The Molecule: Post Production for Cable/Satellite TV


Company Background

Located in both New York and Los Angeles, The Molecule provides visual effects for the TV shows that grace our screens weekly. Steadily approaching its eleventh year, The Molecule has proven that American companies can compete in today’s tax incentivized climate. Over the past year The Molecule has doubled in size, adding 20 new full time members in addition to another 30 freelancers (NY Loves Film., 2016). Led by CEO Chris Healer, The Molecule has matured from a small group of three artists to a real competitor in the visual effects landscape (Creative Cow, 2015).


The Molecule, like most visual effects studios, is in constant competition for new work. Outside of its two buildings in New York and Los Angeles, The Molecule doesn’t own many business-oriented assets. Instead, its assets are the men and women it employs. Although The Molecule is currently in a growth phase, there was a time when the outlook was not as bright. Due to helpful legislation such as the New York State Post-Production Tax Credit program, The Molecule is able to project its future success and comfortably expand (NY Loves Film, 2016). Back in 2013, uncertainty clouded the visual effects field and many businesses were worried that their current model was not viable. The Visual Effects Society of New York even held a town hall-esque meeting to address the significant problems facing the industry. (The Molecule, 2013) Two and a half years later it appears that there is more clarity in the VFX field.

download (1)

The Molecule Staff.

Business Model

The Molecule, like most visual effects companies is not tied down to a single conglomerate nor a single platform. Instead, The Molecule does effects for online content, movies and indie projects, still the bulk of its work comes from cable and satellite TV shows. The Molecule has done work for a large number of shows including Ballers, Royal Pains, and The Affair (The Molecule, 2016). Jobs are always flowing in and out of The Molecule, a main reason why more than half of their staff consists of freelancers. Principal and VFX Supervisor, Luke DiTomasso happily reflected on his company’s past year, “With our refined pipeline, last year we managed 26 television shows, 7 studio features, 19 indie features and 16 commercials” (Creative Cow, 2015). A visual effects company that does just one thing is not one that will last long in the modern environment. The Molecule is an interesting place because its competitors are built and function just like they do. Due to this, it’s hard for The Molecule’s exemplary work to help it stand out, instead they distinguish themselves during the bidding phase for new work.

download (2)
Revenue Model
The bread and butter for visual effects studios has always been the “fixed” bid (FX Guide, 2014). The process, as explained by The Molecule’s Marketing Manager Audra Coulombe goes like this,

we receive the script from the client, and we identify parts where they will need VFX. Based on the effect they want, we estimate how many hours it will take an artist to complete, and what experience-level artist will be needed on that shot. For example, if a shot is very complicated and needs a senior artist, it will cost more. If we need help from our 3D department, that will be another line item. We then send that estimate back to the client, and they’ll come back with adjustments. It’s a constant tug of war between bidding too high and bidding too low” (Coulombe, Personal Interview, 2016).

The Molecule may also be hesitant to accept a “fixed” bid, due to the chance that they’ll do extra work for an insufficient amount of money. Unfortunately for VFX companies the “fixed” bid is going nowhere fast and will continue to be a necessary evil as studios continue to try and get fair pay for decent work.

Additional Thoughts
Visual effects studios operate under a strange and archaic model. The competition they face to acquire projects is causing these companies to purge themselves in order to get more and more jobs. This is troubling because our TV shows would be nonexistent without VFX. For example, Game of Thrones uses the second most visual effects out of any television show in history and is dependent on the magic companies like The Molecule can create, in order to fashion a realistic fantasy environment (Creative Bloq, 2014). Eventually studios will scale the skyscraper size disadvantage that “fixed” bidding leaves them at but that time still seems far off. As visual effects become more advanced, the spectacular things it can show us will become more tangible and with that possibility programs will have to fork over more money to make their visions become reality. The Molecule’s recent substantial growth is proof that stability may be returning to the visual effects field, especially when a company can consistently put out good work.

1. Altman, R. (2016, January 21). The Molecule: VFX for ‘The Affair’ and so much more – postPerspective – Randi Altman’s postPerspective. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

2. CreativeCOW. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

3. E. (2016, January 25). Post-Production Spotlight: The Molecule Celebrates its 10th Anniversary with New Hires, Continued Growth. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

4. Loftus, M. (2016, January 12). Open House: VFX studio The Molecule in NYC. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

5. Mclean, T. J. (2013, August 18). EMMYS: TV Visual Effects Biz Finds Stability In Predictability And Quick Turnarounds. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

6. Meslow, S. (2013, February 28). WATCH: What TV’s most popular shows would look like without their visual effects. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

7. Molecule. (2014, April 5). Making a Blizzard in April – The Molecule. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

8. Molecule. (2015, April 23). Molecule Updates for Spring 2015 – The Molecule. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

9. Molecule. (2015, July 9). The Molecule LA Gets Some New Digs – The Molecule. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

10. Molecule. (2013, October 10). VES Town Hall Tonight! – The Molecule. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

11. Seymour, M. (2014, December 1). A way forward for the VFX industry. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

12. The top 10 TV shows for VFX. (2014, July 16). Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

This entry was posted in Cable and satellite television. Bookmark the permalink.