FilmLight makes strategic moves at NAB 2011
COW Library : NAB Show : Debra Kaufman : FilmLight makes strategic moves at NAB 2011
The simple story is that NAB is about showcasing new products. But the meta-story is that NAB is about strategy, branding and positioning. That's what was on my mind when I saw the very interesting one-two punch of new products at the FilmLight suite at the Renaissance Hotel.
FilmLight is well known as the manufacturer of Baselight, a high-end Digital Intermediate system used by many top DI and post houses and DI colorists (renowned colorist Lou Levinson was on hand at NAB 2011 to demo the latest version of Baselight). Yes, FilmLight did show the latest version (4.3) of Baselight software, which features a "triple head" user interface for simultaneous review of the system interface, image gallery and scopes, alongside the image monitor).
FilmLight FCP screenshot
But those looking for the next step of FilmLight's strategy in the high-end arena were not disappointed. Blackboard 2 is an entirely "soft-key" design for the post-production control surface. Whether it's by project or by artist, the console is infinitely configurable to make the grading process more efficient, more creative and exactly suited for the project at hand. Whereas with a traditional control surface most keys are hard-wired and need multiple keystrokes for additional features, Blackboard 2 can be configured to accomplish a complex function with a single keystroke.
FilmLight Baselight Blackboard 2 - a dedicated hardware control surface.
The cool thing is that the keys are labeled from below, so when the user changes the function, the key reflects that new function via the back projection. The control surface also offers several configurable "haptic" controls so that certain functions can be performed in a more tactile manner. Blackboard 2 also features four high-resolution screens for live, in-context feedback o complex grading functions. That's the high end of color grading. FilmLight's most clever move was also unveiled at NAB 2011: an inexpensive plug-in of Baselight for Final Cut Pro. The color grading plug-in (which is not a full-fledged version of Baselight) is intended to give the legions of FCP editors some Baselight color grading functionality directly within the application. The plug-in will be priced at under $1,000 and will be available in the Fall (I'm presuming IBC timeframe).
That means that FCP users will at last have an easy and reasonably inexpensive option to the on-board Color software. Reaching out to FCP users opens the door to entirely new levels and layers of content creators--and, face it, we're not just talking about editors but about all the indie filmmakers who want to use FCP for soup-to-nuts finishing. At the same time, Baselight for Final Cut Pro is also intended to find a home in the high-end facility, as a low-cost prep station for full Baselight systems or as a training tool.
FilmLight FCP screenshot
Reaching out to a very broad prosumer/consumer marketplace makes good business sense. High-end systems such as DI systems have, by their very nature, a limited market. FilmLight's move looks to be good strategy for staying in the game by diversifying and expanding the customer base. FilmLight says this plug-in "marks the start of an initiative designed to make Baselight's advanced functionality directly available within third party applications. In future, the technology behind Baselight for Final Cut Pro could be applied to other editing systems, as well as to visual effects and compositing systems." In other words: stay tuned.
More than ever, partnerships and alliances are key to companies in our industry, and FilmLight also unveiled one just before the show: FilmLight and Technicolor announced a technology alliance by coupling Technicolor's DP Lights system with FilmLight's Truelight technology, with the goal of creating a single, portable on-location service for previs, real-time look creation as well as dailies. With the proliferation of systems in this space, the two marquee companies did well to join forces and double their brand power in the space.