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In 3 Dimensions

Animators Combine Talents to Get Studio Off Ground

September 02, 1998|KAREN E. KLEIN | Karen E. Klein is a freelance writer

Kory Jones, 31, was working as a designer and animator at Fox Sports when he teamed up with Andrew and Steven Heimbold, who are cousins, to start a design and animation studio in 1997. They recently won a contract to create the football graphics for CBS' broadcasts of the NFL's 1998 season. The experience, contacts and capital that each partner brought to the company have proved invaluable, Jones said. He was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.

I was working on a 3-D graphic adventure game when the company I worked for hired Andrew's company to do some work and Steven was working for Andrew at the time.

After that, we all kind of split up. I went to work for Fox, designing sports animation, Andrew continued with his company and Steven wound up doing film design.

Based on our shared work ethic and the ability we all had to push the technology limits of desktop computers, we'd all been very impressed with each other. We stayed in touch and when Andrew and Steven decided to start a new company, they called me.

The fact that we all have different strengths has helped us. Andrew founded a company before, so he had experience with start-ups and knew how to keep a company going. Steven is a production person and he's very efficient and organized, so he keeps us and the computers running. And I've become the creative director, because that's what I'm best at.

Our varied skills also allowed us to get this company going quickly. Andrew had done Web sites, so we had a strong Internet presence almost right away. Steven and I did animations, so we turned out a demo reel first thing.

We pooled our personal equipment and started off determined to buy only the things we really needed to get jobs. We all came into the deal with a little bit of capital, we borrowed money from our families and we agreed to pay for the things we needed out of our own pockets whenever we could. It was definitely a shoestring operation.

But we became a professional company within two months and because we all had contacts in the industry, we were working on our first jobs before we opened the doors to our office.

The CBS contract came about through a contact I had with a woman who was doing some sports consulting for CBS. She came to us very, very late in the game and she couldn't pay us, but she promised that if we did some storyboards on spec, she'd pitch them to the president of CBS Sports.

We crammed for the next two weeks, got some boards in and did a fully animated tape of what we were planning. The day after we sent it in, we heard that they really liked the concept and wanted us to take it to the next level.

Very early on, because we all had experience with desktop technology, we made a conscious decision to stick with desktop computers. Some companies go out and buy $100,000 workstations to do the job we do, but they're still paying off that equipment two or three years later. We decided that although there is 5% of animation that we can't do without the higher-end machines, we can do 95% of what we need to and our costs are significantly less.

But it came down to the talent of the people we drew together, because we knew a lot of shortcuts and tricks that helped us. The great thing is that CBS gave us about $2 million worth of equipment when we got the contract. We had only a short amount of time to get the job done, but we knew we could pull together and handle getting a huge contract like this much sooner than we'd ever anticipated.

*

Karen E. Klein will be featured at The Times' Small Business Strategies Conference Oct. 17-18 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. If your business can provide a lesson to other entrepreneurs, contact Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia 91016 or send e-mail to kklein6349@aol.com. Include your name, address and telephone number.

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At a Glance

* Company: Reality Check Studios

* Owners: Kory Jones, Andrew Heimbold and Steven Heimbold

* Nature of business: Design and animation studio

* Location: 723 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood

* Founded: 1997

* Employees: 12

* Annual revenue: $1.5 million

More small-business coverage, D6-7.

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