Commercial Real Estate & Advisory

Sneak Peek At The Mill’s NY Blueprint

March 12, 2004

NEW YORK- Manhattan Transfer. Post Perfect. R/GA. Company 3. Hearing these names, there is no denying that the New York visual effects and postproduction landscape has experienced significant change in recent years. Get ready for another. London-headquartered The Mill-renowned for its creative focus on visual effects and finishing- is constructing an enormous New York workspace with 15,000 square feet on two floors and an additional 5,000 square feet of private deck space. Additionally, The Mill’s New York office will begin competing for telecine work, using its London talent base and a newly purchased Spirit Datacine from Thomson’s Grass Valley. The Mill actually opened in New York two years ago with 2-D and 3-D visual effects and post production capabilities, in response to client requests for a stateside presence. It initially shared space at the Manhattan address of Outpost Digital, a unit of bicoastal/international Last year, having outgrown the space, The Mill moved to larger but temporary downtown accommodations. The company expects to move to its permanent space on Broadway in Soho by the end of April. Last week, in anticipation of the upcoming move, The Mill’s CEO, Robin Shenfield, gave SHOOT an exclusive preview of the new space, which is still under construction. Shenfield said that the expansion has two primary goals: to give the company a permanent home with a proper client environment, and to expand into telecine which has been a part of The Mill’s London service from day one. The new loft is designed with comfort in mind. There are spacious creative suites and plenty of client space, all with high ceilings and large windows. From the start, the New York base has been developing to maintain the same characteristics that make its London counterpart a successful business. So important is this that Shenfield intends to have new hires spend a few months working in London, in order to experience The Mill’s culture. Kicking back in the current space, Shenfield said, “It feels like The Mill to me here, which is how it should feel to clients.”

“I could buy a company tomorrow, but it wouldn’t be The Mill-the business has grown organically,” he continued. “But the business (in New York) was constrained by its location, and by not having a telecine. “I think (the telecine and new space) will widen our client base in New York, and we’ll end updoing more of the high-quality finishing work.

TELECINE Shenfield also hopes to expand the range of talent available in New York. Currently, telecine for commercials is offered in New York at Company 3, Nicer Shoes, Technicolor Creative Services, PostWorks and Moving Images-although Company 3 and Nice Shoes handle the bulk of the local spotwork. Will The Mill cause a shift in the market? It could. For the first few months, the new telecine suite will be under the leadership of noted colorist Fergus McCall, head of telecine at The Mill’s London base. (At press time, Shenfield said that it was not yet decided if McCall would remain permanently in New York, or if other colorists would come to the Big Apple) McCall’s credit’s include the recently honored Stella Artois spot, “Devil’s Island”, directed by Jonathan Glazer of Academy of London, for Lowe, London; as well as such classics as Dunlop’s “Unexpected,” directed by Tony Faye Films via AMV DDBO, London; and Levi’s “Swimmer,” for London;s Bartle Bogle Hegarty, directed by Tarsem through now defunct Spot Films. McCall, who has been with The Mill since it opened in 1990, has also worked with such leading directors as Michel Gondry, David Fincher and Ridley Scott.2-D AND 3-D Currently, the New York operation offers 2-D and 3-D from artists at The Mill in London as well as some new hires. The 22-person New York team-led by creative director/senior Flame artist Angus Kneale and executive producer Alistair Thompson-could grow to about 30 by year’s end, predicted Shenfield. The permanent space will house expanded resources, initially including four Discreet Flame suites, and nine CG workstations, which will primarily run Softimage’s XSI and use Aliies’ Maya,Discreet’s Combustion, Apple’s Shake, mental images’ Mental Ray, and other software tools available at The Mill’s London locale, including Massive, the crowd replication software developed for the battle scenes in The Lord of The Rings trilogly. The Mill will also install a 4 MB virtual private network (VNP), allowing The Mill artist in New York and London to share creative resources and rendering capabilities. It will tap the applications of telecommunications-based services such as Beam.TV (a company of The Mill) and Telestream’s Clipmail. Internally, a Gigabit Ethernet will enable switchable creative applications in each suite, offing flexibility to the artists. “We are not putting HD on the Spirit from day one, because our experience here has been ninety-five percent – standard definition,” Shenfield explained. “I think probably that is slowly changing, and we’ll (add HD support) when the time is right. We are going to carry on doing what the market wants now. We are not trying to anticipate a technology change. I think there’s probably been a bit too much of that in New York in the past.” The new construction and technical infrastructure was built with growth in mind, including room for a second color correction suite. Shenfield reported that when appropriate, The Mill would invest in a second system, perhaps a second Spirit or something else-like one of the developing software-based color correction tools in the market. When asked about software-based systems, Shenfield seemed comfortable about moving slowly. “People are used to real-time grading,” he commented. “The operational difficulty with those software-based systems is the speed; certainly in any kind of commercials application there’s not going to be an immediate transition. “I don’t know what will be )in our second telecine room), Shenfield continued. “It will be interesting. ” I don’t really think you gain competitive advantage by doing things first. You gain competitive advantage by doing things well.”