Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) celebrating its silver jubilee


Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) is celebrating its silver jubilee.

SPI, a remarkable, Academy Award–winning visual effects and animation studio, has created extraordinary and visually stunning images for more than 100 live-action and animated productions, from Contact and Castaway to Spiderman, Smurfs and Suicide Squad in these 25 long years.

Their contribution has been enormous, not only to visual effects but also as a leader in technology, helping develop some of the world’s best software (Arnold) and driving the OpenSource initiatives (such as Alembic) that have helped solve industry-wide challenges and deliver spectacular visual effects.

In an industry when all too often companies struggle to survive, SPI is an evergreen unit. It produces a vast array of types of visual stories, from their dedicated team, initially at their Sony Pictures Studio home in Culver City, and increasingly from an international collective of artists in Canada and elsewhere.

Founded in 1992 with just five employees, SPI was formed with the focus on providing visual effects for live action films. One of those original leads is still a senior Visual effects Supervisor at SPI, Jerome Chen. Their first office was sharing the space with TriStar Pictures production executives in what was then called the TriStar building (now called Jimmy Stewart). Their first office conference room becomes SPI’s first data centre.

The first thing that Jerome Chen, Senior VFX Supervisor Sony Pictures Imageworks, worked on at SPI 25 years ago was So I Married an Axe Murderer with Mike Myers. “I was brought on a modeller and I made a digital pickaxe – but it ended up being cut from the movie! So the first thing I ever did was never used,” he fondly recalled.

The team’s first major film was for Director Wolfgang Petersen, placing Clint Eastwood as a Presidental secret service agent in In the Line of Fire. The film was supervised by John Nelson who went on to win an Oscar for Gladiator and nominated multiple times for films such as I,Robot and Iron Man.