Discovery Communications’ recent announcement that it will create a facility dedicated to digital animation and visual effects indicates the technology continues to gain momentum in the factual arena.
The facility, named Meteor Studios, will be a 50/50 venture between Discovery and Evergreen Films. According to David Karp, senior VP of business development for Discovery Networks, Evergreen’s owner Pierre de Lespinois, who has been named president of the new entity, will helm the day to day operations of the studio. Discovery will help finance the facility and will guarantee a minimum volume of work.
‘We have increasingly been doing more animation and special effects on our networks – and have had a great deal of success with it in programs like Mammoth- and have continued to put more emphasis on realistic animation to enhance programming,’ explains Karp. ‘With that increasing emphasis, we looked for ways to be able to include animation and effects in as efficient a manner as possible.’ Karp estimates the studio will decrease costs associated with digital animation and effects by 25% or more, as well as affording Discovery greater access to technicians and greater control over the inflow and outflow of work. Karp also points out that creating animation characters and environments in-house allows Discovery to secure full ownership of them.
Meteor Studios is expected to be operational by April 2001, and plans to accept third-party work in the future – although Karp says Discovery will have some influence over which projects are accepted.
Despite criticisms directed at ‘reality’ programs that utilize true-to-life animation, Karp doesn’t feel there is a conflict: ‘We’re creating real world imagery – worlds that don’t exist now or ones we can only imagine in the future and bringing them to life. We’re using it to enhance real world entertainment.’
In other Discovery news, the Discovery Science Channel has partnered with the Microsoft TV Content Builder Initiative (CBI) to develop an interactive prototype for its Electric Playgroundseries. The prototype will provide text and graphics enhancements that won’t require a PC, and will be developed on the Microsoft TV platform using a Motorola DCT-500+ set top box. Electric Playground is a 13-part series exploring what’s hot and what’s not in electronic gaming. It was coproduced with series creator Elecplay.com Productions.