How culture, innovative tech and the beach competes with Soho.
Outpost VFX are breaking the mould of what a VFX studio should look like. With an impressive catalogue of clients and a whole host of credits on major blockbuster films, we decided to find out a bit more about this local company making waves in the global VFX industry.
When Duncan McWilliam founded Outpost VFX in 2012 after a long career in London and LA, he decided he wanted to do things a little differently. The company’s core philosophy is built on getting the right people and offering them a totally different environment to work in. With this in mind, he set up a small VFX studio in Bournemouth and the rest, as they say, is history. From that small team, Outpost VFX has grown into an 80-seat facility working on projects like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Life, 47 Meters Down, Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan. They’ve taken all that’s good about a London-based studio and created a collaborative, well-rounded and vibrant studio by the sea. They attract the best talent from London, luring them down with boat trips, beach BBQs, great schools and secure contracts whilst working to provide a quality of life unrivalled by their Soho-based counterparts.
As part of our series of articles catching up with local businesses we sat down with Danny Duke, MD, and Steve Holmes, Marketing Manager, to chat all things Outpost.
Danny explained that Bournemouth’s beautiful surroundings and relaxed atmosphere have taken a key role in not only attracting top talent, but also persuading clients to work with them. Far from the hustle and bustle of London’s Soho VFX scene, Bournemouth has been able to provide a selling point for those that may want to explore taking their work out of the nation’s capital. He continued that allowing clients the opportunity to travel down and discover that the once ‘retirement capital of The South’ is actually a thriving digital hub with a younger-than-expected population, can very quickly flip perceptions of the area on their head.
Danny continued that as a middling size VFX company, they are keen to cap their staff at 150 people per studio. This way they can maintain a closeness within the team that allows them to produce the best results for their clients. With many veteran artists that have worked for some of the biggest visual effects companies in the world, the level of work at Outpost is always of a high standard. From working on feature films to commercials, they deliver time and time again by ensuring that they develop and maintain a positive and flexible attitude whilst delivering high-quality projects, sometimes ahead of schedule.
Last summer Outpost had the huge success of producing over 400 VFX shots for box office hit 47 Meters down, a shark blockbuster which became the year’s biggest independent film worldwide right up until the release of Bad Moms’ Christmas at the end of the year. As the only VFX vendor on the film Danny explained that they were able to produce shots very quickly by harnessing their own on-site GPU render farm, giving them the ability to iterate quickly through different versions for rapid client feedback – another differentiator.
Most recently Outpost has worked on Jack Ryan and Final Score, and has supported Framestore in a series produced for Nutopia and National Geographic called One Strange Rock, a beautiful Planet Earth-style documentary that is headed up by Darren Aronofsky and narrated by Will Smith. With a huge quantity of CGI work there were quite a few visual effects houses sharing the project, and this method of sharing work is seen as quite normal. If one company specialises in say, feature films rather than TV, then utilising your connections in the industry can be a very effective way to share the workload and accept the project.
Another key reason to keep headcount at the 150 mark is to continue to make sure that the team get together every Friday to celebrate the hard work that everyone has been doing. Crucially the team also commiserate the rare occasions when projects don’t go quite to plan, giving Outpost and its artists the chance to learn from past mistakes and rethink any future strategies.
For a company that is still considered relatively young in the VFX world, Outpost is already banded within the same category as those that have been around for 15+ years. If this is how much they have grown in the last 5 years, we can only look forward in anticipation and wonder at how much they can and will achieve in the next 5!