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Woodland Hills Camera Maker Widens Vision

The lives of filmmakers just became a whole lot easier following the acquisition this month by Panavision Inc. of post-production provider Light Iron. From a single location, filmmakers will be able to rent all the equipment needed for digital filmmaking from the Woodland Hills company: camera, lenses and a computer on which to view and process raw footage. Call it a mini production studio on-the-go, in an era when there are demands to produce content faster and cheaper. “They want what we call end-to-end service,” said Panavision Chief Executive Kim Snyder. “They want a provider who will have services on set from the planning all the way to delivery of content.” The acquisition is also a marriage of New Media and a company with its origins very much in Old Hollywood. Light Iron was founded in 2009 by brothers Michael and Peter Cioni and two partners and has two facilities in Hollywood and one in New York. It has developed a mobile post-production hardware and software called Outpost for feature films, episodic television and commercials. Its three facilities have additional post-production capabilities. But despite its relatively recent origin, its credits are A list: “Gone Girl,” “The Expendables 3,” HBO series “Veep,” and commercials for The Gap and Stella Artois beer. Panavision, a Hollywood icon, was founded 60 years ago as a manufacturer of lenses and cameras for wide-screen format films, but it’s had a history of adapting to technical advances, such as replacing 35mm cameras with digital cameras. Its main business is renting its equipment at 68 locations worldwide. Michael Cioni, chief executive at Light Iron, said merging the companies will take what had been separate processes in filmmaking – filming and post-production – and turn them into one, giving practically instant results to filmmakers. “In many cases, we deliver it in the same hour,” he said. Both Panavision and Light Iron are privately held companies and financial details of the transaction were not released. Marty Shindler, entertainment technology consultant at Shindler Perspective in Encino, said the deal gives Panavision a much broader array of services while opening up vast new market opportunities to Light Iron. “Panavision has one the largest inventories and the most locations of anybody,” he added. “When working with Panavision, you can be in London and a camera will be waiting there.” The deal between the two companies took about nine months to complete. There are no plans to close the three Light Iron locations or make staffing cuts to Cioni’s employee base of about 50. Light Iron will operate as a subsidiary under its own name with Cioni retaining his position and reporting to Snyder. Staying ahead The Outpost system comes on a wheeled cart that contains a 2K resolution monitor hooked up to a MacPro laptop computer that can take digital data from nine different models of cameras. Data is stored on servers capable of holding 90 terabytes on multiple disc drives. Batteries provide uninterrupted backup power in the event of an outage. Snyder said that beyond the existing technology, the appeal of Light Iron was its ability to make its post-production hardware and software quickly compatible with new digital camera systems as they came on the market. “They are creative, high tech, entrepreneurial and can deliver,” she said. Other companies serving the entertainment industry have developed similar systems, the most prominent being Fotokem in Burbank. The acquisition comes at a time of stability at Panavision, which had struggled to adapt to the advent of digital cameras, as well as the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007-08 and the recession. The company was later taken over by its creditors, including New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Snyder, who came from Eastman Kodak Co., became the fifth chief executive in a three-year period when she took the position in November 2012. She is now confident the company is in a good place financially. “The ability to make an acquisition does back that up,” Snyder 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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