Industrial Color Brands: Servicing a Modern Digital Industry, Part 1
A Conversation with Founder and CEO Steve Kalalian
By Vince Gonzales | July 22, 2013
Leisurely scanning the archives of the Production Paradise website, an eye popping black and white Guess ad caught my eye shot by fashion photographer, Alix Malka and finished by New York based studio, Industrial Color. My interest piqued, I looked deeper into what Industrial Color was and expected to simply find another post-production facility. What I learned was that post-production was only the tip of the iceberg of Industrial Color’s services.
Guess ad shot by Alix Malka with production by Industrial Color
A quick visit to their site and you'll see they offer many services available to photographers, production companies and advertising agencies. Ok, so I’m a working photographer- what could they potentially do for me? This simple question led me to discover an organization that hopes to be everything to the working professional photographer servicing large commercial clients. Industrial Color and their sister brands, Impact Digital, Fast Ashleys Studios and GLOBALedit offer a full range of services from still capture, HD video capture, editing, post production, CGI, DIT, image review software management solutions- all the way through final delivery. If you have a concept and a budget, they’ll do the rest. Clients include Kate Spade, Kohl’s, Showtime, NBC, Victoria’s Secret and Armani. They service fashion, entertainment and advertising for print and even web content with a global reach from bases in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. I recently interviewed CEO and founder, Steve Kalalian and asked him to tell me more about Industrial Color Brands.
Photographed by Anthony Mandler for Breitling with digital capture services from Industrial Color
Vince Gonzales: Tell us about what Industrial Color does and the clients you service.
Steve Kalalian: We really have two focuses. One is on creative production and the other one is on workflow software for creatives. We are all about serving the creative production world. Industrial Color Brands is made up of four main entities that may seem like they're separated, but are all really very integrated. When you walk down the halls of our Tribeca or Los Angeles offices, you’ll see people working on one brand that integrates seamlessly with all the other brands. For example, we have Fast Ashleys Studios in Brooklyn which is a premier location equipment and photo studio. We then have Industrial Color Productions, which services a range of still capture, digital motion technicians and production crews.
Services include capture, post production, VFX, CGI, high end editing, Flame, compositing and digital retouching. A lot of our capture work happens on set and on location all around the world. Impact Digital focuses on the print side for high end retouching campaigns for beauty clients including brands like Pantene, Olay, CoverGirl, Revlon and Almay. Victoria’s Secret is a great client of ours. We do most of the store visuals and retouching working directly with the production and marketing departments within those brands. For our television clients’ work such as Showtime's Homeland, we'll tech the photo shoots then tap into our CG and retouching resources to create the campaign visuals. Then there’s our cloud software, GLOBALedit, which helps global brands such as Warner Bros., Estee Lauder and Neiman Marcus streamline their creative workflow. We offer a wide range of services from end to end and we make a great partner for brands and creatives We also work directly with photographers, a photographer’s agent, a director or production company. Since we offer a range of services our team can be brought on at any stage of the production process.
Showtime’s House of Lies campaign being finished in New York. Photographed by Jill Greenberg, CGI by Impact Digital, assets managed by GLOBALedit and digital capture by Industrial Color.
VG: How did Industrial Color begin for you?
SK: 23 Years ago we started as a 2-person graphics team. My background is varied from a little bit of the arts and marketing. We decided to focus on being a graphics design firm specializing in fashion and photography promotion. So if it was catalogs, books, graphic design to printing- that’s what we started working in. We really got the bug for high end retouching pretty quickly. Throughout the 90’s there was the big Photoshop revolution that allowed us to do amazing work in house. We were seeing this great creativity happening since we were penetrated in the fashion and photography industry. Working with photographers and agencies on retouching during those days was really exciting. There were actually three big trends on the horizon. The first trend was the Photoshop revolution, then the digital still revolution in 2000 and then the motion revolution around 2010. We started with a passion and excitement for working with great people and have had the honor of working on really beautiful, clever and important work. Industrial Color became an important brand and service as a retouching company in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when digital cameras were starting to come of age.
At an early stage, we could see a huge opportunity but there was so much complexity, cost and mistrust. A light bulb went off and I said we need to make it really simple for traditional photographers to transition to digital with a phone call. So digital as a service was really invented in 2000. In two rolling cases you could run an entire pre press powerhouse. We could roll cases on set, we could roll them on location doing everything from capture, review, printing, processing and transferring. So, we quickly realized an opportunity. If we’re shooting everything digitally, let’s work digitally. Let’s work on the web, let’s work on the cloud collaboratively, let’s share immediately from capture. So in 2003 we started GLOBALedit. This was long before bandwidth was what it is now. But we saw a huge opportunity in streamlining the workflow.
