Although you may not know the name, if you’ve watched ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Heroes’ or ‘Doctor Who’ you’ve no doubt seen their work. Stargate Studios is an international, full service production and visual effects company with ten studios the world over, including Canada, Germany, Mexico and, naturally, right here in Los Angeles. Their long list of work includes a wide variety of television and film nearly too long to list. We spoke with Stargate Founder and CEO Sam Nicholson on starting the production juggernaut, their work across the globe and even their use of the popular Atomos Shogun recorder.
Nicholson himself got his visual effects start on the very first Star Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, when visual effects were more paint and less keyboards. “There was no such thing as digital. It was all optical printing and film. What we now do in a matter of hours took weeks, if not months”, something Nicholson attributes to changing technology. “We’re continually chasing the capabilities of technology and pushing it to its limits”, he explains, so as to meet the ever increasing creative needs their clients bring them. One such need required ten cameras rigged in a circle to shoot 360 video in 4K. The only way Nicholson and his team saw fit to do this was by using the Atomos Shogun.
As you can see in the picture above, Stargate Studios’ rig is simple in design, but complex to execute. As Nicholson points out, they require a camera operator with the ability to control and monitor ten camera feeds at once, no small feat. Not to mention the sheer amount of data one 4K signal produces, let alone ten. So Nicholson turned to their favorite recorder, the Atomos Shogun, sending ten of their fourteen owned units on the shoot.
Nicholson praises the Shogun for its portability, speed, quality image and (perhaps the biggest draw for the efficiency conscious team) its efficient pipeline to handle the mass amounts of data from the shoot. With the Shogun’s reliance on non-proprietary SSDs, Nicholson and his team can capture all the footage they need, offload over night, and be ready to shoot the next day with little trouble. And with ten cameras running simultaneously, there’s ten times the chance for something to go wrong. The Shogun’s reliability is another big draw for Nicholson: “You need the best hardware…you need hardware you can rely on. You just need to find the right workflow that works for you, and for us the Atomos Shogun recorder fit one of those critical blocks that allow us to have a continuous workflow.”
As with many things, better technology leads to greater versatility, and it is versatility that is perhaps Stargate Studios’ biggest strength. As Nicholson explains, “You can have 250 people in 10 different countries working on any single shot or show”, further describing Stargate as a “global virtual studio”. The only way they are able to accomplish this is the pipeline established by working online. With their ability to render or transfer data to any one of their facilities across the globe, Stargate Studios can meet their customers’ needs regardless of location.
This global reach extends to their entire pipeline, from pre-production to delivery, with many of their producers overseeing multiple projects in coordination with their other producers that are in the same situation. While this may seem like a disaster waiting to happen, Stargate’s model has been implemented quite successfully, something Nicholson would like to see continue for the industry as a whole in the future. “We’re really trying to reinvent the visual effects business and get it to a new level of creativity and efficiency”, explains Nicholson, something Stargate Studios seems Stargate Studios is well on their way of accomplishing.
Stargate Studios’ immense list of visual effects and production credits include hit shows such The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, 12 Monkeys and Grey’s Anatomy, just to name a select few. Their work has won them numerous awards, such as several Emmys (one for Special Visual Effects for a Series for Heroes, another two for Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries or Movie) and several Visual Effects Society Awards (pictured above).
You can find out more about Stargate Studios and their large body of work at StargateStudios.net
For more information on the Atomos Shogun, be sure to visit www.Atomos.com/Shogun