Digital Domain

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Digital Domain
Type Private
Industry Visual effects for advertising and filmmaking
Founded 1993
Founders James Cameron, Scott Ross, Stan Winston
Headquarters Venice, Los Angeles, California
Key people Daniel Seah, Terry Clotiaux, Rich Flier, Joseph Gabriel, Amit Chopra
Owners Sun Innovation, Reliance MediaWorks
Website digitaldomain.com, d2.com

Digital Domain is an American visual effects and digital production company based in Venice, Los Angeles, California. The company is known for creating digital imagery for feature films, advertising and games, from its locations in California and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, including its own virtual production studio. In 2013, Hong Kong public company Sun Innovation acquired majority ownership in Digital Domain with Reliance MediaWorks holding a minority share.

History[edit]

The company was founded by film director James Cameron, Stan Winston and Scott Ross. It began producing visual effects in 1993, its first three films being True Lies, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, and Color of Night in 1994.

Digital Domain produced effects for more than 100 films, including Titanic, Apollo 13, What Dreams May Come, The Fifth Element, Armageddon, Star Trek: Nemesis and The Day After Tomorrow. Other films include Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, 2012, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, TRON: Legacy, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Real Steel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Oblivion, Iron Man 3[1] and most recently X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent.

From the film Stealth: the fictional F/A-37 Talon on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

In 2000 Digital Domain designed the digital character that represented Motorola's intelligent assistant, Mya.[2] In October 2002, Digital Domain launched a wholly owned subsidiary, D2 Software, Inc., to market and distribute its Academy Award-winning compositing software, Nuke.[3]

In 2002-2003, Digital Domain co-produced its first feature film, Secondhand Lions, written and directed by Tim McCanlies and starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, and Kyra Sedgwick.[4][5]

Principally due to conflicts over the film Titanic, the founders of Digital Domain were known to feud which almost destroyed the company. Founder Scott Ross announced plans to raise $100 million in financing and become more active as a production company.[6] This plan never materialized and the corporate owners forced management to seek a buyer of the company.

In May 2006, Digital Domain was purchased by an affiliate of Wyndcrest Holdings, LLC, a private holding company whose principals then included Wyndcrest founder John Textor, director Michael Bay, former Microsoft executive Carl Stork and former NFL player and sports television commentator Dan Marino.[7]

Wyndcrest acquired The Foundry in 2007, which then also took over the development of Nuke. This business was then subject to a management buy-out in 2009.[8]

In 2009, Digital Domain parent company DDMG launched Tradition Studios in Florida to develop and produce original, family-oriented CG animated features. The studio moved on January 3, 2012, to the new 115,000-square-foot (10,700 m2) facility in Port St. Lucie, built with the city's incentives.[9] The studio attracted a number of talented creators, including Aaron Blaise, the director of Brother Bear, and Brad Lewis, co-director of Cars 2, who together were developing an animated feature film The Legend of Tembo for a planned 2014 release, with Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams directing.[10][11][12][13]

In 2011, Digital Domain Media Group entered into the film production business with a major investment into the feature film Ender's Game, which was a co-production with OddLot Entertainment and Summit Entertainment. The film was released November 1, 2013.[14]

In November 2011, parent company DDMG took the company public through an initial public offering (IPO), and the company was listed on the NYSE under the symbol DDMG, achieving a market valuation of more than $400 million.[15] That IPO has since triggered a number of investor lawsuits, which allege misconduct by John Textor, the entire Board of Directors, the auditors and others involved in the offering.[16][17][18][19] Palm Beach Capital, the largest investor in DDMG, identified hedge funds, Tenor Capital et al., as the primary cause of the company's difficulties, citing unlawful finance penalties and possible illegal short selling strategies designed to damage the company's public stock price.[20][21]

In 2012, DDMG announced initiatives to open VFX studios in Beijing China and Abu Dhabi.[22]

Also in 2012, subsidiary Digital Domain created a virtual likeness of the late rap star Tupac Shakur for Dr. Dre's and Snoop Dogg's show at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that gained worldwide recognition. Digital Domain also announced that the company would create virtual Elvis Presley in partnership with CORE Media Group.[23]

Bankruptcy[edit]

