Montreal – One of the Most Animated Visual Effects Communities in the World

February 22, 2019

With the 91st Academy Awards right around the corner, it is the perfect time to do a close-up with a rising star in the world of visual effects and animation – the city of Montréal. 

With approximately 40 visual effects and animation studios staffed by over 3,000 digital production specialists, Montréal is one of the world’s largest post-production hubs, with an estimated annual business volume growth of 27%, according to Montréal International.

Powered by talent and innovation, Montréal is home to some of the world’s top studios including Framestore, DNEG, Cinesite, MPC, Technicolor, Rodeo FX, MPC, Raynault and Felix & Paul. These studios work hard to delight and entertain audiences around the world with award-winning movies such as Blade Runner 2049, The Jungle Book, Ex Machina, Interstellar and Gravity, to name just a few.

So, what renders Montréal so appealing to the VFX houses? We’ve created our list of top attributes below:

1. Stellar talent

Montréal is known for having an amazing talent pool of digital artists. Top academic centers, such as Centre NAD, continue to turn out highly qualified, creative digital-artists. In fact, the City Council of Montreal recently adopted a new Cultural Development Policy to further establish the city as a world leader in digital creativity.

2. Cutting-edge technology hub

More and more CGI artists are pushing the creative limits, blending new and traditional technologies in order to bring stories to life. One new trend that is particularly on the rise is the use of AI and deep learning to enrich CGI effects. Montréal is undeniably at the forefront of developing cutting-edge technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.

3. Avid support from the government

In order to support the growth of the animation and visual effects industry, the Québec government offers companies very favorable tax terms such as tax credits for film production services and multimedia title production.

According to the Québec Film and Television Council, the province offers some of the best rebates in North America. In addition to offering 20% cash-back for all expenses, the government also provides a 16% bonus on all CGI and green screen shots. Best of all, in Québec, the tax credit is applicable to all expenditures without any obligation on the part of the producer to release the film in Québec. Not to be outdone, the federal government offers an additional tax credit of 16% on all Canadian labour expenditures, net of assistance received from, for example, provincial tax credits.

4. Competitive operating costs

Setting up shop in Montréal costs less than in any other major metro area in North America thanks to extremely low power rates, affordable real estate and lower labor costs. Compared to other Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and even Ottawa, digital production specialists in Montréal enjoy a higher purchasing power. As a result, VFX and post-production houses can easily attract and retain talent from across the country.

Behind the scenes

Visual effects are at the core of modern film production. If we look at the highest-grossing movies over the last decade, they all involve the use of VFX and CG animation: Avatar, Star Wars – The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity Wars, Jurassic World, The Avengers.

Today’s audiences crave highly creative, realistic effects and immersive storytelling experiences. Responding to these ever-increasing creative demands, post-production houses continuously push the boundaries of media production by relying on rapidly evolving technologies such as virtual production, motion-capture, 4k/ultra HD, high frame rate, HDR and 3D. However, the rush to create the next blockbuster doesn’t come without its side effects. Here are some of the most salient challenges VFX studios face that we, at eStruxture, can accommodate:

  • Short Turnaround Times: VFX production pipelines are complex. For any given movie, there are always several studios working on different aspects like motion capture, animation, and other visual effects; to meet tight project deadlines, they need to interconnect their systems to distribute and process assets. Aquaman, for example, had no less than seven studios working on the VFX side alone – many of them, such as MPC, Rodeo FX, Method Studios and Scanline have a presence in Montreal.
  • Resource-Intensive Workloads: Creating enhanced cinematic experiences entails resource-intensive workloads that rely on high-performance computing (HPC) and require high-density cooling and power.
  • Vast Amounts of Data: The ability to manage the sheer volume of information required to produce photorealistic characters and environments is a major challenge. A single character may be composed of thousands of digital assets and often terabytes of data need to be assembled in order to be rendered and composited.
  • Fluctuated Workloads with Limited Budgets: Taking on a new project can make a studio outgrow the capacity of their on-premise render farms at any moment. On the other hand, time between projects can leave them with unused compute nodes. Studios need to be able to control cost and scale their IT resources as needed in order to improve business responsiveness.

As VFX production pipelines become more collaborative and less centralized, there is a pervasive need for infrastructure flexibility, high capacity networks, and a cost-effective pricing model. Power, cooling, and physical space should not put limits on what a studio can achieve. Partnering with a Montreal-based data center provider like eStruxture ensures that studios will not only be able to save on IT infrastructure costs by moving some or all of it off-premise, but also that they are guaranteed the best in performance, reliability, and uptime, benefiting from highly scalable environments, high-density deployments, modern infrastructure, and hyper-secure facilities.

At eStruxture, we are proud to be hosting a vibrant ecosystem of VFX and animation studios who have chosen us as home for their render and storage farms. From within our data centers, they can interconnect with partners, service providers and other members of the VFX ecosystem. Collaboration between studios is thus made easier by co-locating and interconnecting at a central facility. Without having to worry about infrastructure, cooling, and power, studios can focus on acquiring more projects, creating more sophisticated effects, releasing the next blockbuster and winning the next award.

The bottom line is that Montreal offers a perfect ecosystem for organizations involved in the visual effects industry. Over the past decade, the city’s post-production industry has been booming with new studios opening every year.

This year, some new big-name studios are expected to enter the area’s thriving community including Pixomondo and Digital Domain.  In fact, Digital Domain has been nominated for this year’s Oscars for Best VFX for their work on Avengers: Infinity Wars, the world’s second-fastest-grossing film. With over 2,900 VFX shots, the film is heavy on CGI and relies on massive amounts of compute power in order to render its many characters and worlds. Knowing that it can take upward of 50 compute hours to render a single frame and thousands of hours for a shot, it is safe to say that it takes millions of computational hours to (maybe) win a VFX Academy Award!

Are you a VFX studio in the ‘Hollywood North’ market in need of data storage and connectivity solutions? If so, we invite you to download our free e-bookentitled The Case for Bicoastal Colocation in Canada and learn more about the benefits of pursuing colocation and connectivity solutions with eStruxture. Or just reach out to sales@estruxture.com with any questions!

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