In a move signalling the ongoing blurring of pre-production, production and post-production, camera rental giant Panavision has acquired digital post company Light Iron.
Following the merger, Light Iron will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Panavision and Light Iron’s Outpost mobile post systems will become available at all 68 Panavision rental locations worldwide. Panavision president and CEO Kim Snyder and Light Iron co-founder and CEO Michael Cioni (pictured) said Light Iron will continue under its current brand name and at its current location, with no job cuts. Cioni will remain CEO of Light Iron and report to Snyder. The Outpost division of Light Iron will move within Panavision.
There are currently about 40 Outpost systems in existence, up from a single system five years ago. Panavision services at least 100 productions on any given day, and Cioni said, “It is our goal that every single camera package rented by Panavision be accompanied by a Light Iron Outpost system. Every camera has to do dailies, has to do iPad deliveries, has to make edit material. This is how it’s going to be done.”
To reach that goal, Panavision will have to invest in building many more of the units, training staff to educate customers, and hiring support staff as Outpost systems are deployed over time. “You’re going to see the first ‘Pana-vized’ Outpost cart sometime in 2015,” said Cioni, promising the new carts will be the most advanced dailies/color management/data management system ever created. He said building the hardware is the easy part, but training and customer education are the bigger challenge.
Panavision customers in Canada, New York and Los Angeles can take advantage of Outpost immediately. “Our plan is to definitely go global,” Snyder told Variety. “We will focus on North America first but have international in mind. We will roll that out on a pace dictated by our marketing plan.” Europe and South Africa are likely areas of expansion, said Snyder.
Cioni said: “This allows us to train people in the cities they live in. We need to make sure we’re empowering locals to participate and grow professionally and financially, and that means training them in the latest Panavision and Light Iron equipment, to deploy it locally in their cities.”
Early in 2015, Panavision will hold events at its locations in Los Angeles, New York and probably Canada, said Snyder, to educate customers on the new systems.
Now owned by a small group of private equity companies, Panavision has seen its core camera business has suffer in recent years as digital cinema cameras replaced film cameras and the cost of those digital cinema cameras came down. Stressed, the company went through a rapid series of leadership changes: The company had three CEOs in 2009 and another in 2011 before Snyder took the post in 2012. The addition of Light Iron’s mobile solutions is a value-add that differentiates Panavision from other rental firms.
Snyder said, “It became very clear to us that our customers are seeking an end-to-end solution, from pre-production all the way through delivery. We’ve seen that need on set, we’ve heard from our customers that that’s what they desire.”
Cioni said the opportunity to scale Light Iron’s business was a major lure for the deal. The same pressures that have hurt Panavision’s business have put pressure on post companies as well, Cioni told Variety. “Look at how the post market is dealing with these challenges. It’s not great,” he said. But Light Iron has been a digital-first post company from its inception, and has grown even as much of the post-production business has slumped.
Cioni noted no post company could support 68 locations worldwide; the infrastructure would be too costly. “But when you couple portions of the post process with camera rental, 68 locations worldwide? That’s an easy number to swallow,” he said.
Cioni also said that the addition of Light Iron’s technology to Panavision’s existing locations opens up the possibility of creating a Panavision network with the ability to move images around as needed. “We’re going to be able to shrink the world a little bit by interconnecting these Panavision locations, making them both Panvision and Light Iron locations, so people can have a hub to go to wherever they shoot in the world, and then we can transmit what’s happening there to another location. The further away clients get from major cities, the more important this network will become, the more powerful.”