July 24, 2007

CafeFX Launches Character Animation Division

Santa Maria, Calif. - Feature film visual effects facility CafeFX, which last year created memorable characters for Pan's Labyrith, has launched its character animation division.
Plans for the division were framed more than two years ago in anticipation of client demands, and began with an animation pipeline designed to optimize parallel production of the company’s core visual effects business. In addition to adding more animators and specialized hardware and software, the long-term vision includes comprehensive in-house training. CafeFX’s expanded capabilities will extend through to production at Sententia Entertainment, the company’s feature-film production division.
The character animation division’s first hire is animation supervisor James Straus. Straus was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his contributions to Dragonheart. Then an animation supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), he also worked on Jumanji, Forrest Gump, The Flintstones, and Jurassic Park. Later, as animation director and supervisor at Santa Barbara Studios, he worked on An American Werewolf in Paris, Paulie, and Star Trek: Insurrection, as well as the video game Parasite Eve. Straus was then hired by PDI as directing animator for Shrek, winner of an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Following that time, Straus delved further into the world of computer gaming at Electronic Arts (EA) and also served as an animator for the feature film Constantine while at visual effects company Escape. A graduate of the classical animation program at renowned Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada, Straus has also created a procedural Maya-based forest generating software tool and has produced an independent sci-fi short film.
Straus’ first project at CafeFX will be character creation for The Mist, an adaptation of the Stephen King science fiction novella in which numerous species of horrific creatures emerge in a small town in Maine after a massive thunderstorm. The film’s director, Frank Darabont, brought the project to CafeFX after seeing the company’s past animation work.
Of his new animation home Straus said “I’m very happy to be here. CafeFX has a dynamic combination of talent and advanced technical resources. There’s an eager, exciting energy here because everyone knows that they are contributing to the work in a very personal way. CafeFX is on a meteoric arc and I feel privileged to be a part of that momentum.”
Jeff Barnes, CEO of CafeFX, says “James brings a wealth of experience in CG animation, but importantly, he has built and managed large animation teams for very significant live action and animated films and developed the requisite pipelines and proprietary software. There are great things on the horizon for CafeFX and we intend to bring the utmost in creativity and technical sophistication to those projects.”
The character animation pipeline will have Autodesk Maya at its core for animation and modeling, Softimage XSI for texturing and lighting, and Autodesk Mental Ray for rendering. The company’s production pipeline is also configured with cebas Thinking Particles, Sitrisati Fume FX, eyeon Digital Fusion, Autodesk Combustion, Massive, cebas finalRender Stage-2, 2d3 Boujou, Adobe After Effects, and Apple Shake.