The last bit would be the motion revolution. Again, the technology instigated this huge opportunity to trend again. In 2008 and 2009 we launched Industrial Color Motion at the height of the recession. It was the worst and best time. Here we are at the height of the recession and we’re out buying four RED cameras. We saw an opportunity for the photo and still industry to really take on and produce incredible video content for an exploding demand. At the same time it was almost the most depressing time for photography. Along comes motion and it is actually a savior. It reignited the whole industry. We got excited about that as it tapped into our core competency and infrastructure. We have talented techs, camera operators, 50,000 sq feet of high-end production facilities and equipment and a Tier 3 data center. All of this enabled us to master that market and add value to our clients with a special love toward the photographer. We honor the creativity and vision that the creative has and we’re there to support that vision.
Fast Ashleys Studio in Brooklyn
VG: Tell us about how you adopted Motion and Graphic services.
SK: Editing and retouching has been our in our DNA over the past 20 years. We’re all about color and composition and were surprised how easily that skill set translated to video. We started small and built up from our first editor to now having a team of people. We focus on getting better and better as we jump into new environments while keeping an eye on revolutions. We’ve always had CGI for still and the same talent can usually handle video and motion graphics. We also have the capacity to invest in new technology personnel with backgrounds and expertise in building and installing Flame or IT systems, for example. The IT side of it is where the infrastructure makes a difference. To geek out, we’re 10gig fiber throughout the entire facility. We have Isilon- bad ass S Series nodes for video serving, we’re streaming 2K at every workstation so when we see a trend and a big market opening up, it gives us a little more comfort. There are always growing pains but we're always learning along the way.
VG: You mentioned recognizing trends early on in your business. What do you see happening now?
SK: I talk to post houses like Technicolor and ModernVideoFilm and our film clients about the trends happening in their world. It’s the same thing we saw earlier, which is more and more is being done on set with dailies, rough editing and color LUTs for example. The equipment is getting smaller and smaller and more and more powerful. Once clients have access to a pipeline or a tool that allows them to do something on set faster and remotely- they just start adopting it. Here at Industrial Color, you could say we’re on the bleeding edge because we love to play with the latest toys and are always discussing what new gear can lead towards the next industry change.
VG: I got a chance to get hands-on with your GLOBALedit software thanks to your VP of Sales, Mathieu Champigny. One of the things that struck me was how easy the UI was. Do you see IC rolling out more in house developed software product solutions like GLOBALedit for your customers?
SK: Oh, absolutely. That is a huge dedication of ours. We’re in a major engineering push right now. Just a quick background, GLOBALedit is a front-end work in progress tool. For some people it is a full solution. We're all about taking a huge quantity of captures of images and video and making them available to the creative decision makers immediately after capture in a very easy-to-use collaborative environment. This helps clients to accelerate their production process. Instead of getting signed off in three weeks, creatives should be able to accomplish this in only three hours. We want to give people tools they never had before to increase their capacity to process material. A good use case is Victoria’s Secret. They use GLOBALedit from shoot, through retouching markups, all the way to high-res distribution of files to a network of vendors and printers all over the world. This is done through the automation and access of the toolset that is available to them and anyone else. It enables them to triple or quadruple the amount of images available for processing. There’s no way the team would be able to keep up with the pace of growth without it.
We also recognize the need for mobile and being on the go. We have an iPad app that goes along with the GLOBALedit web platform. In entertainment there is a talent approval module that most Hollywood and television talent use to make their approvals no matter where they are on the globe. We also have a digital light table that taps into the GLOBALedit cloud library. We’re always looking at what problems people are having and how software and GLOBALedit can solve those problems. Creating a user friendly experience with GLOBALedit is important to us. The difference between a client clicking on an image and it taking a micro second vs. a millisecond to appear is the difference between someone using our tool and not using our tool for speed and ease of use. Writing a user friendly and fast program while creating an intuitive layout honors the challenges of the creative personnel who normally work in environments that are sometimes less than perfect.
The GLOBALedit interface
I ended my conversation with Steve feeling inspired by his genuine love and enthusiasm for the photography industry and especially his respect for the vision of the still photographer. Looking forward to seeing what Steve and the Industrial Color Brands create next.
In part two of my article I speak with Joann Gambino, Business Director and General Manager of Industrial Color’s west coast operation. She shares with me the culture of celebrity brands and how her crews service clients from this fast growing Los Angeles arm of Industrial Color.
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