VTR North in Leeds and Sumners in Manchester have merged their graphics and visual effects departments.

In a unique cross-Pennine working agreement, three designers from Sumners - working on Avid DS, Lightwave and After Effects - will operate under VTR North creative director Paul Peppiate.

All four will be based in Sumners' central Manchester facility.

The combined VTR North @ Sumners department will work closely with the VTR North graphics team in Leeds, which uses Smoke and Maya.

Utilising the talents of both sites, Peppiate will pitch for work with broadcast production companies in both Leeds and Manchester. There is also potential for the two companies to work together on commercials projects.

“We've effectively doubled the firepower of both facilities,” said Peppiate. “I am now able to pitch with three designers in each location.”

The two sites will be linked by a ‘fat pipe' to allow graphics content to be passed quickly between Leeds and Manchester. There are also plans to redevelop an on-line suite in Manchester that will mirror the commercials Smoke suite that VTR North already has in Leeds.

The deal is not financial and no cash or shares have changed hands. Peppiate said: “It is a partnership but, in effect, I have taken over the graphics department at Sumners. It's a proper grown-up agreement with an exit strategy in place if it doesn't work out. Although we won't need that because it will work.”

Some background

The idea for VTR North @ Sumners came about in November 2007 following a chance discussion between Peppiate and Sumners founder Andrew Sumner at a Skillset training day.

Peppiate explains: “We wanted to move the company forward and to expand. Manchester made sense so we had two choices: set up another facility or open a sales office. It turned out that [following the discussion with Sumner] there was a third option that we hadn't thought of.”

VTR North's desire to cross the Pennines dovetailed neatly with Sumners' plans to expand its graphics offering and get a foot in the commercials market.

“There are commercials production companies in Manchester who find it difficult to come to Leeds,” continued Peppiate. “And Sumners is known mainly as a broadcast facility so we compliment each other.”

But it may not stop at commercials as the two facilities could work together on other shared projects. “We will cherry pick expertise or do things on a consultancy basis,” said Peppiate.

The two companies

VTR North launched in Leeds in 2005. It employs 10 full-time staff and does work for local factual indies, Yorkshire TV and commercials indies. The company was previously 20% owned by VTR plc but that share was bought out last year.

Television credits include title sequences for Countdown, 50 Films to See Before You Die and Diamond Geezer. The company also worked on A Year In The Life Of Michael Owen for Sky One and Inside Sport: Phil Taylor for BBC1

Sumners in Manchester is the biggest single site post house outside London. The company employs 72 staff and has 40 plus suites featuring Adrenaline, DS Nitris, Symphany Nitris HD, ProTools and Da Vinci grading.

It does work for BBC Comedy, BBC Manchester, Hat-Trick, Shine and Objective, amongst others. Credits include Dragons Den, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Songs of Praise.