China has yet to establish much of a visual effects industry built on quality of work. Indeed most Chinese filmmakers tend to use Thai or Korean shops, as their graphics are better than those from China’s vfx companies but not as pricey as the top-end effects from the U.S., Europe or Australia/New Zealand.
One notable exception to the mediocrity of Chinese vfx has been Base FX, a Beijing-based digital effects house set up in 2006 with the aim of serving both Hollywood and the local Chinese and Asian industries.
As a mark of its difference, Base FX has collected a couple of Emmys (for “The Pacific” and “Boardwalk Empire”) and 15 months ago struck a strategic partnership with Industrial Light & Magic. The deal, which was renewed and expanded in April, gives ILM/Lucasfilm guaranteed scale and capacity in China. It also guarantees Base FX a certain amount of prestigious film-related work each year.
Under ILM supervision, the company has worked on “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and “The Lone Ranger.” Most recently it supplied 350 shots for “Pacific Rim” and it is set to be a key part of “Star Wars: Episode VII.” U.S. TV work includes effects for Starz’s “Black Sails” and HBO’s “True Detectives.”
In the past year, the company has leaped forward in other ways too. It has tripled its revenues, increased its staff from 210 to some 300, and is now building a clone operation at a former steel mill site in Wuxi, near Shanghai. Though there may be some file sharing, the company intends to have two separate teams that work on their own projects.
As the Chinese film industry matures Base FX is attracting more local commissions. Even with the ILM work, founder Christopher Bremble says, the proportion of Hollywood-sourced work has dropped from 70% a couple of years ago to less than half now. Local filmmakers using Base FX include Lu Chuan (“The Last Supper”) and Zhang Yimou (“The Flowers of War”), while producer clients include Bill Kong’s Edko and production giant Wanda Media.
The company has also recently been chosen to produce a live-action car-racing film for the core of one of the “dark rides” Wanda is building into its theme parks.