This article was published on 5 December 2012
New technology developed by Auckland company Oktobor Animation is helping to fuel New Zealand's flourishing television production industry.
Over the past two years, Oktobor has produced computer-generated animations for smash hit children's television series Kung-Fu Panda, The Penguins of Madagascar and Monster vs Aliens.
Produced by Nickelodeon Studios, these programmes are viewed in over 400 million households around the world.
Through its work with Nickelodeon, Oktobor is gaining international recognition and is attracting the attention of other major film studios, including DreamWorks. Oktobor recently completed the main titles (the first 30 seconds) of DreamWorks’ new television series How to Train Your Dragon and is working with computer games developer RocketSnail on a new animation and gaming pipeline.
Chris Waters – a founding partner and director of marketing for Oktobor – says the company’s success can largely be attributed to the fact it has invested in innovation by developing its own software and processes.
“Competing on price is a race to the bottom. We’ve had to separate ourselves through the strength of our creative and technical talent; and attract new business on the basis of our innovation and ability to deliver value for the money spent. Investing in research and development (R&D) has enabled us to do this,” he says.
“We also need to be offering new, exciting and high profile projects to attract and retain key talent. By investing in new and better ways of doing things, we manage to bring in exciting projects that help us recruit top regional talent.”
The Government has invested over $900,000 into Oktobor’s R&D since 2010.
A number of co-funded projects have enabled the company to create a long-form animation pipeline. This studio pipeline is a combination of off-the-shelf software, custom tools and plugins. One such plugin, called MentalCore, was commercialised this year to strong industry reviews.
“MentalCore has enabled us to considerably speed up production time and create large scale content with a much smaller team of animators than our competitors’,” says Chris.
Since 2010, Oktobor’s staff has grown from zero to 150 and is expected to keep growing at a steady rate over the next few years. The company also has a presence in Los Angeles and is developing digital co-production opportunities across multiple platforms.
Oktobor’s success is also creating considerable spin-offs for New Zealand.
“The work we’re doing with Nickelodeon is helping to establish Auckland’s reputation as a digital content and animation hub, in the same way Weta has given Wellington a reputation for visual effects.”
“Nickelodeon is a market leader – others are watching their moves closely and we’re confident that with the continued support from both the private and public sector, other big international studios will discover the benefits of working in New Zealand,” says Chris.
The company is also investing in the next generation of Kiwi talent by offering internships to top graphics students from around the country and peer-to-peer training for its staff.