TORONTO – Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies (MARZ), the technology and visual effects studio, has raised $6.5 million (Canada) in Series A funding. The company will use the injection of capital to grow its core VFX services business and to accelerate the research and development of its AI for VFX technology solutions.
MARZ’s AI technology adds a high level of automation to address the VFX capacity shortage that has been plaguing the entertainment industry. In beta since Q1 2021, MARZ’s first AI for VFX solution has been used on 17 Hollywood productions to date, with that number expected to double in 2022. The funding will also enable MARZ to hire key personnel across research, engineering and product areas, and to build out its technology infrastructure to increase production capacity and improve the efficiency of its AI solutions.
The investment was led by Round13 Capital, with participation from Rhino Ventures and Harlo Equity Partners, digital transformation company Torinit, and strategic angel investors John Cassaday, former founding president and CEO of Corus Entertainment, and Jake Cassaday.
MARZ (https://monstersaliensrobotszombies.com) has grown from 45 people in 2019 to 194 currently, and has plans to grow the team to 300 over the next year. Of its current employees, more than 25 percent are focused on R&D, machine learning (ML), and AI. While MARZ maintains an office in Toronto, it is a remote-first company, with a distributed workforce based in cities around the world, including Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, Madrid, Los Angeles, Melbourne, London, Moscow, Mumbai and Mexico City.
The studio’s traditional VFX work has appeared in 68 TV projects, most notably, Marvel’s WandaVision, HBO’s Watchmen, Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, and Apple TV’s Invasion. The studio’s work received two Emmy nominations in 2021: WandaVision (Outstanding Special Visual Effects In A Season Or A Movie) and The Umbrella Academy S2 (Outstanding Special Visual Effects In A Single Episode).
According to co-founders Jonathan Bronfman (co-president), Lon Molnar (co-president), and Matt Panousis (COO), the VFX capacity shortage issue faced by the entertainment industry right now is due to streaming wars, the corresponding explosion of on-demand content, and the ever-increasing importance of VFX in driving subscriber growth.
“These problems are exacerbated in the TV segment, as consumer expectations regarding TV quality have risen dramatically, far outpacing the timelines and TV production budgets,” note the executives. “We are addressing this issue with our next generation AI for VFX solutions that remove traditional capacity restraints, operate at unprecedented speeds, and offer meaningful price reductions. Ultimately, our aim is to democratize VFX and make it far more accessible to creatives around the world.”