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CUTTING EDGE: FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY

High-Speed Network to Link Movie Makers

Hollywood: Media.net's fiber-optic hookup will connect studios and post-production facilities throughout Los Angeles.

May 01, 2000|MICHAEL A. HILTZIK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In another sign of Hollywood's digital juggernaut, a venture-backed telecommunications firm will announce plans today to create a fiber-optic network connecting studios and post-production houses throughout Los Angeles.

The network, known as Media.net, will allow entertainment companies to produce, edit and possibly even distribute their shows online by employing high-speed digital communications. Spokesmen said the company plans to establish a similar network in New York by the end of the year and to serve 23 other cities around the world by the end of 2001.

Already much of Hollywood production has moved to digital technology. Although features and many television shows are shot on film, the images are "digitized"--turned into sequences of digital bits--and edited on video monitors, a much faster and easier process than traditional film editing. Features and filmed shows are then reconverted to analog so they can be screened conventionally.

There are large gaps in this process, however. Film and tape destined for editing still must be physically moved from studio to editing house and back, often by courier.

"Until now, there's been no network connecting everybody together," said Scott Tolleson, a former AT&T and MediaOne executive who is Media.net's chairman and chief executive.

Tolleson said Media.net, which previously acquired about $20 million in venture and debt financing, is seeking another $25 million from strategic partners in the telecommunications industry.

He said the company had already established four hubs in the Los Angeles area connected by fiber-optic cable and could install fiber optics to any customer location in the area in 30 to 60 days. The service is a high-bandwidth, high-speed network.

"It works as a time machine for me," said Ken Topolsky, producer of the Fox dramas "Party of Five" and "Time of Your Life," who has been using Media.net services on a tryout basis. "When I had two shows in production at the same time, I needed a real-time look at the footage. Waiting for dailies could take 10 hours."

Media.net, he said, linked his offices at the Sony studios in Culver City to post-production facilities at LaserPacific Media Corp. in Hollywood, allowing his staff to transmit electronically each day's shooting for processing and retrieve it the same way for viewing and editing. The cost, he said, was only incrementally higher than he would normally spend "by the time you have couriers and messengers rolling all over the place and editors on overtime."

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