Vision Crew, Digital Magic Form Alliance To Broaden Efx Services

By Robert Goldrich

LOS ANGELES-Vision Crew Unlimited, a company here known for its mechanical effects, models, miniatures, and motion-control photography, has entered into a creative alliance with post/effects facility, Digital Magic in Santa Monica. Per the arrangement, Vision Crew gains access to Digital Magic's digital compositing, computer graphics, and other post effects services; Digital Magic will be able to tap into Vision Crew's mechanical-effects expertise. Evan Jacobs, Executive Producer and Co-Founder of Vision Crew, noted that his shop's relationship with Digital Magic is non-exclusive. "Each house is free to work with other effects suppliers," he said. "But we've established a good working rapport with Digital Magic's people on prior jobs and felt that forming a reciprocal alliance was a great way to expand the scope of effects services we offer." "It makes us more of a full-service operation," he added. "If something comes up we cannot do in-house, chances are Digital Magic can, and we are able to retain control over work without having to hand it over to someone or someplace else."

Jacobs noted that upon opening last year, Vision Crew was limited to miniatures, puppetry, and mechanical effects for its first major spot-Coca-Cola's "Things We Know," directed by Spike Jonze of Satellite Films in Hollywood for Creative Artists Agency, Beverly Hills. Jacobs contended that if a working alliance with Digital Magic had been in place back then, Vision Crew would have been able to stay involved in effects through the spot's completion.

Digital Magic President Bob Bailey agreed that his shop and Vision Crew will both offer a broader range of enhanced services. He and Digital Magic VP of Sales, Jeff Beaulieu, also pointed out that their company has gained flexibility with the added ability to offer effects-supervision talent to clients. Although Digital Magic has resident Visual Effects Supervisors, including Henry/Harry/Flame artist Ralph Myers, Flame and digital suite artist don Greenberg, and D1 composite suite/Flame artist Jim Eberle, it's not often feasible to free them from their facility bookings for extended duty on a set or location. But now Digital Magic can plug into Vision Crew's Visual Effects Supervisors-Jacobs and company Co-Founders/Creative Directors/Technical Directors Jon Warren and Douglas Miller-to accommodate clients during a shoot and ensure that a project's effects integrity is preserved. Bailey described the alliance with Vision Crew as another in a series of steps taken to fortify Digital Magic since it was acquired 14 months ago by Burbank-headquartered Four Media Company (4MC). Bailey noted that 4MC has initiated a multi-million dollar expansion of resources at Digital Magic.

Artisans from Digital Magic and Vision Crew first teamed up last year when the latter shop was producing visual effects on the Trimark Pictures feature Sometimes They Come Back...Again, which is slated for a September 1996 release. Vision Crew's Macintosh operation was used to turn out 21 digital rotoscope shots that entailed some compositing. The company worked closely with Digital Magic, which scanned film into the Mac and later returned the composited sots to film. "That's become more common now, but six months ago it involved some R&D to achieve the film-in/film-out scanning we needed for the Macintosh," Jacobs said. "That's when we and Digital Magic began to develop a close-knit creative relationship."

Vision Crew's non-exclusive alliance with Digital Magic comes on the heels of its move from Culver City to offices nearly twice the space here. Its new facility includes an insert stage, a models/miniatures-building shop, a motion-control rig, and Mac-based computer graphics.

Among current projects, Vision Crew is working on a series of effects scenes for a commercial promoting the upcoming New York, New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas via Asher/Gould Advertising here. The spot is being directed by Yariv Gaber of Moxie Pictures in Hollywood. Vision Crew also created miniatures of the Chicago skyline and Inglewood's Great Western Forum for the upcoming Warner Bros. live-action/animation film, Space Jam, directed by Joe Pytka. The movie stars Michael Jordan and other basketball superstars cavorting with animated Looney Tunes characters, including Bugs Bunny.