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Buf at 30: Visual Effects Magicians Turn to Conjuring Content

Company aims to diversify its revenues

With a track record spanning more than 80 feature films and almost 1,000 commercials, Buf Compagnie is diversifying its revenue sources and forging long-term partnerships by positioning itself as a co-producer rather than just a standard vfx shop.

The change began when Buf produced Oscar-nominated short “Even Pigeons Go to Heaven” in 2007 and launched Angele & Fine Productions, named after founder Pierre Buffin’s daughters, to line-produce international projects that are serviced by Buf under France’s Trip tax rebate scheme. Titles have included “Thor,” “The Grandmaster” and “Odd Thomas.”

The company also operates two L.A. production arms: Angele Productions for live-action projects and Fine Productions for animation.

In 2012, Buf established post houses in Montreal and Brussels to access local tax shelters.

Its first project via the Brussels unit was Nicolas Bary’s €12 million ($16 million) dark comedy, “The Scapegoat,” which bowed in France last October.

Co-productions include “Toby Alone,” with Amber Entertainment, based on Timothee de Fombelle’s novel; Sanaa Hamri’s sci-fi coming-of-age tale “Just Like Beauty”; and Gil Kenan’s Trip-backed “A Giant,” with Lava Bear and the Jim Henson Co.

Buf is also moving into transmedia with Yann Ulrich’s “HY Opera,” which intertwines 12 different media, including film, TV series, videogames, graphic novel and live games. It will tour 55 cities in 24 countries between 2016 and 2022.

Per managing director India Osborne, Buf is also prepping an ambitious film and TV project with Lloyd Levin and Wayne Barlowe.

To open up a new revenue stream, Buf is prepping the commercial launch of its proprietary vfx software, to be packaged at an attractive price for young filmmakers and universities, with a special focus on emerging countries.

The company has hired chief technology officer Julien Villemeur, who was previously with 3D CAD software powerhouse Dassault Systemes, to oversee a late 2014 launch.

“Over the years we’ve acted as ambassadors of this technology,” Buffin says. “I’d like to provide our software to young artists throughout the world, to push visual effects into new surprising worlds.”

Three Decades of Dazzle

1984: Pierre Buffin joins Henri Seydoux (son of Pathe owner Jerome and father of actress Lea) to form Buffin Seydoux Computer Animation (BSCA). Creates Process Management Tool, software for 3D modeling and animation.

1989: Seydoux and Buffin part ways, and company changes name to Buf. Produces “Computer Home,” a six-minute animated short in 3D.

1994: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “The City of Lost Children” made with early graphics- processing software for a dream sequence.

1996: Michel Gondry’s musicvid “Like a Rolling Stone” uses proprietary Bullet Time speed-simulation software.

1997: “Batman & Robin” uses scripting language as well as procedural and particle effects (for Poison Ivy’s plants and Mr. Freeze’s ice).

1999: David Fincher’s “Fight Club” uses a 3D creative pipeline for modeling and texturing.

2003: The Wachowski siblings’ “The Matrix Reloaded” (1) and “The Matrix Revolutions,” use Bullet Time technology.

2006: The company has its first feature-length animated pic: Luc Besson’s “Arthur and the Invisibles”.

2007: Oscar nomination for Samuel Tourneux short “Even Pigeons Go to Heaven,” along with 14 awards for vfx, including eight trophies for commercials and five for musicvideos for the Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna and White Stripes. Inhouse production unit Angele & Fine launches, named after Pierre Buffin’s daughters.

2009: Another feature-length animated picture: Luc Besson’s “Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard.”

2011: 3D scene rendering of Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor.”

2012: Alain Chabat’s comicbook-based 3D pic “Houba! On the Trail of the Marsupilami” uses Buf’s vfx. Post houses in Canada and Belgium launch. Vfx supervisor Michael Fink joins shingle’s L.A.-based arm to oversee English-language productions.

2013: Vfx done on Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster,” Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac: Volume I.”

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