A “little seed” planted in Orange County resulted in a revolutionary wireless video transmission system for on-set monitoring on movie and TV sets.
Now the companies making the system, which eliminates the need of bulky cables that plague motion picture and other broadcasting industry production sets worldwide, have received Academy Awards for their technological achievements.
Irvine-based Teradek, using the wireless chipset from sister company Amimon of Israel, received their awards—the Academy’s “Scientific and Engineering Award”—in a virtual ceremony on Feb. 13. Both Teradek, maker of the Bolt 4K wiresless video system, and Amimon are part of Creative Solutions, also based in Irvine.
Teradek makes high-performance video products for wireless video transmission, wireless lens control, live streaming and IP video transmission, camera control and color correction.
The latest version of its technology, the Bolt 4K system, transmits high-definition content to multiple receivers with “high link reliability, superior signal strength, and high security,” the company said.
Over 40,000 Bolt transmitters and 60,000 Bolt receivers are now in use in the motion picture and broadcasting industry, according to Teradek.
Creative Solutions pulled in $80 million in revenue last year, and is expected to hit $100 million to $120 million this year, according to Nicolaas Verheem, CEO of both Creative Solutions and Teradek, which was founded in 2008.
“It all started from this little seed that was planted right here in Irvine,” Verheem said.
Academy Awards for OC Companies
While last month’s Academy Awards aren’t surrounded by the glitz and glamor of the Oscars, they do come from the same Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Academy’s Scientific and Engineering Award is given for achievements that impact the advancement of the motion picture industry in a meaningful way. Teradek is the second area company to receive the award in recent years.
In 2016, RED Digital Cinema, the Jim Jannard-founded firm now based in Foothill Ranch, received the award for the “pioneering design and evolution of the RED Epic digital cinema cameras with upgradeable full-frame image sensors.”
Teradek’s technology has been integrated into RED’s line of digital cameras, with a goal of keeping “camera clutter and weight off of a camera rig.”
Replacing Cable, Keeping Quality
The Irvine-based company’s Bolt 4K wireless radio sends uncompressed video with no delay, which is crucial for the production on movie and TV sets, letting crews monitor the action and control the camera from a distance.
“We replaced the cable with the wireless link, but to make it as good as the cable, make the video quality as good as the cable and as fast as the cable, is very difficult. That is what Teradek did using the Amimon technology,” according Verheem.
Their groundbreaking technology is found on numerous motion picture and broadcast production sets worldwide, eliminating bulky cables people can trip over, among other issues.
“It all began in 2010, when we realized there was a big opportunity in untethering the monitor from the camera, since the traditional video cables were limiting the camera freedom and posing tripping hazards,” Verheem, who is also the Teradek founder, told the Business Journal on Feb. 17.
Verheem said there are plenty of people on a movie set who want to monitor camera work, including the first assistant cameraman focusing the camera, the director, gaffer for the lighting, as well as hair, makeup and costume staffers.
“Even the audio guy wants to look at the video, because he wants to make sure you can’t see the microphone,” according to Verheem. He notes there can be 200 people on the set for big productions. Verheem said his company discovered Amimon’s technology in 2012.
“That’s when we created the Bolt and then the business really took off,” according to Verheem. Creative Solutions bought Amimon in 2018.
The Bolt system has been used on countless sets, including Star Wars sequels, prequels and spinoffs such as Rogue One.
Others include Marvel movies such as Spiderman and Quentin Tarantino movies such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Other notable users include Steven Spielberg and the makers of the 2019 movie Ford v Ferrari.
One award went to Verheem, Greg Smokler and Ilya Issenin of Teradek, while the other award went to Zvi Reznic, Meir Feder, Guy Dorman and Ron Yogev for the development of the Amimon chipset and technology used in the Bolt.
Fast as Lightning
Verheem, who comes from South Africa, says they named the system Bolt “because it’s as fast as a lightning bolt.”
“By now, everybody is using it, across the globe. We’ve sold 100,000-plus of these systems, which is a very large number,” said Verheem.
The bulk of users are professionals in video production, including movies, television shows, advertisements, news, sports and religious worship programs, along with a small amount of education and medical usage.
Verheem said the units are made in Irvine. Parent company Creative Solutions is a division of the Vitec Group PLC of the U.K.
Creative Solutions’ global employee headcount is about 300 people, Verheem said.
The Bolt 4K starts at $2,490 and goes up to about $15,000, according to the company’s website, and while the units are aimed at professionals, the company also offers monthly payment plans.
Verheem explains that the small-scale production people need help buying, and many are individual “owner operators.”
“There is really a ton of individual owner operators that buy our product. And that is why we sometimes have to help them,” Verheem said. “They just don’t have the means to buy something now.”
“Right now we’re trying to help the industry get back to work,” he adds, citing the difficulties caused by the pandemic.
Teradek also makes Vidiu, a separate streaming product that is used by NASA, SpaceX, Fox, CNN and ABC among others.