Three leading Soho post facilities are investing in compositing and 3D kit in order to meet a surge in demand for broadcast visual effects.

Apple-based facility Unit is looking to open a CGI arm, Unit FX, in the new year. It will target TV idents and commercials. It will take up three Maya, two After Effects and two Shake licences.

“We plan to expand aggressively,” managing director David Peto told Broadcast. “On the VFX side we have grown 300% since we launched the department six months ago, with turnover up over 40% from commercials clients. We are seeing a massive amount of short-form work including titles and idents for BBC2 and Sky.”

He added: “We are winning jobs from some of the bigger VFX and commercials houses because render farms and cheaper equipment mean that smaller facilities like us can offer a roughly equivalent service.”

Most VFX suites can charge a 15% to 20% premium on editing suites because it is more specialised so there are fewer operators on the market.

The demand for broadcast VFX is increasing for several reasons: new equipment means it has become much cheaper to build 3D objects from scratch rather than film against a green-screen; producers are more aware of the possibilities of broadcast VFX; and channels are spending more money on single channel and family channel idents to differentiate themselves.

Unit currently offers six VFX stations and a variety of Shake, After Effects, Furnace and Final Cut Pro tools. It incorporated VFX boutique Split Image in June.

Post company Envy has also said it is looking to expand its short form VFX, branding and finishing offering by September next year. The company currently has four Autodesk Smokes and managing director Dave Cadle said: “We are likely to double this within a year.”

Cadle has begun scouting Soho for new premises to house this expansion, but was unwilling to reveal anything more about the search.

High-end drama and film specialist Pepper also plans to build and run a long-form VFX department at its Noel Street site. This will comprise 15 work stations, each running a Fusion system. The department will cost £200,000.

Pepper’s joint managing director Patrick Holzen said: “Until now we have had to farm VFX work out to companies that specialise in this area but haven’t always been happy with the standard. This will allow us to guarantee high standards across all elements of post.”

Chris Mortimer, previously head of VFX at Prime Focus, will join Pepper as the new head of VFX and Beanie Knowlton-Parry will join as VFX producer.