All that glitters

Expanded confab covers wide-ranging interests of Hollywood professionals

You know it must be an L.A. Story when you can check out the very latest in portable Avid editing technology one minute, then take a short stroll in the same building to sit in on a “shamanic tools for filmmakers” seminar the next. This marrying of entertainment industry hardware with software begins today at the Los Angeles Convention Center with ShowBiz Expo: The Evolution of Production, under the direction of the Reed Exhibition Cos. and Variety Inc. for the second year.

“As the strongest global brand in entertainment, Variety is well aware of the importance of creating an environment where everything relating to the needs of the production community is in one place,” says Gerry Byrne, vice president and publisher of Daily Variety and Variety.

Indeed, ShowBiz Expo is growing by “dinosaur-size leaps and bounds,” with more than 600 exhibitors and 25,000 expected attendees converging on 33% more floor space for the combination trade show and conference program. “There’s really something for everyone — no matter what you do in the business, there’s something for you to see,” says John Lewinski, vice president of the media and entertainment group at Reed.

The exhibitor list reads like a who’s who of the various components of the industry, with booths brought you by companies such as Chimera, Foto-Kem, Motel 6, Technocrane, Deluxe Labs, Arriflex, Los Angeles Intl. Airport, Sony Pictures High Definition, Hollywood Creative Directory, Underground Vaults & Storage, Kino-Flo and Screenplay Systems, to name just a few.

New to the convention this year are a special 30,000-square-foot exhibition area for ShowBiz Digital, which showcases cutting-edge technology, and within that an area called Gallery FX, where companies specializing in digital effects can demonstrate their work. The convention also features an expanded area for film commissions and location services to provide relevant information on all production-related activities in their specific city, state or country.

“This new ‘digital world’ is so important now throughout the industry, both in films where effects play such a noticeable role as in ‘The Lost World’ and ‘The Fifth Element,’ but also in films where the digitization is much more subtle, like ‘Forrest Gump,’ ” Byrne notes. Finished effects using the latest equipment and software will be demonstrated by Digiscope and OSC, among others.

ShowBiz Expo exhibitors come from widely divergent areas of the industry. Global Effects Inc., which specializes in costumes, makeup and special-effects props, will present professional sword-fighting each day of the convention, which showcases the company’s expertise with suits of armor. Global, which has provided effects for such films as “12 Monkeys,” “Outbreak” and “The Mask,” is a first-time exhibitor. “We want to let people know about all our services, including our specialty spacesuits and armor,” explains general manager Jill Goldstein.

Longtime exhibitor Edit Point, which builds custom editing systems for production companies as well as acting as a dealer for Avid, Transoft and related equipment, will be returning to ShowBiz Expo for the eighth year, once again providing demonstrations of the latest in editing technology.

Edit Point’s John Stromp, whose company made the systems used to edit the last two “Batman” films, “McHale’s Navy,” “That Old Feeling” and TV series “Roseanne,” says ShowBiz Expo is “a centerpiece for what we do,” showing the industry what systems it will use this year. Edit Point will demonstrate a method using Avid 8000, Avid McExpress and Transoft fiber-channel drives, which enables two or more editors to work on the same footage simultaneously at Beta SP or Digital Betacam quality levels, a breakthrough technology.

The conference component of ShowBiz Expo includes two days of speakers, seminars and workshops falling into one of six specialized tracks, which include film, digital production, broadcasting, advertising/marketing, new media, and the ShowBiz University, which is presented with the cooperation and sponsorship of UCLA Extension’s Dept. of Entertainment.

Variety Inc. conference director Beth-Ellen Keyes says the ShowBiz Expo conference has grown to service the needs of professionals already well into their careers and appeals to those just starting out as well. “Two-day events like this where we bring together outstanding speakers and industry leaders are rare,” she says. “It’s a chance to take a look at all the new developments at once.” Industry leaders who will serve as moderators, panelists or instructors include producer Ralph Singleton, technology consultant Frank Dutro, journalists Army Archerd and David Ehrenstein, InterActive Agency president Tony Winders and screenwriting instructor Jeffrey Gordon.

Among the conference offerings are: “Sound Judgment: The Format Wars,” which takes a look at digital sound developments; “Action: Directing Humans in Digital Hollywood,” which discusses how flesh-and-blood actors interface with computer-generated effects; “Sense & Sensibility,” which examines the gay and lesbian sensibility at work in situation comedies; “The Converging Entertainment Media Marketplace: Integrated Marketing Approaches for a New Hollywood,” which shows the possibilities of using multimedia and integrated promotional strategies; “The Creator’s World,” exploring the vision, talents and processes involved in creating interactive media products; and “The Art of Dreaming, the Art of Stalking, Shamanic Tools for the Filmmaker,” which studies some esoteric techniques for collaborative creativity.

ShowBiz Expo has become an important focal point for attendees to see what’s at work in the industry around them, and for many who are exhibitors as well, to see how the competition stacks up. “I like to walk the floor, get a sense of what the market is doing, look for niches and problem-solving ideas so I can help my customers,” says Gary Clayton, VP sales for O’Connor Engineering, a Costa Mesa-based firm that makes fluid heads and other ancillary equipment for motion picture and video cameras.

Louis Kaye, president and owner of Innerspace Case, a manufacturer of custom camera and video packaging, likes to see how his equipment and gear “looks in full tilt,” that is, when his customers bring their cameras to the show using what his company created to protect them. “I also get to see what’s new, which is a head start on what we’ll be designing packaging for in the future.”

“By seeing what’s out on the floor, I get a much better understanding of how production people are using equipment of all kinds,” Clayton says. “There’s so many high-caliber people to get information from and to exchange ideas with — ShowBiz Expo is a wonderful meeting place.”

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