Sony Pictures Imageworks

Sony Pictures Imageworks
Industry CGI visual effects
Motion pictures
Founded January 1, 1992
Headquarters Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Number of locations
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Culver City, California, United States
Products visual effects
Owner Sony
Parent Sony Pictures Entertainment

Sony Pictures Imageworks, Inc. (SPI) is a visual effects and character animation company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.[1] SPI is a unit of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group.[2][3]

The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars for their work on Spider-Man 2 and the computer-animated short film The ChubbChubbs!, and received many other nominations for their work.

SPI has provided visual effects for many films, most recent include Oz the Great and Powerful, The Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black 3. They also provided services for several of director Robert Zemeckis' films, including Contact, Cast Away, The Polar Express, Monster House and Beowulf.

Since foundation of its sister company Sony Pictures Animation in 2003, SPI has also animated all SPA's films, including Open Season, Surf's Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film series, The Smurfs film series and Hotel Transylvania film series, and also helped animate other animated films like Rovio Animation's The Angry Birds Movie and Warner Animation Group's Storks.


Sony Pictures Imageworks was formed in 1992 with five employees to use computers to help plan complicated scenes for live-action films.[4] Located in the former TriStar building, their first work was a previsualization for a 1993 film Striking Distance.[5]

To fill the gaps between VFX jobs, SPI decided to partake in a more profitable animation business.[6] Its first independent animated effort was the 5-minute short The ChubbChubbs! directed by Eric Armstrong. In 2002, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Early Bloomer, released in 2003, was the division's second short film and originally made as a storyboarding exercise.[7] SPI completed its first feature animation project in 2006 with the release of Open Season.

In 2007, SPI acquired Indian visual effects studio FrameFlow to take advantage of lower labor costs.[6][8] Renamed to Imageworks India, a modern facility was opened in Chennai a year later.[9] To leverage New Mexico's tax rebates and talent base,[10] a satellite production facility was opened in 2007 in Albuquerque,[11] becoming the largest post-production operation in the state.[12] In 2010, SPI opened a production studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, in order to take advantage of the local talent pool and government film production incentives.[13] Two years later, the studio doubled its Vancouver facilities.[14] At the same time, the Albuquerque studio was closed down due to declining New Mexico's subsidies and difficulty with attracting artist to move there.[10]

In the beginning of 2014, as part of Sony's cost-cutting move, SPI transferred a portion of its technology team from its headquarters in Culver City to Vancouver.[6] By May 2014, entire headquarters and production had been moved to Vancouver, with only a small office remaining in Los Angeles.[15] At the same time, SPI closed down its Indian studio, laying off around 100 employees.[16] A year later, over 700 artists moved into a new 74,000-square feet headquarters in Vancouver.[17][18]


During 2009-2010, SPI made transition from traditional biased, multi-pass rendering system to a largely singlepass, global illumination system incorporating modern ray-tracing and physically based shading techniques. They have achieved that with Arnold Renderer, an unbiased stochastic ray tracer. Arnold, started in 1997 by Marcos Fajardo, was co-developed between 2004 and 2009 with SPI, where Marcos was employed, and a commercial branch is being developed by Marcos' Madrid based company Solid Angle SL. Arnold was used on projects such as Monster House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 2012, Alice in Wonderland, The Smurfs, Arthur Christmas and is being used on all upcoming SPI's films.[19]


Sony Pictures Imageworks has provided visual effects and digital animation for the following films:[20]


  1. Bruce Constantineau (May 28, 2014). "Sony Pictures Imageworks to move head office to Vancouver". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  2. "Sony Pictures - Divisions". Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  3. "Sony Pictures Imageworks".
  4. Halbfinger, David M. (October 31, 2007). "Sony Said to Be Pondering Partial Sale of Movie Units". The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  5. Failes, Ian (August 30, 2012). "From Speed to Spidey: 20 years of VFX and animation". FX Guide. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 S. Cohen, David (January 21, 2014). "Sony Imageworks Shifting Staff From L.A. to Vancouver; Layoffs Feared". Variety. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  7. Tito A. Belgrave (September 8, 2003). "Making Waves with Early Bloomer". Retrieved November 5, 2010.
  8. "Sony Pictures picks up 51% in FrameFlow" (Press release). FrameFlow via The Economic Times. February 20, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  9. IANS (April 11, 2008). "Sony Imageworks opens visual effects studio in Chennai". Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  10. 1 2 Verrier, Richard (February 29, 2012). "Sony ImageWorks to Close New Mexico Viz Effects Unit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  11. "Albuquerque Studios Sees Special Effects of SONY Imageworks Deal in New Mexico" (Press release). Albuquerque Studios via PRWeb. May 20, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  12. Kamercik, Megan (February 29, 2012). "Sony Pictures Imageworks to leave New Mexico". New Mexico Business Weekly. Retrieved March 1, 2012.
  13. MacInnis, Tara (August 14, 2012). "How Sony's Vancouver studios give Canadian animators home field advantage". National Post. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  14. Etan, Vlessing (February 3, 2012). "Sony Pictures Imageworks Expands Canadian Outpost". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  15. S. Cohen, David (May 29, 2014). "Sony Imageworks Moving HQ to Vancouver". Variety. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  16. S. Cohen, David (January 29, 2014). "Sony Imageworks India to Shut Down (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  17. Marchand, Francois (July 10, 2015). "Sony Pictures Imageworks unveils new Vancouver headquarters". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  18. Lu, Cecilia (July 29, 2015). "12 photos inside Sony Pictures Imageworks new downtown Vancouver HQ". Vancity Buzz. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  19. Haines, Eric (July 20, 2010). "Marcos and Arnold". Ray Tracing News. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  20. "All Shows". Sony Pictures Imageworks. Retrieved November 4, 2012.

External links

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