Nopia: Animations from Pori, near and far

Text: Kreetta Haaslahti Photos: Julia Hannula

The story of Teemu Erämaa, the founder of animation studio Nopia, has winded from the street of Soho in London to a garage in Luvia and the edge of the market place in Pori. Is Nopia the next Rovio? Or soon to be larger than Supercell? The story doesn't reveal that yet but we will hear about the journey thus far.

In 2001, Teemu Erämaa from Luvia started to study multimedia and animation at Lahti Institute of Design. The institute was known for its good exchange student opportunities and as such, Erämaa ended up in Prague to study some more. The year as an exchange student gave him a lot of information and skills but also a French girlfriend. It was 2007 and they moved to London.

Teemu Erämaa, the founder of Nopia.

Teemu Erämaa, the founder of Nopia.

He had trouble finding work in his own field but before applying for a bartending job, Erämaa decided to contact a Finnish guy, who worked at The Mill, a company specialising in animation and visual effects.
– I went to meet him and I told him what I could do. He recommended me and I was in. I was extremely lucky, Erämaa reminisces the moment, which was crucial to his career.

The Mill, which created the visual effects for the Gladiator movie, was an excellent place to learn.

The Mill was an excellent place to learn. The company became famous in 2000 when it earned an Oscar for the visual effects it created for the Gladiator movie. Ridley Scott, who directed the movie, was a co-owner of the company.
– It was a really hard-core company, one of the best in the world. The same block in Soho was also home to companies such as MPC and Framestore, who make Harry Potter and such stuff, Erämaa describes the company and the environment in which he worked and built on his skills for three years.
– It was so much fun, the job was really nice.

Back to Finland and Luvia

Then, he and his girlfriend went separate ways. Around the same time, Erämaa's sister had her second child in Finland, making Erämaa a godfather.
– I started to ponder what I was still doing there and decided to return. I wanted to move closer to my aging parents and other family members.

"I turned my garage into a studio and worked there for a year and a half."

In the beginning of 2011, Erämaa was back to Luvia and lived in his parents' house with his mother, father and brother.
– I turned my garage into a studio and worked there for a year and a half. Then, my parents moved to an apartment in Pori so I bought the house for myself, says Erämaa, who now shares the home with his partner Henna and their first child, who was born in early autumn 2016.

Kalle Cloudberry is a character created by Nopia.

Kalle Cloudberry gives viewers a glimpse into Finnishness in Nopia's own humour-filled series called Finnish Facts, Fast!

Character animation and multiculturalism

Nopia Oy's story had begun.
– I knew that after my return, I would want to focus more on animation and character animation, says Erämaa, who has been a 3D graphics enthusiast since he was 14 years old.

Besides, creating visual effects would have been too hard for one person alone. Erämaa gives an enlightening example of how difficult this would have been.
– If there is a massive wave across a city in a movie, it may require 10 people and 6 months.

In 2013, Erämaa ventured to hire his first employee. Abhijeet Sawant moved from India to Finland after he found Erämaa and Nopia on the LinkedIn website.
– Abhi started as an intern. He came to Luvia to work in our garage and he also lived with us for the first couple of months, Erämaa looks back.

Nopia is a workplace to eight people.

Joking happily, the employees of Nopia arranged themselves for a group photo. In the photo: Linda Isoviita (top row, left), Felicia Prehn, Teemu Erämaa, Gautam Purushotham, Lauri Eklund (bottom row, left), Abhijeet Sawant, Jerry Nybäck and Tomi Aalto.

At the end of 2016, eight people work at Nopia. One of them works under a business name and one is a freelancer. The working language at the studio is English because in addition to Abhi, the international aspect is enforced by Gautam Purushotham, also from India, as well as Felicia Prehn, who moved from New York to Pori.
– There are quite a few competent people in Finland and they all work in Helsinki for the likes of Supercell, says Erämaa about multiculturalism which is typical to the industry.

"Thanks to my contacts in London, we have been able to work on some pretty big things around the world."

Important international contacts

Without Erämaa's years overseas, Nopia would hardly have been able to participate in the projects it has been a part of thus far.
– Thanks to my contacts in London, we have been able to work on some pretty big things around the world.

Some of such projects are, for example, the teaser components created for Halo 5 for Xbox, which was released in the autumn of 2015.
– Now, we are working on a project for Grey Goose vodka by helping a company via a colleague who used to work with me in London.

Teaser video for Halo 5 for Xbox.

Even though the main focus has always been on animation, a few years passed before Nopia could really start working on character animations. As an example, Erämaa mentions a contracting job for the retail store chain Alepa, who commissioned a series of seven commercials called Kulmilla (In the Hood), which aired in Helsinki in 2016. Nopia created the five characters in the series.
– The good thing about character animation is that if the characters work, they can live for a long time. Take Tony the Tiger by Kellogg's, for example – that character is several decades old.

Kulmilla (In the Hood), the series of TV commercials created for Alepa, is shown in the capital area.

Remotely in the world

At the end of 2014, Nopia moved to Nortamonkatu in Pori. It is easy to participate in international projects even if you're not geographically close to your clients and collaboration partners.
– A lot of this work is done remotely and collaboration with other people is smooth even without meetings.

Nopia, Erämaa & Prehn.

The American-born Felicia Prehn, whose native language is English, is of great help in international communication, Teemu Erämaa praises.

Nopia Oy has moved beyond the phase where you have to work almost free of charge in exchange for references.
– A project is a success when you have some money in your pocket, you designed the project yourself and it looks good.

"I'm quite excited about this game. It could have potential."

In the autumn of 2016, the studio, located near the market place of Pori, works on various projects, one of which is a game called Rescuebusters. The publisher of the game has commissioned Nopia to develop the first version of the game. The idea of the game is to teach the player the correct courses of action in various types of accidents.
– I'm quite excited about this game. It could have potential.

Rescuebusters is scheduled for release in the spring of 2017 and time will reveal the extent of its success. Erämaa's visions for the future also include a product of his own.
– If we could create a huge brand, whether it's our own TV show, some online thing, an application or a game that everyone around the world would know, it would be absolutely fantastic, Erämaa concludes.

Collaboration à la Nopia © Julia Hannula

At Nopia, animations are developed in close collaboration. This time, Gautam Purushotham and Lauri Eklund join Teemu Erämaa in staring at the screen.