This article is available in: French
We recently had the opportunity to meet the team from Terminus, a new studio based in Nantes, France. The team chose to focus on a specific part of the production pipeline, the idea being to work in collaboration with other studios. This approach seems to be gaining popularity in recent years, at least in France.
We sat down with them to discuss their positioning, the challenges the team faces as a young studio, and the technical choices (including RenderMan and Unreal).
You will also find an overview of their upcoming projects!
3DVF:Hello Terminus! You are a young studio based in Nantes, France. Who are you, and what services do you provide?
Terminus Studio: Terminus is a post-production studio. We are specialized in Lookdev, Lighting & Compositing.
We also offer a supervision service: we can oversee your project from A to Z. Thanks to our background, we are experienced in this kind of thing, whether in a studio or at an animation school (ESMA Nantes).
We chose this approach and specialization because these are taskes we love to handle. It also allows us to simplify recruitment and HR management. It should be noted that our long-term goal is to have a fixed team rather than relying on freelancers. Expertise, people we are used to working with, a proven common methodology. This will make us even more efficient and high-quality.
3DVF : In the passed, we already showcased on 3DVF studios focused on specific parts of the pipeline, such as Tsunami when it comes to animation, and other entities specialized in rigging. From a business perspective, how did you realize that combining this approach with your areas of expertise would also make sense?
Exactly, we know these studios quite well, and we were somewhat inspired by them! We saw that the industry tends to split: dividing a project between several companies allows them to master their respective areas of expertise. We also noticed that there was a lack of companies focusing on the processing of pictures, which is what we love. So, we thought, “Why not us?”
We are also in discussions with other studios specializing in different parts of the pipeline, with the aim of pooling our know-how when needed. By positioning ourselves almost as a collective on future projects.
The dream would be to offer a complete service with each specialist in their field. Developing collaborative work in France, especially since we have excellent artists in the country.
3DVFCan you tell us about the launch of the studio? What about your first projects?
We started in January 2023, mainly with freelance work. A lot of supervision for now, and some production work as well.
Unfortunately, we can’t always discuss our projects since we often work on a “white-label” basis for other studios.
Currently, we are mainly working with Supamonks, with whom we have been working on numerous projects involving supervision, as well as lighting and compositing on some of their projects.
We have worked on various types of projects, including some shots from a feature film, advertisements for mobile games… Once again, we can’t say too much at the moment!
3DVF: As a young studio, it must be quite challenging to work as a white-label service without being able to publicly showcase your work…
It’s indeed a constraint, yes. Often, we are asked for a demo reel and examples of projects. So, we have to present the demo reels of our graphic designers without being able to show certain Terminus projects.
However, we rely on word of mouth and ask our clients not to hesitate to mention us to other studios and share the added value of working with us.
To overcome this issue, we are going to try to develop in-house projects. We started some this summer:
- A short film with a team of former ESMA students, who were mentored by two members of our team (Anthony Voisin and Christophe Moreau). They want to establish a collective of directors called “La Toile” and asked us if we were interested in collaborating on their first project.
- Jean-Michel Ponthieux Mondoloni (Vimeo – LinkedIn), a filmmaker who is also a friend of us, is working on a series project, so we are setting up the pilot with him, which will allow him to pitch to producers.
These projects will enable us to have publicly shareable visuals and demonstrate our expertise.
3DVF: How big is your team?
There are three of us: Romy Sauvage, Anthony Voisin, and Christophe Moreau.
Christophe is the compositing supervisor and technical director, managing all the computer and software aspects.
Anthony is the CG supervisor, specializing in shading/lighting, and handles the commercial side.
Romy manages the administrative tasks, HR, production management, and the commercial aspect.
Three complementary areas of expertise.
We won’t increase the size of team as long as we can handle the workload, but the goal is to soon have enough orders to fill these offices! We have the capacity to accommodate 10 to 15 graphic artists in our premises.
3DVF: Can you tell us about your pipeline?
It’s quite standard, we are using Maya / RenderMan / MARI and Substance / NUKE. We’ve started diving into Unreal Engine, with the aim of developing both a pre-rendered and a real-time rendering pipeline.
3DVF: Why RenderMan and not another renderer, like Arnold?
