"'VisionArt Design & Animation'" was a motion picture and television visual effects company, founded in the 1980s by David Rose and Todd Hess. Though originally a small Orange County company working primarily on cable TV advertisements and flying logos, VisionArt moved to Santa Monica in 1992, winning its first major effects work with "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The studio originated in Santa Ana, California, later moved to Santa Monica, California, and closed its doors in 2000. (VisionArt is sometimes incorrectly cited as Vision Art or Vision Arts.)
Dennis Blakey, who headed the initial development and effects work for the shape-shifting character Odo, brought VisionArt its first prime-time Emmy award. Blakey and Dorene Haver later created the first CGI ship for Star Trek in the form of a 3D runabout shuttle for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Other important players at Vision Art included Vinh Le, Bethany Shackelford, and Barry Safley who all had successful careers in the VFX industry.
Other early work included the pilot of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman for which Rob Bredow, Ted Fay, Carl Hooper, Daniel Kramer, and Pete Shinners,demonstrated the seamless morphing between a human actor and a photorealistic CGI model of the actor. Ted Fay also created the first photorealistic talking dog for Northern Exposure, a technology that was further advanced for the film version of Dr. Dolittle.
VisionArt's claim to fame on the big screen was arguably its creation of the majority of the dogfight sequences for Independence Day, which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Sparky, a dynamics/simulation software spearheaded by Rob Bredow, allowed for near-real-time animation of large groups of F-18 jet fighters, alien attackers, missiles, smoke trailers, shields, etc. Sparky was also able to render the frames in hardware anti-aliased at film resolution at just one minute per frame, allowing the delivery of two shots per day. Prior shots had taken about one month each.
VisionArt's sister company FutureLight, headed by Rob Bredow, created the first real-time tetherless optical motion capture (mocap) system in the industry. While a large amount of mocap data was created to animate the hero CG character for 1998's Godzilla, ultimately the decision was made to animate the Godzilla character through traditional means to keep continuity with shots being done by Centropolis Effects, a company owned by the film's director Roland Emmerich. Mocap, however, was used in conjunction with Sparky for a number of key "Babyzilla" shots. The visual effects for Godzilla were particularly notable in that it was the first major feature film to employ CG animation integrated into a large volume of handheld camera footage, accounting for roughly 80% of the films 400 visual effects shots. VisionArt employed a Zeiss Rec Elta RL-S reflectorless laser survey head (SN 702706-0000.720 217012) to obtain precise on-set 3-D measurements for the large scale street scenes such as those filmed in Manhattan, then coupled that data with custom developed 2D to 3D camera tracking software which allowed CG characters and debris to be seamlessly integrated into the erratic hand-held camera shots.
In addition to being known for science fiction work like Independence Day, Star Trek, and Godzilla, VisionArt specialized in "transparent" effects: removing, replacing, or modifying a wide range of objects in a scene to help tell the story, fix a mistake, or recreate worlds that no longer exist or never did.
VisionArt also won an Emmy for Best Individual Achievement in Effects for Star Trek: Voyager.
VisionArt closed their doors in 2000, selling most of their assets to Digital Art Media. Many of the key staff are now at Sony Pictures Imageworks, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Domain, and other VFX facilities.
VisionArt selected filmography
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993)
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993)
- Northern Exposure (1993)
- Galaxy Beat (1994)
- Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 Women (1994)
- M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994)
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1995)
- Star Trek: Voyager (1995)
- Virtuosity (1995)
- Executive Decision (1995)
- Independence Day (1996)
- Alaska (1996)
- Jingle All the Way (1996)
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
- Jingle All the Way (1996)
- Daylight (1996)
- Men in Black (1997)
- Stargate SG-1 (1997)
- Godzilla (1998)
- Doctor Dolittle (1998)
- Virus (1999)
- Baby Geniuses (1999)
- The General's Daughter (1999)
- Mystery Men (1999)
- Deep Blue Sea (1999)
- The Omega Code (1999)
- House on Haunted Hill (1999)
- Anna and the King (1999)
- Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000)
- Little Nicky (2000)