DDMG's financial troubles began when a New York hedge fund that was affiliated with Florida Power & Light acquired DDMG's debt in a private transaction. The hedge fund pushed for early payback. The company contemplated filing felony usury charges against the hedge fund as a defense, ultimately deciding to refinance the debt with new debt from another hedge fund, Tenor Capital.[24] The company closed on the Tenor financing in early May 2012, appearing to have solved its problem with Florida Power & Light, with its stock price trading at an all-time high.[25] The company continued to need cash to support its Venice operations and its Florida studio growth.[26] Documents and emails provided to the press show that Digital Domain believed it had options to put cash into the company but were thwarted by Tenor Capital, which had significant weight as a chief lender and according to Palm Beach Capital and the Tenor strategy may have been shorting DDMG stock to profit from its failure.[27] When a deal to fund the company was thwarted on July 31, Tenor Capital demanded $51 million on August 20 as repayment for its $35 million loan made four months earlier.[24] The lenders appointed Mike Katzenstein as interim chief operating officer of the company who acted without conferring with DDMG senior management,[24] deciding to close the Florida studio, causing Chairman John Textor to submit a letter of resignation 'in profound disagreement' with this decision.[28]

It was announced, on September 7, 2012, all of DDMG's Port St. Lucie's operations, including Tradition Studios, was shut down, laying off nearly 300 employees, including 100 of them working on Tembo.[29]

On September 11, 2012, Digital Domain Media Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after defaulting on a $35 million loan,[29] and reached a deal to sell its operating businesses – Digital Domain and Mothership—to stalking horse Searchlight Capital Partners, L.P., a private investment firm, for $15 million. At the public auction on September 21, 2012, Digital Domain’s visual effects business in California and Vancouver, BC, Canada, and production company Mothership were acquired by a joint venture led by Beijing Galloping Horse America, LLC in partnership with Reliance MediaWorks (USA), severing all ties between the new company, Digital Domain 3.0 and subsidiary Mothership, and former owner DDMG. Galloping Horse holds a 70% stake and Reliance MediaWorks a 30% stake. The sale was approved on September 24, 2012.[30]

New ownership[edit]

In July 2013 majority ownership in Digital Domain was acquired by Hong Kong listed public company Sun Innovation with Reliance MediaWorks continuing to own the minority stake, and a new CEO, Daniel Seah, was appointed.[31]

Awards[edit]

Digital Domain artists and technologists have been recognized with seven Academy Awards: three for Best Visual Effects (Titanic, What Dreams May Come, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button);[32] and four for Scientific and Technical Achievement for its proprietary technology—i.e., for Track (proprietary tracking software),[33] for Nuke (proprietary compositing software),[34] for Storm (proprietary volumetric renderer),[35] and for its proprietary fluid simulation system.[36]

The company's work has been nominated for five Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects (Apollo 13, True Lies, I, Robot, Real Steel and Transformers: Dark of the Moon). In addition, its excellence in digital imagery and animation has earned Digital Domain multiple British Academy (BAFTA) Awards.

