LOS ANGELES — Panavision (www.panavision.com) has reached an agreement to acquire post production technology innovator Light Iron (www.lightiron.com). The acquisition leverages the strengths of the designer, manufacturer and rental provider of high precision camera systems with a leader in digital workflow solutions. Together, they plan to offer turnkey technology solutions that encompass pre-production through delivery.
Light Iron has facilities in New York and Los Angeles. The company will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Panavision, maintaining its executive leadership and talent. Light Iron’s Outpost mobile post systems will be made available via Panavision rental facilities worldwide.
Post caught up with Panavision CEO/president Kim Snyder and Light Iron CEO Michael Cioni just before the news broke. Here, they comment on the deal and how they see things moving forward in the weeks and months ahead.
Panavision's Kim Snyder and Light Iron's Michael Cioni.
Post: Kim, why did you feel the need to acquire Light Iron, rather than partner on a rental basis?
Kim Snyder: “We’ve been following Light Iron for some time and have been very, very impressed with their creativity, their technology and their problem solving. We evaluated the business and talked to Michael and his team, and felt there was a lot of opportunity, across the board, synergistically, to come together and have them be a part of the family, take advantage of our global footprint and bring the two businesses together. I do think there are a lot of interesting, creative things that we can do together uniquely to support our customers in their quest to make motion pictures in the workflow space, in a full ownership model.”
Post: Had Panavision and Light Iron worked together in the past?
Snyder: “We have done a couple of one-off opportunities, but are looking forward to being much more integrated in the future.”
Post: Michael, what does Light Iron gain from this deal?
Michael Cioni: “Panavision in the largest renter of Arri Alexas, which is the number 1 camera in the world, so their stake in the digitized arena is already pretty much at the top of the market. For us, that isn’t most compelling thing about this. The most compelling thing is the ability to reach runaway production. You have production going wherever the money allows you to spend less, and that’s what’s very difficult to scale in the post arena. It’s easier to scale rental… With this acquisition we can now better serve customers that are not only shooting in other cities, but now we can provide a number of post services in those cities as well. [And] of course, international.
Snyder: “We’re in over 60 locations around the world. Leveraging that is going to be a great opportunity.
Post: With Panavision’s history in film, are there plans to develop digital technology?
Snyder: “We definitely have a large inventory of digital cameras that we rent, including the Arri Alexa, Sony equipment, Red, etc. The utilization of that equipment is much higher than film. We still have the film cameras, but they are 10 to 20 percent utilized at this point. We are in fact a technology company and we continue to invest. We invest heavily in the optical side of the business. Glass is one of our core competencies. We are also investing in capture technology, so from a camera perspective, it’s accessorizing. One thing we do here at Panavision with those other cameras that are manufactured by other companies, is we accessorize them — we call that we ‘Panavize’ them. The idea is that if you rent an Arri Alexa and want the best experience, than you should come here. We add accessories to the camera that will support a very efficient and productive experience on-set. And now we are very excited to be able to add to that because we know our customers are moving toward turnkey solutions and end-to-end. With the acquisition of Light Iron, we will be able to support them in that endeavor from pre-production all the way through to delivery.”
Post: Michael, can Light Iron meet demand with so many new rental locations?
Cioni: “We will have to take our time with it. We will start with North America and we will be announcing early in the year where that will be directed toward. We are listening to what the customers want. Panavision is an international company. Los Angeles is not just the most important person. We’re doing stuff all over the world now. We are listening to which markets that we enter first.
“Nothing has ever been done on this scale. No one has ever merged dailies, archiving, backup and cameras. The truth is, that’s what people want. They may not articulate it that well, but it’s what they really want — a single unified group.
“And that answers ‘Why not just do a partnership?’ A partnership is only a few inches deep. When it comes down to billing, financial incentives, packaging and shipping, that’s where those partnerships fall short. The customer wants solidarity, answers and responsibility of ownership. So many productions have issues with data management and the digital imaging technician, and digital utilities and shipping. Those are all things that people consider turbulence and this solution is going to — on a huge scale — allow us to ramp up each city that needs support.”
Post: Light Iron already has facilities in New York and Los Angeles. Will this allow you to further expand your footprint?
Cioni: “You know me, I’m pretty resourceful. If I were to give a little prediction, the desire for remote control, remote color connection and remote review is on the rise. And as Internet bandwidth continues to grow, the ability for people to remote tap in is going to go up. For us to be able to be able to leverage Panavision’s screening rooms to be multi-purpose for any creative use is something that allows for the term expansion. A large percentage of the 68 locations have screening rooms, so those can be multipurpose remote control suites.”
Snyder: “I think it is one of the beauties of the combination: we have the global footprint and infrastructure that will very seamlessly support the growth we are talking about here on the workflow and services side.”
Post: Is there a market that Light Iron is excited about expanding into?
Cioni: “The answer is very easy for me: it’s Europe — Central Europe, because in Central Europe there is a good economy, a large body of people. Germany is one of my favorite subjects because it’s 82 million people, they have a very strong economy, they have a ton of production and a lot of infrastructure. But Europe, by and large, and South America and Asia are a little bit behind in some of the most modern workflows. Anyone can buy technology. The great thing about the Internet is people have access to information and technology. What we have to offer these strong cinema economies is workflow, and that’s what these people need more than the hardware and software itself.”
Post: What are the immediate goals and goals for the year ahead?
Snyder: “In the short term, we will be rolling out our integration plan. And that will include our marketing plan and how we sell in together, leveraging that global sale footprint of Panavision with all the great things that are happening at Light Iron. So more on the marketing plan in the short term. Next year, what I am very excited about, is delivering on that plan and showing results in growth within the United States/North America. And in the first quarter, I think what we need to do it beyond North American, is prioritize what our choices will be internationally, and then plan out the execution of that geographical expansion.”