Andrés Valencia, co-founder of Valencia Producciones and CEO of Stargate Colombia spoke about the latest trends that have permeated the VFX sector

Valencia Producciones and Stargate Colombia: We do a great job in training to be able to respond to the industry
10 de noviembre de 2023

During his participation in #PRODUprimetime with Richard Izarra, Andrés Valencia, co-founder of Valencia Producciones and CEO of Stargate Colombia spoke about the latest trends that have permeated the VFX sector, as well as the challenges his companies have faced in this area.

The entrepreneur referred to the perfectionist approach that productions have acquired in recent times: "In terms of post-production and visual effects, the area of audiovisual has shown important growth. Eight or ten years ago it was possible to make productions without visual effects; everything was done very carefully, as was expected, and if there was any mistake, the shot was changed or we continued with that and it was alright; that is where we see all the mistakes we find in movies, that remained there because quality controls were nonexistent. It has been almost 12 years since we started in Colombia, and production began to have a curve. We added a department, that is quality control, now there are companies dedicated to quality control and they see what no one else does".

Valencia commented that creators' interest in eliminating technical mistakes in scenes has given them a window of opportunity: "Everything regarding quality control opened a possibility for us because now all productions must have a budget for quality control in the area of post-production because there is not a single production that goes clean. I haven't seen the first one, because people who are dedicated to quality control and companies worldwide have very sharp eyes and see, for example, the cameraman's reflection in glasses. We have also had to erase on an actress' earring the reflection of some equipment or the reflection of a microphone. I don't know how they manage to see it, but we are in charge of erasing all those details. There are several things that go through visual effects nowadays and that opened up a huge possibility for us and is, to a large extent, how the industry has grown”.

His opinion regarding the phenomenon that Colombian visual artists perform for markets in different countries is that: “Hollywood, Canada, all of them started to have such a large demand in visual effects that local workers were unable to fulfill it, and they began to seek help in other regions. Mexico, which has been a powerhouse in the audiovisual industry, had visual artists, and they ended up migrating to studios in the US and other places. We took this opportunity and production and post-production companies in Mexico started to seek our services. It has been a chain, and now Mexico is looking for visual artists in Colombia. Now in Colombia, it has turned difficult because we have a flaw, that is we lack schools devoted to post-production and visual effects. We now have no visual artists".

In this sense, he explained that training labor has been one of the cornerstones of his company: "A solution I had two years ago when I started facing this problem, was to set up a school. I began to train people so that they learned about visual effects and we could be able to supply the need for visual artists for the industry. We are doing that at the moment. We are currently finishing with two groups, we have groups of 10 people, we set up a classroom, and now are doing a great job in terms of education and training to be able to respond to the industry".
Likewise, he emphasized that they are working with educational institutes to promote, academically, the emergence of new artists: "We signed an agreement with the University of Rosario, the third most important university in Colombia. It is a process that takes some time, but we want to establish a post-production and visual effects career. This is the path we are starting on, to have a factory of artists, and logically we want this to be reflected in the attraction of the industry. With a large group of visual artists who have years of experience with us, we have begun a program for them to train the University. We are now going to start as a school, but the goal is to turn this into a career. It takes time for this to be approved. Our goal is for it to be up to date and connected with the industry".

Valencia also expressed that during his path, he has had to carry out "a titanic task" to claim the value of VFX in the Colombian and international industry: "Twelve years ago, there were people who did animation, things related with effects and the sort, I am not the first one to do this, but I was the first to begin creating an industry, who pushed to be included in productions to be hired throughout the entire production. On many occasions, I had to give away part of my work for free to create that need. Currently, I have been able to raise the fees a bit. We all know that Amazon's budget in Mexico is different from the one in the US, and the one in Europe, and Colombia it is also different. In Colombia, we always have a smaller budget. We are all fighting to be seen equally, even if there is a currency exchange, the talent is the same, and the requirement is the same”.

He also mentioned that this quest has rendered its fruits. "These huge productions we are doing started to value our work. So now, when I do productions for Los Angeles, they offer me the fees that are established worldwide, and for me, this is respect towards artists and the industry. But when we work locally, it is very difficult to have the fees that are established around the world, because local budgets normally are not big enough. We still haven't reached that amount of income in terms of money, but we have achieved rewards in the quality of our work and our results".

The CEO also referred to some important projects he has been collaborating with lately: "All the effects of Pancho Villa we did for Star+ with BTF for Mexico. We did all the post-production here. All the development and all the work, as well as the planning, was done here. We work closely with Rafa Lara, a marvelous showrunner and director. Rafa spent a week working here with us, defining the style and look we were going to have. Then we reached the part where we modeled the train entirely. He would tell us 'The train has to be like this and must have these textures, it can have this color'. A detail is that Pancho Villa's shots are special, so we filmed real ones. What was generated by the shots in those days are not the same as modern-day shots, so we had to create shots of that period".

He assured that his team's work obtained the desired acknowledgment: "The producer, Ivonne Niño (from BTF Media), told me, 'I am grateful because the project's growth took it to another universe'. Having these visual effects allowed the Pancho Villa project to be of the caliber of large international projects, which we didn't have: to be able to generate trains, large cities, and battles in which 300 extras were included, and we created 3,000. What we want now is to start proposing projects of this caliber and that size made by us".

Another project that has generated great income has been Los Iniciados, a Prime Video film: “There, I had to opportunity to meet Felipe Orozco, who is a great director and Felipe said: ‘What I want in this film is for the entire universe in which it is going to take place to look like Gotham City. 'But I have a problem, in Bogota, that gothic city does not exist', he told us. There we started a process and designed scenery, and some streets on the set, like the ones they wanted. Then we created a street, we did photogrammetry of that street, we replicated it and built the entire city", he assured.

Regarding that experience, he also recalled that: “The supervisor of Amazon, Sandro Di Segnide, a visual artist and supervisor of visual effects said ‘That is too big, I don't think we'll achieve it, first of all, due to the level of the shot, the composition, and the requirement, and second, because of the budget, that budget was non-existent.' I took the risk and told the producer, Sebastian Bueno, the post-production director of the film, 'Let's do it'. We'll start to work on all that asset and build it here in the company, When Sandro saw that, he said: "To be honest, I was thinking of a plan B because I thought we wouldn't be able to have it'. This allowed Amazon to open its doors to us globally. Then Sandro asked if he could include us in Amazon's list of providers worldwide, and now Stargate Studios Colombia is an Amazon Studios provider worldwide".

The businessman disclosed news about the initiatives they are starting to develop at their companies: "Now with Valencia Producciones, we are starting to produce. We are currently finishing our first film in production, it is now in post-production. I think that in approximately a month and a half, we will finish. It is a film I had the honor to direct together with my friend William Barragán, a combination of everything we like to do: action, persecution, visual effects, we have marvelous actors, we chose to have a very high image level, so high that I used a RED Raptor camera, that didn't exist in the country when we were shooting. Loma, a rental house, had one and I needed two for the action sequences. We ended up buying a RED, anamorphic lens. We are betting on having a very high-quality product".

To conclude, he added: “Now, Mauricio Navas, the company's Content VP, is taking control of the entire process and we are creating different products. We are now getting involved with audio and making a dramatized podcast. We are working on a series, we are working on the cinema, we're finishing this film. We are finishing writing the script for another film. Our goal is to start shooting it at the beginning of next year. We are getting strongly involved in production. The aim is to also become a production house.

Watch the interview of Andres Valencia on #PRODUPrimeTime with Richard Izarra