Carbon Digital was founded by married couple Paul and Sue McHugh (pictured left), who first met while working at Liverpool-based PlayStation developer Psygnosis in the 1990s, before moving on to Rage Software together.
As the millennium approached, the duo branched out on their own to form Carbon Digital, focusing on animation. Their debut project was an interactive animated website for Rage and its latest titles, but the couple had their sights set on far broader horizons than video games.
“We wanted to take our range of skills to a wider audience,” explains Sue McHugh (pictured above, far left). “At the time, the web market was huge and we developed some really edgy and groundbreaking visual work for some high-end clients.
“With this commercial experience, and our skills in 3D, we knew we could target visual effects and production work. Since then our client portfolio has increased and includes the likes of Unilever, BBC, and British Cycling.”
Over the last year, the McHughs have gone to great lengths to strengthen ties with the industry where they found their start. Securing funding from Creative England – the organisation that helps develop tech and digital start-ups around the country – a brand new division of Carbon Digital was launched. Headed up by business director Ian Richardson, it specifically focuses on game trailers.
“Bizarrely, given our background in games, this was an untapped area for us,” said McHugh. “We had focused previously on commercials and broadcast mainly.”
While Carbon was able to attract the likes of Moshi Monsters creator Mind Candy, it was a partnership with former employers PlayStation that proved to be a real shot in the arm for the company. Instead of a trailer, Carbon Digital was commissioned to produce the intro sequence for last year’s LittleBigPlanet 3. McHugh says the impact of this project cannot be understated.
“That work has changed the company,” she says. “The scale of this project has been a fantastic showcase of our capabilities in a large scale production, as well as the entire post and VFX pipeline.”
Carbon Digital continues to expand its games team as well, with the recent appointment of 3D artist Carleen Houbart. McHugh says there will be plenty more opportunities for people interested in working in animation.
“We are always looking for additional experienced VFX artists,” she says. “We look for high-level CGI skills, but importantly, candidates with a keen artistic eye. We need our artists to be able to finish work to an extremely high level and deliver seamless VFX shots.”
Earlier this year, Creative England named Carbon Digital as one of the organisation’s Future Leaders: a collection of firms that are using Creative England’s funding to lead and potentially change their field.
“We were absolutely delighted to receive this accolade in January; it was a great start to the year,” says McHugh. “To be named as one of just ten Future Leaders is a testament to the work the whole team at Carbon Digital has achieved in the past year. I am sure that our work on LittleBigPlanet 3 was a factor in the judging process, given the importance of that brand.”
Now McHugh and her team are determined to live up to this accolade, with some major contracts in games and other fields to announce soon.
“We want to continue our work on large-scale productions, especially projects which combine high-end visual effects,” she adds. “Our vision is to build our reputation for creating top-class work for television commercials and game trailers. We also want to build our profile and Paul’s reputation as a leading director.
“We believe we can offer a unique and superlative service to games developers and publishers, and we are looking forward to working with more clients in this area.”