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More movie world success for New Zealand

18 April 2005

More movie world success for New Zealand

One year after creating its first sound editing product for the movie industry, New Zealand company Virtual Katy is taking a new hugely powered, unique piece of technology to the world.

Virtual Katy founder and top New Zealand sound editor, John McKay, developed a basic version of the company’s software to cope with sound editing of ‘Lord of the Rings’, when the job of trying to track pieces of sound to match frequent film edits became “mind numbingly stupid”.

During ‘Fellowship of the Rings’ one set of changes that took 6.8 hours manually could be reduced to just three minutes, 35 seconds using the first version of Virtual Katy (VK) software. McKay describes the latest version, VK2, as providing “pure, raw speed for processing”. It reduces the analyses of an entire movie to about one second.

So, how come Hollywood brains haven’t invented such clever software ahead of New Zealand’s team at Virtual Katy?

“We’re out of the fray. Hollywood is so in the moment of doing the job, they’re working so hard that it’s difficult for them to be looking for new developments. We are not hampered by the demands of large investment and don’t have to follow the norm.

“Lord of the Rings was not encumbered by traditional thinking. We could think about working on the movie in another form,” says McKay. As Virtual Katy’s Director of Product Development, he heads to two major trade shows in September to unleash VK2 on the world. The International Broadcasters’ Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam attracts more than 45,000 specialists, mainly from Europe, US and Asia. VK2 will also be demonstrated at the Audio Engineering Society trade show in New York, attended by the world’s leading audio professionals.

VK2 revolutionises and streamlines the way sound editors cope with picture changes, automatically updating sound elements to match picture changes. McKay says VK2 is unique globally in the way it automatically traces the history of every film edit, adding intuitive aspects to the software which provides immediate information. VK2 can be used across different platforms in different formats.

Previously editors relied on their memories or copious volumes of handwritten lists to track edits, a time consuming process when producers might create almost 100 versions during filming of just one short advertising commercial.

Investment from Technology New Zealand is assisting Virtual Katy’s route to becoming a dominant world leader in the post production industry.

“The support means we can carry on with product development without being distracted from trying to run a global business, which costs money.”

Technology New Zealand invested more than $90,000 to help Virtual Katy analyse its original software filing systems to create the high value, improved VK2 product. As a result, VK2 transforms traditional linear systems to non-linear, allowing changes of both sound and picture to happen at the same time, all feeding into the final master at the same time.

“VK is a data coordinator. It manages the chaos,” says McKay, who started work as a television film editor in 1974 and has now worked on more than 20 movies, 25 television drama series and numerous documentaries and commercials.

“This is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. VK2 works and it helps others to do their job better. It is exciting to take something like this to the world. It’s certainly changed my whole world.”

Virtual Katy already has a foot in the door of several overseas client companies in US, India, Amsterdam and its technology has been used on big budget films such as the Bridget Jones diary sequel film and the high profile cartoon series ‘South Park’.


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