Digital Media Initiative

Digital Media Initiative

But one Yaros-aided project, especially, signals the future direction of IT at SPE. Called DMI, for digital media initiative, the plan is a collection of 23 individual projects—19 greenlighted and four pending approval—all aimed ultimately at streamlining SPE's entire workflow by digitizing it from "action!" to "that's a wrap."

Before his departure, Yaros said he expected to pump $6 million into DMI by the end of 2003. "Assets in this business [film, video and audio] can be digitized and moved around through computers," says Antonius, manager of several DMI projects, "and once you factor in the cost of doing that physically, you see a compelling ROI looming no matter how you slice it."

First up: DAD (digital asset delivery) and MAM (media asset management), both of which make up a digital "card catalog" of trailers, stock footage, still images and other content in SPE's library, which CFO Hendler calls one of the company's most valuable assets. SPE has already digitized more than a third of its library, more than rival studios have done, Yaros says, with the possible exception of Time Warner.

So far, so good: DAD's pilot project—Once Upon a Time in Mexico, released on September 12—the day Yaros' successor, Stubbs, was officially announced as the new CIO—was shot entirely on high-definition digital tape in just five weeks for roughly $29 million, less than half what the average Hollywood film costs to make and in roughly one-third the time. Another DMI pilot project involves creating "digital dailies" during filming in Fiji of Anaconda 2, an adventure film not yet on the release schedule.

Normally, executives back in Los Angeles must wait four or five days for film or videotapes to be rushed to them showing each day's shoot. If a change is ordered because something isn't quite up to snuff, the production crew sometimes must reshoot several days' worth of takes. Not with Anaconda 2. Instead, each day's film is rushed from Fiji via the daily evening commuter plane to a lab in Sydney, where it is chemically developed and then handed over to a digital postproduction team that converts it into digital format. Executives usually can review the dailies online within a few hours of that day's shoot. "We believe it will reduce the chance of cost overruns because any problems can be caught at the outset," Antonius says.

This article was originally published on 10-01-2003
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