DISC SALE: It appears Encyclopaedia Britannica has put its Compton’s NewMedia unit on the block, hiring New York investment bankers Lazard Freres & Co. to handle the transaction.
Reached at Carlsbad, Ca., headquarters, Compton’s general manager Norm Bastin offered a swift “no comment,” but promised news next week. Sources say that San Francisco’s Robertson Stephens had made a bid for the unit and been rebuffed. Principle Paul Stephens also wouldn’t comment.
Created in 1987 as Britannica Software, the unit is now a powerhouse in the fledgling multimedia industry. It distributes some 70 CD-ROM titles and its price tag could give folks a good idea about how serious this business really is.
NUMBERS ON LINE: San Francisco’s Brilliant Media is working on an in-house multimedia project for Warner Bros.’ marketing and distribution groups. The project, quietly in the works on the lot since December, will be finished in late spring. Reportedly, the Macintosh-based software gives top Warners exex Bob Daly and Terry Semel access to industry data in a flash. Curiously, digital video is tied into the system.
A similar system appears to be under way at Disney. It includes video capability that will give exex the ability to pull up trailers on their PCs for quick review and comment. Also, a picture’s release date could, for example, be checked against a film of a similar genre to see how it fared in the past.
Meanwhile, Steve Nelson, head of Brilliant, is negotiating with Peter Gabriel’s Real World record label to produce interactive titles.
MORE DINOS: Turner Broadcasting is looking for someone to run its multimedia effort. The latest entertainment company to set up a unit, the Atlanta-based cablecaster has placed the group within its publishing arm.
Last year, Turner Publishing’s president Michael Reagan cut a deal with Philips to put two games developed from Hanna-Barbera onto CD-I. The titles reportedly use the Flintstones and Jetsons and will be produced by R/Greenberg & Associates for a June release date.
Another title? How about Turner Publishing’s “Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time,” written by James Gurney, with well over 500,000 copies sold worldwide since release since October.
MORE ACTION: Also moving into multimedia is Trans Pacific Films, producer of “The Last Waltz,””Mean Streets” and Wim Wenders’ “Until the End of the World.”
TransPac head Jonathan Taplin says he’s forming a marketing company to provide funding and distribution for a group of multimedia producers. He already has two venture capitalists, one in Texas and another in San Francisco.
“Basically, I believe this a business who’s time has finally come,” adds Taplin. “The evolution and sales of CD-ROM at Christmas have proven beyond any doubt people are willing to buy the hardware. We’re going to concentrate on education side.”
A year from now, he’d like to have four production groups making titles. He’s not wasting any time. So far, one title is almost finished for the Macintosh.
PURPLE MUSIC: There certainly is a buzz about Sega’s CD videogame player, which sold more than 200,000 units at Christmas since its release in October. That’s a boon for Menlo Park’s Digital Pictures, which had seven live-action titles out on the platform, including two movielike games, “Sewer Shark” and “Night Trap” with sales of 100,000 apiece.
Now, DP’s president Tom Zito is looking to capitalize on his success. No, he hasn’t cut a 20-title deal with Sega as rumored. His current one-year distribution deal with Sega and Sony Electronic Publishing is up at the end of March and he’s in new discussions. He comes armed with a slew of new projects.
“We are in the process of finalizing a deal with Prince and are talking to a lot of other acts,” he says.
Formed in 1991, DP builds on work done at Hasbro’s top secret NEMO project where interactive videogames were being developed in the late 1980s.
APPLE CORE: Last week, Apple Computer was in town quietly showing its latest RISC-based machine around. RISC, short for reduced instruction set computing, greatly increases data processing speed. But it also uses a different operating system, AUX. Apple, say insiders, will offer higher performance and the same software that plays on its current operating system. That will make for faster TV, film and interactive game production, by Mac-addicts.
GOIN’ WITH THE…: Animators have a new tool to bring to life single frames of images. After loading a frame into the Mac as a key-frame, or beginning of the animated sequence, animators can use Valis Group’s Flo’ program. By using a mouse to outline an area to be animated, Flo’ will make that specific site move. Trees and leaves, for example, can be animated in what is otherwise a still picture giving the impression of a full-motion sequence.
“You can take a single frame of an animated character, for instance, and manipulate the mouth or eye,” says software ace, Dan DiPaola. Previously, computer artists couldn’t isolate a small area for animation on a PC because the machines couldn’t handle the calculations, says RoseAnn Alspektor, CEO of Valis. “The key is to have local control.”
A spin-off of Steve Job’s 3-D animation company, Pixar Corp., The Valis Group is based in Marin County’s Point Richmond and sells Flo’ for $ 199.