Montreal’s Modus FX is celebrating its third anniversary this summer with a full slate of feature film work. Recent projects include Anton Corbijn’s The American, Jaco Van Dormael’s Mr. Nobody, Richard J. Lewis’ Barney’s Version and James Gunn’s SUPER. In just 36 months, the facility has made a name for itself delivering high-end visual effects for an international clientele who have come to appreciate the company’s expertise and artistry.
Modus FX offers clients an expansive 12,000-square-foot studio, which includes production space, a greenscreen stage, conference rooms and all of the amenities necessary to accommodate a growing team of VFX artists. Thanks to a solid business plan, and the extensive experience of founders Marc Bourbonnais and Yanick Wilisky, the company’s growth has been steady, allowing it to participate in international projects and earn a place in the landscape of North American visual effects production.
“There is a small group of high-end visual effects companies who participate in large-scale effects-driven films,” said Yanick Wilisky, who serves as VP of production and VFX supervisor at Modus. “Our mission was always to be a part of that group, and assist directors in bringing their vision to the silver screen.” Work has come from London, Los Angeles and even China, and the facility has developed a reputation for quality of service, on-time delivery, and a unique approach to VFX. Generous Canadian visual-effects tax credits have been an added bonus for clients.
“Working with Modus has been a true pleasure: artistry, fun, good communication and respect for our resources,” remarked Ted Hope of This is That Productions, producer on SUPER. “I will always want to work with those who share our ambition for making the greatest films possible – within the limits of what we have!”
Modus Helps Make The American
“The name ‘Modus’ comes from our unique structure and approach to challenges,” explained Wilisky. “We break shots down into their most basic group elements. We then break down our pipeline into small cells. It makes complex shots more manageable and when demanding assignments come up, we always meet deliveries.”
This was in evidence recently in the facility’s work on The American. “We were a little concerned about a series of shots that featured the bell tower in the Italian town of Castel Del Monte,” said Ben Urquhart, VP of postproduction at Focus Features. “The tower had been damaged in the earthquake last year and [director] Anton Corbijn wanted it in its original state. This required digitally removing elaborate wooden scaffolding, and replicating the pre-earthquake state from reference photos. Yanick told us the best thing would be to create a 3D model for it, and it’s a good thing we followed his advice. During editing we kept swapping-in more shots of that tower so we made good use of that model.”
The American is a good example of the growing use of “invisible” visual effects to provide key narrative elements in live-action movies. “They also created and animated a CG butterfly that is absolutely photo-real,” Urquhart added. “There are multiple shots where you see it brilliantly composited onto a fuzzy cashmere sweater. You’d think we had an animal trainer for insects!”
The Modus Pipeline
“We are a full-service visual effects house,” said Wilisky. “We can do everything from concepts to modeling, tracking, layout and texturing. We also do high-end compositing, animation, effects and simulations. We even have an in-house R&D team that creates specific tools for specific challenges. If there’s something that’s never been done before, they’ll find solutions to make it happen. Service is just the first part of Modus’ mission.”
The company relies on Autodesk’s Softimage and Maya, The Foundry’s Nuke and Side Effects’ Houdini for all aspects of animation. “We have Assimilate Scratch as a DI and colour management solution. We currently have 100 rendering machines and 55 workstations for artists on the production floor,” explained Wilisky.
With the growth of Modus FX, the company has attracted top artists from as far away as France, Brazil, India and Japan. Wilisky explained that he’s never had to go looking for talent. “We’re now at 89 people and they’re all artists who believed in what we were doing, and wanted to be part of it. Our growth has been quite organic in this respect.”
“I can’t say enough about how easy it was to work with Modus,” commented Urquhart. “They are creative, flexible, and have a can-do attitude. After every complicated request and addition, Yanick would say ‘I’m sure we’ll be able to take care of it.’ And they always did. I was in LA, we had The Cutting Room in London and Modus in Montreal. Remote work with them was fantastic.”
About Modus FX
Co-founded by VFX industry veterans Yanick Wilisky and Marc Bourbonnais, Modus FX offers a full range of digital production services for film, television and new media. Boasting a 12,000 square-foot studio and an international team of artists, Modus FX has quickly become an industry leader, delivering work on high-profile projects for studios and production companies such as Sony Pictures, Focus Features (Universal), Warner Bros. Interactive, TF1, Discovery Channel, Interactive, BBC-1, and The History Channel. Modus FX is based in the Montreal area.