Bonfire, the NY-based boutique postproduction facility launched in 2016 by veteran Flame artist Brendan O’Neil, has expanded with the addition of three new partners, who bring a depth of experience and expertise designed to usher in a new era in post, including VFX, design, CG, animation, color and finishing.
Joining Bonfire are Click 3X founder Peter Corbett, former Click 3X creative director Aron Baxter and Dave Dimeola, founder and executive producer of The Brigade, which specializes in in remote VFX and post. Corbett will hold the title of partner/new business, while Baxter will serve as partner/creative director and Di Meola will be partner/executive producer. Also joining Bonfire is sr. producer Jenn Frangella, who also comes over from Click 3X, and Kait Johnson, VFX Flame assist.
The newly expanded operation offers what O’Neil described as a ‘secret sauce’ for clients. It’s been cooked up by a crew of top-level, highly experienced professionals from the design, visual effects and animation disciplines, working out of a state of the art Flatiron facility and backed with an innovative, cloud-based system for sourcing, executing and delivering VFX, color, design, animation and finishing work, tapping a global network of artists and specialists in the process.
Based on years of trial and error, Dimeola has developed a unique, decentralized platform for remotely connecting everyone that dramatically reduces both costs and timeframe while maintaining state-of-the-art quality. “With Bonfire,” he said, “we’re offering a boutique experience backed by our cloud-based firepower.”
So how does the Bonfire system work? “We put the right artists to work at exactly the right time, and the right sequence at the right volume – whether this is one artist for an hour or multiple artists for days,” Dimeola explains. “And we provide them with a sophisticated platform that can deliver the right software licenses on demand, and can render the results at high speed. This is coordinated not just by our producers, but by our platform, which largely automates the process.”
The roots of this go back to Dimeola’s days with Smoke & Mirrors, when he began building his global network of artists and tinkering with a variety of ways to manage the process of having them work remotely. “A lot of real-time tools were coming online around that time, and I found that I could get set up and move quickly, but in the beginning it was not that easy. We were really early adopters of cloud services, and we found that we needed to build a propriety system to manage the workflow effectively.”
But the results were surprising: “We were actually able to deliver files directly into Flame, while clients were sitting in the room,” he recalled. “It was beyond just off-shoring.” As his database and approach to cloud methodology grew, so did his client list. Dimeola eventually began to handle overflow work for many of the top effects and animation houses in the industry, as well as working directly with agencies. “We have protocols in place to vet talent, and we offer secure, tight collaboration between all parties – all of which is based on my dedication to engineer the very best experience for creating digital artistry in real-time,” he added.
Now united, the Bonfire team says they’re ready to re-write the rules of how things get done: “With the four partners coming together, our greatest advantage is strength in numbers,” said O’Neil. “Individually we were all doing great things, but together we supplement each other so well on every level that we’ve been able to create a unique and flexible solution to the biggest and most aggravating question in our industry which is, ‘why does it cost so much?’ Our approach lets us cater to any size project and hand-pick the best teams for each, often within hours, if needed.”
“What we’re really offering here is a new way of working,” added Corbett. “With the cloud as our backbone and our processes in place, we can manage the entire workflow in a better, more efficient way, one that lets us lower costs by a surprising margin. This is done entirely online and is continuously available in real time, allowing our clients to monitor their progress from anywhere in the world. Having seen it in action, all I can say is that it’s truly revolutionary.”
What this means for the quality of the work bodes well for people like Baxter. “I’m genuinely excited to be working with the partners here,” said the CD, who joined Click 3X in 2015 after working on staff at such studios as MPC and Nice Shoes and freelancing with The Mill. “It’s a new team, a new space, a new brand and a new method, all of which has galvanized me about the future.”
Baxter continued, “I’m a firm believer in having technology and creativity well-aligned, of having the best technology at hand that allows you to serve the best creative talent. Our ability to adapt and find better, smarter ways of working means we’re able to devote more creative playtime to each project and deliver better solutions.”
The career paths of the Bonfire partners have crossed numerous times in the past. Dimeola, for his part, started his career at Click 3X before working for a variety of other VFX shops and media companies. He’s been collaborating with O’Neil since early last year, during which time O’Neil recognized that his remote-based system mirrored in many respects reflected the more client-facing system he’d developed when freelancing directly for brands or agencies. “I saw the potential for combining forces, so when I built the Bonfire space, I invited Dave to come and work out of our office,” O’Neil explained.
The design of the Bonfire studio is deeply informed by O’Neil’s extensive experience working at just about every major studio in New York. “We’ve tried to embody all of the best pieces of each studio we’ve all worked at, and even created a few of our own,” he notes. “We’ve curated an amazing facility with our clients and artists in mind. We want our space to reflect the work we do, and for people to be comfortable and inspired.”