What’s Their Gig?
Eric Hanson, the CEO of Spy Post, got his start working in Silicon Valley. When he decided to open his own visual effects and post-production studio, it never occurred to him to travel down the coast to LA, where the majority of the work might be. "I like Northern California…Industrial Light and Magic is up here; a lot of those guys are the pioneers." So he and co-founder Darren Orr took over an 800-square-foot space in an animation studio in San Francisco. Today, their 5,000-square-foot studio, three blocks from the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park, is one of the pioneers in a neighborhood that is fast becoming a new media center for the city.
The majority of Spy Post’s work comes from ad agencies like McCann-Erickson and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, for whom the shop has provided visual effects and color correction on spots for Rolling Rock, Scion and GMC. But occasionally this post-production house gets involved during the pre-production phase. "Sometimes we’re brought in before the director is hired; clients want us to tell them what’s possible to do and what’s not." Apparently, using digital matte painting to turn Dodger Stadium into a gleaming, high-tech sports arena was possible, which is exactly what they did for their GMC spot.
The Cool Factor
Don’t think that Spy Post has gone completely commercial. Hanson is also very proud of Spy Post’s involvement with the independent film community. Hanson and Orr (who has two Emmys for his work in documentary film) provided post-production support for a feature film called Girls Rock, a documentary about a RockÃ¢Â€Â˜n’ Roll camp for girls between the ages of 7 and 17, which is already getting a lot of buzz and is due out in March. And on The Village Barbershop, Spy Post colored the film, provided editing support, created effects and designed the end credits.
The facility has also done some rotoscoping and composited some action sequences for several big budget action sequels due out this summer.
The Geek Factor
According to Hanson, Spy Post is "the only company North of Los Angeles and West of the Rockies and possibly West of the Mississippi that can offer high-end visual effects including Flame and CG, VFX editorial, color correction and film-to-tape transfer with a Spirit, as well as a full HD-based digital intermediate pipeline." Additionally, Spy Post has a color correction room and four additional rooms that are switchable between Flame, Smoke, Avid and Final Cut Pro. But the piece of machinery that Hanson is most proud of is his da Vinci 2K plus, arguably the industry’s leading color enhancement system. Upon acquiring the da Vinci, Hanson says he immediately doubled the size of the company and its revenue.
Hanson is also very proud of his 12-member staff, repeatedly pointing out how talented they are and how lucky Spy Post is to have them in their employ, which is another reason Hanson probably never made the move to LA. That attitude won’t get you very far in Hollywood.