Dubai-based digital content provider, Blackstone Studios, which has barely completed three months in operation, has ready expressed plans to expand to Studio City.
"We are moving to Studio City later this year," confirmed managing director Tarek Masri. "We will have 200 sq.ms of space which should allow us to expand to a permanent staff of 20-25 people. There's a whole industry here that requires advanced visual effects and they were often outsourcing to the US or Europe and I thought it would be better to create a company here in Dubai."
Blackstone specialises in conceptualising and executing visual effects for the advertising, real estate and entertainment industries.
"We do not want to be known as a studio that only executes. That's why we brought Steve Marino here as creative director. He has 20 years experience in the US. His input means we can direct and make suggestions to a client, and help them to develop their idea and make it even better," said Masri.
Currently, Blackstone employs eight people with a range of specialities, from architectural visualisations to character animation.
"If you want to provide the quality of work that we offer on our reel, you need a minimum base of artists," claims Masri. "You can't expect two staff to provide everything; there are specialities. We also work with countless freelancers from Europe, Canada, Hollywood, Middle East and the Far East."
Marino, who is also the video effects supervisor stated that the company may eventually work only on Maya. "Our artists presently use a range of different software but we are moving towards becoming a Maya-only studio. The industry here is more comfortable with Maya and so is the bank of freelancers."
Both Masri and Marino were keen to point out that most effects studios will be running the same software and it is the artists themselves who determine the quality of the product, quality which they say, the industry can now afford.
"There is an increase in advertising spending and also an increase in clients' production budgets. Clients are realising they have to up the quality of their productions to keep up with their competitors. It's a change in mentality. Previously, someone might have spent US $100,000 to produce a TV advert to run for a year. Now they will spend $200 000. And some will go as far as $300 000," claimed Masri.
Blackstone's first completed job was a commercial for Saudi insurance company, Tawuniya. Spring of Life is a 60-second CG animation with a flow of water forming into several events and symbols of Saudi. It is the longest fully animated water clip ever made, according to the studio.