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Look out – the Watchmen have come to Bournemouth!


17 Feb 2020 | Case Study

HBO’s blockbuster TV show Watchmen has stormed onto UK screens with 5-star reviews. What most people probably don’t know is a big slice of that success is thanks to Bournemouth’s best kept secret – the visual effects superstars at Outpost VFX.

Founded in 2013 by Duncan McWilliam, Outpost VFX are racing through meteoric growth to become one of Bournemouth’s largest digital employers and a world-renowned creator of visual effects for film and high-end TV. They now regularly work with global content creators like Netflix, Amazon, Universal, HBO and Apple.

Their recent work includes creating dazzling computer-generated creatures and environments for Watchmen and augmenting the dystopian landscapes in See, Apple TV’s latest sci-fi drama starring Jason Momoa. Thanks to the blockbuster projects and their pioneering approach and focus on people, innovation, support, creativity and balance, they attract top talent from across the globe.

Watchmen Ep 1 Cattle Battle VFX Breakdown from Outpost VFX on Vimeo.

See VFX Breakdown from Outpost VFX on Vimeo.

Given this pedigree Silicon South was only too pleased to respond when they had a chance to make a small, but vital, contribution to this rapid expansion.

In 2018, Outpost VFX was planning a critical, future-proofing programme to guarantee they were fully equipped to deliver cutting-edge content for their clients. They faced increasing demands to move on from HD to 2k, 4k and even 8k delivery formats. At that time, the company was delivering Watchmen for HBO and the upcoming feature film, Greed, which saw them generating up to 7 terabytes of data per day. It was placing unprecedented pressure on their ability to store extremely large data files.

If the company couldn’t update their data management systems quickly, they faced letting clients down – or something even worse, but they needed to manage the upgrade swiftly and effectively. Like all growing companies cashflow was critical, but an opportune meeting with Silicon South gave them a chance to speed up their programme and reduce the financial exposure at the same time.

Silicon South were running a grant scheme through the European Regional Development fund, and the Outpost VFX team were invited to make an application for grant support for the upgrade. After a successful grilling by the panel, the grant was awarded and Outpost VFX completed the IT overhaul in a matter of months.

It’s made a massive difference to their operations. The upgrade supported by the Silicon South grant has allowed the company’s systems to match their ambitious growth plans. On the back of this expanded capability they now have operations in Los Angeles, London and the APAC region, and the company has over 50 members of staff working overseas to add to the circa 100 people working in Bournemouth.

Anthony Story, Silicon South’s Director reflected:

“Outpost VFX’s project is an excellent example of how grant funding can make a real difference to high-growth companies. We know there are other businesses who have a similar capacity to make a real impact on the local economy right now – it’s just unfortunate that public funding in this area is so hard to come by. Happily, with the support of the Network, the Silicon South team is dedicating plenty of time to securing funding – both public and private – that can make a real difference to the local Digital Creative and Tech sector.”

Duncan McWilliam, Founder & CEO of Outpost VFX, commented:

“Securing this grant back in 2019 through Silicon South was vital in empowering us to achieve our plans for growth while supporting us to deliver bigger and more demanding VFX projects for our clients worldwide.

“We are working with truly enormous amounts of data on a daily basis, particularly when simulating lifelike hair and fur for digital creatures or building vast environments for film and high-end TV. It’s of paramount importance that we are technologically ahead of the curve at all times, and I’m pleased to say that securing the ERDF grant gave us the opportunity to invest in equipment that matched our ambition.”

If you’re looking for support accessing funding, sign up to the Silicon South Network to keep up to date with the latest opportunities in this area.