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New partnership aims to build digital post-production

Ashley Hassett

A movie post-production center is expected to bring over 150 jobs to western New York. As WBFO’s Ashley Hassett reports the film hub partners a local college with a new visual effects company.

The new post production, visual effects and animation company, Empire Visual Effects will be housed in Buffalo’s Tri-Main center. The business is partnering with Daemen College’s International Center for Excellence in Animation. Department Chair Dr. Laura Sommer says their Certificate Training Program will ready students for employment at the visual effects company and elsewhere.

“I love the idea of creating opportunities for students, students that I’m very familiar with, that I work with on a daily basis, and that are interested working creatively.”

This month the governor’s office even announced that 4.5 million dollars will be allocated to the partnership through the Billion to Buffalo initiative. Laura Sommer says those funds will be used for all the technology required for generating the visual effects used in digital production.

Credit Ashley Hassett / WBFO News
IBC Digital & Empire Visual Effects, Ben Porcari

“If there’s a lack of continuity in a film like two days they shoot the same scene and there’s one tie worn in one film and the next day they used a different tie, you can take that tie out and replace it with the correct one. You can change the lighting, you can change the color. Lines are removed from actors and actresses’ faces, if something appears on scene that wasn’t supposed to it can be removed. All of those things need to be tweaked in post production,” Sommer says.

Ben Porcari, who runs the animation company IBC Digital in the city, has signed on as managing partner of the new venture. Porcari has worked on film projects such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Choo Choo Soul on the Disney Channel, the Reese’s Puff’s commercials and more.

He says local interns will have the opportunity to work on local projects like those as well.

Credit Ashley Hassett / WBFO News
Empire Visual Effects

“Having internship opportunities and also the mentoring opportunities will allow the students to see the end target at the beginning. They will be able to have a better focus on what they want to focus on. What skills do they want to develop, what aspects of the career are they most passionate about, because there are so many different ways that you can contribute and so many different skill sets that branch off of the introductory skill sets.”

Video Editor Greg Lintkowski says education and employment in the animation industry weren’t an option in western New York when he first started out. Lintkowski left Buffalo to go to college in Virginia in the late 80’s and worked in Chicago for years before he was able to return to his hometown to work. He’s now with Empire Visual Effects.

“Most times in order to succeed in your field you definitely have to leave the state. You have to somewhere else to get your start. And it’s nice now that for somebody just graduating they actually have some other options now, staying in their hometown that’s awesome and doing what you love doing that’s even better.”

Credit Ashley Hassett / WBFO News
Interns, students and employees working hard at Empire Visual Effects

Lintkowski talks about what it would have been like if similar educational and career opportunities had existed when he was starting out.

“It would be interesting if I were to go this all over again, you know I could actually stay here without actually ever leaving the state.”

Lintkowski also says he would have probably ended up eating more chicken wings then deep-dish pizza.

He says he’s positive that the future of animation and visual effects in upstate New York is very bright.

And recently they’ve taken on major commercial projects for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tops Friendly Markets, and Tiger Street Football.