The New World of Coper­ni­cus

Hal­i­fax-based Coper­ni­cus Stu­dios cel­e­brates 15 years of de­liv­er­ing top-notch 2D an­i­ma­tion.

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Hal­i­fax-based Coper­ni­cus Stu­dios cel­e­brates 15 years of de­liv­er­ing top-notch 2D an­i­ma­tion.

‘ The an­i­ma­tion busi­ness is also dy­namic, evolv­ing, and is as var­ied as the peo­ple and the per­son­al­i­ties be­hind the projects be­ing pro­duced. We love work­ing with the many tal­ented peo­ple in the busi­ness who are driven with ideas, pas­sion­ate, and ex­per­i­men­tal at their core.’ — Founder and pres­i­dent Paul Rigg

It was a cold Cana­dian win­ter day in Fe­bru­ary 2003 when four creative guys got to­gether in one of their apart­ments around the old cof­fee ta­ble … and said they were go­ing to start a brand new an­i­ma­tion stu­dio. One built on pro­duc­ing qual­ity dig­i­tal 2D an­i­ma­tion com­bined with the best in dig­i­tal com­posit­ing.

Hal­i­fax, at the time, was home to one of the world’s first large-scale 2D Flash stu­dios pro­duc­ing high vol­ume an­i­mated train­ing videos for U.S. For­tune 500 com­pa­nies. Three of the part­ners were from this ex­ist­ing Flash stu­dio, and one was from a bou­tique vfx and com­mer­cials post fa­cil­ity in town.

With a true pas­sion for all things an­i­ma­tion, and driven by a vi­sion for do­ing things bet­ter, Coper­ni­cus Stu­dios was formed. The story con­tin­ues to­day. “We are an artist-fo­cused 2D an­i­ma­tion stu­dio that is fo­cused on cre­ativ­ity, tra­di­tional draw­ing and an­i­ma­tion skills,” says founder and pres­i­dent Paul Rigg. “Our mis­sion would be best de­scribed as: ‘Make it bet­ter!’ with an at­ti­tude that qual­ity first is al­ways what mat­ters. We pride our­selves in our re­lent­less pur­suit of ex­cel­lence … in de­sign and for cre­at­ing an­i­ma­tion that we know hits our own stan­dards.”

Stel­lar Record

With ap­prox­i­mately 250 full-time em­ploy­ees, the stu­dio has worked on some ma­jor TV and fea­ture pro­duc­tions in re­cent year, in­clud­ing Warner Bros.’ Teen Ti­tans GO! to the Movies, the Teen Ti­tans GO! TV se­ries, Dis­ney XD’S Pickle and Peanut, Ama­zon’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Mondo’s Rid­ing Shot­gun. The stu­dio is also pro­duc­ing the an­i­ma­tion for Cloudco Ent.’s (for­merly Amer­i­can Greet­ings Ent.) up­com­ing show Care Bears: Un­lock the Magic with Turner and Warner Bros.

Fo­cus­ing on 2D an­i­ma­tion, Coper­ni­cus artists use tools such as Adobe An­i­mate and Toon Boom Har­mony to cre­ate clas­si­cal, hand­drawn 2D an­i­ma­tion. They also em­ploy Sto­ry­board Pro, Pho­to­shop, Af­ter Ef­fects and Pre­miere to de­liver the goods.

“Coper­ni­cus has gone from a close-knit team to a multi-pro­duc­tion pipe­line, and with that change comes some added struc­ture,” says Rigg. “With an ag­gres­sive IP de­vel­op­ment strat­egy and an in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy pipe­line, the chal­lenge is to re­tain qual­ity con­trol over a much larger op­er­a­tion, but yet also main­tain that bou­tique creative soul in the foun­da­tions.”

Rigg be­lieves that the stu­dio’s an­i­ma­tion clients ap­pre­ci­ate the pas­sion his team brings to each project. “They also know we’ll plus the projects where we can, to make it the best it can be,” he says. “Our clients have con­fi­dence … know­ing there is a real trust or re­spect in­side Coper­ni­cus for the projects that get put in our charge. It’s great to be able to jump on a call and talk to clients and get a real an­swer. The own­er­ship of Coper­ni­cus is in­volved in the day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the com­pany, and we’re al­ways ac­ces­si­ble to our clients.”

Draw­ing Global Tal­ent

Of course, run­ning a busy an­i­ma­tion stu­dio has its share of chal­lenges. “There’s a lot of ac­tiv­ity as the mar­ket has been hot lately, so there’s no short­age of work,” Rigg ex­plains. “The chal­lenge is to man­age the un­cer­tainty that comes from fac­tors out­side your con­trol. Se­cur­ing tal­ent, lin­ing up con­tract end dates with start dates and plan­ning for ex­pan­sion all in­volve strate­gic think­ing com­bined with tac­ti­cal agility. With ex­pan­sion comes con­cerns about scal­a­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity. How do we best cap­i­tal­ize on the abun­dance of work and plan for the fu­ture?”

Rigg says se­cur­ing ex­pe­ri­enced tal­ent is one of the great­est sin­gle chal­lenges in Canada, as in many an­i­ma­tion hubs around the world. “As the in­dus­try has ex­panded and be­come busier in re­cent years … find­ing ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior tal­ent is prov­ing more chal­leng­ing. The world of 2D an­i­ma­tion is also evolv­ing to higher over­all stan­dards, with in­creas­ing de­mand for a tra­di­tional hand-drawn qual­ity. That’s why an­i­ma­tors with this level of ex­pe­ri­ence are prov­ing harder to find in the in­dus­try.”

Through­out the years, Coper­ni­cus has ben­e­fited from Canada’s gen­er­ous tax credit sys­tem for an­i­mated pro­duc­tions. “When pro­duc­tions in the U.S. or Europe go look­ing out­side their bor­ders for a ser­vice stu­dio, price is still a big

fac­tor in the fi­nal de­ci­sion on where to place the work,” Rigg ex­plains. “That puts Coper­ni­cus in com­pe­ti­tion with other over­seas stu­dios lo­cated in Korea, the Philip­pines and In­dia, where la­bor costs are much lower. We are very for­tu­nate to have a healthy tax credit sys­tem in our re­gion which keeps us com­pet­i­tive in a global mar­ket­place.”

The stu­dio has its eye on con­tin­ued growth for the next 15 years. “Our goal is to make great work that speaks for it­self,” he notes. “Rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes are hap­pen­ing in the world of an­i­ma­tion with in­creas­ing fre­quency. From cor­po­rate merg­ers at the high­est level to au­di­ence view­ing pat­terns at the ground level, noth­ing is cer­tain. For Coper­ni­cus to suc­ceed we must seek out the best tal­ent and nour­ish a healthy cul­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion where in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge is paired with in­no­va­tion and en­thu­si­asm. Fif­teen years from now, Coper­ni­cus will be known for beau­ti­ful an­i­ma­tion, mem­o­rable char­ac­ters and mean­ing­ful sto­ries.” ◆

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