Shreveport, LA has become a hot bed for the digital media and film industry to the point where folks are starting to call it “Hollywood South.”
Film makers, animators, musicians establishing themselves in Shreveport are finding themselves in a community that runs on innovation, risk-taking, and creative energy.
Digital Media focused journalists writing for Animation Magazine, Digital Journal and GameZone, visiting Shreveport, at the invitation of North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP), recently saw first hand some of the exciting new products coming out of the companies that have established a presence in the region.
Brandon Oldenburg, one of the founders and digital animator of Shreveport, LA’s Moonbot Studios, demonstrated one of their new products, the Imag-n-o-tron, which is an app that you hold over a picture book that brings the book to life in 3D. So far the only book on the market that works with this technology is the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The camera on the iPad keys off of elements of the illustrations found with the book, which then activates 3D imagery on the iPad screen.
An exciting new film, being released by Dreamworks on November 21, 2012 called The Rise of the Guardians, is based on stories by William Joyce, one of the founders of Moonbot Studios. These stories, collectively known as the “Guardians of Childhood” are being released as picture books and young reader’s books, and tell the background stories of all of our favorite childhood characters such as Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc.. Kids will love to learn how Nicholas St North ultimately becomes Santa Claus.
Another Moonbot iPad app called the Numberlys, tells the story of the origin of the alphabet, is an interactive short film, influenced by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In this world of the numberlys, everything is named as a number, until five “critters” decide to “invent” the alphabet, which then leads the app to come to life.
Moonbot’s Interactive Division is working on product for a new Sony play station platform called Wonderbook. The first story to be released around Christmas, is written by J.K. Rowling which will then be followed in early 2013 by Moonbot’s Diggs NightCrawler.
Down the hall from Moonbot Studios is Blade Studios a state of the art recording studio developed by Brady Blade who is a Shreveport native that has performed all over the world with musicians such as Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Jewel. Currently, blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Sheppard, is recording his album. While it attracts world-class musicians one of its other goals is to support local musicians. A great deal of collaboration between the different animation and film studios has since occurred at Blade Studios.
Twin Engine LabsTwin Engine Labs was started in a collaborative work-space in downtown Shreveport called CoHabitat where a number of small start ups are co-working and collaborating. The journalists met with the twin co-owners, Ken and Keith Hanson, both Bossier City natives, self-taught in programming and design, who came back from San Francisco and Dallas respectively, to start the design and engineering firm. Moonbot partnered with Twin Engine Labs to help create its iPad app for Moonbot’s Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, whose “Interactive Storytelling” capabilities, when launched, was a called a “Game-Changer” by Wired Magazine and the reason why it was named in 2011 App of the Year by Apps Magazine.
The company has grown its workforce to 10 and partly through collaboration with Shreveport based Centenary College and its math professor Mark Goadrich, Twin Engine Labs has greatly benefited from locally trained programming talent.
The computer generated special effects arm of Millennium Studios, Worldwide FX is creating post-production imagery enhancing the special effects of Millennium films such as the Expendables, Leather Face 3D and Ice Man. The company hires both local and temporary professionals from outside of the area to meet their various project demands.
LSU-Shreveport’s Animation and Visual Effects Program and Bossier Parish Community College’s Digital Media and Animation Program
Two of the sources providing the workforce pipeline for the above mentioned companies are the Animation and Visual Effects Programs at LSU-Shreveport and Bossier Parish Community College. Designed and led by industry professionals with significant digital media experience, the programs currently have 75 and about 60 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, respectively. In addition, Caddo Parish just funded a one-year intensive digital media certificate program enabling those residents selected to be a part of the program to do so at practically no charge.
In addition to talent from local educational institutions, all of the above-mentioned companies benefited from special incentives offered by Louisiana Economic Development, such as the Digital Media and Software Incentive, the Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit and the Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit, which are the largest available in the U.S.
Local creative talent was showcased on the trip during DigiFest South an annual digital arts festival and technology career fair that celebrates how digital technology combined with artistic creativity shapes modern society. Presented by the Bossier Arts Council, the event includes a digital art exhibition by students and independent artists, and a career fair featuring the most cutting edge companies and educational institutions in the region. Participants included all of the above companies as well as the Cyber Innovation Center, Venyu and many more. The event exhibited digital art genres made possible by the latest technologies that include, but are not limited to 3D design and animation, digital sculpture (robotics), graphic design and motion graphics, digital video and film, CG animation and digital sound and music.
Suffice it to say, if your looking to start a digital media, film and/or recording company, Shreveport, LA is the place to be and the North Louisiana Economic Partnership is your first stop. For more info go to www.nlep.org.