Aerial-to-Aerial Acrobatics

Production ace fies after history with camera in tow
by Jane Burek

Earlier this month, Golan Productions owner Ari Golan found himself shooting from a harness hitched to the cockpit of a Cessna 172 airplane. He was capturing re-enactment footage for a Discovery Channel program tracing Amelia Earhart’s final flight across the U.S. in 1927 before her legendary disappearance.

“It was an aerial-to-aerial shoot, which adds the complication of a moving object following another moving object. We shot a number of images of a plane over-taking another plane. There was also a lot of ‘dog fighting’ movements and acrobatic flying where the planes were inches from each other,” described Golan, himself an experienced aerial shooter and a helicopter pilot.

As usual, Golan’s Vice-President, Aigar Dombrovskis assisted in the production. The unpredictable early-October weather wound up working in favor for Golan and the London-based producer. “We had two days to shoot and make it look like two weeks in time. For the first time, Chicago weather was a big help,” notes Golan.

IMAGING & SOUND
October 29, 2001
Vol. 1, No. 7
Pg. 11

Postcard Perfect

Atomic Imaging Buys Minority Interest in eMedia to Expand Their Interactivity in Public Spaces
by Dan Page

Postcards from the edge, in a cybersense, represent the new strategic partnership between Ari Golan’s Atomic Imaging and John Tillman’s eMedia.

Interactive visionary Golan’s 15-year old new media firm has become the largest minority shareholder in Tillman’s three-year old interactive company. An exchange of private stock and some cash will provide eMedia with capital, working space and dedicated technical manpower. eMedia’s greatest success has been creating interactive terminal machines (ITMs), or kiosks, at some 50 tourist and entertainment locales nationwide. There, visitors can send an Email or printed postcard with a picture of themselves, a 10-second audio message, a text message, and a stock photo of the host venue.

Or as Tillman likes to put it, “We bring the power and the convenience of the Internet to public spaces.”

With the strategic partnership, Tillman expects to double in physical size and to quadruple revenues.

The deal puts the technical departments of the two companies side-by-side to enjoy synergy of proximity in an idea incubator. Besides its large staff of producers, programmers and graphics, Atomic Imaging hired two additional developers to work on eMedia ITMs.

Noah Sepsenwol, director of Internet technology, leads the project and programmer is Steve Benjamin, one of the new hires.

Around Aug. 15, eMedia will move into 4,000-sq. ft of office space in a rehabbed building in Atomic Imaging’s production complex near Goose Island.

Atomic Imaging started providing technical services to Tillman in 1997. As the demands for Atomic services grew, Golan saw the potential and profit of a more tangible involvement.

“Right now, eMedia represents about 10% of what we do. With time that will undoubtedly increase,” he said. “There will be a lot of research and development. We all will take an active role in brainstorming with our top rocket scientists. We are obviously very committed to eMedia’s success and believe in their work.”

Tillman credited Golan for helping save his business from stalling at a critical point in its first year of business, when one of eMedia’s founding partners and technical gurus left the company for Canada to pursue other ventures. Golan stepped in and lent support and technical expertise. This kind of interactive partnering is nothing new for Golan. He has had a number of successes over the years with JamTV, which became Web giant eMusic; Cognitive Concepts, a children’s CD-ROM and Web-based distance learning venture, and most recently the popular lowermybills.com site.

Providing services is still the most significant part of Atomic Imaging; investment in products and other ventures ranks second. Through eMedia and other prospects he would like to see those ratios flip in the next few years.

Atomic Imaging is located at 1501 N. Magnolia, phone, 312/649-1800; eMedia is present at 2105 W. Irving Park Rd.; phone, 773/267-8500.

SCREEN MAGAZINE
AUGUST 8, 2000
VOL XX NO. XX
PG XX

eMedia Communications and Atomic Imaging Enter Into a Strategic Partnership

CHICAGO, July 25, 2000 — eMedia Communications, Inc. announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Atomic Imaging, Inc. to form a strategic partnership. Under the agreement, the two firms will jointly develop and market interactive technology and services as part of eMedia’s Interactive Broadcasting Network. Atomic will lead technical development of the next generation of enabling technology designed to integrate the Internet, place-based broadcasting and kiosk interactivity.

