News / Vancouver

Vancouver studios open doors to tech world during crawl

Vancouver’s top visual effects and video game studios opened their doors to hundreds of SIGGRAPH conference attendees Wednesday to show the world what a tech hotbed the city has become.

Sony Imageworks, MPC and United Front Games were among the companies participating in the Vancouver Studio Crawl, an event organized by the Vancouver Economic Commission that chartered attendees (everyone from senior executives from Japan to speculative job seekers from Brazil) of the computer graphics and interactive techniques trade show to tour the inner-workings of the city’s leading companies.

“It’s rare that we do it,” said Greg Butler, head of visual effects for Academy Award-winning Yaletown studio MPC. “But it’s rare that anyone sets up and has the credentials of the SIGGRAPH group to provide that kind of guest list and opportunity for us to open our doors briefly.”

The studio won an Oscar of its work on Life of Pi, and its recent credits include Man of Steel, World War Z, Maleficent, Godzilla and Guardians of the Galaxy.

It makes for an extensive highlight reel – which visitors got to watch from the studio’s private screening room.

The impressive list of projects highlights the growth of Vancouver’s visual effects industry as a whole, said Butler.

“For a long time, Vancouver has always produced video games and feature film visual effects, a lot of media. But in the last couple of years, with feature film visual effects specifically, it has just taken off in a massive way,” he said. “One thing I noticed in theatres lately is during the trailers, most of the films were MPC projects. And if they weren’t, they were worked on in Vancouver by other studios.”

Checking out Vancouver’s corporate culture was the main draw for Monika Michalak, a human resources director for ShenZhen, China-based iDreamSky Games, which publishes games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja in Asian markets.

“I’m used to visiting game studios but this is my first time in North America so I have high expectations,” said Michalak, using SIGGRAPH to search for potential talent. “There are a lot of good companies here so there are a lot of great opportunities for networking.”

The studio crawl saw a dozen buses transport more than 700 people to 14 studios within the city.

Should a SIGGRAPH attendee be so impressed that they’re willing to put down roots on the West Coast, Vancouver Economic Commission CEO Ian McKay is ready to step in.

“Every company I’ve spoken to, whether formally or informally or at a reception, I ask them what their global plans are,” said McKay. “Many of them are not from North America, so I make a very clear pitch to them to come launch their North American operations from Vancouver.”

Unlike other jurisdictions, such as cities in the U.S., Canadian municipalities can’t offer much in the way of financial incentives.

“We don’t offer cash, that’s not the business we’re in,” he said.

But the commission can link companies in with other government supports, help find office space and highlight the benefits of being in Vancouver.

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