LAIKA Studio Expansion

  • September 14, 2016

Berg is in Full Motion for Stop Motion with LAIKA Studio

Stop-motion animation is defined as “a filming technique in which successive positions of objects (as models) are photographed to produce the appearance of movement.” It’s a technique that is more than 120 years old—older than commercial electrical contracting.

LAIKA has not only revived the historic technique of stop-motion animation for use in American cinema, but continues to expand the boundaries. Committed to the art of storytelling, LAIKA is comprised of artists, inventors, technicians, and craftspeople from around the world. Their first feature film, 2009’s Coraline, was nominated for an Oscar®. Coraline was followed by the Oscar®-and BAFTA-nominated ParaNorman in 2012, and The Boxtrolls hit theaters in 2014, garnering the studio its third-straight Oscar® nomination. Their fourth film, Kubo and the Two Strings, will be released this summer.

LAIKA’s studios are located in Hillsboro, OR,—far away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, CA, where most American cinematic studios thrive. This is due (in part) to LAIKA’s owner, Phil Knight, and his ties to the state of Oregon. Nike’s chairman acquired the former Vinton Studios in 2003 and set about turning it from a commercial animation house into a feature filmmaker. He put his son, Animator Travis Knight, in charge in 2009.

The studio’s achievements have pushed LAIKA to accelerate their movie releases from a two-year release schedule to an annual schedule, which has created a need to expand their existing studio space. In October of 2014, LAIKA called on Portland-based contractor, Precision Construction, to build a 105,000-s.f. addition onto their production facility; the goal was to increase its size by 70 percent (the original facility was 158,000 square feet).

The expansion includes wiring for 3-D printing equipment. LAIKA uses 3-D printing to produce interchangeable facial features for each of its characters. This allows animators to swap out ears, eyes, noses, and mouths to produce specific expressions called “rapid prototyping” by LAIKA.  A metal shop, wood shop, puppet mold library, and office/work stations are also included in the expansion. All of these components will be needed to build the models and elaborate sets that create the world around them.

Bergelectric Project Manager Paul Moss and Foreman Mike Carlson had been working on various projects in the LAIKA studio for years before the “plan to expand”—providing the award-winning movie maker with power for stages, laser cutters, chillers, welders, etc. since 2011. When it came time to choose an electrical contractor for the expansion, Bergelectric was at the top of the list.

Eager to join the team, Bergelectric had to move quickly. LAIKA requested an expedited construction schedule. “Initial construction ran behind, but the finish date has to hold,” said Bergelectric Superintendent CJ Bonfield. “We made up time by installing overhead components including all lighting circuits, substantial branch wiring, lights, and bus duct—all before the walls or mezzanine were built.”

Bergelectric leaned on their BIM Department—Bergelectric’s “animators”—to coordinate the lighting and power distribution installation throughout the facility before installation. Other steps to help expedite the electrical installation included the use of Trimble® Total Station to layout the underground, mezzanine, and roof for conduits and lighting supports. The Trimble® Total Station technology uses GPS and CAD files to help assist Bergelectric with precise installation points, and reduces the amount of manpower needed to perform these installations. The technology helped Bergelectric to move a large portion of the overhead feeder conduit underground and combine feeders to eliminate redundancy.

General Foreman Larry Mangum is leading Bergelectric’s eight-man field crew whose installation achievements at the LAIKA expansion include a new 500KVA Mitsubishi power conditioner with a custom built 500KVA low impedance transformer. The crew has been successfully managing the challenge of working on the expansion construction schedule and the remodel schedule (existing building) simultaneously, as LAIKA’s studio is remaining in operation during the construction process. “Working in an occupied facility always presents its challenges—especially when the existing facility is a movie set,” said Mangum. “We have to be careful not to interfere with their productions.”

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