New World Designs

Sunderland is celebrated for its manufacturing excellence, and the city has a thriving sector in software and games development, but what is surprising to some is its new-found confidence in the creative industries. 

It’s the ambition of any business to be sought out by some of the biggest brands in the world, and that’s exactly what’s happening to Sunderland-based New World Designs. 

The company has developed the technology that made ‘bullet time’ photography the defining feature of blockbuster film The Matrix, and is making it available to TV producers, advertising agencies and event companies. Having created its own ‘bullet time’ rig using custom-designed control software, New World Designs has had Hollywood knocking on the door of its Sunderland base, and in 2015 the team was on location in Rome shooting a sequence for Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2.

Bullet time photography captures a moment frozen in time, creating a camera sequence that appears to move around a figure or object hanging stationary in mid air. The effect is created by a computer-controlled rig linking more than 150 individual still cameras, firing either at the same time to freeze a moment, or firing in a controlled sequence to capture movement.

The stunning visual effect is proving such a hit that New World Designs has grown its business without using advertising, marketing or promotional campaigns. “Everything’s come by word of mouth”, explains partner Steven Reeves. “We are yet to advertise. We’re always too busy either doing jobs or prepping for jobs.”

Blue Chip Clients

Company founder Ian Wright takes up the theme: “Our clients are mainly blue chip – Unilever, Santander, Nike, Pepsi-Max and Land Rover. We have just been commissioned to create a second Pepsi-Max advert.  The new advert involves world-class international footballers and it’s a great project but we can’t release any of the names yet.”

As the company has developed, so has the technology. “We started with 36 cameras, and now have 156 in the rig”, explains Steve. “That can give us four seconds of bullet time. We can even run two rigs at the same time now.” 

It’s not just film and adverts that benefit from bullet-time. Companies including Jeep, AOL and You Tube have booked the rig for private and public events, allowing anybody, not just film stars, to feature in their own bullet-time action sequence.

New World Designs is located in Sunderland Software Centre, the City Council-owned innovation hub in the heart of the city, and for both Steve and Ian it’s the perfect base. “For two years I lived in North London”, says Ian, “but the rat race and having family and friends in the north east made living away difficult. I moved back to Sunderland as it is such a central hub for the north east. There is nowhere better located.”