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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Valley Firms Take Advantage of Growth in Digital Industry

In just three years, digital film finishing technology is well on its way from being a rarely used anomaly to being the standard in Hollywood film production. Currently, experts believe that anywhere from one-third to one-half of all films being shot in Hollywood are finished digitally and some of the biggest players in the game have set up shop in the Valley. Before digital processing came into vogue, post-production of a film was a rigorous and complicated process. A post production expert had to cut the negative, taking elaborate steps to ensure that the light bulb in the printer was the right kind, the chemicals in use were not too old, the temperature in the lab was correct, the right color stock was being used and a litany of other intangibles. If any minor indiscretions were made, the density and color of the shot were thrown off, resulting in an imperfect picture. Digital film finishing simplifies the process, allowing technicians to do the process on computers. Essentially, if an actor’s face is imperfect in one frame, the digital film finishing process can save a post production expert the headache of having to deal with the film negative, letting him or her alter the frame rapidly. Jeff Okun is the vice chair of the non-profit Digital Effects Society, a group with the goal of furthering arts, sciences and technology in the visual effects industry. He believes that digital film finishing is the next big trend in filmmaking and up to 30 Valley companies are currently involved in the process. Remedying imperfections “In a year or two, we won’t have any more chemical film finishing. The digital process is faster and much more powerful. In a great sense, the digital process lets you craft each frame in a cost-effective manner. You can saturate their eyes, remedy someone’s facial imperfections, you can do almost anything. It’s a logical extension of what visual effects people have done previously and it’s a lot more affordable,” Okun said. North Hollywood-based iO Film has profited handsomely off of this nascent trend. The digital film finishing company recently entered into a new strategic and financial partnership with Matt Cooper, owner of duplication firm Lightning Media. As a result of this strategic and financial alliance, the firm will relocate this summer to a new 30,000 square foot facility in Hollywood on Cahuenga Boulevard. The new site will triple the number of iO’s digital intermediate suites (used to digitally finish films). “Right now, the industry is booming. More and more producers are realizing that digital intermediate is the way of the future, it’s the way that all films will be finished,” Tim Krubsack, iO’s president said. “It’s cost effective as well, we try to keep our prices comparable to a traditional finish. If they have the option of analog versus digital, our clients figure why not go digital? It’s going to be an interesting challenge to keep up with demand. It’s very hard to get into the game because it requires a large capital investment. For a new company to get the proper equipment and the right software, I’d estimate it would cost approximately $5 million.” Burbank-based, Modern Video Film, has also ridden the lucrative wave of this developing technology, working on projects such as “I Robot,” “Elektra,” and “Hitch.” In addition to finishing films, they also do a significant amount of television programs. The firm has been around for 25 years, but only started to do digital film finishing two years ago. “The industry is definitely growing. We switched to doing digital finishing because the only way to survive is to adapt to the times. All film will be finished digitally in the near future,” Pat Repola, the vice president of feature post at Modern Video Film said. “It’s going to happen so quickly that suppliers might not be able to meet demand. It definitely gives the filmmakers more editorial flexibility and lets them be more creative. It makes things quicker for a studio and it helps with all parts of studio marketing.”

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