A French Revolution:The name BUF Compagnie is not always the first company to leap to mind when one thinks of the world’s top VFX houses, but you’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t been dazzled regularly by the company’s work. And soon, reports guest author Neal Romanek you will be able to buy the software that produced it.
The Paris-based company has been designing visual effects for commercials, films and music videos for 30 years. BUF’s debuts in the feature film world were auspicious, with the creation of digital effects for Caro & Jeunet’s The City Of Lost Children and Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time. More recent effects work includes Game Of Thrones, Life of Pi, the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending and a return to collaboration with Wong Kar Wai with The Grandmaster.
The company is also famous for the “bullet time” effect seen in The Matrix, originally developed for Michel Gondry’s videos and also for its “camera mapping” technique employed to great effect in David Fincher’s Fight Club.
The troubles with the French economy have forced many media companies to change their business strategies, however, and BUF’s deliberate retrenching aims to give it a foothold at a time when local VFX industries are being especially hard hit.
BUF has benefited from being something of a closed shop. The workflow and software it has employed throughout its illustrious history was developed and designed entirely in-house. But BUF has undergone a renaissance over the past few years. Company founder and long-time owner Pierre Buffin opened a new branch of the company, Angel & Fine Productions, devoted to developing and producing the company’s own effects-driven projects. Of even greater significance to the VFX community, the proprietary software that Buffin and his team have developed over many years is going to be released to be released on the open market.
Olivier Gilbert has been with the company since the beginning is VFX supervisor at BUF. “In fact we were a big company five years ago. We were really a lot of people. But it was really complex to mange. And Pierre wanted to focus on more artistic things. Of course if the project is interesting, we would be happy to look at it.”
While BUF is being especially choosy about who it works with and what projects it takes on, it is being equally generous about sharing its software assets – previously under lock & key – with the wide world.
“In addition to the visual effects and the 3D animation and all these fantastic images we can provide, we want to develop and distribute our software,” says Gilbert, “We have been developing the software for 30 years now. We have never bought any commercial software, we have always developed everything on our own, in-house. And now we think that we have this fantastic asset and we want to distribute it on the market.
“We think our software collection is valuable for two reasons: first, we have a proven track record, and second we have a consistent collection of software. Most products only offer special solutions for a studio. So they spend a lot of time and money to patch the different software together to make them work as a whole. It’s a pain in the ass. They don’t manage to make it really efficient and seamless. Ours is a complete package, a complete pipeline. And the artists really like it.”