Pixomondo is a visual effects company and virtual production facility with studios in Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Vancouver, Beijing, Toronto, Montreal, and Shanghai. The company provides virtual production and visual effects for feature films, television, and commercials. As of 2019, Pixomondo employs over 655 people worldwide.
Pixomondo was founded in Pfungstadt, Germany as a design studio in 2001 by Thilo Kuther. The company began its work creating video installations and 3D animations for high-end corporate clients such as Porsche and Bertelsmann. By the end of 2003, Pixomondo consisted of its one office in Pfungstadt and 40 employees. In 2005, the company first began working in the entertainment business by producing the visual effects for the German television film Atlantropa - Der Traum vom neuen Kontinent. In 2005, a second location, specializing in feature films, opened in Ludwigsburg, Germany. At this location, the company produced nearly all the visual effects for the international feature film The Red Baron, which was released in 2008, and earned Pixomondo's first international recognition. In the same year, the first studio abroad opened in London. In 2007 and 2008, studios were opened in Frankfurt am Main and Los Angeles, respectively. Also in 2008, Pixomondo was commissioned by director Roland Emmerich to produce over 100 complete CG environments for his feature film 2012. Pixomondo's first offices in Asia, specifically in Shanghai and Beijing, were opened in 2009. In 2011, the company expanded its London office and added two studios in Munich and Hamburg, as well as one in Toronto in 2011.
Pixomondo closed its London office in February 2013. In 2013, Pixomondo closed its Shanghai and Berlin offices, naming restructuring processes as a reason for the closures. In 2014, the office in Shanghai reopened. In 2018, Mayfair Equity Partners completed a majority investment in Pixomondo. The deal valued Pixomondo at $65 million. Less than a year later, Jonny Slow is upped to the role of global CEO. Founder Thilo Kuther continues to serve as president and exec producer. In early 2019, Pixomondo opened its Montreal office.
In September 2020, Pixomondo announced it began construction on a virtual production studio in Toronto, Canada, with Mayfair backing the new venture with a significant new financial commitment. Pixomondo assembled a team of technical partners for the studio that included Epic Games' Unreal Engine, LED manufacturer ROE Visual, Nvidia, and Brompton Technology among others.
On February 26, 2012, Pixomondo won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for its work on the film Hugo. The award was presented to Alex Henning and Ben Grossmann, who were the supervisors of the project. With 854 scenes that have a running time of about 62 minutes in the final film, Pixomondo produced about 94% of the film's visual effects. In 2014, the company earned its second Academy Award for Best Visual Effects nomination for its work on Star Trek Into Darkness.
After a successful collaboration on Star Trek Into Darkness, Pixomondo continued to work on the franchise, beginning with Star Trek: Discovery, followed by Star Trek: Short Treks and Star Trek: Picard. The company earned a VFX Emmy nomination for its work on Season 2 of Discovery. Pixomondo also provided the animation for Short Treks' "The Girl Who Made the Stars" and "Ephraim and Dot," both of which premiered on December 12, 2019. They marked a historic return to animation for Star Trek, which had not delved into the world of animation since the 1973-1974 The Animated Series.
Pixomondo was brought on to the HBO television series Game of Thrones in Season 2 and remained through the final season. Pixomondo VFX Supervisor Sven Martin and his team worked closely with the show's VFX group. Martin told Forbes Magazine that they wanted to depict the dragons as "living animals with just enough expressions to understand their feelings…similar to the emotional connection with pets." "We started with a base model, which was established in season 1, but we went for a darker, grittier approach," Martin told Entertainment Weekly. "We did a lot of redesigns, made them spikier, even in the baby state. It was a little bit of a relaunch, but we still kept it believable for the audience."
The key to grounding these mythical creatures, which do not exist in real life, was to give Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion real-world animal counterparts the audience could identify with. "The dragons were always in close contact with the actors," says Martin. "And we were shooting outside on real locations. So everything is real and not meant to be a fantasy. We wanted to transfer that." Studying bird and bat anatomies influenced the dragons' wingspan design. The Pixomondo team even dissected a supermarket chicken to get a sense of how the wings could move. Observing geese on the ground playing with their own wings was later emulated when the dragons were shown sitting down at ease. Color patterns were gleaned from frogs and cheetahs, while crocodiles, lizards, and other reptiles were used for skin structure.
Martin's team met with the show's VFX Supervisor Joe Bauer at the start of each season to discuss new design elements, as the dragons were maturing and growing. For example, they became more guard-dog-like as they grew into their roles as Dany's guards. When they got angry or wanted to threaten the enemy, gills popped out of their necks. "That idea came from the fruit lizard, which does exactly the same thing, just in a different direction," Martin told Entertainment Weekly. When Danny started riding Drogon, more spikes were added to him so she'd have something to hold on to.
Pixomondo has a longstanding relationship with filmmaker Roland Emmerich, having first worked together in 2012, followed by Independence Day: Resurgence, the World War II drama Midway (which Pixomondo co-produced), and the upcoming Moonfall. Midway was among 20 films shortlisted in the Visual Effects category for the 92nd Academy Awards®. Pixomondo will also be providing the VFX and character animations in the Emmerich-produced feature film adaptation of Mozart's The Magic Flute. When Emmerich received the 2019 Visionary VES Award from the Visual Effects Society at its 18th annual awards ceremony, Pixomondo founder Thilo Kuther was among those he acknowledged from the podium.
On November 1, 2019, Pixomondo was part of Apple TV+'s historic launch by providing the VFX for two series, including See and For All Mankind. The inaugural episode of See earned Pixomondo a VES Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode which included the company's creation of the infamous rockwall sequence. To create the scene, Pixomondo first scanned the shoot location's actual hillside in British Columbia before practical photography began. According to Pixomondo VFX Supervisor Matthew Welford, the team recreated a fully CG rock wall made up of thousands of individual rocks, mud, plates, and debris. FX simulation was used to accurately recreate how those rocks – which had been scanned earlier – would actually roll down the hillside. It was necessary to make sure the rocks interacted with both the world around them and actors within the scene, to make the final shots feel as realistic as possible. The final shots consisted of CGI Rocks, digital humans, digital plants, digital debris all integrated with the live-action actors and plates shot on location.
Pixomondo's themed entertainment division produces digital walkthrough branded experiences, flying theater rides, immersive dome installations, digital dark ride media, and concert installations. Its work can be found in New York's Times Square attraction, National Geographic Encounters, where the company brought to life underwater ecosystems including 150 artificially intelligence-driven creatures ranging from sea lions to sharks to jellyfish via exclusive VR technology. Pixomondo was part of the July 2018 launch of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi indoor theme park by working on five themed rides including the 4D flying theater experience, Green Lantern Galactic Odyssey. Pixomondo partnered with rockband Aerosmith for their Las Vegas residency, Deuces Are Wild, which kicked off on April 6, 2019. Using never-before-seen visuals from Aerosmith's archives, Pixomondo produced a 12-screen visual media presentation (including a 140-foot x 40-foot high-definition screen), complete with motion graphics, animations, stream of consciousness imagery, and flashback moments of the band's colorful past. Pixomondo also brought to life Aerosmith's infamous "wings" logo on stage, which unfolded to signal the band's arrival at the top of the show. Additionally, Pixomondo's 20-minute visual media pre-show took the audience through the band's historic journey, beginning with Woodstock all the way to the present, and included abstract imagery, as well as the iconic Aerosmith van. The company's work on Aerosmith's Las Vegas Residency earned Pixomondo a 2019 Knight of Illumination Award (KOI-USA) nomination in the Best Concert Video Content category.