According to eMedia’s President, John Tillman, “The partnership with Atomic will greatly enhance eMedia’s ability to scale up our rapidly growing Interactive Broadcasting Network. This partnership allows us to more rapidly deploy increasing numbers of interactive broadcasting terminals into brick and mortar venues in Chicago and across the country. Today we are focused on three markets, tourism and travel, bars and restaurants and campus communities with more to come in the future. We are excited about the expertise that Atomic brings to IBN.”

“This partnership with eMedia is a positive move for both companies,” says president of Atomic, Ari Golan. “At this stage of our business, we are more interested in forming strategic alliances that provide Atomic ownership of product rather than simply supplying service, and eMedia is a logical choice considering our past successes with them.”

eMedia is a pioneer in bringing the power of the Internet into public settings such as tourists sites, bars, retail stores and malls. eMedia’s initial product, PostCards Express, debuted in 1997. It allows users to create and send postcards from Internet Transaction Terminals (ITMs) located in high traffic public settings. The postcards contain a picture of the sender, a 10 second sound message, a text message and stock photo image of the host venue. The postcards are delivered via e-mail or the postal service. With over 50 installations and a three-year track record, eMedia remains the leader in the ITM based postcard business.

Earlier this year eMedia launched the world’s first integrated media channel, the Interactive Broadcasting Network (IBN). IBN integrates placed-based broadcasting, kiosk interactivity, e-mail and the Internet. IBN allows marketers to connect and communicate more effectively with specific target markets in a fun, interactive manner. IBN closes the loop between consumers in the home, at work and out in public spaces.

As a digital media content creation facility, IT consulting and marketing/communications firm, Atomic has utilized its comprehensive array of capabilities and experiences to create a multitude of award winning work for a prestigious clientele around the world.

Golan founded the company in 1993 as a branch-off from its sister company Golan Productions, Inc. GPI is a full-service video production studio, and Atomic was formed to meet the demands of the ever-changing technology industry. Atomic’s services include interactive multimedia, web development, multi-dimensional animation, visual effects, digital compositing, post-production, live event services, system sales and consulting.

Please visit Atomic’s web site for additional information at www.atomicimaging.com, or contact Katie Ours at 312-649-1800 or e-mail at katie@atomicimaging.com.

For more information, visit the eMedia Communications web site at www.emediacommunications.net, or contact John Tillman at 773-267-8500 or e-mail at john@emediacommunications.net.

###

B-96 Radio’s “Summer Bash 2000” Captured on Video by Golan Productions, Inc.

CHICAGO, July 5, 2000 — Golan Productions, Inc. is working with B-96 radio to produce a variety of video products from their “Summer Bash” concert. This is the fifth year that CBS affiliate, B-96 radio, has used GPI for video production of their concerts.

The all-day and night event took place Saturday June 17th. GPI used five cameras to record the video in addition to a live-video switch for the Jumbo-Tron screen.

“Seeing people’s reactions to our images on the Jumbo-Tron is rewarding,” reflects producer Aigar Dombrovskis. “GPI is able to make bad seats good seats, where the ticket holders in the back can actually walk away saying they saw the show.”

Two digital video camera crews were used gather artist interviews and document the construction of the show.

“If stage hands and performers don’t trip over cables and they question if video is even present, that’s good,” according to Dombrovskis. “It means we have remained inconspicuous and unobtrusive.”

GPI is in post-production on a sales/ marketing video that B-96 uses to gain future sponsorship for their concerts, as well as a documentary of the entire show for company record. In the near future, GPI will also be editing a video for sale to the general public that captures the concert and backstage interviews.

This fall, GPI will celebrate its 15th year of creating award-winning projects for Fortune 100 companies. GPI has the capabilities to complete high- quality productions of live events, commercials, corporate communications as well as music videos. Included in its facilities, GPI has a 1900 sq. ft. sound stage in its Chicago headquarters, as well as multiple editing and graphic suites.

