Monday, May 14, 2012

Cinesite sold...but for how much?

Ever since Kodak filed for bankruptcy in the US, a question mark has hung over its UK subsidiary Cinesite. Cinesite is an excellent visual effects house in London's Soho, one of the "Big Four" (including Frame Store, Double Negative, and MPC) which I worked at for many years. We animated hundreds of shots on Underdog, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Marmaduke. Talking animals is not the most glamorous end of the VFX business but we took pride in building a highly efficient pipeline that could produce a huge amount of high-quality work in a very short time.

Some of the most fun I had there included working on the Harry Potter films - who wouldn't want to work on the series that has transformed the visual effects business in London? We did the magical tweeting birds from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - all beautifully rendered and suitable for an extreme close-up (though in the end we never got closer than a wide shot).

Working at Cinesite is fun in part because it still has the intimate feel of a small company - but with big, rich parents overseas, it was always protected from the short-term chill winds of the market. Now, with Kodak gone, it is having to fend for itself. Still, it was a surprise to see that a company which (according to yesterday's Sunday Times) made a profit of £2.7m on a turnover of £25.8m in 2010, has been sold to the private equity firm Endless for "around £2m".

Now, as every Londoner knows, £2m will barely buy you a house in the metropolis these days. Surely one of London's leading VFX houses is worth more than that?

- Alex