VISUAL EFFECTS: BUILDING BRIDGES

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They do motion-graphics design, cel and computer animation, compositing and high-end visual effects out of offices in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. So why is Click 3x not called Click 4x?

"It's supposed to have a double meaning," explains Phil Price, 40, a Click co-founder and president at the New York office. "It's computer-sounding, yet low-tech. Like, 'Click three times, there's no place like home.'"

Well, that explains the red shoes on their stationery, and if they keep growing they may even have a Kansas office eventually. Click 3x, the brainchild of effects director Peter Corbett, opened five years ago in New York with a staff of five. Corbett, 46, now CEO of Click 3x's parent company, IllusionFusion, envisioned an open-architecture digital studio that would be used creatively with a project-based approach rather than a rent-by-the-hour facility. He enlisted his longtime friend and colleague Price, who was then a creative director at Tape House Digital, New York, and Price engineered a risky conversion to an all-Flame studio. At that time, the unproven Flame had just been launched by Discreet Logic. Click 3x soon landed the kaleidoscopic, psychedelic Fruitopia campaign via TBWA Chiat/Day, which provided the perfect artsy showcase for both the shop and the new equipment. "The combination of spearheading the Flame software and getting Fruitopia really got our name out there," says Price. "We were about six months ahead of the technology curve and ultimately changed the landscape of how this kind of work is accomplished."

"In very short order, a lot of companies cropped up using the same model and technology as us," adds Corbett.

The combined Click 3x staff runs to 100 now, led by New York's 30-strong office. While the locations are scattered, their operations are nearly seamless. "We've assembled a roster of talent within the company, and they collaborate with each other through T-1 lines. But now we want to do everything in conjunction with the client in real time," says Corbett. "That is our next incarnation.

A year and a half ago, Click 3x created what it calls the Click3xtranet at its Web site (click3x.com), where clients can check out projects in progress in a password-protected environment. "Now we can tap into the talent where they are and deliver them to the client wherever they are and eventually do it across borders," says Corbett. "That's just the way the world is going."

Each of the regional offices has its own visual niche. The flagship New York office holds the broadest pool of talent, and specializes in Price's forte, compositing. Atlanta does mostly editing, cel animation, and recently became an Emmy nominee with work for The Learning Channel. San Francisco and Los Angeles are often lumped together for their work in character computer animation. In fact, Click's West Coast outposts have just completed a made-for-TV movie for Paramount Pictures, due out next month. The movie, titled It's True, features a nest of talking rats based on characters created by illustrator and cartoonist Frank Gary. L.A. served as the point of contact for the project, but every Click 3x office collaborated to put together this TV pilot, which Click hopes will turn into a TV series.

The newest addition to the IllusionFusion/Click 3x family will be The Sound Lounge, a New York audio mixing and sound design facility, set to open this month just around the corner from Click 3x. Phil Price is excited: "Everyone here is a former musician, and there is a live room where we can jam."

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