From the outside, Stiller Studios is an industrial unit in an out-of-the-way location in Lidingö, very close to Stockholm. But inside, visitors get a very different impression. An uncluttered, open-plan layout with large panoramic windows combined with several small rooms where young people sit working on different productions. And last but not least: an impressive green screen film studio, 500 m² in size, where adverts and feature films are made.
From radio to film
Owner Patrik Forsberg is a musician who became a copywriter and then began making radio commercials with his wife, Caroline. They were very successful, but after winning all the awards in the radio category, Patrik needed a new challenge, so he turned his attention to film. He brought home numerous prizes for this as well. One of these projects was a 3D King Kong spoof for gay website Sylvester, for which he won screening rights on Swedish TV4 channel worth SEK 2 million.
“But Sylvester didn’t have any money to produce the film, so I began looking at how we could solve the problem from a purely technical perspective. I ended up filming it on green screen, something that I had never really believed in before. But the results were great, and the film won an award for best VFX. That really whetted my appetite, and since then I’ve been doing a lot on green screen.”
His own studio
At the time, in the early 2000s, Patrik and Caroline were both working in the centre of Stockholm, but they found not having their own studio frustrating.
“Every time we wanted to do a production, we had to hire a studio, bring in lots of different people and put everything together. Eventually, I realised that I wanted something that was entirely my own.”
As they had managed to save a lot of money during the advertising boom in 1999 and 2000, this dream became reality. In 2008, the studio was ready.
“The unique thing about our studio is that we have a lot of different software and hardware that works together and is carefully coordinated. We want our work flow to be as fast as normal filming, so we’ve automated a process that is normally incredibly slow and inefficient.”
Patrik says that Stiller Studios is more like a pharmaceutical company than an ordinary studio.
“We can’t just make pills. We have to be inventive as we work. We have an almost unhealthy interest in developing the technology,” he explains.
Autodesk is the hub
To be able to produce and invent, you need reliable hardware and software. That is why Stiller Studios has been working uninterruptedly with Autodesk Maya and MotionBuilder products since 2002. Patrik explains that the studio is designed with Autodesk as its hub.
“The best thing about it is that I can communicate with my hardware and software and set it all up very accurately. I can rely on it. For example, there are no tracking markers in our studio. We don’t need them, because we know that our cameras are so well calibrated and communicate so effectively with Maya and MotionBuilder.”
How does it all work? Well, Stiller Studios uses MotionBuilder to create a 3D world in real time and insert it as the background.
“But it’s not particularly well-lit or clear. So we stream data from MotionBuilder into Maya and render out the backgrounds. We also use Maya before our productions to create our environments. We have modified Maya so that it functions as the brain of our studio. When we move around the studio in a 3D world, we do it in Maya. We prefer not to work with off-the-rack products, so we modify them so that they can be used in new ways, which works brilliantly.”
One example of the studio’s success is the popular series of children’s films “LasseMajas detektivbyrå” (LasseMaja’s detective agency).
“These are the first Swedish films to be made entirely on green screen. We used MotionBuilder during filming and we were helped by a company called Madcrew, which designed the whole town using Maya. We then brought the town here, exported it out of Maya, imported it into MotionBuilder on our set, did the filming and exported it back into Maya, where we did detailed rendering so that everything looked really good. Autodesk was right at the heart of this process.”
Patrik compares Autodesk products to driving a taxi.
“Most taxi drivers have Volvos or Mercedes. They’re expensive, but they keep running. In this industry, people are very demanding, and it’s great to know that there are tools available which are almost boringly reliable. They cost a lot, but once they’re up and running, they don’t cause any problems. They just work!”