Drylab Media Tech cornerstone
It cannot have escaped many investors how much money is being poured into film, television and other video streaming content in recent years.
So, while Drylab Media Tech is not likely to ever be a household name, its customers don’t come much bigger.
Undoubtedly, Netflix has changed the game for the sector, spending what seemed like eye-watering billions on buying and producing its own content, with Amazon Prime also entering the sector this has sparked a content arms race as other traditional film and TV studios have been forced to seriously step up their game to remain competitive.
Amazon entering the sector with its Prime Video and Disney weaponizing its content library with its Disney+ service offering, the amounts have gone up and up.
Having initially blown rivals out of the water when it spent US$10bn in 2020, this year Netflix plans to invest US$17bn while Disney has revealed plans to jack up its total content budget to a whopping US$33bn for 2022.
With calculations of total film, TV and streaming spending for 2021 ranging from US$220bn to US$250bn, and forecast to rise to between US$400bn and US$450bn, you might think it would be a sector on the forefront of technology.
However, most film and TV production is made using technology that would not have been considered leading-edge two decades ago let along pre-pandemic.
Paper reports and photographs are still commonly used tools of directors, producers and the script supervisors who are tasked with trying to avoid continuity errors in filming.
The slow adoption of technology into all corners of the video content industry has created a sizeable opportunity for Drylab Media Tech’s film and TV production software.
Drylab was set up in Norway by cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund as a system to assist his own filmmaking, enlisting a group of entrepreneurs and technology specialists, led by Audun Vaaler as chief executive and chief technology officer.
The software platform enables a director, producer or script supervisor to review each of the filmed takes – known in the industry as dailies or rushes – in real-time during production and post-production.
While the scenes you see when watching a film at the cinema or on your sofa flow together seamlessly, rarely have two consecutive scenes have been filmed in the exact same order during the making of the film.
A director filming scene 55, for example, will be able to use the technology to go back and look at scene 54 that was filmed, say, two weeks earlier and check for continuity in not only what the actors were wearing, but also how they were behaving, what camera lenses were used, the lighting and numerous other factors.
Drylab is up against three other competitors providing software platforms, but none of them captures or allows users the same level of metadata and usability, says Audun Vaaler, one of the founder of the software.
The competitors are PIX, Frame.io, which was acquired by Adobe last year for US$1.275bn, and the smaller Moxion, which was acquired this year by Autodesk for an undisclosed sum.
Drylab, says Vaaler, is the only platform that also captures continuity metadata, provides instant access, automatic uploading and distribution, and also allows offline access.
“Now, it’s just taken for granted that if you film in Scandinavia you will use Drylab,” says Vaaler.
So far, Drylab has been involved in 243 productions, tracking 15,000 hours of materials by around 1,700 users, including on several productions for Netflix.
But order to take Drylab global, Vaaler and his co-founders have agreed a merger with London-based Media Tech SPAC, led by chief executive John Mahtani, with the aim of replicating that success across the global industry.
After 19 years at Warner Bros, including as vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mahtani set up and ran film lab Cinelab London for seven years, which is where he first came across the Norwegian platform.
“I was incredibly impressed, because we were actually using the main competitor in the market, Frame.io, but with Drylab I was blown away. I saw something that had so much more than what Frame was offering.
“I’ve got first-hand experience of all the challenges that productions face – with continuity, with information flow, with processes, with workflow, with systems, all of those things – and what Drylab does, it answers, the bulk of those problems in one hit.”
He says Drylab “really key USP” is the metadata that Drylab provides enables a fine-detail level of reporting for producers and those controlling the purse-strings at the likes of Disney and Netflix HQ.
“The reports that the system generates for us show how many days was the shoot, how many shots did were made, how many night shots, how many close-up shots.
“So when Netflix gets an invoice for a production, they can also now demand metadata showing them a breakdown as to how their money was spent.”
Alongside Mahtani on the expanded board is a vastly experienced Media Tech team, including three fellow Warner Bros alumni and a newly appointed sales chief, Justin Lanchbury, who was head of film sales for 10 years at for leading UK postproduction house Molinare.
“At Warner Bros when we dealt with Harry Potter, we delivered content to 120 countries, so we’ve developed quite an extensive network across the globe, within the post space, within the camera space, within the production space, so we know lots of people,” says Mahtani, who will be CEO of the enlarged group.
“We have worked first-hand with all the studios, with Universal, with Paramount, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Sony, Fox, Warner Bros , and so we’ve really good coverage from that point of view in terms of ensuring that we’ve managed to get out to all of the right people and have those relationships.”
“So with the merger,” says Mahtani, “what we’re trying to do is take these guys out of the pond, and bring them into the ocean.”
Alongside the merger, the company has raised £4.1 million to fund growth, which will be used to invest in sales and marketing, ongoing software development, geographic expansion and further patent filing.
With most of the boxes ticked, the enlarged group will list on London’s main market in April with a valuation of around £30 million, where investors will be able to decide if the shares are one to watch.