The origins of the studio started in 2004 as an artists collective. Unable to find inexpensive space in the central areas of Vancouver, the group discovered a repurposed sawmill complex in the old industrial district near the city's edge.
When a refugee from Hollywood fell in love with the Whistler ski slopes and didn’t go back, the change for the studio began, eventually resulting in becoming an incorporated entity in 2014.
Comprised of industry professionals from the visual effects, gaming, music, design and scientific disciplines, the intent of the founding group was to create a publicly accessible facility that would engage in research, development, and content creation for motion capture and immersive industries while providing limited production services.
MoCap has traditionally been an expensive service because of high equipment and infrastructure valuations and lack of trained personnel on a global level particularly in the entertainment industries.
The studio aims to streamline the motion capture pipeline by limiting the amount of post production work including retargeting data for delivery to animation teams. In essence, the facility will provide MoCap services at an affordable cost thereby making it available to a larger pool of clients.
The Sawmill is already a recognized technology startup from the BDC attracting a wide cross section of industry and disciplines ranging from academia to entertainment. Articles about our work have been published by mainstream media outlets and emerging associations to academic and technology institutions have been regularly occurring since then.
We are one of the few studios in Canada with a mandate to facilitate motion capture production service, develop industry tools and engage research involving immersive technologies.
We are The Sawmill—meet our team.
Derrick was a Print and Package Designer. His early work had been recognized by several world design associations, published by major periodicals and received many awards over the years. A partial list of clients included Sony Japan, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, Canada Post. He co-founded Stoney Creek Wine Press, a small wine label company serving the Canadian market. By the time he sold the business, he had overseen the company’s development to become one of continent’s leading sources of alcohol beverage design, garnering attention from mainstream media.
His introduction to media production started earlier at International Rocketship Ltd. consulting for Marv Newland. Over a 20-year period he worked on animation feature length projects, commercials & short films. He would later contribute at Mainframe Entertainment and the National Film Board.
Derrick served as a faculty member for many years at ECCAD (ECUAD) in Vancouver and conducted seminars at several of Canada’s prominent design institutions from Université du Québec à Montréal to Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSUAD).
Alastair has been working as a motion capture consultant and software developer for many years. He has worked on movies such as Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, Matrix Reloaded | Revolutions, The Thing, 2012, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 and with game developers such as Mainframe Studios and Radical Entertainment. His software is known in the industry to be essential artists' tools including developing his own motion capture solver for Autodesk Maya, called PeelSolve, used on a number of film and game production pipelines. He has a keen interest in how users interact with technology and has experimented with combining high fidelity passive optical motion capture with low latency virtual reality experiences.
Alastair taught media courses at Capilano University and Vancouver Film School, created educational workshops and consulted with institutions such as Emily Carr University of Art & Design in British Columbia. He has a degree in Combined Studies (Computing and Electronics) from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
After studying at art school, Ivan moved to Hollywood and worked on several groundbreaking films. He saw a need for better visual effect tools and founded Martian Labs in 2000 to create software and produce visual effects imagery. His company collaborated with studios including Rhythm & Hues, Digital Domain, Method, Asylum and Entity Effects. He was awarded a Visual Effects Society award for his work on Smallville.
Martian Labs development of software tools included interoperability, geometry processing, volumetric rendering, mesh processing and fluid solvers. Many of them helped to showcase imagery such as the "hydrous tools" ocean surface simulation software used on projects from Flags of our Fathers, X-Men 2 to Lost.
In 2007, he relocated to Vancouver working with Rainmaker, Deluxe/CIS and Embassy Effects on some of the first large VFX projects completed in BC. He opened his offices in what is now the Sawmill and introduced the founders.
After nearly two decades in film, he began to focus purely on software development, along the way helping Rainmaker create a Houdini/Massive integration tool and Solid Angle on their Arnold renderer. Eventually, Ivan crossed over to the video game industry building procedural content generation tools for artists.
Aaron is a visionary who believes in uplifting the human spirit through design and advanced technology. Chairman and co-founder of Conquer Mobile, he drafted the first prototype VR medical simulation, PeriopSim VR. He founded VanVirtualReality.com in 2013 for Virtual Reality enthusiasts which has grown to over 900 members, the largest VR Meetup group in Vancouver.
At age 12, he was inspired by the demoscene computer graphics competitions and got into 3D stereoscopic programming semi-professionally. Later, he developed games, tools and engines for Sanctuary Woods (1995), Disney Interactive (1998) and EA Games (2002).
In his university career, Aaron built up the University of Victoria's first Adaptive Optics software technology foundation, contributed to 13 papers, travelled to Glasgow (Scotland) and Grenoble (France) in the course of researching techniques for improving low-latency optical stabilization, earned the NSERC USRA research award and graduated Computer Science with distinction.
He co-founded Conquer Mobile in 2007, which has since grown to become one of the most advanced app developers in Vancouver—focusing on the user experience, real time collaboration and medical simulation—while building Van iDev Meetup iOs developers group from 40 to approximately 1400 members.
In 2016, he set off to do VR full time, home-basing at the Sawmill; making virtual, augmented, and mixed reality experiences.
Andrew is a multi-skilled CG artist and manager specialised in motion capture and cinematic animation. He has made significant contributions to film productions such as Snow Whie and the Huntsmans (2012), games such as Star Wars Battlefront (2015), Mad Max (2015) and numerous TV shows and music videos.
After achieving a higher education in art and media, he joined a pioneering, start-up motion capture service bureau in 1997 in Oxford, England, helping produce ground-breaking work for creative visionaries such as Björk and Ridley Scott. Specialist skills at this level soon allowed him to pursue roles globally, from North America (Mainframe) to England (Nvizage) and Sweden (Imagination Studios).
Providing ‘virtual camera’ support to film directors at the world-famous Pinewood Studios, England, his role at Nvizage in 2011 relied on his extensive CG/Motion Capture expertise and cemented his passion for cinematography and visual storytelling work. Subsequently immersing himself in the artform as Cinematics Animation Lead at Imagination Studios, he eventually attained the position there as Motion Capture Animation Manager.
Ramiro grew up in Veracruz, a port town in Mexico. He first fell in love with cinematography watching Georges Melies films, and at age 17, decided to focus his career on film production.
He received a B.Sc. in Communication Media studies and a M.A. in TV, Film and Radio Production from the Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México. During his time in Mexico he was part of production team for weekly television show, Codigo 72, which aired for 3 1/2 years where he worked as a camera operator and motion graphics editor.
In 2012, he moved to Vancouver and graduated from the 3D Animation and Visual Effects Program at Vancouver Film School. Ramiro scaled up from Junior Mocap Artist to Project Lead position at Animatrik Film Design while working on projects such as Warcraft, Gears of War and Star Wars.
At the Sawmill, he is responsible for fine tuning every detail of the MoCap process from volume setup to file delivery. Ramiro will also liaise with clients, train staff, cast talent, assist with research and test new tools in development.