###

Contact:
Katie Ours
(312) 642-4500
katie@atomicimaging.com

Golan Productions Exploits High-Definition Television

CHICAGO, July 5, 2000 — “Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python” was captured by Golan Productions, Inc on High-Definition Television in Washington DC. GPI traveled to the Warner Theatre on June 14 to record the live theatre show for future release.

Ari Golan directed the eight camera HD show and worked to effectively capture the show without disturbing the sold-out audience.

While HDTV can be expensive to produce, Idle and Golan chose to use HD equipment to create a high-quality, lasting product for Monty Python fans. Both a 60 and 90-minute version are in post-production for DVD sales, videocassette as well as television broadcast.

“HD was selected because the subject matter was worthy of archiving,” according to Golan. “Another benefit of having an HD version available is the enhanced marketability to broadcasters searching for HD content.”

HDTV is the new wave of video technology and is supported by government regulations. The Federal Communications Commission mandated a gradual roll out of digital TV by November 1999 for the top 30 markets. Both Dish Network and DirecTV offer HBO-HD East, with approximately six movies a day transmitted in HD.

Known for its clear, high-resolution picture, HDTV typically has 720- 1080 lines of resolution. In comparison, today’s televisions have resolutions only up to 525 lines.

“The 16 x 9 aspect ratio is ideally suited for conversion to DVD,” says Golan. “Users of DVD are typically videophiles who prefer watching show s in letterbox format and don’t want programs that are reformatted for television viewing.”

The feature film style, high-definition picture also comes in conjunction with Dolby Digital surround sound, allowing for six separate audio tracks. Each track can then be sent to different speaker, resulting in more realistic surround sound.

This fall, GPI will celebrate its 15th year of creating award-winning projects for Fortune 100 companies. GPI has the capabilities to complete high- quality productions of live events, commercials, corporate communications as well as music videos. Included in its facilities, GPI has a 1900 sq. ft. sound stage in its Chicago headquarters, as well as multiple editing and graphic suites.

###

Contact:
Katie Ours
(312) 642-4500
katie@atomicimaging.com

Cyberboom Creates Shortage of Developers

Too Much Work, Too Few Web Pros
by Amanda L. Milligan

Four years after it’s first foray on the Internet, Komatsu America International Co. has great business expectations for the Web.

Like other technologies that have morphed from an asset to a necessity, the Web has significantly changed business relationships and operational practices at the Vernon Hills-based subsidiary of Japanese equipment manufacturer Komatsu Ltd.

Now, the company is demanding more and more Web applications, because Internet use and the value derived from it have grown quickly over the past few years, says Keith Sanderson, manager of e-commerce and Web development at Komatsu America.

Komatsu is one of thousands of companies growing in the interactive world that is pushing Web developers for tools to propel their business to the top of the competitive heap.

The hunger for more complex Internet functions is creating a paradox for Chicago-area Web developers.

The Web design and development business has never been stronger, but burgeoning client demands are testing the ability of local firms to respond. In some cases, companies are walking away from potential clients – particularly those seeking high-flying sites at low-ball prices – to concentrate on established businesses with deeper pockets and more realistic expectations.

“Yes, we have turned away quite a bit of business,” say Michael Minik, president of Naperville-based DataSturctures Inc., which develops e-commerce applications for the real estate industry. “We are very choosy about our clients. In general, the degree of understanding of what (companies are) trying to accomplish (on the Web) is more fully developed in larger groups.”

Douglas Turk, senior vice-president of the consumer experience management practice at Chicago-based Inforte Corp., says his firm is now “more stringent” in choosing what companies to work with.

“You don’t want to be tying yourself to business failures,” he says.

Gone are the days when Web developers took on interesting projects, with little chance of a payout, simply for the exposure.

“In the very beginning, we were a lot less choosy about our clients because we had to build a portfolio and a reputation.” says Ari Golan, president of Chicago-based Atomic Imaging Inc. “Now, we barely even market. We’ve become more accurate in our forecasting and budgeting.”

