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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Changing Focus

By THOM SENZEE Contributing Reporter Burbank Production Studios’ history is a classic entrepreneurial story of necessity meeting opportunity. When Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1984, there were few,if any,one-stop video equipment and crew-for-hire shops in the region. Yet, there was a growing need for all of the above. “Our owner is actually a director of photography,a cameraman,” said Tom Fujioka, vice president of operations at Burbank Production Studios (BPS), Inc. “At around the same time the Olympics were here, and there was so much demand for cameras and crews, he came up with the idea of creating a one-stop source for clients to connect with owner-operators of production equipment. He was only one person, and he wasn’t able to keep up with all the demand for his services.” Since BPS was formally launched in 1986 by founder I-Li Chen, the company has been joined by almost innumerable other one-stop production facilities catering to producers of all sizes in all sectors of the broadcast-news, film and video-entertainment industries. “We’ve had to refine our business because of technology and competition over the years,” Fujioka said. “For a long time it was a good business model for us to have a group of camera people along with the latest equipment for rent,” he said. One of the most significant agents of change for independent studios such as BPS has been the digital revolution. In fact, the fast pace of evolution in digital photography and production have prompted a move away from the one-stop-shop model at Burbank Production Studios. “While we still rent equipment, and we can arrange for any kind of multi-camera shoot, it’s not our staple business anymore,” Fujioka said. “Just as in the consumer market, it’s hard to keep up with the demand for the latest technology at the studio.” As BPS has relinquished the quest for maintaining the latest camera equipment, the company has found a new opportunity. “The real unmet need in the insert (independent studio) marketplace is for versatile affordable studio space, especially for green-cyclorama stages,” Fujioka said. “At BPS, one of our stages is permanently set for green-cyc, already pre-lit and inclusive of lighting, equipment rigging, grip equipment, power, air conditioning and an adjacent lounge room.” Green cyclorama is chroma-key technology, in which actors are recorded in front of a green screen with curved walls and a curved floor. “Green-cyc” is highly conducive to digital production because backgrounds and sets can be seamlessly superimposed into the scene during the editing process. “A lot of studios keep their stages white or a neutral color so clients can bring in their own sets and props and they won’t clash,” Fujioka said. “But we are permanently set up for chroma-key. Clients don’t have to light it or paint it; they just walk in with their cameras and shoot.” A ready-for-shooting green-cyc stage allows BPS to offer more affordable rental time for clients working on digital productions, he said. But don’t think it’s just the small, independent producers who are looking for affordability, Fujioka said. These days even the heavyweights appreciate a deal. “One of the biggest things that make us different from other insert studios is that we rent by the hour, while most rent their studios for the whole day,” said Fujioka. “We charge $200 per hour, as opposed to studios ranging from $750 to $2,000 per day.” However, according to him, most of the competition also charges for power, air conditioning, rigging, lighting and a stage manager. BPS rents its green-cyclorama stage and sundry extras as all-inclusive for the hourly fee. BPS’s customers include Disney, Warner Bros., ABC, NBC and even infomercial giant Kingstar, as well as dozens of independent production companies. “Reputation is everything in this business,” Fujioka said. “That’s why it’s so gratifying to us that we have a lot of return business, along with new business.” The biggest challenge facing Burbank Production Studios is the firm’s desire to grow. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Fujioka said. “On the one hand, real estate may be more affordable, but credit is really tight. Still, we would like to expand in 2009.” Burbank Production Studios Revenues 2008: $1 million Employees 2008: 5 fulltime plus 5 freelancers Year Founded: 1986

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