In the world of blockchain and NFTs, clarity and simplicity are hot commodities. Amidst what can be an exciting yet often opaque space, it’s hard to put a price on a clear creative vision anchored in expertise. Happily for Sombra, a platform created by Bonfire FX founder Brendan O’Neil, that’s precisely what they can offer.
On a mission to connect brands to the world of NFTs and cryptocurrency as well as help artists to navigate the blockchain, Sombra has positioned itself as the missing link between creativity and crypto. In many ways, the studio represents the dream team given the task at hand; composed of VFX and tech experts with deep experience in working with brands, agencies, entertainment, and emerging tech.
The platform’s creative credentials are also enhanced thanks to an enduring relationship with the aforementioned Bonfire FX, an award-winning visual effects powerhouse staffed by storied artists, Hollywood tech directors, and creative directors with a rich pool of industry experience.
Between Bonfire FX and Sombra, realising the potential of NFTs, cryptocurrencies and the metaverse itself has never been more achievable for brands. Indeed, with clients including, PayPal, Adidas, and Samsung among others, Bonfire FX and Sombra have already found themselves at the vanguard of this new frontier in the evolution of creativity and storytelling.
But perhaps the most eye-catching example of their innovative creative philosophy is SINS (full name Sins of Shadow). An NFT cinematic universe and triple-A game, SINS is a perfect manifestation of this storytelling revolution - one in which NFTs allow players and viewers to set the terms for the narrative as it unfolds.
Above: A visual explainer of the role NFTs play in the upcoming SINS game.
On May 4th, 377 Genesis NFTs compatible with the game will become available for purchase (followed by 5,000 more on May 21st). Acting as keys to the world of SINS, these NFTs will give players a unique in-game identity as well as a direct stake in both the cinematic and game world.
Excitingly, SINS is a project which has been brought to life by some of the most experienced and talented artists to be found anywhere in the creative industries. To find out more about SINS, and how Bonfire FX’s rich history is powering Sombra’s work in this space, LBB sat down with Bonfire FX’s partner and managing director Jason Mayo, partner and creative director Aron Baxter alongside Sombra founder Brendan O’Neil.
To understand precisely what makes SINS and the potential of the blockchain more broadly such exciting propositions, a great starting point is the creative proficiency of Bonfire FX. Having founded Bonfire as well as Sombra more recently, Brendan knows more than anyone about the level of quality the studio can bring to the table. As Jason reflects on the company’s work with NFTs for the NFL from last year, it's easy to pick up a tangible sense of excitement with regards both to the project itself, and what it means for the future.
“First of all, the reaction from the fans was amazing!”, he recalls. “The NFL has always had a progressive approach to marketing and I loved how they embraced the NFT and web3 culture. Plus, this could well be the first interaction with the tech for so many football fans”.
Around the end of last year, the NFL entered the world of NFTs as it offered fans the opportunity for a digital souvenir from a selected number of games. In doing so they enlisted the VFX chops of Bonfire FX, who collaborated with Sombra in order to bring the campaign to life.
Above: With the help of Bonfire FX, the NFL created a set of NFTs which fans could purchase alongside tickets to a select number of games.
And for Brendan, the campaign signalled an important moment in the relationship between brands and NFTs. “The NFL drop showed that NFT branding can be successful, and I think for a few other companies it was a great step into the world of web3”, he says. “One thing that was especially interesting was the connection with Ticketmaster, as the NFTs were digital tickets in a sense. While these were more artistic, the concept of blockchain ticketing is yet another great example of the use case for NFTs and web3 tech. More and more, we are going to see sports brands turning to NFTs for revenue opportunities, community engagement, and ticketing in general”.
In fact, it was that ocean of creative potential which partly inspired Brendan to found Sombra in the first place. And it's thanks to the company’s relationship with Bonfire FX (the pair consider themselves to be ‘sister companies’) that he is in a position to deliver on that potential.
Speaking to Jason, Aron, and Brendan together, it’s easy to get a sense of how Bonfire FX and Sombra’s unique capabilities complement one another.
“From our perspective, partnering with Sombra has reinvigorated our VFX artists and designers in such a great way”, notes Aron. “It’s another outlet to express their creativity and technical prowess that previously didn’t exist. Plus, it’s empowering to feel culturally relevant and current”.
Striking a note of agreement, Jason explains how working alongside Sombra has imbued Bonfire FX with a new creative impetus. “One of the most exciting aspects of our partnership is the collaboration of artists across mediums”, he says. “Having devs and digital artists working and creating with our VFX artists, designers, and animators has been amazing to witness. Both teams have inspired each other to work in different ways, and the exposure for our artists to new technologies has been super helpful in developing new and more efficient pipelines”.
And for Sombra, the opportunity to connect their pre-existing mastery of the world of blockchain with Bonfire’s VFX capabilities was too perfect to ignore. “Being an award-winning VFX company, Bonfire FX offers the best quality and direct relationship any client could ask for”, says Brendan. “Their expertise ranges from photoreal CGI, to stylised motion graphics, to real-time development. Bonfire FX also is a long-standing company that has gained market trust and proved its worth. In the world of web3, that is priceless”.
Earning and justifying that level of trust is a high priority for Sombra, as Brendan goes on to explain. “As we explore new technologies coupled with a shift in the way we think about wealth, there can be fears and growing pains which can slow down the onboarding process”, he says. “But with Bonfire by our side, Sombra is able to cut through that fog and establish a level of transparency in what can be a very cloudy world”.
All of which brings us back to SINS. “SINS is a prime example of a project giving its community ownership and creative control on many levels for a truly interactive and shared experience”, explains Brendan. “We’re aiming to be the next generation of NFT utility through our integration of top-level visual effects for digital experiences. What other project allows you to own a show's characters, as well as control their actions episode to episode?!”
It’s that community aspect which, perhaps above all else, crystallises the potential of this technology for creativity and storytelling. “Ownership of digital assets inside games as well as overarching NFT ecosystems will allow people from around the world to participate on multiple levels, and for a new level of immersion and utility to be born”, continues Brendan. “Communities, brands and fortunes will be built on the community sharing model of rights and rewards”.
As businesses focused on NFTs, both Brendan and the Bonfire FX team are acutely aware of criticisms related to any environmental impact. “That was the first question we asked when embarking on this relationship”, recalls Jason. “Commerce is important and obviously keeping our employees working is a top priority, but not at the expense of the environment. We all need to be better. Brendan has been fantastic in compiling a lot of research to make sure we were starting in the best and most responsible place possible”.
“The core issue here relates to the amount of energy needed to validate transactions on ‘proof of work’ consensus networks”, says Brendan. “This is a totally valid concern, however every day we’re seeing crypto providers move to the far more efficient ‘proof of stake’ model. In fact, Ethereum (one of the largest cryptocurrencies on the planet) is currently in the process of moving to that model. Every day, we’re seeing more innovations which will solve this issue and create a truly sustainable way to harness the power of crypto”.
Ultimately, in the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs all signs are pointing towards a phenomenon with long-term implications for the way the creative industries work. One need only consider the enormous interest surrounding the metaverse to understand that these topics are only set to race further up the creative agenda. As both Bonfire FX and Sombra currently find themselves on the crest of that wave, it’s an exciting prospect.
“One word that always rises to the top of our fiscal planning is ‘evolution’”, says Jason. “When Brendan and I first started talking about the importance of leading the way in the metaverse, I immediately saw that as not only as a new revenue stream but an outright advancement in creativity and technology. Next up is helping our clients benefit from that, too”.