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Kerner Optical's Model Plan
ILM veteran Mark Anderson reveals the road ahead for newly independent physical production unit By Frank Moldstad

Kerner Optical CEO Mark Anderson, who started at ILM 18 years ago as a model maker, poses with Black Pearl ship model from Pirates of the Caribbean.
As practitioners of one of the movie industrys oldest arts, the members of Industrial Light & Magics physical production unit have created galactic explosions, miniature worlds, and talking robots for everything from the original Star Wars to the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film.

But now, theyll be creating their magic as an independent company, the result of a deal between ILM and an employee-led investor group which purchased the physical production unit. Renamed Kerner Optical, its services are available to all comers which will still include ILM projects. CEO of the new company is Mark Anderson, formerly ILMs director of physical production, and an 18-year veteran of the company.

The split was an amicable one, brought on by ILMs concerns that it could no longer keep the physical production team busy enough, largely due to an increasing reliance on digital effects. Kerner Optical is currently working on effects for Evan Almighty as an ILM subcontractor, with Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 to follow. Nearly all of ILMs physical production crew moved over, Anderson notes. There is a small staff of four or five people, and about 150 artists whove traditionally worked on a project-hire basis at ILM will be doing the same at Kerner Optical.


In fact, Kerner Optical didnt even have to move. ?Were basically in the same facility, says Anderson, who co-founded the new company with Denver businessman Kevin Duncan and Yuska Siuicki, a stereoscopic 3D expert. ?We're staying in the same stages that we had before, over here on Kerner Street in San Rafael, California. And we're building out a new model shop in an adjacent building. So really the only equipment move is in the new model shop that were putting together.

The model shop will share space with a wood shop, a machine shop, a welding bay and a mold room, where ILMs computer graphics and art departments were housed before they moved to new headquarters near The Presidio in San Francisco last year. Altogether, Kerner Opticals facility covers about 60,000 square feet, including a 9,000-square-ft. outside concrete slab area for shooting exterior shots, Anderson says.

Scene from Alive shows model plane and mountain set with ILM effects specialist adding smoke.

One of Anderson 's jobs is to ensure a continuing flow of new jobs for the facility, something that he never had to worry about under ILMs wing. ?Im going to be marketing our services down in the Los Angeles area, drumming up business and trying to revive the commercial business that we used to be fairly highly involved with, he says. ?It's probably been about eight years since we did commercial work here, but we actually still do have one commercial account -- the Energizer Bunny campaign.

Filming helicopter miniature during production of Mission: Impossible

 

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