Unrealistic expectations are the main reason Atomic Imaging turns away a potential client, says Mr. Golan. Business interested only in creating what amounts to a “digital brochure” are not considered good leads, he adds.

Web developers also recognize that working with successful, well-established companies benefits their reputation as in Internet player. For example, Mr. Sanderson of Komatsu America says, a design firm with a big-name client list is more attractive to companies shopping for a Web developer.

Meanwhile, as demand for building Web sites soars, developers are racing to find qualified employees, much as building contractors scramble to find skilled trades people during housing booms.

Four years ago, Mike Ysteboe, vice-president of NorthStudio Inc., in North Chicago, laid off some of his staff because there wasn’t enough work. Now, he’s hired nine people since November and is still interviewing.

“We cannot add people as fast as we can add the business,” Mr. Ysteboe says. “I think I could keep 100 people busy.”

Some major clients, including Komatsu America, are asking for StudioNorth’s developers to travel domestically and internationally to assist them with interactive projects.

“I don’t know what to do with the opportunities,” Mr. Ysteboe concedes. “Our customers are turning away the business for us because they know we can’t handle it.”

Adds Brandon Wilson, president of LaGrange Park-based Distance Horizon, “There are a lot of people that need Web sites done, but there are so few people out there who can get it done. We are dying to find Web development help.”

Developers are backing up project schedules and hiking rates to accommodate the frenzy. Redevelopment of Web sites can range from $35,000 to several hundred thousand dollars, developers say.

Mr. Wilson says the cost of the projects at Distance Horizon are based on a one-third principle: salary, profit and overhead. Project rates are swelling, he says, because he’s had to pay aggressively to keep staff.

Atomic Imaging is not “price gouging based in demand,” says Mr. Golan, but he adds, “We’re more expensive than the newbies. We’re not competing with college students working in their basement at their lowest price.”

Developers says companies that have procrastinated on Internet issues and now are trying to develop their first Web incarnation are bad business prospects, especially when they get a glimpse of the cost.

“Frequently, they’ve sat on it so long that you give them a proposal and they keep waiting,” says Distance Horizon’s Mr. Wilson. “By then, you have to raise prices. When they see what they have to spend for design and development, they’re shocked.”

The result: At lease half of the company’s business comes from clients who want existing sites redesigned.

Not everyone accepts the theory that Web talents is in short supply as e-commerce applications balloon.

Candace Renwall, president of the Chicago Software Assn. in Palatine, says it’s easy to find qualified Wed developers.

“There are a lot of good business out there that are looking for business,” she says.

Crain’s Chicago Business
May 15, 2000
Pg. SR18, SR19

Atomic ‘Earobics’

Video Game Series a Design Marathon
by Carl Kozlowski

Atomic Imaging designers are intensely cramming what is normally a one-year cycle for a game into six months of work.

The game they’re working on-the third in a series of five-isn’t the usual Nintendo 64 entertainment fare.

The “Earobics” series is an educational product designed to check and build children’s auditory skills. Speech pathologists use it to work with the learning disabled, explains Atomic’s head man, Ari Golan. It is geared for schools and therapists at the professional level and sells for several hundred dollars.

Atomic Imaging has worked with Cognitive Concepts of Evanston, led by president Jan Wasowicz, since the company was launched two years ago to produce specialized “Earobics” CD-ROM games.

The second product Atomic created has received “all sorts of recognition and applause from the community and at trade shows,” says Golan. “Industry speakers use it as an example of how games should be structured and note the quality of the content.”

Guided by lead designer Jim Abreau, 16 staffers, including eight artists and five programmers, are devising the five games.

Backgrounds, 3D and interface are done simultaneously. The programmers take the artwork generated and put it into the functional design. The game goes into field testing with representatives from target audiences. “We closely study testing results,” adds Golan, “address bugs and viewer feedback. After changes, the game then goes into a final round and finally, a golden master and duplication.”

