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Herald Entertainment grows from series to service work with Harmony
In the digital era, an optimized animation studio is a synergy of talent, tools and training. Herald Entertainment exemplifies this every day. The production company’s portfolio features work largely for the education community, though it is now expanding its offerings through co-productions, service work and short content – and it is using Toon Boom animation software to do it all.
“Using Toon Boom is very important as we begin producing more cartoons and exploring different styles of animation that may not be the ones we are used to,” says Robert Fernandez, producer at Herald Entertainment.
Herald Entertainment has over 100 staff across the United States, Costa Rica and Indonesia, giving it a diverse talent base to create exceptional animation for projects of all sizes. Its Dallas studio oversees production, with an emphasis on development (scripts, pre- and post-production) as well as distribution; in San José, Costa Rica, the team focuses on traditional, CGI and 2D animation in Toon Boom; its Jakarta, Indonesia, studio does mainly series work with importance given to traditional animation, backgrounds and extras for other productions.
All three studios in the network use Toon Boom software. Herald has been using Storyboard Pro for over seven years for pre-production on all its 3D and 2D animation projects. Having done more realistic artwork on series like Torchlighters (produced in Storyboard Pro and Harmony), it is now expanding into more cartoon-style IPs. Already familiar with Storyboard Pro, its creative team was naturally attracted to Harmony as well as the added benefits of building a streamlined Toon Boom pipeline:
“What we really like about Toon Boom is, between Storyboard Pro and Harmony, you can build on other people’s work,” says Fernandez. “You can have a multitude of people working on the same project, but they’re all building on what their colleagues have done in terms of pre-production, parts of the animation or different steps.”
The proof is in the productions. Combining its creative talent with the flexible tools of the Toon Boom suite, Herald Entertainment has been commissioned to produce the first two seasons of a fast-paced, family-friendly original series, Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent. The comedic cartoon is being animated almost entirely at its Costa Rican studio and follows the eponymous, egotistical spy as he contends with evil masterminds – and having his mother as his partner.
“When we started using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Harmony, everything changed for us,” says Wayne Van Blarcom. “It streamlined our entire production process.”
“Once the animation was ready to roll, the process of going from pre-production to animation was seamless. We can’t say enough about how happy and thrilled we are with Toon Boom software,” added Fernandez.
He continues, “Being able to rig in Harmony has really made things go a lot faster and be better. It’s also helped our artists keep a better hand on the quality of the animation – they have all the characters rigged ahead of time and create all the poses that are then reused by different animators.”
Source: Herald Entertainment.
The studio has a team of 12 animators dedicated to Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent and they are nearing completion on the first 13-episode season, with a second to immediately follow. To support production, Toon Boom trainers visited Herald Entertainment in Costa Rica and Indonesia for week-long workshops to teach rigging and other Harmony skills.
“The benefits were tremendous; our instructor based the training on our current needs,” says Ana Guillen, head of animation for Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent. “Once the workshop began, we were getting the information and gaining the experience we really needed without skipping a beat in production. It makes a huge difference going forward.”
Having been trained in Harmony by Toon Boom, Herald Entertainment is now spreading that knowledge to artists coming out of Costa Rica’s main animation education institutions like Universidad de Costa Rica, Universidad Veritas and Parque la Libertad - Technology and Visual Arts Center (CETAV) – an innovative social inclusion program that builds technical on-demand capacities in young people from at-risk communities to break circles of poverty. It’s also exploring with these institutions the development of programs around the industry-leading software to streamline students into studios.
Source: Herald Entertainment.
“So many studios are using Toon Boom software. It’s such an important tool that several institutions have reached out to us to try and develop a course that deals with using [Storyboard Pro and Harmony], while also preparing the students to work in a studio atmosphere,” says Fernandez.
While much of the animation workforce in Costa Rica consists of freelancers, Herald Entertainment is able to hire graduates straight out of school and offer them full-time positions. Fernandez notes many of its best artists were recruited through this professional pipeline; upon arriving in the studio, they are given training in Storyboard Pro and Harmony. This, in turn, is providing Herald with the creative resources it needs to tackle more co-productions, service work and long-form content moving forward.
With a steady flow of projects and animators coming through its doors, Herald has the talent, tools and training it needs to not only scale, but succeed.