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New VFX House Origin Digital Studios Opens in Burbank

Pixomondo Vet Mark Miller's New Venture is Co-Located with FotoKem, Backed by Miami's Lincoln Road Advisors

It's not all bad news for VFX in Los Angeles. Today, VFX veteran Mark Miller said he is opening a new VFX house, Origin Digital Studios, in Burbank, with additional satellite studios in New York City and Albuquerque, NM. Backed by Miami-based investment firm Lincoln Road Advisors, the company plans to open in Atlanta, GA, later this year.

The move comes amidst serious consolidation in the VFX world, not to mention an ongoing exodus of major facilities from Los Angeles as the industry looks for incentives eslsewhere. Miller sees that as an opportunity, not an obstacle, for a new business. "With the studios and production companies still in L.A., there still needs to be a VFX footprint locally," he told StudioDaily via email. "Also, the VFX talent base in L.A. is some of the best in the world, so we wanted to take advantage of that while maintaining a small core team. We still rely heavily on our other offices throughout the U.S."

Miller said the L.A. office will be staffed by a "small core team," with the other U.S. locations staffing up as the needs of individual projects dictate.

Before launching Origin, Miller was GM at Pixomondo in Burbank, where he worked in VFX production for TV series, including Terra Nova, Sleepy Hollow, Game of Thrones and Grimm, and produced VFX for features including Spring Breakers and A Good Day to Die Hard. Previously, he was co-founder and president of Eden FX.

Among Origin's first clients is Sleepy Hollow VFX supervisor Jason Zimmerman, who Miller says is using Origin alongside Pixomondo as a primary vendor for the popular Fox show.

One aspect of the new venture that sets Origin apart competitively from other middle tier VFX houses is a strategic relationship with FotoKem. The Burbank location is in one of FotoKem's production centers, giving it fast access to FotoKem's high-speed cross-country network in addition to the nextLAB mobile system and GlobalData software platform. The New York location is fiber-connected to the same network, Miller said, as all of Origin's facilities will be in the future. But Miller stressed that Origin is an independent company.

"FotoKem has no stake in Origin or us in them," he said, noting that Origin rents space from FotoKem and pays for any needed services. "Clients can use only what they want. If Origin VFX is their only interest, that is fine, but we will ask that they have a look at what FotoKem has to offer. We are big believers in their dailies system, for instance, as they have integrated a VFX pipeline into those tools, which can save production time and money."

When asked about the future of VFX in the U.S., Miller said the industry isn't going away — even if it's not clear where in the U.S. the work will be done. "There will always be VFX work in the U.S.," he said. "As far as where, that remains to be seen. But the biggest features and TV shows are all effects-driven. The work will move based on where the rebates are, but there will be plenty of work to go around. Most other departments on any given project have been traveling for a while now. It's just now starting to catch up with VFX, I think."

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