VFX Magazine: Legion and the new future of the industry

It’s no secret that the VFX industry has received its fair share of public attention in recent years, its foundations shaken by internal discord and turmoil that has gradually bubbled to the surface.

Studio closures, redundancies, and reports of unreasonable business practices have tarnished what is otherwise an incredibly creative, inventive and innovative industry – one bursting at the seams with raw artistic talent.

While it can sometimes feel like real solutions are held at bay by the industry’s massive, unyielding infrastructure, there are some post-production studios that are finding ways to buck the trend and operate completely outside of the set-ups that have come to be regarded as the norm.

One such studio is VFX Legion, a division of Legion Studios, LLC – a studio that’s trying something new.



VFX Legion started with the idea that artists could live wherever they wanted and still do visual effects. Too much of the industry is driven by tax incentives pushing the work to where there aren’t pools of senior trained artists. Many of the Los Angeles artists had to flee to Vancouver, London or Toronto if they wanted to keep working. Legion was developed to take advantage of talented experienced people wherever they find themselves. It also allows for artists to move away from the very expensive city cores and into the suburbs or to different locales completely.

We have artists in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Canada and the US. Our reach is growing every day, collecting the best, most talented people we can find. Given this model of a distributed workforce that work on a per shot basis, we don’t have the structural overhead of a brick and mortar VFX house. We can compete with tax incentive prices over most of the world, or we can take advantage of those incentives by partnering with companies in the area of interest.


Given the technology, there was no reason our model at Legion shouldn’t be the reality. When you look at industries in need of disruption, VFX has, over the last few years, moved to the top of the list. Horrible working hours, insane deadlines, companies regularly going belly up leaving angry unpaid artists in their wake, no feasible unions, huge foreign tax incentives, and no direct solution in sight with the traditional approach. Legion isn’t just great VFX harnessing the most talented workforce we can find, it’s good business.


Shotgun Software gets to know VFX Legion

jem100_114_240We recently spoke with James Hattin, founder of VFX Legion, which has the unique distinction of being a virtual visual effects company. While maintaining a small office of production staff in Burbank, California, the company’s expanding and contracting team of between 30-50 artists are spread across more than six countries. James explains the benefits and unique challenges of operating under this business model and how having Shotgun at the center of it all is instrumental in keeping the company afloat.

Tell us about your company. 
We started the company in 2012 as a television and feature film visual effects facility. Our work leans heavily on the compositing side, and we’re also starting to grow our 3D pipeline. Our claim to fame is that we are entirely remote, and all of our artists work from their homes or personal studios from locations all over the world. We have worked on television shows like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and feature films, which include Insidious 3 and Jem and the Holograms

How many artists do you have on staff and how do you recruit?
We have between 30-50 active artists at any given time and mostly recruit through referrals and word-of-mouth. We maintain an office in Burbank, California with a staff of 10 production managers, coordinators, VFX supervisors and producers.

How did the company get started?
The concept for a remote or virtual VFX company originated when I used to live in Sacramento while maintaining a visual effects job in Santa Monica, and it was in 2001 when I set up a rudimentary version of our current model. Due to the technology limitations of the times, I was duplicating data in Sacramento and Santa Monica, keeping After Effects composites and Electric Image renders in both places to always have files available because back then, the Internet speeds couldn’t adequately transfer large QuickTime files. This set up enabled me to do screen shares with directors and supervisors from wherever I was at any given time. I later spent some years working at Zoic, and it was there that I first started using Shotgun. When it came time to start my own company, I knew that Shotgun would be a key part of making our model work. Our first movie at VFX Legion was Stretch from Joe Carnahan, we had 400 shots to complete and ended up delivering them after a long hiatus in just 10 days. That helped us prove that we could do anything with this model.