Soho district a hothouse of production

World's top vfx shops all within walking distance

With four of the world’s top vfx houses just a five-minute walk from each other, London’s Soho district is a post-production mecca.

Double Negative, Framestore, Cinesite and MPC co-exist within a few streets, in a constant state of competition and collaboration. Their rivalry pushes them to invest heavily in new techniques and skills in order to keep pace with each other. But they also routinely share big jobs and pass work among themselves.

Crucially, that means Hollywood producers can entrust the London vfx shops with their biggest movies, knowing not only that the work will be cutting-edge, but that there will be the capacity across the four companies to handle any eventuality. And the work qualifies for the tax credit if the film has also shot in the U.K.

“Arguably, London now has the best array of visual effects houses in the closest proximity to each other with the healthiest working practices anywhere in the world,” says British Film Commissioner Colin Brown.

London’s vfx toppers pride themselves on their ability to work harmoniously. “We have to make London come first, because it’s hugely important to us all,” says Double Negative CEO Matt Holben.

For example, DNeg, the biggest of the houses, is currently sharing Disney/Pixar’s “John Carter of Mars” with Cinesite — which itself has doubled in size over the past year. Framestore and MPC both worked on “Clash of the Titans.” All four have built their business on a decade of “Harry Potter.”

” ‘Potter’ has been a huge backbone for our business,” Holben says. “It has given us the stability to invest in our R&D infrastructure.”

Current work includes “Pirates of the Caribbean 4,” “Captain America,” “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and “X Men: First Class,” all shot in the U.K. But the London houses also compete for transatlantic jobs with no tax benefit for the producers. DNeg worked on “Iron Man 2,” while Cinesite did “Marmaduke.”

“There’s a certain comfort level when people have worked with us before,” says Cinesite managing director Antony Hunt. “We’ve got all the ingredients now to attract high-end vfx work from all the major studios. At one time London could only accommodate a couple of big movies at a time, but now we can handle half a dozen.”

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