Special effects firm behind HBO's 'Westworld,' and Netflix's 'Jessica Jones' opening Albany office

The company worked with University at Albany to find the right location, and apply for proper tax credits, including Start-Up New York.

A special effects firm behind popular Hollywood movies and TV shows, including HBO's "Westworld" and Netflix's "Jessica Jones," is opening a branch office in Albany, New York.
Bryan Godwin, who started Shade VFX in 2009, is opening a branch of his boutique special effects firm in Albany that will be called BranchVFX LLC. The company, which has offices in Santa Monica, California, and New York City, will be based at a 3,000-square-foot office at 384 Broadway in Albany.

Shade VFX does special effects work for movies and TV shows with more than 50 credits. Godwin said he saw an opportunity to expand, and wanted to do so in New York so clients could take advantage of the state's film and tax credits, while saving some money.
"We traveled up along the Hudson River, and looked at different towns, and thought Albany would be perfect," Godwin said.

Godwin said he checked out New Paltz and Hudson, which was a runner up, but Godwin said it still didn't have the high-quality internet and fiber infrastructure that he was looking for. Albany's infrastructure and quick access to New York City for the day from the Albany-Rensselaer train station made it the right choice.

The company worked with the University at Albany to find the right location, and apply for proper tax credits, including Start-Up New York.

Matt Gratton, UAlbany director of community and economic development, helped Branch VFX in their office search.

"It’s a great example of where the New York State film tax credit program is creating permanent jobs," Gratton said. "There’s been criticism that the film tax credit program doesn’t create permanent jobs. This creates permanent jobs."

Within its first five years in Albany, Branch VFX is committed to hiring 16 new employees in positions that include executive producer, 2D and 3D leads, IT technician, production coordinator, production artist, bookkeeper and production assistant.

"We're hoping to grow the company to 15 to 20 people in the next few years," Godwin said. "We are actively recruiting people now, so we can gear up over the next year. We already have projects booked."

Godwin said they've so far hired six employees, most of whom have relocated or moved back to the area.

A lot of the work that Branch VFX will be doing has historically been offshored to China, and other countries. The Albany office will focus on baseline VFX tasks, including rotoscoping, 3D tracking and paintwork.

Branch VFX in Albany will be one of the few “Tier One” approved vendors for Disney/Marvel/Pixar/Lucas and will also pass security requirements for Fox, Sony and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Gratton said this is the latest example of a company adding to the region's burgeoning creative economy. It's something the Capital Region Economic Development Council has been highlighting more to compete in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's state money competition.

"We need to start marketing this creative economy more. It's this new gem
we’re trying to start to promote and tout," Gratton said, pointing to companies
like Adirondack Studios and performance art venues like Basilica Hudson.
"We never told that story well and we want to start. It gives us a unique niche
in the competition."

Chelsea Diana
Albany Business Review



Industry veteran Bryan Godwin founded shade vfx in 2009 to address an unmet
need for high integrity, efficient, and creative collaboration in the visual effects space. 8 years
later, shade vfx is one of the most successful boutiques in the business, built on a rock solid
technological pipeline with offices in both NY and CA. Further building on the success of shade, and seeing a need for domestic, low cost baseline services, Godwin has created “ Branch VFX.” Branch is dedicated to exclusively filling that need, allowing visual effects companies to reduce overhead, increase throughput and keep domestic and New York based tax incentives intact.

Bryan explains: “ Branch is born of a need for domestically located services for baseline
VFX tasks such as rotoscoping, 3d tracking and paintwork. Nearly every part of every visual
effects production is built on these fundamental tasks, which are frequently outsourced to Asia
and even Canada. There are a multitude of reasons to keep these tasks domestic; most
importantly, adherence to rules regarding tax incentives. Additionally, overseas outsourcing is a revenue vampire, reducing your competitive edge through long feedback loops, extreme time differences, language barriers and general quality control. Branch mitigates all of those
conflicts while still keeping your bottom line and your tax rebates in tact.”

"Albany was a natural choice for our new sister company. Albany takes advantage of an additional 10% transferable tax credit for clients (over the existing 30% in NYC), qualifies for the StartUP NY program, providing further tax advantages to our employees, and has partnerships for acquiring and developing emerging art and technical talent from nearby universities such as U. Albany, RPI and SUNY New Paltz. A quick 2+ hour ride from our shade vfx outpost in NYC will allow Branch to be closely aligned to our core business platforms."