Each “Earobics” game, focusing on a different aspect of hearing, is created primarily with Electric Image and Aftereffects and the Organica metaballs modeler. Players are presented with choices and dictate the outcome of the game and its respective 3D interfaces through their responses.

After reaching certain levels, users receive “payoff” 3D animations related to the interface theme as animal and human characters speak to the children.

The third “Earobics” has an October completion date. Cognitive Concepts will release an unspecified number of games to schools and speech pathologists and specialized retail outlets.

Atomic Imaging was split into a separate department six years ago, although “it was around longer than that” as a function of 13-year old Golan Productions Inc., says Golan

“We are very diversified in Web development, computer-based training, corporate sales and marketing and Webcasting of live concerts over the Internet,” he says of Atomic.

Atomic is a Mac shop, although it has PCs and NT workstations-“they’re in the minority and are here by necessity not by choice,” says Golan. Main tools used are Electric Image, Adobe Effects, Media 100, Commotion and Macromedia Director authoring tools.

One of Atomic’s current jobs is centered around the Real Motion physics-based animation program. Hired by a law firm representing major automakers, Atomic imagers recreate accidents caused by everything from poor road surfacing to excessive winds.

“We input the various data of road conditions and the vehicle specs across numerous categories, like wheel base and friction indexes, and Real Motion provides physics-based accurate depictions,” Golan explains.

“We’ve provided demonstrative evidence before, it was always manual and we never had the benefit of a simulation program that could generate information for us.”

Atomic Imaging is located at 1501 N. Magnolia, Chicago, 60622; phone, 312/649-1800.

SCREEN MAGAZINE
JULY 27, 1998
VOL 20 NO. 25
PG 37

Golan Global Goal

European Reps Should Pay Off

Ari Golan has taken advantage of the shrinking cost of CGI tools to carve a corporate niche for his Atomic Imaging production company.

Half of his assignments in video, CD-ROM and Web design are corporate. About 20% are awarded by agencies, but spot assignments are rare. The remainder is devoted to live events and concerts.

That balance will probably change even more toward corporate multimedia if sales efforts from reps in Barcelona and Milan begin to pay off. Golan is also represented in New York.

“The technology lends itself to remote production,” he says. “There’s a huge interest and potential demand for multimedia in Europe. They just haven’t yet allocated the budgets.”

Golan is entirely committed to the Macintosh as a CGI and postproduction tool, but within that limitation his new Goose Island facility is entirely state-of-the art.

All of the compositing, CGI and editorial workstations are hooked into an Ethernet network with a managed hub that allows the boxes to share media, rather than laboriously copying files from each other.

“The Mac gives us an open architecture compatible with the software we use for CGI, effects and compositing,” says Golan. “The rendering times on the new G3 are so fast that I can’t justify the cost for more expensive hardware.”

The Mac commitment now extends to becoming a value-added software dealer for Electric Image, After Effects, Commotion, and Media 100.

He calls his collection of tools the Digital Production Suite, and established a users group to meet monthly with engineers from the publishers.

Commotion became commercially available only a few months ago. It is a realtime painting, compositing and rotoscoping package that runs on a dual processor Mac with 120 megabytes of memory.

Atomic Imaging used a beta Commotion version to create a seven-minute trade show video which played live talent into an entirely virtual prop and background environment.

Actors performing on virtual sets need to see something to move over or around, so modular objects are painted blue to simulate the objects which will be composited into a scene.

SCREEN MAGAZINE
MARCH 30 ’98
VOLUME 20 NO. 13
PG 31

Commotion at Atomic Imaging

Atomic Imaging created a seven minute trade show video largely produced with Commotion, a new CGI software package that radically drops the price of high-end composing and rotoscoping.

“Commotion has a suite of real-time painting and rotoscoping tools, some of which are unavailable on other high-end compositing systems like Flint and Flame,” said Atomic motion graphics artist Jamie Creskey, who handled 2D and 3D animation, composing, and digital and visual effects for the video, which was produced for Siemens-Furnas Control.