Because we are proficient with it! We’ve been teaching it for eight years now at ESMA, and we embraced it with the transition to RIS [Editor’s Note: The rendering engine in RenderMan for the past few years, replacing the REYES approach used since RenderMan’s inception]. So, we’ve kept up with its developments, feel comfortable with it, are delighted with its performance and capabilities, and in terms of cost, its pricing is quite competitive. So, there wasn’t really a choice to make.
Of course, since we’re providing services, we’ll adapt to our clients’ pipelines, but we’ll certainly emphasize RenderMan, as we are very satisfied with it.
3DVF: What are your thoughts on the latest release, RenderMan 25? Have you tried using the new features?
Yes, we’ve started exploring it, and we’ve been able to test the new denoiser, which clearly adds value. However, it’s important to manage the sampling and sampling rate well to achieve clean results. You shouldn’t expect detailed rendering with just one sample per pixel.
On the other hand, we’ve noticed that the new denoiser preserves details better compared to the old one. It also surpasses Intel’s denoiser, Open Image Denoise, by a significant margin. The quality is there!
3DVF: Why did you choose Unreal Engine for your real-time pipeline instead of Unity, for example?
Maybe because they are great at marketing! [laughs] [rires]
On a more serious note, they have garnered a lot of attention, especially at the Annecy Festival over the past two years. The community is large, and the tool evolves rapidly. When we see renderings that come close to what can be achieved in pre-rendered, it’s often Unreal.
We also had discussions with the Epic Games teams, and they convinced us to adopt Unreal.
We have been using our summer projects to test this real-time pipeline and get a better idea of its advantages and disadvantages.
3DVF: How do you integrate yourself into a customer’s workflow?
It’s a discussion with each client to find the optimal solution for integrating into their pipeline, organizing data exchanges, etc., so that the organization is as seamless and least cumbersome for them as possible.
For example, we can retrieve Alembic files and then handle shading, lighting, rendering, and compositing.
3DVF: Earlier, you mentioned that you want to eventually have a team of permanent staff rather than freelancers who work project to project. Why this preference?
The fact that we are not located in Paris plays a role: we have a smaller pool of talent compared to the Paris region.
The idea is also to evolve from the traditional economic model. In the past, we ourselves dreamed of having permanent positions in a studio, being part of a team. It was very rare 10-20 years ago, but now it’s starting to happen, with an increase in permanent positions.
Additionally, the issue with freelancers and turnover is the constant need to train new artists in the pipeline. Having permanent staff makes management easier, allows the development of expertise and sustainable work methods, and promotes a different work philosophy.
It will lead to increased productivity and quality compared to relying on freelancers. Having people you can count on throughout a project without unexpected changes is a significant advantage.
3DVF: These are interesting points, especially since the primary factor driving this increase in permanent positions often seems to be the pressure due to the fact that there are more open positions than artists, which drives the desire to offer better working conditions to attract profiles that could go elsewhere.
That’s true, and we go beyond that idea. We want a real team spirit, a sense of ownership, and we don’t think it’s possible if there’s a lot of turnover. We need a loyal team that can work together, with common goals.
3DVF: You attended the Annecy Festival. Were you affiliated with a booth, such as a regional booth like the “Britanny” booth we recently mentioned in our article on animation in the French city of Rennes?
We were indeed present to showcase our company, meet contacts we’ve had through email, meet new people, present ourselves, discuss future projects, and highlight our expertise and various services.
We were not affiliated with a booth. However, we are locally supported by entities like SAMOAO and Initiatives Nantes. We are considering having a booth for Annecy 2024. The idea would be to have a “Pays de la Loire” (Editor’s note: the French region where the city of Nantes is located) booth because there are several animation studios in the region. While Brittany has its own booth, we don’t have representation for our area, even though we have stop-motion studios, motion design studios, 2D/3D animation studios, and more. There’s a community to represent!
For example, we had the opportunity to work with Fokys Studio, based in the Nantes region, a small company founded two years ago by one of our former students, Yann Orhon. He has worked with Jungler, and we hired him for a Supamonks project.
3DVF: One last question, for individuals graduating from school or looking for a new position, who may be familiar with RenderMan and Unreal Engine: are there any job opportunities at Terminus?
For now, we don’t have enough workload to hire, but we are open to contacts, and we are keeping profiles on file for when the time comes! So, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We are also considering having someone in block release courses role to develop the pipeline.