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Rhythm & Hues: Special Effects Powerhouse Offers Insight Into VFX Industry

In 1987, six talented California co-workers in the special effects industry decided to make a leap of faith and start their own computer animation and visual effects company.  They decided to name it Rhythm & Hues (“rhythm” for timing and “hues” for design).  During those early days in 1987, Rhythm & Hues operated with just a single computer in co-founder John Hughes’ living room.  By 1988, Rhythm & Hues had moved out of Hughes’ house and into a small office located in the basement of a Culver City dental office.  Now, let’s fast forward 25 years…

Rhythm & Hues occupied its new El Segundo offices in 2010.  The three building campus boasts 235,000 square feet of gleaming, dog-friendly offices for roughly 750 digital artists and staff, two state-of-the art screening rooms, a data center and other amenities.  The Rhythm & Hues campus is, to say the least, quite a step up from the basement.  Rhythm & Hues has a business footprint to match, as it is now a global company with offices in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver and another under construction in Taiwan.

The explosive growth of Rhythm & Hues is almost as captivating as their award-winning special effects.   The company’s long body of work stems back to the famous CGI polar bears they created for Coca Cola commercials, to their Academy Award-winning CGI work on a lovable pig in 1995′s Babe, and recent blockbusters like Hunger Games, Snow White & the Huntsman and The Bourne Legacy.  Currently, hundreds of Rhythm & Hues digital artists are hard at work on roughly nine feature films to be released over the next year.

The amount of change Rhythm & Hues has gone through as a business is second only to the ever-evolving visual effects (VFX) industry that it helped pioneer.  According to Rhythm & Hues’ Film Division President Lee Berger, “the world has changed greatly in the last 15 years” for the VFX industry.  During that 15-year period, the VFX industry went from being based almost exclusively in California to a global industry with stiff international competition.  The trend toward globalization, according to Berger, started in the United Kingdom with a generous tax write off in the late 1990′s, which was later replaced in recent years with generous refundable tax credits.  “The tax credit trend in London changed the game and started the current [tax credit] trend,” said Berger.

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