Although California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made inroads to restore movie production back to its U.S. roots, IBM Corp. foresees no impact on Canadian software firms creating digital media content for Hollywood.
“”It’s really a free market now,”” said David Farrell, director of digital
media solutions for IBM’s Atlanta office. He said digital production can be done anywhere, and the winners of contracts to supply computer-generated graphics to movie studios will be firms who can bring the most innovative solutions. This is why IBM views the portability of digital media technology as “”an enabler rather than a threat”” to Canadian technology providers, he said. Digital content creation touches on animation, game development, cinematic post-production, special effects, and new media.
Canadian software firms have an advantage, he argued. Two-thirds of the technology firms providing solutions to the the motion picture industry, including Alias, Discreet Logic and Softimage, call Canada home. Although Farrell is unsure of the impact of the rising Canadian dollar on American attraction to Canadian digital content solutions, he said the issue is “”not just about cheap labour”” otherwise a lot of digital-content business would be shifting to Asia. He said more powerful factors include skills, leadership and experience, which Canada, dominant in this sector for the past 10 years to 15 years, has in abundance.
David Plant, director of business development at IBM partner Helios|Oceana Ltd., a digital solutions firm in Toronto, said 19 of the 20 “”all-time money-makers”” in the movie business extensively used computer-generated visual effects, which were “”possible because of Canadian technology”” from firms such as Alias, Softimage, Houdini, Discreet, Kaydara and Toonboom.
Developed in either Toronto or Montreal, the technology was frequently spearheaded by “”math geniuses”” at the universities of McMaster and Waterloo in Ontario who had spent years writing the code, explained Plant.
Among the digital media trends he has witnessed: the migration from proprietary to open-source applications and infrastructure; the consolidation of storage to make workflow more efficient; and the development of industry-standard solutions based on reliability, service and support rather than speed.
IBM has focused strongly in recent years on digital media, earning more than US$2 billion worldwide on the sale of hardware, software and services, and experiencing 50 per cent annual growth, said Farrell. It has more than 200 partners, including Digital, Adobe and Apple, and counted in excess of 100 customers over the last year, he added.