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Atomic Design’s Tom McPhillips Launches Studio 10A

PLSN Staff • On the Move • July 26, 2010

LITITZ, PA – After nearly 20 years since he founded the scenic production company Atomic Design Inc., Tom McPhillips is launching an independent firm, Studio 10A. Joining McPhillips is another Atomic alumnus, Mike Rhoads, and also animation specialist Charlie Cook. The company is located in Lititz, Penn., and is already busily promoting its 3-D renderings, animation, new rental product prototypes, and environments for the architectural and interior design markets.


"The one-stop design and construction business I started in 1993 has grown so fast and become so successful that it ultimately started to inhibit me from doing what I love to do most," said McPhillips. "The very reason I started Atomic was to ensure that I had hands-on control over the entire design process from idea to fabrication. Nowadays we're so big, that process has all the corporate overload I was resisting in the first place, and being as "hands-on" as I want to be is much more of a challenge.   Studio 10A enables me to get back in touch with what I perceive as my best and primary talents – creativity and design."


He added that although he was "gratified by the phenomenal success of Atomic…now I want to get back to doing what I love most – designing stuff!"


"Tom's designs are amazing – have been for many years – and his product concepts which were born on the stage are growing more refined," said Soren West, president of Atomic.  "We're excited for Tom and Mike. This is a great move for them. Hopefully, they will continue to be great clients for Atomic."


With this move, McPhillips plans to re-energize his activity in the area of concert and television production and is eager to establish his new studio within the industry. But as he put it, "the creation of Studio 10A isn't just about getting back to our roots, it's an opportunity to take what we do and take it in some new and exciting directions, to take our ideas into a wider marketplace." 


That wider marketplace includes design for interiors and architecture and opportunities to act as a creative source for corporate events and campaigns.


The Studio 10A team is anxious to work with any and all production houses as well as architectural and interior design firms. Known as an early adopter of 3-D renderings for concert and TV stages, McPhillips said he now sees 3-D animation as the new norm for creative development and presentation. He added that Studio 10A would be setting 3-D animation as its presentation standard so that clients will be able to achieve a better understanding of what they're getting, before construction. 


"Available technology enables our clients to virtually visit the set, the meeting room or any other venue," he said. "It gives them the chance to explore the possibilities, refine and make adjustments long before any material is cut or metal is welded.


"Add to that our capability to develop animated video for projection, and that's the next level of production design" he said. "When I think back to where I started, painting backdrops, the aim was to fool the eye into to believing that what was painted was real.  Next, I took flat backdrops and found ways of making them dimensional but still portable.  Well, now we're doing the same thing all over again – we're going beyond the flat video screen.


"With advances in LED technology we can build dimensional video.  But what's really cool is that we have the capability to add truly dimensional content, and that takes that whole ‘eye-fooling' thing to a completely new level," he said. "This is a really exciting moment right now.  That's where the industry's going.  It's the next frontier, and Studio 10A is ready."


McPhillips cited as an example the visual "magic" incorporated into the set for the current tour for Martina McBride, which McPhillips helped design. The audience can watch video semblance of a full moon rising over a cityscape, then see singer soaring over their heads on a crescent moon.


"In the pre-planning stages for the show, we were able to build a 3-D animation of the concepts and look at how they would work in the room," McPhillips said. "That way, not only does the client get a great appreciation of what it's going to look like, it also gives the constructors and technicians who have to build and run the show a greater understanding of the needs and logistics of a design."


Noting that concert stages and television sets have been McPhillips' domain while at Atomic Design, he's positioning Studio 10A for the architectural and interior design markets. The company plans to offer new solutions to architects and interior designers for corporate and public venues and products for permanent interior installations.


Of the company he founded and nurtured, McPhillips noted, "Atomic Design continues to go from strength to strength. They will concentrate even more on the construction side of things. They've just added a new metal shop and undergone a major facility makeover to add more space and improve efficiency."


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