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Hires, Wins & Business

NFT Marketplace Created by Artists with VFX, Brand and Advertising Chops Sombra Network Launches

A fully transparent entry portal and community started by principals at Bonfire NYC, it launches with a Ticketmaster project for the NFL

NFT Marketplace Created by Artists with VFX, Brand and Advertising Chops Sombra Network Launches

Sombra Network is here, and it promises to create a new playing field for NFT creators, buyers, collectors and sponsors. Located at www.sombra.app, the new marketplace is the brainchild of Brendan O’Neil, founder of the NYC-based visual effects and production studio Bonfire.

With a goal of simplifying the NFT process for everyone involved, Sombra is a gateway into creating and offering NFTs for interested brands, ad agencies, collectors, nonprofits and other entities or individuals looking to participate in the current fascination with nonfungible tokens and their application for everything from gaming to building brand loyalty to live event ticketing and beyond. 

“We saw where the NFT marketplace is headed, and we took the time and effort to create the Sombra Network so we could build a better experience for our friends in the artist community as well as for our colleagues in the visual effects and digital production worlds,” says O’Neil, who holds the title of Head of VFX & Emerging Technology at Bonfire. “As Sombra grows, we’ll continue to add more features and more partnerships.”


The Sombra Network launches with a goal of benefitting animal welfare nonprofits and charities around the world, with the first such beneficiary, Little Wanderers NYC, already the recipient of over $25,000 in contributions driven by Sombra purchases. 

Sombra’s first brand work was lending an assist on a major NFT project that just launched this past week. In partnership with Ticketmaster, the National Football League approached Bonfire to create NFTs linked to specific pro football matchups. With the help of Sombra's blockchain and NFT expertise, the Bonfire team made this dream a reality. (Read more about the project here.) 


Left to right: Bonfire partners Jason Mayo, Brendan O’Neil and Aron Baxter

Bonfire’s VFX crew led the charge on the visuals and execution, while Sombra helped guide the NFT vision technically and creatively. “We wanted to ensure that the assets would be fully blockchain compatible and optimized for the best user experience possible,” says O’Neil. “The league was impressed by what we’d accomplished with the Sombra marketplace, with the level of quality it represented and with our executional know-how. When they put it all together, it was a no-brainer for them.”

O’Neil notes that creating Sombra has been well within the wheelhouse of what Bonfire’s been doing since its inception in 2016, which is creating cutting-edge CG and VFX work for ad agencies, brands and media companies. “We built Sombra to better understand crypto and how the NFT market works,” he explains. “And with Bonfire as the creative fuel that keeps Sombra burning, our goal is to use it as a means of entry for Bonfire’s advertising clients and other interested parties.”

Adds Jason Mayo, Bonfire Partner and Managing Director, “It’s worth noting that we’re the first VFX studio to support and build out an NFT market of this scope and quality, and that says a lot about our passion for the business and our desire to be at the forefront of emerging media and technology.”

The current Sombra Network features the work of up to 50 creators, with buyers and sellers having the option to manage transactions in a variety of cryptocurrencies, including one created exclusively for Sombra, SMBR. In addition, Sombra plans to expand to the ETH and POLYGON network over the next six months, which, ONeil says, “will open the floodgates for new participants and help make Sombra a global player in the NFT world.”

“For us, Sombra has been about more than just creating this portal to the NFT world,” O’Neil points out. “We understand how confusing the whole blockchain, crypto and NFT arena can be. Trying to figure it all out was like teaching your grandma how to use an Xbox on steroids. We wanted to build our own brand around Web3, blockchain, gaming and visual effects, one that would allow us to be players in the space while also acting as consultants and curators when it comes to digital art and innovation. So what we’re doing is creating a community, not just a marketplace.”

Sombra debuts at a time when the perceptions around digital art are in transition, Bonfire Creative Director & Partner Aron Baxter points out. “People are following artists in the digital world now, and they’re collecting and investing in digital art,” he says. “The popular image of digital art is beginning to rival that of physical art. And there’s an entire push for NFTs to play an active role in ticketing, gaming, brand experiences and loyalty programs. All of this is coming together at a time when fascination about the metaverse is everywhere.”

“This is a pioneering moment for brands to forge a new level of engagement,” adds O’Neil. “For many, this will be an easy first step as they saunter into the metaverse. By working with the content creators at Bonfire, which has years of experience partnering with them and their agencies, brands can transfer our skill set from VFX into blockchain seamlessly, and that will give them an added measure of security.”

The Sombra team takes a holistic view of the role that NFTs will play in a Web3 world. “Blockchain technology and the metaverse – indeed, all things related to Web3 – are going to extend into every aspect of daily life in the future,” O’Neil observes. “And in this setting, NFTs are way more than just fancy jpegs or renders; they're a fundamental progression in human evolution and technology. They solve a ton of real-world problems while offering the promise of massive new industries that will create new jobs. 

“It’s the Web 2.0 boom all over again, updated for the 21st century,” he continues. “What makes the Sombra project all the more interesting is that our SMBR token has risen to a market cap of $10 million in a very short time!”

O’Neil reports that Sombra is already at work on updates, and is developing a new app for NFT-based avatars and motion capture that will allow people to not just own but embody their NFTs. Our collection is called SINS, and it’s inspired by the storylines in ‘Westworld’ and ‘Ready Player One.’ We’re launching SINS with 2D avatars that can be upgraded to 3D mocap driven avatars and then used in our app. It’s a really cool feature and we’ll be the first NFT marketplace to offer it.”

Mayo says that working in tandem, Bonfire and Sombra can help bridge gaps that exist between NFTs, crypto, advertising and traditional VFX and CG studios: “There’s a lot of curiosity out there about this field, and not a lot of guidance or guidelines. Sombra will allow us to hand-hold our clients as they enter the NFT marketplace, while also allowing us at Bonfire to experiment and push the boundaries of what visual effects can mean, and what studios such as ours can offer clients.”

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