Digital Domain's Advertising division provides digital imagery and animation for television commercials, working with top commercial directors. To date, it has been awarded 37 Clio Awards, 22 AICP awards, 9 Cannes Lion Awards and numerous other advertising honors. The Advertising division has also produced multiple music videos working with artists that include The Rolling Stones, Faith Hill, Creed, Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Björk, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Nine Inch Nails, and has earned Grammy and MTV "Music Video of the Year" Awards.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Digital Domain Announces Vancouver Leadership Team". Digital Domain. 2010-01-12. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  2. ^ Larsen, Elizabeth (October 2000). "Mya way". I.D. (F+W) 47 (6): 88–92. 
  3. ^ "Digital Domain launches D2 Software, Inc.". FX Guide. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Expanding Horizons for Digital Domain and Stan Winston". Animation World Network. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Secondhand Lions". IMDb.com. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Lubove, Seth (14 Nivember 2005). "Sinking Ship". Forbes, Inc.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "Digital Domain Hires Three Creative Senior Executives from Visual Effects Industry". Computer Graphics World. 2006-09-21. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  8. ^ Palmer, Maija (June 3, 2009). "The Foundry returns to former management". Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  9. ^ Erazo, Christin (December 29, 2011). "Digital Domain ready to open its dazzling Tradition Studios | Photo Gallery". TCPalm. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  10. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (2011-06-29). "'Cars 2' Co-Director Brad Lewis Joining Digital Domain's Animation Studio". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  11. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (2011-08-10). "Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams will direct the film, currently in development.". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  12. ^ Howk, Alexi (2011-05-27). "Port St. Lucie's Digital Domain positioning itself to rival Disney, Pixar". tcpalm.com. Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  13. ^ Howk, Alexi (Autugst 11, 2011). "Digital Domain's Tradition Studios' 1st feature film to debut fall 2014 | Exclusive 1st look". TCPalm. Retrieved August 16, 2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ Cieply, Michael (January 14, 2013). "A Movie Mogul Rising (Jan. 14, 2013)". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Digital Domain Media Group IPO". October 23, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Berman DeValerio Files Securities Class Action Lawsuit against Former Executives and Directors of Digital Domain Media Group, Inc.". Business Wire. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Howk, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Alexi. "Digital Domain lawsuits: Three suits accuse Digital Domain of lying about financial status". WPTV.com. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  18. ^ "Securities Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Digital Domain Media Group, Inc.; Shareholders With Large Losses Encouraged to Contact Holzer Holzer & Fistel, LLC Regarding November 19th Lead Plaintiff Deadline". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "Former Digital Domain CEO & Auditors Sued For Fraud By Investors". Deadline.com. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  20. ^ "Dow Jones & Co. : Digital Domain Investor Palm Beach Capital Sues Over $25M Fee". 
  21. ^ "Motion seeks to limit how much Digital Domain lenders should be paid back". The Stuart News and TC Palm. 2012-10-30. 
  22. ^ Press, Associated (May 21, 2012). "Film Effects Company DDMG Plans Abu Dhabi Studio". Fox News. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  23. ^ Suddath, Claire (April 16, 2012). "How Tupac Became a Hologram: Is Elvis Next". Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  24. ^ a b c Pfahler, Eric (September 8, 2013). "One year later — how Digital Domain collapsed and how John Textor hopes to regroup". Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  25. ^ "zRange":"11","startDate":"2012-4-16","endDate":"2012-5-18","frequency":"d","chartStyle":"mountain","chartCursor":"1","scaleType":"0","yaxisAlign":"right","mode":"pan" http://investing.money.msn.com/investments/charts?symbol=ddmgq#{"zRange":"11","startDate":"2012-4-16","endDate":"2012-5-18","frequency":"d","chartStyle":"mountain","chartCursor":"1","scaleType":"0","yaxisAlign":"right","mode":"pan".  Missing or empty |title= (help)}
  26. ^ Seymour, Mike (June 17, 2013). "John Textor and what really happened inside Digital Domain Media Group?". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  27. ^ Kitchens, Susan (October 16, 2008). "The Convertible Arb Irony". Forbes. Retrieved October 16, 2008. 
  28. ^ . September 8, 2013 http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/779104-john-textor-letter-of-resignation.html#document/p6/a117033.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ a b "Digital Domain Port St. Lucie facility closing: Nearly 300 employees laid off". WPTV News Channel 5 (Port St. Lucie, FL). WPTV. September 7, 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2012. "According to Port St. Lucie Police, a Digital Domain executive flew in from California to inform employees their doors were closing. Port St. Lucie police were called in as a precaution. The company said Digital Domain executive Ed Ulbrich has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer of Digital Domain Productions. Earlier this week Digital Domain Media Group defaulted on a $35 million dollar loan, according to a public filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission." 
  30. ^ Szalai, George (September 24, 2012). "China's Galloping Horse and India's Reliance MediaWorks Win Auction for Digital Domain". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Digital Domain 3.0 Becomes Part of Sun Innovation". Press release (Digital Domain). July 27, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2013. 
  32. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (2009-02-23). "'Benjamin Button' is VFX's Holy Grail". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  33. ^ (Recipient) Roble, Dr. Douglas R. (1999-02-27). "1998 Scientific and Technical Academy Awards: Technical Achievement Awards". AMPAS. Archived from the original on 2007-12-08. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  34. ^ (Recipients) Spitzak, Bill; Paul Van Camp; Jonathan Egstad; and Price Pethel (2002-03-02). "2001 Scientific and Technical Academy Awards: Technical Achievement Awards". AMPAS. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  35. ^ (Recipient) Kapler, Alan (2005-02-12). "2004 Scientific and Technical Academy Awards: Technical Achievement Awards". AMPAS. Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  36. ^ (Recipients) Roble, Dr. Douglas R.; Nafees Bin Zafar; and Ryo Sakaguchi (2008-02-09). "2007 Scientific and Technical Academy Awards: Scientific and Engineering Awards". AMPAS. Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  37. ^ "Digital Domain Recruits ILM Trio". VFXWorld. 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]