Established in 2012, Dexter Studios stands as a leading VFX company in South Korea. Renowned for its exceptional competitiveness, the company’s “unseen VFX” in the movie “Parasite” (2019) stunned the Academy Awards. It was differentiated by its strategic tactics because Dexter Studios did not just settle for excelling at producing the movie’s visual technology but challenged the technical limits.

Until a decade ago, only three major global studios had fur creation technology used for a full-length movie with a program developed in-house. Thus, in-house software was considered the preserve of global studios. Nevertheless, Dexter Studios developed its own integrated simulation solution, Zelos, and set a milestone as the first Asian success story. With this program, it demonstrated the technology that vividly depicted the two million strands of gorilla hairs in the movie “Mr. Go” (2013), and developed into ZENN (Zelos Node Network) through upgrades.

Dexter Studios
A scene from Parasite

Notably, ZENN Digital Environment allows digital environments, such as rocks, forests, and cities, to be zoned on a map to control the density of trees and plants, and ZarVis (Zelos For Particle & Volume Integration System) successfully replicates the ocean, which is difficult to create with CG. This expanded ZENN technology has enabled creating large-scale environments, and realizing the culmination of cutting-edge VFX technology in many works, including the movie “The Pirate” (2014).

As a result, the thesis was selected for DIGIPRO and became the first Korean company to do so. DIGIPRO is a global VFX academic conference that showcases computer graphics, art, and animation, and a large number of internationally renowned studios and artists are in attendance. In 2013, global companies such as Pixar, Disney, Rhythm & Hues, Image Engine, DNEG, DreamWorks, and Weta Studio were introduced on the DIGIPRO website, and Dexter Studios’ work was presented as the representative work of the conference, attracting worldwide attention.

This ability to develop has led to a series of requests from China, and the company has expanded its references by participating in large-scale projects. “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” (2013), “The Monkey King” (2014), “The Taking Of Tiger Mountain” (2014), “The Monkey King 2: The Legend Begins” (2016), “The Monkey King 3: Kingdom of Women” (2018), “Journey to the West: Demon Chapter” (2017), and “Kung-Fu Yoga” (2017), which grossed tens of billions of dollars. In particular, as of February 2017, three of Dexter Studios’ films ranked 5th (“Journey to the West: Demon Chapter”), 6th (“Kung-Fu Yoga”), and 10th (“Monkey King 2: The Legend Begins”) among the top 10 box office hits in China.

During this period, the film continued to perform well at home as well as overseas. A case in point is the movie “The Pirates” which was a box office success with 8.66 million viewers in 2014. The movie’s main setting, the ocean, was key, and Dexter Studios’ ZarVis (Zelos For Particle & Volume Integration System) was used to create the image using only VFX technology without the actual ocean. The realistic water movement, whale skin and maneuver, and ship’s sailing were praised as ‘tangible evidence of advanced Korean CG’.

Dexter Studios became an innovative growth company in the Asian market, and in December 2015, it became the first Korean film company to list on the KOSDAQ under the ‘technology special listed companies’ system. Concurrently, it was also the first VFX studio to do so. The company’s growth continued.

“Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds”, released in December 2017, attracted 14.41 million viewers, and “Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days”, released in August 2018, attracted 12.27 million viewers, making it the first series in Korean film history to reach the double 10 million mark. Considering that the total population of South Korea was approximately 51.6 million as of 2018, this means that one out of every two South Koreans has seen the movie “Along with the Gods”. Dexter Studios main-produced the entire movie with its partners, and was responsible for all aspects of the film, including planning, production, and DI, as well as VFX, while its subsidiary company, LIVETONE, handled the sound production, making it an all-round project, a one-stop multi-production.

This process functions due to a specialized pipeline structure. Dexter Studios has a separate production department that oversees the entire production process, with about 30 professional producers controlling the schedule from inception to completion. In addition, VFX is divided into more than 10 separate processes, including previs, concept art, match move, rigging, animation, lighting, FX, assets, compositing, and matte painting. The company even has an R&D lab to develop IT technology internally.

This system maintains stable quality control, which leads to a competitive edge that allows them to produce large-scale works on a global scale. Their success is no accident, and they have been responsible for global OTT K-content that has garnered worldwide attention, including Netflix’s “Space Sweepers” (2021), “Jung_E” (2023), “Zombieverse” (2023), and Disney+’s “Moving” (2023).

The company is not resting on its success in VFX and is focusing on expanding its business areas. In 2021, the company entered the virtual production business and opened D1 Studio. From its first facility, D1 was the first in Korea to collaborate with Lux Machina, which has proven its VP technology with “The Mandalorian”, The Oscars, and The 2020 League of Legends World Championship. It also made a new achievement with “The Moon” (2023), the first Korean film to use VP technology. By combining VFX and VP, the movie gave audiences a scientific cosmic experience.

In addition, Dexter Studios is actively pursuing the metaverse business. It has built up business know-how by collaborating with government agencies to produce VR content related to cultural assets and co-producing VR services with webtoon companies. Based on this, it is currently working on a media art project with Gyeongju, a representative cultural tourism city in Korea. In the metaverse industry, it secured solid references by utilizing the advantage of being able to realize multi-media content using all technologies such as VFX, VP, DI, and SOUND.

In 2012, Dexter Studios was producing movies, and 10 years later, it has become a global studio with a momentum of producing limitless cultural contents that make all imagination a reality. Dexter Studios continues to work on global projects, most recently providing VFX technology for the US, Japan, and Hungary collaboration “Knights of the Zodiac” (2023) and the Netflix series “Yu Yu Hakusho” (2023). It will be interesting to see if the once small Korean studio will make history with a new shock in the global content market.

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