quality.

Three VFX veterans from Robert Zemeckis’ recently shuttered ImageMovers Digital have launched a new facility in Emeryville, Calif.

Named Atomic Fiction, the business was co-founded by Kevin Baillie, who serves as president and VFX supervisor; Ryan Tudhope, creative director and VFX supervisor; and Jenn Emberly, performance and animation supervisor. At ImageMovers, Baillie, Tudhope and Emberly served as VFX supervisor, digital FX supervisor and performance supervisor, respectively.

All three bring many years of experience to the company. Ballie's credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Tudhope's include Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Superman Returns; and Emberly's include Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest and War of the Worlds.

Atomic Fiction is opening in Emeryville — also home to Pixar Animation Studios — as a full-service business, with art direction and concept design. It is focusing on high-end character work and digital environments as well as fire and water effects and compositing. Stereoscopic 3D and performance-capture services are available. 
 
The company opened with nine employees, eight of whom come from ImageMovers, which also was based in Northern California. Disney last year made the decision to close the ImageMovers studio led by Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey. The company handled production of Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol and recently completed Mars Needs Moms, a Simon Wells-helmed animated pic slated for a March 11 release. ImageMovers also completed a test for Zemeckis’ performance capture/3D adaptation of Yellow Submarine.
 
Atomic Fiction plans to operate with low overhead at a time when VFX businesses are asked to do more with less. 
 
“We’re trying to find smart ways to do things less expensively,” Baillie said. “We are looking at cloud computing for rendering so that we pay for it as a service, pay as you go.”
 
Using Emeryville as its data center, the company also is considering the use of satellite bases in areas such as in Louisiana or Vancouver, where it can benefit from financial incentives.
 
Atomic Fiction just completed work on its first project, soon to be released romantic comedy Just Go With It, and is working on another feature and a music video.
 
ImageMovers alum Doug Chiang — who did the production design for ImageMovers movies — is in development on an independent film, Robota, which he will write and direct, and Atomic Fiction is helping him plan shooting methodologies and VFX strategy.
 
Asked about future work with Zemeckis, Baillie said: “We love working with Robert Zemeckis. He is such a great creative partner. We hope to work with him again.”
 
The closure of ImageMovers affected 450 employees, with the staff steadily being reduced over several months. There were roughly 100 artists at the facility when it closed in December. Talent went to VFX houses such as Digital Domain, ILM and WETA Digital, and  several other VFX businesses led by ImageMovers alums are launching.
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