CEO, DIGITALFILM TREE
BY JUDY SECKLER
In 1998, when DigitalFilm Tree CEO and founder Ramy Katrib — then a budding film student — wanted to edit his work, he had to rent or somehow borrow an Avid, a $100,000 machine. The Avid was the main avenue for completing a film professionally. Without it, an independent filmmaker was shut out of the process.
Then along came Steve Jobs, who launched the Mac G3, and Katrib found a way around his problem. He discovered that the G3 came with a FireWire port, a new feature that could be used with film/video editing software, Telecine equipment and Digital Video Decks to do the job of an Avid. With that discovery, Katrib found that for less than $10,000 he could replicate the functions of an Avid and even work at home. The age of digital post production had truly begun.
In 1999, Katrib formed DigitalFilm Tree (DFT) and quickly became an industry leader of film and HD workflows for the media and entertainment industries. “It was the beginning of the digital revolution,” Katrib says. For Katrib and his staff, the emerging technologies blended seamlessly with creative content.
The company’s strength in research and development has allowed it to push in new direc- tions, leaving competitors behind. Over the past 12 years, DFT has consulted and been involved in the digital post production of projects like NBC’s Scrubs, CW’s Everybody Hates Chris, Showtime’s Weeds, ABC’s Cougar Town and CBS’s NCIS:LA. For each series, DFT’s custom hardware and software permitted more file-based flexibility, faster results and higher quality post production finishing.
DFT also applied its proprietary systems to the post-production of feature films such as Napoleon Dynamite and Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, and Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain, a milestone achievement for the company using a host of emerging technologies like Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Sony’s DVCAM and a number of other technologies that became industry standards.
For Cold Mountain, an $80 million film, DFT consulted with Academy Award–winning editor Walter Murch on Final Cut Pro. The editing was done on standard Power Mac G4 computers. It was a tremendous leap for big-budget films, which then still relied on Avid equipment, Murch received an Academy Award nomination for the work.
Not content to rest on its laurels, DFT was also busy designing special effects, creating proprietary software and writing nine books that would explain the latest innovations in digital editing.
DFT’s headquarters is a labyrinth of multi-conductor wire that undulates like an anaconda from editing bay to editing bay. It’s here that the company has been one of the major pioneers of “file based work flows,” where different pairs of hands have access to the high resolution work files and most every media platform and software available.
Given the clarity, control and efficiency provided by DFT, it wasn’t long before the company became a major resource for neighboring Hollywood film studios, setting up systems for some of the top post- production facilities in Hollywood, and elsewhere.
In 2009, DFT was recognized for its contributions, winning the Hollywood Post Alliance Judge’s Award for Creativity for innovation in datacentric post networks that allow for data sharing and network storage.
Now, having conquered its hometurf, the company has gone global. Katrib is excited by DFT’s latest project: “DFT is consulting with K2 Eon which is creating a world class post production facility in South Korea from the ground up.” Katrib explains: “Studio e will be a playground for digital film, something more innovative than anything available in America.”
Located in Gwanjgu, South Korea, about 35 minutes by air from Seoul, the studio is a collaborative effort involving both cutting edge HD and 3D conversion of film libraries designed by leaders in those fields. In its work, DFT is utilizing more than 30 custom software applications and designing the infrastructure to simultaneously manage live action and animated television and film projects. The studio is scheduled to open late this year or early in 2012.