Photo of actors wearing motion capture suits for the VFX & Animation Industry in Vancouver

VFX & Animation

The word is out that Vancouver is the place to be for VFX & Animation

What is the VFX and Animation industry?

Visual effects (VFX) describes imagery that’s created, manipulated or enhanced using computer-generated elements (think of blockbuster films and series like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, or Avengers: Endgame). Animation is where illustrated or rendered images are combined with motion.

Vancouver’s VFX and Animation sector is part of a dynamic creative economy that employs people across the country. Over the last decade, the industry has more than doubled in size with streaming services helping to drive further investment.

Why is the VFX and Animation industry important?

Visual effects and animation are key elements of telling an engaging story and have become integral to films and TV shows, video games, web series, ads and other mediums.

The industry has also proven itself remarkably resilient. During the COVID-19 pandemic, visual effects and animation companies were able to transition thousands of employees to remote working models practically overnight. While the industry saw significant disruption from fluctuations in global spending and filming hiatuses – particularly to visual effects projects – the spike in demand for fresh content helped to keep creatives employed.

Now, trends in content consumption and animation spending by major streaming providers paint a bright outlook for VFX and animation (see “Opportunities” below).

What are the opportunities in the VFX and Animation industry?

In Vancouver, there are over 150 VFX and Animation businesses, making it the world’s largest cluster of domestic and foreign-owned studios. The industry has a long track record of producing cutting-edge content ranging from award-winning shorts to internationally renowned series and feature films.

  • Post-production and animation crossover. In recent years, many visual effects houses – particularly those with international footprints – have opened animation divisions to service the growing demand by streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
  • Virtual sets / production. The emerging trend of virtual sets – where cast and crew work against live animated backgrounds, rather than a green screen – could lead to more jobs in the industry. It could also mean a greener footprint for the film industry, with less travel or set models or production required.

“Animation keeps pushing the boundaries of creative expression and finding critical and commercial success – just look at the performance of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. The art form’s potential audience is expanding and that will open up even more opportunities.”

Jennifer Twiner McCarron, CEO, President and Director of Thunderbird Entertainment and Atomic Cartoons

VFX and Animation in Vancouver: A Place for Creatives

From the world’s first computer graphics TV series on ABC (Reboot) to a seemingly endless procession of major animated feature films and highly rated television series, Vancouver has grown through the decades to establish itself as a world-leading centre of VFX & animation talent and technology.

Today, Vancouver houses one of the world’s most significant clusters of domestic and foreign-owned studios, and home to an estimated 150+ VFX & post-production businesses. Notable among them is an array of highly regarded training programs with strong industry ties. As such, it is a sought-after destination for creative professionals to pursue fulfilling animation and visual effects careers.

While known the world over for their work on features and series, professionals in the industry also regularly lend their talents to video game cinematics, commercials, advertising firms, educational content, not-for-profits and other content creation services.

Key Stats

*Please note that VEC’s study includes all post-production work by companies whose primary purpose is visual effects, and that may include post-production and animation work done by production companies in the commercials, marketing and games sectors.

Annual post-production and industry spending research update

Visual effects and animation careers provide steady and resilient employment to thousands of workers in the city of Vancouver.

Total spend of the Film & TV, VFX & Animation Industry in Vancouver from 2012 to 2022

Please note that VEC’s Film industry in BC annual study includes all post-production work, not only visual effects, and that it includes post-production and animation work done by production companies in the commercials, marketing and games sectors.

Refer to our latest research update on annual spending by the BC industry to learn more about the method, and for other insights from the study.

What’s driving the VFX and Animation industry in Vancouver?

Vancouver’s VFX and Animation industry is comprised of more than 70 studios, and is the world’s largest cluster of domestic and foreign-owned studios. The industry has a long track record of producing cutting-edge animated content ranging from award-winning shorts to internationally renowned series and feature films.

  • Concentration of highly ranked and globally recognized animation and visual effects programs
  • Proximity to and ease of doing business with other major animation hubs in the North America, Europe and Asia, allowing for greater co-operation across studios and with clients.
  • Industry-friendly climate, including quality tax incentives and strong trade and industry associations.
  • Attractiveness to talent, including outstanding quality of life and desirability as a location to begin or advance an animation career.

Vancouver’s VFX and Animation industry in action

Vancouver is home to the largest cluster of VFX and animation studios in the world, which have worked on digital effects for major blockbusters and indie pictures alike. Examples include:

  • Animal Logic | Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The LEGO Movie 2
  • Atomic Cartoons | Spidey and his Amazing Friends, Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again and Lego Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit
  • Bardel Entertainment | Ricky & Morty, Teen Titans Go! and Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • DNEG | Oppenheimer, The Little Mermaid and Fast X
  • Image Engine | Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, and The Book of Boba Fett
  • Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) | Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Jurassic World: Dominion
  • Sony Pictures Imageworks | Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Zoic Studios | See, Wandavision, and Judas and the Black Messiah

Photo of a vfx editor working on a tablet display with his team

Photo: Vancouver Film School

VFX and Animation industry jobs and training

Vancouver has a peerless concentration of globally recognized visual effects and animation educational programs, as well as ready employment by top-tier visual effects and animation houses. As such, it is Vancouver is a global destination to grow visual effects and animation careers.

Top industry programs

The Hollywood Reporter has consistently recognized Lost Boys School of Visual Effects, Think Tank Training Centre and Vancouver Film School in its annual list of the industry’s best training providers.

The ability to specialize

There are also opportunities in related subsectors and specializations. These include, but are not limited to:

  • 3D modelling
  • Asset creation
  • Compositing
  • Digital lighting
  • Environment creation
  • FX technical direction
  • 2D FX

In addition, talent development initiatives by studios and education programs – such as Think Tank’s Doers and Dreamers Scholarship – increase opportunities for Canadian artists from underrepresented communities, including members of Indigenous, Black, racialized groups, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ2S+ communities.

Industry education and innovation is further supported by the Master of Digital Media program offered by the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) through the Centre for Digital Media (CDM).

Other training and education resources

Government Support for VFX & Animation

Federal and provincial governments provide strong support and incentives to VFX and animation businesses operating in Vancouver:

Tax Credit Description Percentage
Film Incentive BC Tax Credit Labour-based tax incentive that offers a refundable tax credit of 35% to Canadian-controlled production companies. 35%
Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit Federal government program that offers a credit of 25% of qualified labour to Canadian-controlled production companies, with a credit of 16% of qualified labour costs to Canadian-controlled production companies and those with a permanent establishment in Canada. 16% – 25%
The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Federal tax incentive encouraging R&D in Canada. Qualifying non-Canadian companies can receive tax credits of 15% of qualified expenditures, while Canadian companies receive enhanced credits. Qualifying Canadian and non-Canadian corporations conducting R&D in BC can also benefit from a 10% provincial tax credit. 10% – 15%
Tax Credit Description Percentage
BC Digital Animation or Visual Effects (DAVE) Provides a tax credit of 16% on qualifying labour costs to production companies employing BC talent for post-production and sound. 16%
British Columbia Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit Provides a refundable 17.5% tax credit on qualified labour costs to taxable Canadian corporations with permanent establishments in BC that are in the business of developing interactive digital media products. 17.5%
British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit Offers Canadian and international film and TV production companies with a permanent establishment in BC, as well as a 28% refundable tax credit on eligible labour costs. 28%

Other Support for the VFX & Animation ecosystem in Vancouver

Other industry organizations and ecosystem supporters that provide resources, support or advocacy to studios and workers in the industry include (but are not limited to) the following: