Inside animation studio: Engine House

Cornwall-based animation studio Engine House offer an insight into working in the industry, getting an animation job, and share some projects they have worked on...

Cornwall-based animation studio Engine House offer an insight into working in the industry, getting an animation job, and share some projects they have worked on...

Yarrgh Cornwall

Based in sunny Cornwall, Engine House is the animation studio on the beach! Only a stones throw away from the shore; the company somehow finds time to create amazing VFX, animations and CGI, in between the presumably endless cream teas and surfing. Take a peek at their showreel.

Due to their size, (its only a three person shop) Engine House relies on word of mouth and repeat business forming strong relationships with our clients. The company brings in talent from across the industry to work on a whole variety of projects.

We have been lucky enough to work on projects with Ogilvy in both Vietnam and Hong Kong. We also work regularly with the publishing industry creating animated book covers and book trailers, with goliaths such as Penguin, Hachette, Bonnier and Walker Books and authors such as Stephen King and Anthony Horowitz.


Working with such illustrious companies gives Engine house the opportunity to work on some fairly unique and challenging projects, from some interesting corners of the world. For example, a commercial for a croissant company based in Lebanon, which came with a specific set of challenges.

It took a long time to settle on the direction of the message, and how best to get this message across, especially in a different culture.

Fortunately, this approach also lets it get into some unusual projects with unexpected results. One recent project was a VFX piece on Exoplanets in conjunction with Exeter University and @Bristol.

It was a really interesting project anyway, but then completely unexpectedly, we were asked to provide imagery for a NASA press release!


Its these exciting projects which drive the boutique company, while the relationship with the client is fundamental to its approach. One of Engine Houses other recent big projects is an advert for Vietnam-based water company Karofi.

As a water filter company based in Vietnam, it is unusual for them to work with a UK animation studio to create a video about fighting robots - but that is what they did!

In five weeks, the company managed to turn around more than a minutes worth of animation, with ten characters from storyboard to final product. It sounds like a heady task for the best of us; of course, the project came with a whole range of challenges.

The main challenge was leading the client through this process, and having to find the balance of fine details and the timescale, knowing when it was essential to move on to the next step in the process.

Techy bits

To create the advert Engine House used 3ds Max for the modeling, Octane for the lighting, shading and rendering and After Effects to pull it all together. To ensure a quick turnaround the company tried to minimize time in post by doing as much in the render as possible.

Although it sounds simple enough, projects like this dont happen by accident. The company had to be extremely judicious and deliberate in how it achieved its workflow.

If a technique took too long to sim or too long to render we would have to rule it out very quickly and think creatively as to how we could achieve certain effects.

Theres so much that can be done with out-of-the-box tools, we did find it challenging making Particle Flow in 3ds Max do what we wanted on this within the time, given another go wed probably do more with Thinking Particles or Houdini.

Advert fundamentals

When you approach a new project such as this, there are always fundamentals the studio need to look at, such as Telling the story as simply as possible.The advert is quite complicated in terms of assets, and very short, so if a scene did little to advance the narrative or if there was a quicker way to show the same thing, we would opt for that.

A studio also needs to take into account the culture of the client for which they are working.
Creating characters that are likable for different cultures is also really critical, in this case we had to step outside of what we would consider to be pleasing design choices and make sure it pleased the audience.

Engine House horizons

The future for Engine House sounds very exciting, and futuristic! They will be exploring and investing in GPU processing, neural networks, light-fields. There will also be more and more visual feedback, meaning more time for artistic input and less technical work.

How good is your bouncing ball animation?

So there could be space for new opportunities as they look to expand their projects. Something important to note though is that it is important to have a showreel that wows straight away.

Before we read a CV or cover letter we want to see what you can do. So make it easy to find and enjoyable to watch! Also keep in mind wed rather see you master something really simple, than go for something too complicated and not do it justice. How good is your bouncing ball animation?

We are actually in the very early stages of producing our own independent animated feature film, all about a real life female pirate Back From The Dead Red! Follow our Facebook page here. In terms of service work, we hope to still be creating book trailers for publishers, as well as working on lots more exciting agency advertising jobs.

Related links

Check out Engine Houses official site
Top tips for getting your dream animation job

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