They say behind every great man, there is a great woman. For Ottawa entrepreneur Pat McGowan, her name is Alexa.
McGowan is president of InMotion, an Ottawa-based film and video production company. Alexa is short for the ARRI Alexa, one of the first motion picture cameras that is completely digital. InMotion recently added the camera, which costs about $60,000 U.S., to its growing inventory of gear.
Digital cameras are a huge advance for the movie industry, because the elimination of film allows for much faster editing. An Alexa was used on the third instalment of the Transformers franchise.
“Traditionally commercials, TV dramas and feature films have been shot on film,” said McGowan. “HD video did not give practitioners the tools they needed to express themselves, to create a product that looked like a feature film. The Alexa is the first camera to do that.”
Traditionally HD video cameras were prone to showing over or underexposure in a picture. Film has the ability to retain details even when the exposure is not ideal.
More than a camera, however, it is a “true end-to-end visual production system,” McGowan says. The Alexa stores footage on data cards that can be transported to any computer with an editing program and instantly reviewed.
“It’s changing the game,” said McGowan. “A film can be shot here, and edited in Copenhagen, and it would take three hours.”
InMotion is the first to bring a camera like the Alexa to the Ottawa region, one of many steps the 31-year-old company, which McGowan took over in 1996, has taken to compete on an international scale. It recently moved its headquarters across Boyd Avenue, near Carling Avenue, to a bigger, 4,300-square-foot facility that boasts a 1,000-sq.-ft. sound stage that McGowan calls Ottawa’s only “Hollywood grade” effects stage. He designed it himself, drawing on a background in audio production.
The improvements have helped InMotion vault to the top of the growing Ottawa film production industry.
Roch Brunette, general manager of the Ottawa-Gatineau Film and Television Development Corporation (OGFT), says InMotion is the “only true-to-life studio we have with a controlled environment, proper lighting, electrical wiring and expertise.”
Adds Brunette: “It’s a daring a move — it’s been a while since we’ve seen a local company grow like that.”
The expansion was necessary. McGowan says InMotion has tripled in size and is projecting $3.5 million in sales this year. InMotion employees 15 full-time workers, with another 15 to 30 working on contracts. The company is currently involved in a large undertaking, making 2,000 short educational shows for the government of Ethiopia.
According to OGFT, $23 million was pumped into the region’s economy in 2010 through various film productions, up from just $9 million the year before. Still, the industry is much smaller than the film business in Toronto or Vancouver, where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year.
“We are starting to see some small and medium-sized feature films come to Ottawa. If we can fill some of those infrastructure gaps that we have, we will see a great growth phase here,” McGowan says.
This should be of great interest to any business that values the quality and impact of an image. The key mission of an image is to catch the eye and lead the viewer through a series of images and sounds and then deposit them at the other end with a message, a feeling or a concept. That is the power of film and video.