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HIGH-TECH HOLLYWOOD

Exex reveal plans to spend more time in H'wood

LAS VEGAS — Execs from Avid Technology said this week that they are beefing up efforts to reach out to their Hollywood user base. Avid, which manufactures nonlinear random-access editing machines and other editing products, has come under fire recently for lack of attention to editors who cut motion picture and TV projects in Hollywood. Specifically, editors had charged that the Tewkesbury, Mass.-based company didn’t adequately staff its Burbank office and wasn’t investing enough in research and development to advance its entertainment industry applications.

But at the National Assn. of Broadcasters trade show that wraps here today, Avid execs said they expect to spend more time with their West Coast users. “I plan to get out there more and address the concerns of the end users,” said Jill Mullan, Avid’s product marketing manager.

“There have been some misconceptions” about Avid’s commitment to Hollywood, Mullan contends. “Hollywood believes we only have small film teams, but our media composer (Avid’s main system for film and TV post) development goes across the film and television markets.”

In addition to that work, which is directly aimed at Hollywood, Avid still fields a film team. “We have a commitment to staff that area,” said Mullan. “That area is getting more of the attention it needs from corporate in Tewkesbury.”

Mullan cited three developments designed to appeal to Hollywood Avid users. First, the company has a system that can digitize films during a transfer, saving steps for editors and assistants. Second, a script-based edit system was recently bowed that allows editors to cut based on lines of script. An editor sees the line of script on his monitor, and with one click, can see all the footage associated with that line.

The third innovation allows Avid products to better communicate with a range of systems from other manufacturers. That innovation is an expansion of the Open Media Framework program Avid pioneered several years ago.

Mullan acknowledged that Avid may have gotten a bad rap for slow customer support in late 1995 and early 1996.

“A lot of effort has gone into correcting that,” she said. “Our response time (on tech support phone calls) has gone from about one hour to under three minutes.”

She said resellers will take on a bigger responsibility for customer service, which she hopes will result in quicker response time for customers.

Mullan emphasized that better communication with Hollywood is high on her agenda, and she plans to meet quarterly with groups in Hollywood representing corporate, facility and studio interests. Those meetings, she said, are slated to begin next month.

An Avid spokeswoman added that she plans to expand the company’s marketing plan for the entertainment industry, and is hoping to hire a public relations exec to assist in reaching the entertainment industry.

She added that the company’s new management team, which stepped in last year, has worked to “clean up the balance sheet” and put the company on better financial footing.

Some Hollywood editors have been critical of Avid for lessening its commitment to Los Angeles educational institutions. But Mullan said Avid is installing a system this summer at the American Film Institute, with more to follow there.

In addition, she said the Sundance Institute has ordered four Media Composer systems from Avid.

Joe Binford, who has served as an assistant editor on films such as “The Fugitive,” “Steal Big Steal Little,” “Hideaway” and “Ransom” and is currently writing, producing and editing an indie film called “Hear No Evil,” has long been a big fan of Avid.

“There are dedicated people at Avid who created a wonderful storytelling device. Maybe everything wasn’t exactly meeting all the needs of the niche market in Hollywood, but Avid is very cognizant of the needs of filmmakers, and knows what it as to address,” Binford contended.

As further proof of his allegiance to the system, he added, “Hollywood is Avid, and Avid is Hollywood.”

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