Developed at Industrial Light & Magic and published by Puffin Design, Commotion costs $3,000. Atomic runs it on Mac 9600 equipped with dual 180 MHz. CPUs and loaded with 130 megabytes of RAM. A flame costs about $500,000 including high-end SGI hardware.

Atomic never left the Mac platform in producing the video, whose budget Atomic executive producer Ari Golan pegged at “well under $200,000.” Other software employed were Form Z and Electric Image for 3D modeling and animation, and AfterEffects for some of the blue screen compositing and visual effects.

A parody of recent sci-fi epics “Contact” and “Stargate,” the video transports an electrical engineer into the inner workings of an electrical control panel, which, in turn, becomes a spaceship. The talent is live but the back grounds and even the props are virtual.

“During the shoot we used a live ultimatte key to match the camera angles then composited in post,” said Atomic producer and executive creative director Ari Golan. “We mocked up some of the cockpit in blue foamcore so the action had a tough representation of the space he was in, but the only real prop was his joystick handle.”

Creskey used Commotion’s real-time rotoscope controls to rotate individual points on the splines and follow the actor’s movements with realistic motion blurs.

By comparison, a Flame could have handled the compositing, but lacks the rotoscope controls and wouldn’t allow Creskey to paint on individual fields. Golan estimates the overcoming those limitations would have doubled the compositing portion of the job, which was delivered two months after the script was finished.

The virtual sets and props succeed by not being apparent, but Creskey also used the same collection of Mac software to realize one of the video’s more spectacular effects: “molecularizing” the engineer into the electrical control panel.

He mapped a video image of the actor onto polygons, then exploded them into particles, and then used direction, velocity and turbulence controls to “suck” the particles off-screen. Then Creskey added an additional layer of handpainted visual effects in Commotion.

“I wouldn’t say that Commotion replaces the Flame, it’s just a great tool to have,” said Golan.

At Atomic Imaging, Jeff Bell edited and created the sound effects. John Cramer served as project manager for Unipro, the marketing communications agency which produced Siemens’ trade show program. Overall creative direction came from John Barnett and Ken Jackson at Oak Brook-based Arends, Siemens’ advertising agency.

SCREEN MAGAZINE
JANUARY 12, 1998
PG 8

Local Crews Roll with The Stones

Two Chicago-area production companies were able to get up close and personal with the Rolling Stones while they prepared to kick-off their world tour.

Golan Productions and Hickory Hills-based Maverick Productions were hired by New York-based Second Coming Productions to provide footage for several news segments that VH-1 will broadcast during the tour’s first week.

Second Coming will also produce an hour long special that will eventually air on the cable channel. “It’s the typical rockumentary,” said producer Ari Golan. “Between Maverick and my company, we shot the rehearsals and the usual cutaways like constructing the stage, soundbites from the crews and people standing in line, and the media circus.”

Golan’s five-camera crew were among the 200 lucky souls to crowd into the Double Door on Sept. 18 for the now legendary unannounced performance.

The call came the night before at 10 p.m., and Golan was sworn to secrecy.

A veteran rock videographer, he said there was nothing technically unusual about the job, which used four cameras wired to a live switch in the truck and a roving ENG camera.

“It was just another small venue shoot, but with the biggest band in the world,” Golan said.

Careful to maintain the club feel, the Stones brought in only a few lights. Sound was another matter. The Stones’ staff replaced the house PA with a feed to a semi-trailer with processing equipment.

A ticket to the double door show was priceless. (For the lucky few who passed the club early that day and actually believed the marquee, it was $7.) Seats to the opening night show at Soldier Field were easier to get, but once again Golan’s crew had a busman’s holiday, as they gathered more footage for Second Coming and VH-1.

Their cameras, as well as the crew feeding the stage’s giant screen, were wired into a Trio truck that provided the satellite up-link to the world-wide broadcast of the band’s first two songs.

“Celebrities are often a pain,” said Golan. “The band knows what they want, so it was easy to do a good job for them.”

SCREEN MAGAZINE
SEPT. 29, 1997
VOLUME 19 NO. 39
PG 2