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Post House Girds For Data Deluge

To get a sense of how much Hollywood has changed in the digital age, a movie buff can visit a modern day multiplex and take in a 3-D version of the latest blockbuster in high definition. Or simply walk down a Burbank street and look at the new headquarters of post-production company Visual Data Media Services. The company, which offers more than a dozen services from editing and closed captioning to dubbing and sound effects, is now getting big into managing digital files of television series and feature films. To handle that transition, the company is spending $12 million on a building with brand new everything, but with a special focus on digital technology. “Having the additional capacity allows us to take on more business and grow,” said John Trautman, founder and president of Visual Data. “We want to be ready for that.” By spending money Visual Data follows the path other post production companies have taken in recent years. In 2011, Modern VideoFilm Inc. consolidated three offices into two floors at a building in Burbank’s Empire Center and added 30 percent more space. MyEyeMedia invested $1 million this year in its Burbank facility to expand from quality control services into post-production for its studio clients. And there are other companies making the switch to digital. What’s driving it all? Technological advancements have touched all aspects in making films and television series. In the past decade new cameras, editing equipment, and projectors have been developed to meet the switch to digital. Companies like Technicolor and Deluxe Corp. that for decades operated labs to process film prints found themselves evolving their business plans as more content was made on digital files. Some of this year’s biggest films – “Skyfall,” “The Avengers,” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” were filmed with digital cameras. So are series “Criminal Minds,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and “Justified.” Growing business Trautman incorporated Visual Data in 1995 and grew it to employ more than 80 workers in a building on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank that he bought in 2002. While revenue was flat in 2009, since then Visual Data has brought in revenue growth of 30 percent each year, a figure that Trautman said he expects to continue. Clients include 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Co., Netflix, and The Weinstein Co. among others. The content Visual Data services is shown on television, video on demand through iTunes and Hulu and mobile devices. Trautman wanted to keep his company in Burbank because of the close proximity to his clients at both the major Hollywood studios and second-tier production companies. The new building at 610 N. Hollywood Way was constructed in 1990 as office space. Another post-production company had occupied the building for about 10 years before moving out. Still, when Trautman took possession the space was not suited for that use and so he set out to remake it. The redesign focused on the servers for storing and managing digital files. Working with Powercon, a Glendale engineering firm, improvements were made to the electrical and air conditioning systems. Fifty-eight AC rooftop units were reduced to just six, for instance, to improve efficiency, Trautman said. “We set up a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) system to support the technical part so we do not have interruptions,” Trautman added. The company also benefitted from a fiber optic connection running outside the building that is maintained by the Burbank Water & Power that can handle a massive amount of data. Visual Data sells its data storage and management services to companies that lack the expertise or financial resources to build and maintain their own data centers. In early 2013, Visual Data will begin offering a web portal accessible by clients to get to their content. “They have self-service to find assets, make orders and push content to their customers,” Trautman said. Changing Hollywood John Knowles, senior vice-president at Point360, a competing post-production house with a facility down the street from Visual Data’s new digs, said the industry’s move to digital content has spurred changes at his company too. Point360 has made its upgrades to facilities in Burbank, Glendale, and the west side of Los Angeles. Walls were knocked down and rooms used for tape machines were reduced in size by one-third, Knowles said. “The edit bays and translation bays are all now digital hubs,” Knowles said. BBC Worldwide Americas is among those clients that has brought more work to Visual Data over their 10-year relationship. BBC started with its captioning service and then expanding to mastering and other services. While the Century City-based commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Co. is maintaining its level of work with Visual Data, that will likely change in the future, said Sandie Seaver, manager of program operations. “We have several big projects over the next year to year and a half we hope to do with them,” Seaver said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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