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Read how Engine Room brought “Soul surfer” to life at latimes.com.

SOUL SURFER is the inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion. The film, directed by Sean McNamara, features an all-star cast including AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood and Dennis Quaid. Amazing surfing, moving performances and photoreal effects all contribute to this inspirational film experience.

Bethany Hamilton’s transformation from shark attack victim to top surfing pro makes her nothing short of a real life superhero. But for the story to translate to a film’s retelling, audiences have to accept AnnaSophia’s physical loss as real. To accomplish this challenge, Director Sean McNamara turned to longtime collaborator VFX Supervisor Dan Schmit and Engine Room to lead what would ultimately become 750 intensive effects shots.

“Dan and I have collaborated for many years and have a shorthand that was key to this complex undertaking,” says Director McNamara. “His team was integral to making this inspirational story of a true champion. They solved all of the visual puzzles beautifully.”

Dan and Engine Room EP Michael Caplan provided on set VFX supervision in Hawaii, returning to the Hollywood studio to oversee their core creative team and offsite artist group of highly vetted remote individuals. Working closely with artists from all over the US and as far away as Macedonia, Engine Room tapped expert effects practitioners best suited for each shot including the hundreds of arm removals, torso and background replacements, surfboard color changes, face replacements and more.

Engine Room’s in house artist team, headed by Compositing Supervisors Eric Heavens, Dave Piedra, Paddy Culham and Mary Dowd, tackled the most challenging shots and engineered solutions for the technical challenges inherent in shooting water scenes with moving cameras, multiple surfers and a prosthetic-clad lead. VFX editors Adam Simpson and Ian Shulman kept the massive show organized and the filmmakers constantly up to date with temp effects shots for screenings throughout a long six month editing process.

“To gloriously overcome her disability required amazing reserves of discipline, strength and courage; the fact that they were summoned by a thirteen year-old is truly inspirational,” says Dan Schmit. “We are proud help Sean and his team portray such an incredible example of triumph.”

Read how Engine Room brought “Soul surfer” to life at latimes.com.


Engine Room is in mid-season production on an innovative comic-book style campaign with Gary Hartley and his Fox Sports Graphics team for this season’s NASCAR on FOX. Each week ER is producing a 30 second custom tease that recaps the thrills, spills and upsets from the previous week’s NASCAR race. These largely animated teases are script-to-air on a five-day schedule and include a full package of driver bumps and additional graphics for the Fox On-Air team to utilize during their weekly broadcasts.

Creative talent was the key in both designing and executing this high profile project, and for that ER leaned on its own Dave Piedra to spearhead the creative effort. Illustrators Frank Gomez and Iain Slack, helped define a striking pop-art look for the tracks, race cars and the drivers themselves. Within days of network sign-off, Dan Schmit joined Hartley traveling to the legendary Daytona Raceway to film the competing NASCAR drivers for their comic book alter egos. With these key assets in place, the ER home team headed by EP Michael Caplan began production, utilizing an appropriately high intensity color palate.


Unique to the spots are the custom 3D car animations for each driver. Hand drawn textures and a custom toon-shader result in a truly different look for each of these graphic car renderings. Highlights of prior week’s races are reenacted and rendered in 3D using Maya and then each comic book panel, consisting of cars racing/crashing, track establishing, driver interiors and hero driver poses, is assembled by Compositing Supervisor Eric Heavens, who brings it all together in After Effects CS5. The first tease rolled out in February in time for the Daytona 500 and the 14 episode series will continue until June.

Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman

Once again Engine Room has joined forces with documentarian James Younger and The Incubator to produce the graphics and animation for the upcoming second season of the Science Channel hit series, Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman. The series has rocketed Discovery’s spinoff network to triple their usual ratings.

Produced in conjunction with Freeman’s company, Revelation Entertainment, Through the Wormhole explores the latest scientific theories behind the biggest topics of all. Is there a Creator? What is dark matter? Is there an edge to the Universe? These are just a few of the ambitious mega-topics explored with Freeman hosting.

To help illustrate the latest cutting edge theories, Engine Room enlists many of the industry’s most visionary artistic talents. Since digital artists are generally science buffs at heart, ER doesn’t have to look far to find collaborators who are incredibly passionate about the subject matter.

Setting the series off from your typically dry science doc show, Through the Wormhole producers and directors embraced the concept of using many different animation styles throughout each episode. These range widely from photo-real rendered 3D CG all the way to traditional hand illustrated and cutout animation sequences. The intention is to make the, often lofty, subject matter accessible to a very broad audience. Judging from the huge ratings, it’s working!

From a macro 90-second continuous sequence showing the Big Bang and all of creation to the journey inside the smallest particles ever detected, Engine Room enjoys the challenges required to bring this ambitious show to life. With the next ten episodes currently in production, be looking for more exciting scientific adventures coming from within the Wormhole…

Reynolds WrapReynolds WrapReynolds Wrap

When Millennium Creative Group’s Cliff Pia needed a live action partner to produce a national Reynolds Wrap spot last spring nobody anticipated that a year later two more spots would already be on air, with two more soon to be on the way. What started as one spot blossomed into an entire campaign credited with boosting Reynolds Wrap sales across the country.

Partnering with Circle One advertising in Connecticut, the three-way creative team has been working to make all the spots fun and humorous, both with performance and visual design. This has resulted in a series of inspired shoots bringing ER’s brand of expert art direction and casting together with a fantastic production crew.

ER and Millennium Creative Group have collaborated on close to a dozen commercial and web spots over the last several years. Of the tight MCG/ER relationship, Pia comments, "You can’t find a more professional or a more client friendly production partner in Hollywood than Engine Room. I trust them with any technical challenge and as important, with any client. Professionalism, honesty, integrity, and good people is a hard combination to find these days, but Engine Room has all of the above."

The feeling is mutual from everyone at ER; who view the relationship with MCG as among its best. "We shine brightest when we have the chance to shape projects all the way through the production process," reports ER principle and live action DP, Dan Schmit. "Our clients appreciate and rely on our focused attention to detail which we impress upon every aspect of our work."

Breathing new life into a household brand like Reynolds Wrap can be a difficult challenge. The fact that clients like Millennium and Circle One keep coming back for more demonstrates how collaboration with Engine Room bring success to any production task, no matter how tricky.