Exclusive: Inside Mill Film Adelaide’s new studio

Technicolor Academy

Photos of the space, and notes from the architecture firm behind the design.

I’d never thought about covering the ‘design’ of a VFX studio space before. But the opening of Technicolor’s Mill Film facility in Adelaide, Australia offered an opportunity to ask the project’s architects what they were going for in making a new location for visual effects artists, including for graduates coming in as part of the Technicolor Academy component of the studio.

The facility is, right now, housing more than 200 employees, with capacity for 500. Their first project is the film Dora and the Lost City of Gold, and the studio says there are further theatrical and streaming projects being worked on. By setting up in Adelaide (the studio also has a presence in Montreal and Los Angeles), Mill Film is taking advantage of new PDV offsets offered by the South Australian government. In terms of the Technicolor Academy, 40 graduate positions have begun at Mill Film, with a second intake of the one-year paid learning and development program now underway.

So, what does Mill Film Adelaide look like? Here’s a whole bunch of images of the new space, plus an interview with the designers on the project Jaana Bithell (Senior Interior Designer) and Keith Dougal (Senior Associate) from Studio Nine Architects. Now, there’s certainly some ‘architect speak’ in this interview, but I thought it was interesting to get a different kind of perspective on what goes on in the design of a visual effects studio.

Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

b&a: What was your brief from Mill Film in designing a new space for VFX artists?

Studio Nine Architects: Studio Nine distilled the project brief down to the following statement; ‘To create a dynamic workplace that is visually tuned to the working DNA of Mill Film’s brand, operations and people.’ To do this we translated the world of visual effects into two key design principles across the new working environment:

1. Modelling and Performance
2. Light, Colour + Texture

Modelling and Performance translated to structuring the floorplates and understanding how the character of each space would be developed from calm and monochromatic artist areas through to vibrant and colourful gathering and socialising spaces.

Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The movement of work and people were also highly considered at this stage across and between floors. A strict framework was created to define how the spatial personalities are dialled to align with the activities and tasks undertaken.

Light, Colour and Texture were then applied to the planning framework to ensure the look and feel of each area flowed seamlessly between each other but also clearly defined individual space types.

Artists areas have a minimal and neutral palette acting as a passive background to the work on screen, while review and meeting areas introduce more deep colour and natural textures, maintaining a restrained feel so the focus is firmly on the screens.

Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Social and break out spaces embrace a larger amount of colour, materials and warmer levels of lighting. These spaces are 100% crew centric with a view to encouraging interaction and a social buzz.

b&a: How would you describe the end result? What kind of space is being created in terms of an overall feel, for individual work areas and communal areas?

Studio Nine Architects: The end result is a highly considered workspace. Employing strict design guidelines and principles has led to a working landscape that seamlessly flows between space types. A restrained and sophisticated base palette connects all areas of the space.

Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

This neutral base of materials provides a solid foundation throughout the Artist Spaces. More active and energised spaces introduce a broader range of vibrant colours, material textures and patterns to supplement the base palette. The overall feeling is a balance of hard and industrial materials coupled with a soft, warm atmosphere developed through light, colour and natural materials.

b&a: Are there any unique aspects to the work? 

Studio Nine Architects: As a global VFX studio it was imperative a degree of familiarity was maintained throughout the design, while at the same time being able to stand unique from other studios around the world.

Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Familiarity came from loose furniture & workstation selections, while to create Mill Film Adelaide’s unique landscape, we looked to our natural landscape & selected ‘Spotted Gum’ (an Australian Native timber) to feature and define key areas within the space.

The warmth in the tone of the timber has flowed on to influence other material & colour choices within the rest of the office. Across the 3 floors, three tiling and colour schemes were created for the amenities blocks.

The colours chosen are common to all gendered & non-gendered amenities, at the same time being unique to their respective floor. This was a deliberate design decision made by Studio Nine to acknowledge, support & reinforce Mill Film’s diversity and inclusion policies through the built form of their workplace.

David Sievers Photography
Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

b&a: How do you feel about what you’ve designed/created, and what do you think it could help foster when it comes to a VFX workplace?

Studio Nine Architects: Creating a space that looks great is always a fantastic outcome, creating one that feels great is even better. The team at Studio Nine are most proud of how good it feels to be in the new Mill Film Adelaide space. Understanding the nature and pressures of working in the VFX industry we are excited to see how this will positively impact the teams in Adelaide.

All areas are connected without barriers but have been consciously arranged to ensure there is an appropriate level of separation. Crew can move from Artist Areas and Production Suites to review spaces, break out cafes and even a roof deck with some of the best views of the city. All floors are connected with an internal stair to ensure connectivity between floors as well as across floors.

David Sievers Photography
Copyright © 2019 David Sievers Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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