By Randi Altman
Issue: August 1, 2002

Waiting for the cavalry

This kind of economy eats up the little guy. And it has recently claimed another victim. Telecine maker Innovation-TK, better known as ITK, closed its UK-based doors in early July citing financial difficulties and an inability to compete with the big boys - such as Thomson, Sony and Cintel. This privately held company could have been described as the little engine that could... until now. The hope among the faithful is that another company will step in (and may have already by the time this letter reaches you) to continue the product line, including the well-respected Millennium Machine. The fear is that a larger company might buy the technology and kill it, but due to the quality of the product line, that's not likely.

Ken Chambliss, owner of VTA in Atlanta, has invested in ITK's technology over the last couple of years and he has no doubt that someone will step in and save the day. "It's phenomenal equipment which is at the beginning of its life cycle. The potential for where the equipment could go is limitless right now. So I'm really looking forward to someone acquiring it and continuing the product."

Neil Feldman, owner of Dallas's Video Post & Transfer and Santa Monica's The Syndicate, has two systems and is still enamored with the technology. "We still think it's a superior product in terms of its capabilities as a telecine. We are certainly saddened by what's happened to the company, but I am optimistic that it will re-emerge, and when it does it will probably be a lot stronger and probably more focused on what needs to be done."

Feldman believes it was never an issue of technology. "It was other factors, and those factors can be corrected."

One industry veteran, who prefers to remain anonymous, says he isn't surprised by the news. "The telecine business was pretty saturated and a shake-out was inevitable. It's hard to see how any company in this economy can survive on selling only a handful of extremely expensive units each year. That leaves your margins in a pretty dangerous position. I think most of the folks who need telecines have purchased them. If you're going to purchase a new machine, wouldn't you purchase it from a Sony or Thomson, who can support it in troubled times? The remaining market has to be shared with Cintel and the many refurbished systems out there. HD/24p makes telecine even more questionable. Couple this with the increased number of lower-cost scanners that can work at slower-than-realtime, which will start to do the 2K/4K [film intermediate] work."

The company is now in receivership, so no one from ITK was able to go on the record at presstime.

No one likes to see a company go away, especially when it offers the kind of technology that is beloved by its users.