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Against the Grain of Normalcy: Why Ultravision Studios Takes Even the Most Intimidating Creative Briefs


Ultravision Studios’ Robert Crenson and Craig Gouweloos discuss taking on projects from concept to delivery, surviving the pandemic as a young studio, and why the pursuit of perfection will always be their north star, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Against the Grain of Normalcy: Why Ultravision Studios Takes Even the Most Intimidating Creative Briefs

Conceived in 2018, Ultravision Studios is a Vancouver-based studio that takes pride in its ability to offer high quality content from conception to production, all the way to delivery. 

Run in collaboration between managing director Craig Gouweloos and executive producer Robert Crenson, Ultravision has worked with the likes of Mountain Equipment Co-op, Rockstar Energy, and Volvo, and the team is excited to spend 2023 developing new partnerships and bidding for new, great work - both inside of Canada and out. 

To learn more, LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Rob and Craig, discussing the studio’s history, the benefits of being in Vancouver, and what the name Ultravision means to them. 

LBB> Tell us about the history of Ultravision. How did you get started, how has the work been, and how have you evolved into the studio you are today?

Craig> Ultravision Studios was conceived in 2018 when I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to pursue my filmmaking career in action sports and snowboarding. While up until that point, I was shooting occasional snowboard movies and smaller commercial projects for clients in the action sports and travel space, it was when I met Robert Crenson, and we hired him on as our executive producer that things - from a larger scale production and commercial standpoint - started taking shape for our studio. After some initial conceptual work and spec shoots during our first year, in 2019 we won our first larger bid with a client in the outdoor recreation space, and after that, we were off to the races.

LBB> 2020 was a time that was marked by the presence of covid-19. How did this affect your business, if at all, and what challenges came with trying to launch the business during a time such as this?

Rob> 2020 was definitely a channelling period for our studio. We had just had a strong two years of momentum - from shooting spec work in our first couple of months to complete brand campaigns for clients like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Oakley. Additionally, we had a longer-form branded short film in the pipeline with a motorcycle and beverage client going into the start of that year, and that would have taken six months, but once the pandemic hit, that essentially put everything on hold. 

For almost six months that year, it was really hard to produce any work (as travel restrictions were in place), no clients wanted to take the risk of shooting anything, and overall, there was a lot of uncertainty and confusion. This put our company and general direction in jeopardy, for sure! With that said, we were able to make it through, and now we are stronger than ever before.

LBB> Where did the name ‘Ultravision’ come from? What does it mean to you?

Craig> The name was conceived late one night during a winter snowstorm, when workshopping the future of our studio. Effectively, ‘Ultravision’ came from the notion of merging two simple concepts that define our studio: we always strive to produce the highest grade of content possible, and we always try to do so in a way that is against the grain of normalcy. The name plays with concepts of light as a crucial tool for us to play with, vision being an ever evolving aspect of our work, and the pursuit of perfection. Although we know perfect doesn’t necessarily exist, it’s always been and always will be our north star. 

LBB> The studio’s defining statement is: ‘Our obsession is what drives us’. Where did this come from, and how do you embody this in the work you put out?

Rob> We are really passionate about what we do, and we want to be the best at it. Motivation, especially when it comes to creativity, often comes in waves, and you go through periods of brilliance, but then also periods of redundancy or recess. At the end of the day, the thing that drives us is the desire and need to be progressing and creating. We want to deliver the best possible product for our clients, and do it in a way where they feel we are really passionate and care about what we are working on.

LBB> The studio emphasises its ability to provide everything from concept to production, post to delivery. How does this impact the way you work, and why was a broad approach ideal for Ultravision? 

Craig> There are four general stages of our workflow: concept, production, post-production, and delivery. We are a powerful boutique production studio that can handle an entire project across all four of these stages. We do take on work that is isolated to each of these pillars, but can also thrive if we work with a client from start to finish. This approach allows for more cohesive creative and streamlined schedules. 

In terms of style, we both work on the concept side of things, as we like to brainstorm and be collaborative there. Due to Rob’s incredibly strong skill set with producing, he tends to approach things from a pragmatic right brain perspective, and handles the production side of things. I have a more creative and introspective lens, so I handle post-production and delivery. And, for when we need specialists, we have a team of regular, go-to contractors that we call. This model really allows us to propel the end product, and shape it in a way that our clients need and want.

LBB> Personally, what are your main aims and ambitions for Ultravision? 

Rob> Over the past four years of operation, we have become known as a team that pushes the limits of what’s capable in production, merging our techniques from the action sports space with the traditional production world. We have become very skilled at two primary things: speciality camera work, and being able to scale our productions when the creative is ambitious to the point of intimidating other teams or studios. 

The main aim is to continue to lean into this strength and focus on how we can optimise it towards our business development strategy. We also are looking to - on a more frequent basis - start shooting and bidding outside of Canada for work, as we have already shot in Japan, Europe, and the US, to name a few.

LBB> What have been some of the pivotal moments over the last two years? Please tell us about those!

Craig> The last two years were essentially two things: staying afloat during a very uncertain time for our industry, and then resetting our parameters to be able to come back stronger; being positioned to handle more demanding briefs and production sizes. Most recently, we shot a global campaign for a well-known, larger-scale client in the automotive space, which is our biggest project to date. We want to keep this momentum going into 2023.

LBB> Is there recent work that sticks out as being particularly important for Ultravision? And if so, why?

Craig> Our recent work with a large-scale automotive client that must remain unnamed (for now), along with two music videos for budding Canadian artist, Turunesh. We also recently produced two full-length movies for X Games gold medalist snowboarder Torstein Horgmo. These two movies were pivotal for us and him as an athlete, as they showcased that we can range from producing short form, punchy commercials, to longer form narrative projects. 

Robert’s freelance career is also something to make note of as well. In addition to producing some major work for large brands like Ford, Subaru, Corona, and Oakley, Rob recently was awarded two major accolades in the film making space for two distinguished productions he produced. He was awarded a gold Young Director Award at Cannes 2022, and two silvers at the 1.4 awards for a project he produced with director Sebastian Hillsbrand. (This was the same director we worked with on the music videos with Turunesh).

LBB> British Columbia is known for being a hub in the film industry. How does the scene compare/differ from other parts of Canada, and how does your location elevate your work?

Craig> British Columbia is such an amazing place for production. The model and machine are well-oiled, and the abundance of locations and versatility is world class. A major reason why we call Vancouver home is because we can essentially shoot through all 12 months of the year, and still have some continuity between the seasons. When it rains, the mountains get snow, so we can play and shoot up there. And when it’s sunny, the whole province is a playground for creativity.

LBB> With the start of a new year, do you have any big plans for 2023?

Rob> We are currently focusing on bidding for work within Canada, alongside some new agency partnerships that we have developed over the past year. We are also working on updating our reel with work that we have shot over the past two years.

LBB> Is there anything you’d like to add?

Craig & Rob> We would just like to thank all of our production partners and crew over the past four years for their relentless support and collaboration. The clients we have had the ability to work with have been incredible as well, and we couldn’t feel more fortunate to be able to look back on some of the experiences and work that has defined our company. Onward and up - we are just getting started!

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Ultravision Studios, Thu, 19 Jan 2023 17:15:48 GMT