Valley Companies Show Off HiDef Pursuits at Event By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter High-definition, HiDef, HD. All of these were buzzwords at CineGear 2004, Hollywood’s annual trade expo featuring the latest in filming equipment gadgets and gizmos. They stand for the same thing: the new emerging technology that is taking over Hollywood by storm. Although HiDef cameras, televisions and other equipment do not have widespread use, because they are still too expensive to most consumers, they are the talk of the town in Hollywood. And Valley companies that are working for Hollywood are changing gears to adjust. For instance, Van Nuys-based Helinet Aviation Services rang in its entry to the HiDef arena with an aerial high definition camera system, which it debuted on the Universal Studios backlot where CineGear was held June 11 and 12. Interest from buyers was high, said Helinet founder and owner Alan Purwin. The camera, which the company began manufacturing in April through its subsidiary CineFlex, costs $400,000 per unit and is billed as the “lightest, most compact fully digital camera platform in the world,” according to Helinet. One of the cameras was used by cable broadcaster TNT for an NBA Finals game in Los Angeles, with live shots of the Staples Center where the Lakers played the Detroit Pistons. Although TNT was broadcasting in HiDef, only TV sets capable of showing HiDef could produce the images. Most households do not have this type of sets but that won’t be for long. “It’s going to go that way,” Purwin said. “Some people say it’s all going to be HiDef in five years.” Helinet, which has recently introduced a new branch at the company called Helinet Cinema Solutions to provide aerial filming services to moviemakers, has added 25 more employees at its Van Nuys office “as result of growth,” Purwin said. “We’ve doubled in about a year and are looking at a couple of acquisitions of other companies to complete our vision,” Purwin said. Still skepticism Meanwhile, Andy Ozols, general manager and associate publisher of Van Nuys-based trade magazine Production Update is skeptical of the advance of HiDef. “It’s still in its infancy,” Ozols said. “There aren’t that many folks that can watch HD (and) only so many markets converting. It could be quite a while.” In the industry, the move from digital to HiDef is often referred to as “migration,” Ozols said. He added that “on the acquisition side it’s fast and heavy” as companies are positioning for the future. Even Panavision, a camera house that has made film cameras, recently made the switch to digital. The Woodland Hills-based debuted The Genesis, a portable digital imaging camera, at CineGear. Based on Sony’s CCD technology and designed jointly by Panavision and Sony, the camera virtually eliminates the need for cables. “In the last three years, they’ve seen the writing on the wall,” Ozols said. “They’re jumping with both feet in the digital end.” One of the first to jump there, however, was Burbank-based BandPro Film & Digital Inc., founded and owned by Amnon Band, who serves as the president of the company. The firm was formed in 1984, a long time before digital technology came about. It has about 50 employees in offices in Burbank, Germany and Israel. Band, who was at CineGear, said his company helped pioneer HiDef, and has grown into one of the largest distributors of HiDef cameras in the world as result. It was about eight years ago that Band chose the course for the company, which at the time was akin to “rolling the dice.” “Eight years ago, everybody thought we were crazy,” Band said. “I was betting customers would go straight to HiDef In 2004, there’s a clear indication that HiDef is not the future anymore it’s the present.” The increase in interest is due to home entertainment systems that are HiDef ready. After the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention in Las Vegas earlier this year, interest has risen even further, Band said. “This year for sure people came to buy,” he said. “Since we came from the show we (have been) in hiring mode because we’ve been too busy.” Switching to HiDef Band explained HiDef is helping to streamline filmmaking and helping to bridge how TV and films are shot. More than 50 hours of TV sitcoms have switched from 35mm to HiDef to reduce “over budgeting” on film, special assistants and tedious transfer of film to digital viewing. BandPro specializes in what Band refers to as “electronic cinematography,” which is basically digital filmmaking with the highest possible picture quality. The company is sought after for advice and training, in addition to sales, Band said. Band said more filmmakers are opting to use HiDef because they do not need a crew to set up and operate the cameras they can do it at their own will. “The writing is on the wall,” Band said. “Just about every film facility in the country either owns HiDef or is contemplating having it it’s daily conversation.” Production Update’s Ozols, meanwhile, said companies that are slow to adapt to HiDef better take heed soon. “Some of the companies, if they’re not careful, may not stick around for long,” Ozols said.