Ok, check it out real quick: while in Quebec I went on something called a “Techno Tour”. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “90′s dance music?” And to that I respond with a giant no. The Techno Tour was a tour of some of the great animation and gaming studios in the city of Quebec. I was personally blown away by the amount of amazing things coming out of Quebec. I had a chance to visit Frima, Squeeze Studios, and Ubisoft Quebec.
To my knowledge Frima is one of the largest independent studios in the world. At the time of my visit, they were hovering around the 300 employee mark. They are so big that their studio took up 4 or 5 floors in one building. It was total insanity. Inside the studio they have their own animation studio called Frima fx working on non-games things, including an Imax film about prehistoric animals. You’ll see through the pictures that Frima is pretty much the coolest place ever.
The atmosphere there was really laid back but you could tell that great things were brewing underneath it all. The studio mainly focuses on the social and mobile world, and I’d argue that they are one of the reasons that anyone takes the mobile world seriously.
The next stop was Squeeze Studios, a young animation upstart comprised of industry professionals.
As soon as you walk into Squeeze Studios you get what they’re about. Their walls are decorated with beautiful things and the atmosphere is very warm. They are all about producing high quality animations for clients. They are very adamant about that idea. Co-founders and former Ubisoft employees Denis Dore and Patrick Beaulieu explained to me that if a project does not give them the freedom to work at the highest caliber that they can, they will simply not take the job.
You can see some of their work in the new Ubisoft Avengers: Battle for Earth game, where they helped out Ubisoft by doing the majority of the animation. What’s amazing to see here is their attention to detail. The animations are not motion-captured as is the way nowadays. Rather, their works are all done by hand with keyframes and photo and video references. There are many clips of the Squeeze employs jumping around and fighting to use as reference for their animations.
The detail and quality of their work is outstanding and I guarantee you you will hear and see more from them in the future. Not to mention they also help out the students in the area as well. They welcome in five students to work at their studio to get their ground in the animation world.
Finally we stopped off at Ubisoft Quebec to see how the larger developers work. Just like Frima, Ubisoft takes up multiple floors and have many things going on at once. When we visited, some of the teams were working on new DLC for Assassins Creed 3. Sadly we didn’t get to see any of it because Ubisoft is understandably playing everything close to the chest. What was amazing to see at Ubisoft Quebec was how seamless everything was.
It seemed like a well-oiled machine smoothly driving down rails toward its goals. One floor was dedicated to Assassins Creed while another floor housed testing and employee R&R; and other floors housed other projects. Now, when I say “employee R&R”, I’m not sure you understand what I mean. They have a small gym inside their studio, and they have a Street Fighter II arcade cabinet.
I’m not going to lie: as impressive as the whole studio is, that SF cabinet blew my mind. You can see through the pictures that it was way old school (Blanka was pink!) After visiting Ubisoft Quebec, understanding how Ubisoft can produce so much content on so many different platforms was not hard to do. It’s a lean, mean, game-production machine.
Overall Quebec is poised to become the animation and gaming hub of North America. The work being produced there is exceptional and on par with any other international producer in the market. If you have any interest in animation and game development than Quebec should be on your radar. The entire province is making huge waves in the digital space.