Montreal, Quebec -- Modus FX  is cruising with successes on major film and TV productions, representation by the prestigious International Creative Management (ICM) agency, the recent opening of its previs division and two award nominations. Not bad for a company that turns five years old this month.
Projects completed by Modus FX this past year include work on upcoming major productions, as well as 132 shots for Ken Kwapis’ Big Miracle, 46 challenging shots on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I, a surreal combat sequence for Immortals and 194 shots for Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror, completed in a scant eight weeks. And in January, the Visual Effects Society nominated VFX supervisor Louis Morin and VFX producer Annie Godin for Source Code. Modus was the main vendor on the project and one of four Montreal-based facilities that collaborated on the VFX.
Expanding Hollywood presence
In October, 2011, Modus opened an office in LA, as well as signing on with ICM, one of the world’s largest talent and literary agencies. Hollywood studios now have easier access to the previs, VFX supervision and post capabilities offered by Modus FX.
Previs division opened
Modus FX continues to enhance its visual effects services, with the recent opening of a previs division at their Montreal-area facility. Offering on-set concept artistry, stunt choreography, reverse-engineered camera tracking and motion capture, these preproduction services save studios valuable production time and resources, allowing them to maximize the return on their visual effects investment.
“Offering previs helps bridge preproduction to post,” said Yanick Wilisky, VP production at Modus FX. “With the new previs division, we are a big step closer to integrating all these services with production. This integration was one of our stated goals when we founded Modus FX five years ago.”
New Motion Capture Studio
Modus has also added a MoCap studio to their facility. Using a simple setup of software and six high-resolution cameras situated around the room to track motion, the studio is used for image-based capture of shots requiring extensive animation. These include idle structures, basic animation cycles, such as two people walking toward each other, and animated creature work. The wide range of possible actions works well for the crowd scenes that Modus is currently creating for two upcoming major releases.
“MoCap integrates perfectly with our new previs division,” said Mostafa Badran, CG supervisor at Modus FX. “Animators get a starting point that is much further along in the process than it used to be. The result is that they have more time to perfect shots the way they want to.”
For their work on Immortals, Modus created five and a half minutes of usable MoCap recorded during one 8-hour session. Clean-up of the images took just two weeks; hand animation would have taken over a year.
“Much of our post-vis comes directly from capture without needing to clean up the keyframes,” said Wayne Brinton, VFX supervisor at Modus FX. “We get a rough calculation of what the performances are going to be, which is what directors want. For the film we’re working on now, the director filmed scenes, shot-by-shot, exactly as we’d created them in post-vis. It saved him so much time on set.”
Animated Feature Films
While continuing its VFX animation work, Modus is building up its animation division to create high-end animated movies. Currently the facility is hard at work on Sarila, which will be the first stereoscopic animated feature produced entirely in Canada. “These are long-term projects that can provide up to 18 months of stable work,” explained Wilisky. “Projects such as this are ideal for a facility like ours.”
Modus is also expanding its capabilities in creating hard-surface assets such as helicopters, robots and trains, as well as their creature work, which so far has included photo-real animations of crows, butterflies and fish.
Expanding the Scope of Work
Though high-end VFX in film continues to be their main business, the economic downturn, coupled with the emergence of outsourcing to India and China, encouraged Modus to develop new offerings. The expansion into documentaries, TV and full CGI features required an expansion of human resources at Modus. They decided to supplement the existing hardware, leverage it with a different team, while keeping the VFX division intact. This requires more supervision and coordination.
“When we expanded, we thought of adding a night shift and having them use the equipment we already had,” said Marc Bourbonnais, president and co-founder of Modus FX. “But that turned out to be more costly than simply adding workstations. It’s more cost-effective to make sure everyone’s working together during the same shift, and on the same page.”
Entrepreneur of the Year
Careful planning and thoughtful management have enabled Modus to succeed for five years in an industry that has proven challenging for many mid-size facilities. Modus FX continues to be in a stable financial position, and this month, Bourbonnais was named a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 Awards in the Emerging Entrepreneur category. The winner will be announced in October.
“When we first thought about starting Modus FX, we were just two artists who wanted to keep doing what we loved,” said Bourbonnais. “Since then we’ve established solid business practices and built a thriving facility. We’re really excited about what’s in store for the VFX industry, and for Modus, in the next five years.”
Source: Modus FX