A very special effect
The small village of Westby is 5,246 miles from the bright lights of Hollywood and a world away when it comes to the glamour and excitement of Tinseltown.
However, the movie magic being created inside a barn conversion in this quiet corner of the Fylde coast is delivering blockbuster moments for the world’s biggest TV, film and video games studios.
Realtime is a globally acclaimed CGI, animation, and visual effects specialist, with a focus on the gaming, automotive and broadcast sectors. As it says on its website: “We don’t just make visuals, we craft belief.”
Founder Tony Prosser, a graduate of Blackpool and The Fylde College, set up the business from his Lytham bedroom a quarter of a century ago with three Apple Macs.
Today the business is an award-winning international force in computer-generated imagery and animation. Tony reels off a massively impressive list of clients that includes the likes of Netflix, Disney and Microsoft.
Its work ranges from film visual effects to the production of trailers and in-game cut scenes for the video game industry. Projects have included the Game of Thrones HBO game trailer.
More than100 people work for the business, including 60 full time staffers. Realtime has another operation in Manchester and a third state-of-the-art studio is currently being created at its Fylde base, an old farm based in the village. Turnover is more than £6m and the business has its sights on £10m.
The business has never been as exciting with the rate of change, the growth and the new opportunities that have opened up
Tony is a veteran of the industry, but his enthusiasm is as great as it was on day one of the venture. He says: “This is our 25th year and I’ve never seen growth and opportunities like it.
“We’ve been through two recessions and a pandemic which we have worked through effectively.
“The games industry in America has seen something like 40 per cent growth as a direct result of the pandemic. In this sector we have secured our best-ever contract.
“The breadth of what we are doing in the games industry just keeps expanding.”
Realtime has grown from making animated trailers and adverts to promote games, to delivering longer narrative stories that are part of the interactive game itself. “It has become much bigger for us as the gaming experience has changed,” says Tony.
The company’s team have developed their own bespoke animation software and are progressively carrying out more of a service to support games development.
Realtime’s visual effects work is also booming. Tony points to a “fabulous” new contract with content platform and production giant Netflix. Sky is another client and the studio has carried out projects for the BBC.
The games industry in America has seen something like 40 per cent growth as a direct result of the pandemic
He adds: “We’re also facing a backlog of TV work because the pandemic has delayed a lot of filming because of lockdown.”
Realtime’s work doesn’t stop there. The early days of the business saw it working for motorsport giant McLaren, producing 3D illustrations.
It continues to work in the automotive industry for clients including Lotus and Skoda, creating animated content and interactive experiences for motor shows and car launches.
Tony says that attracting world class talent is not a problem. In the high-tech industry new recruits don’t have to relocate, though he says they need to come to Lancashire for certain phases of projects.
He says that the pace of technological advances in the industry is rapid. “Changes made over a year a decade ago are happening in a month.”
Tony says the mantra is “go fast, go hard”. The industry is competitive and global. He adds: “I can’t say that we have been a leader in what we are doing. Studios in locations like New York, Paris, London and LA are bigger than us.
“What we have done is really embrace these new technologies before many of them. It’s been a chance to get a march on them and to be seen more of a leader than a follower.”
He adds: “The business has never been as exciting with the rate of change, the growth and the new opportunities that have opened up.”
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