Toronto dazzles in the VFX industry

by | Nov 27, 2020 | A&E

While Toronto’s film production industry grows, the post-production side of the process has been quietly keeping up with the best Hollywood has to offer.

Toronto’s lakeshore has become the hub of all things related to filmmaking. But what many don’t realize is the special effects in the final product are designed and rendered within the city.

“Over the past decade, Canada’s role in the film industry has taken off. Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto have defined themselves as being the Canadian hotbeds for Hollywood,” said Fadi Sara, a layout department supervisor at Mr. X Inc. in Toronto.

The company provides 3D animation, pre-visualization, visual effects compositing, and more for big-budget Hollywood films.

“This is primarily due to the tax credits that are given to movie studios shooting here and using our resources at all stages of a movie production,” he said.

Sara said the most exciting project he worked on was Hellboy, which was released in 2019.

“It was my first time stepping into the role of being a lead, and the logistics of the footage made for some very technical and artistic challenges that really pushed me to learn and grow as both an artist and a lead,” he said.

In 2019, the visual effects (VFX) team at Mr. X Inc. was behind season five of Vikings. They were nominated and won for Best Visual Effects at the Canadian Screen Awards.

Another studio that has taken over the city is Stereo D, even though they weren’t always the effects powerhouse they are now.

Amy Madigan, a senior VFX co-ordinator, oversees her team’s needs and manages the delivery of finished products to clients. Recently, one of those clients included Lucasfilm, well known for work on the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises.

“It was such an honour to work directly with Lucasfilm VFX supervisors,” Madigan said. “The most exciting project so far would have to be The Mandalorian. I moved over to the VFX department around a year ago, and this was the first major VFX project I oversaw.”

The Disney+ original series garnered critical acclaim and was nominated for 15 Emmy awards, winning seven.

Another Toronto studio, MARZ (Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies), has been hard at work on Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series WandaVision.

WandaVision has been a favourite of mine just because of the scope of what the visual effects entailed,” said Eric Galliani, a MARZ input-output (I.O.) coordinator.

Galliani accepts video footage and VFX assets from the clients and creates a log for in-house artists to access when needed.

“The output part of it is preparing deliveries for the client,” he said.

The hardest aspect of VFX work is the hours, and often, the pay. Since VFX artists are not unionized, it can be common for the artists to put weeks of work in and not get paid at all.

“There are problems with overtime and not being paid, and that’s something that’s been across the board for a long time,” Galliani said.

As Toronto continues to grow as a filmmaking city, the future seems more advanced than one would think.

“The trend now is they’re trying to combine more elements with VFX like game engines, A.I. and machine learning,” Galliani said.