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Industry briefings: March 2024

Posted on Mar 20, 2024

Find film fests, fresh leadership, studio mergers and more in this month’s industry news round-up

New London HQ for Panalux

Panalux has unveiled a sleek new purpose-built headquarters in London. The 112,000 sq ft facility streamlines Panalux’s London operations – including rental inventory, service, manufacturing and textile fabrication – under one roof. The HQ reflects a commitment to sustainability, with electricvehicle charging points and a roof-mounted photovoltaic array, earning an A+ energy performance certificate, while the layout is designed for maximum efficiency, featuring dedicated spaces for various operations, a demonstration studio and fully integrated vehicle maintenance unit. The location in Hayes, west London, promises convenience for filmmakers with its proximity to major transportation hubs and studios.

Amazon MGM Studios strikes deal with Pinewood Toronto Studios

Amazon MGM Studios has inked a significant deal with Pinewood Toronto Studios, marking its first multi-year commitment to Canadian studio space – and second outside the US. The agreement cements Amazon MGM Studios’ dedication to Canada’s production industry, adding a new chapter to its slate of productions filmed in the country. The deal grants Amazon MGM Studios exclusive access to five cutting-edge sound stages, workshops and office spaces spanning 160,000 sq ft in downtown Toronto. Celebrated with a ribbon-cutting event attended by Ontario premier Doug Ford and Toronto mayor Olivia Chow, the landmark agreement positions the city as a pivotal hub for the studios’ future film and series projects.

“This investment is a big boost to our cultural sectors and helps ensure Ontario remains a leading global destination for film and television production,” comments Ford. The move aligns with Amazon MGM Studios’ ongoing strategy to expand its production footprint in Canada, highlighting the country’s prowess in the global film and television industry.

BBFC unveils fresh leadership line-up

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) welcomes IMDb founder and CEO Col Needham as its inaugural global brand ambassador. Alongside this, the organisation has appointed two independent directors, John Stanley and tech entrepreneur Darren Jobling, reinforcing its commitment to industry expertise. This move highlights the BBFC’s strategic shift to a single-board structure. Needham, Jobling and Stanley join BBFC chair Natasha Kaplinsky OBE in shaping the organisation’s future. The role reflects the BBFC’s international ambitions, with Needham leading engagements with key stakeholders and contributing to the organisation’s global strategy, including AI advancements.

ARRI lights up Sundance

ARRI took centre stage as the official lighting provider for the 40th Sundance Film Festival, illuminating premieres and events. The renowned SkyPanel S30-C, S60-C and ARRI Orbiter fixtures enhanced festival venues with colour accuracy and flexible light shaping. Dr Matthias Erb, chairman of the executive board at ARRI, says: “Our versatile, high-quality lighting solutions create an enhanced visual environment to showcase the tremendous filmmaking talent that Sundance celebrates each year.”

Virtual production studio Distortion launches

Distortion, a full-scale virtual production facility in Bristol, is due to open for business in April, making it the first permanent VP studio in the city. The new space will reduce travel for tricky on-location productions based in the south-west, offering premium equipment and an experienced in-house team of immersive digital artists and visual engineers. The studio’s Unreal Engine content creators, tech skills and best-in-class suppliers (including Blackmagic Design for video control, Stype camera tracking and Stage Precision software) will be on hand to help see your VP project through, whether you’re working on a feature film, TV ad or virtual corporate event.

Call of the Wildscreen

Wildscreen, the UK-based not-for-profit behind the world’s largest wildlife film and TV festival, has opened the call for entries to its Panda Awards and Official Selection. The 2024 competition comprises 14 categories, with all entrants eligible for the Panda Awards, which celebrate the art of natural world storytelling. Awards are on offer for categories including best cinematography, directing, editing, sound and sustainability, with cash prizes available. New for this year is the special recognition award for field craft, recognising the pivotal role played by local incountry field crews within the natural history genre. The festival will take place from 14-18 October in Bristol, and entries close on 10 May.

SMODE XR impresses at CES 2024

Smode Japan, the Paris-based subsidiary of Smode Tech, generated a buzz at CES – collaborating with Sony PCL to showcase cutting-edge virtual production solutions. The exhibit deployed the SMODE xR system, a dedicated tool for virtual production and extended reality (XR) projects, in conjunction with Sony’s Crystal LED display, building on a fruitful partnership between the companies.

Sony PCL XR coordinator for CES 2024, Yoshihisa Sukeda, praised SMODE technology for its intuitiveness and ease of use, as well as its capacity to realise seamless scene changes as a media server. According to Sukeda, a primary function of the exhibit was to allow visitors “to experience virtual production and deepen their understanding of the technology. At the same time, I wanted to provide a little surprise by incorporating set extensions.” These set extensions were another piece of the puzzle made possible by SMODE xR, enabling the Sony team to achieve free shooting angles regardless of LED size.

Compatible with major 3D engines, SMODE xR blends the real and virtual worlds, simplifying immersive experience creation for virtual production, TV, films and live events while offering real-time compositing, orchestrating LED, content and camera tracking. The collaboration has already borne impressive results on projects including a music video where SMODE was utilised for XR and AR effects, and a short film depicting an impossible car chase using XR technology.

This article appears in the March 2024 issue of Definition. Read the full magazine here

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