2016年年初，PO朝霆两大创始人杨文杰和谢霆锋把公司大部分股份出售给了香港上市公司数字王国集团有限公司（Digital Domain Holdings），中国最大规模的后期制作公司就此成立，更名为数字王国中国公司（Digital Domain China）。
In early 2016, Post Production Office (PO) founders Dennis Yeung and Nicholas Tse sold more than half of the company to Hong Kong-listed firm Digital Domain Holdings, creating one of the largest postproduction companies in China, now known as Digital Domain China (DDC).
The acquisition represents a major landmark in PO’s 14-year history, long by Chinese standards, in which the company has survived a volatile, inhospitable environment and steadily expanded while competitors have fallen away. It also armed it with the expertise and resources needed to pivot toward becoming a more creative post production company.
SHP+ met Yeung, COO of Digital Domain China, in Shanghai to track PO’s journey, learn more about the new incarnation and reflect on three key jobs from Digital Domain China’s first year of operations.
数字王国中国首席运营官：杨文杰 | Dennis Yeung, COO of Digital Domain China
从香港到大陆 | Hong Kong to China
In 2002, in a bid to pick up feature films and music video postproduction work that had previously been going to Australia and Thailand, actor Nicholas Tse decided to start his own studio in Hong Kong. Tse reached out to friend and Hong Kong sound designer, Dennis Yeung. Yeung came on board and, from an initial team of eight, the expansion began. By 2009, Yeung estimates PO had over 50% of the market share in Hong Kong.
谢霆锋，PO朝霆创始人，香港艺人| Nicholas Tse, Hong Kong actor and founder of PO
The Hong Kong market was booming, but Tse and Yeung saw a downturn coming. “Nicholas and I had a coffee to decide what to do next”, says Yeung “We just said, let’s go to China. The conversation was like 15 minutes.”
In 2009, PO established a studio on Xinhua Lu, Shanghai, with four people, one grading and one offline suite, focused exclusively on TV commercial postproduction.
“The first year was very difficult.” says Yeung, “Clients in Shanghai are not asking for quality first, they ask for budget.” PO’s idea had been to capitalise on the industry’s transition from 35mm to digital, but clients were balking at the changes, “People were saying digital was no good, they still wanted 35. We got attacked a lot by clients.” Nonetheless, a year later, PO expanded into a six-room studio in the Red Town Art District.
PO朝霆参与制作：《捉妖记》| Monster Hunt: some invovlment from PO on post
In 2012, PO set its sights on Beijing and China’s burgeoning movie industry. Again, Yeung says, a new city presented a steep learning curve, “We thought it would be easy, but everything there is about connections and relationships.” Nonetheless, working at “full capacity, 24 hours a day” PO postproduced 32 feature films in 2014, followed by 60 more in 2015. These days, the studio employs over 200 people.
公司屹立不倒的秘诀 | The Key To Longevity
众所周知，中国后期制作市场出了名的难做，尤其是2009年那一阵市场混乱又缺乏监管，但是PO朝霆却挺过来了。对于那些国外后期公司竞争对手，他们也毫不畏惧。Smoke & Mirrors, Digital District，Pixomondo 上海，这些外国公司来了又去，而PO朝霆依然屹立不倒。
Mainland China’s postproduction industry is a notoriously difficult environment, yet PO has endured. When foreign competition arrived, PO held its own. Smoke & Mirrors, Digital District and Pixomondo Shanghai came and went. More recently, the company has fended off potent competition from major players like MPC and Fin.
数字王国中国作品：百事迪士尼篇 | Digital Domain China: Pepsi Disney
Yeung says PO’s longevity is attributable to three factors: service, quality and capacity. “You need to have full service if you want to compare to us. You need editing, grading, everything. Others don’t have that.” He adds that unlike his competition, PO’s team has always been built around a core of full time staff, providing the resources to meet demand. Last July was a case in point. “We had a project that has 21 TVCs at the same time that used up our whole facility”, he says “We were the only ones who could handle that. The client was happy because they could do everything in one shop.”
Yeung also believes that, as Chinese, PO is culturally more relatable for many clients, and amenable to working the longer hours that they expect.
What about the delayed payments and subsequent cash flow problems that have proven fatal for so many other companies? “We have a lot of rules and we are very strict about them”, says Yeung, “You need to have a very good system of chasing payment, getting evidence, keeping records. There are no contracts in China.”
数字王国中国作品：奔驰130周年 | Digital Domain China: Mercedes Benz 130th
“If you want to work with PO as a friend, you’re always welcome. But if you want to be enemies, you’re welcome as well. In case of an issue, just know that we’re not afraid to take it to court.” –Dennis Yeung
数字王国 | Digital Domain
1996年，James Cameron，Scott Ross和Stan Winston联合创立了数字王国。早期公司如日中天的时候，曾拿下七项奥斯卡特效奖，好莱坞大片《泰坦尼克号》的制作，还有自己的专利软件，还有几十项广告奖。然而十年之后，公司变卖，开始了一段动荡时期。直到2013年香港上市公司Sun Innovation收购了数字王国大部分股份，并任命Daniel Seah担任CEO后公司才逐渐开始稳定，。
Digital Domain was co-founded in 1996 by James Cameron, Scott Ross and Stan Winston. In its heyday, the company won seven Academy Awards for VFX work on blockbuster movies like Titanic and its own proprietary software, and scooped dozens of advertising accolades. However, the sale of the company a decade later marked the beginning of a turbulent seven-year ordeal. The ship began to steady in summer 2013 when Hong Kong listed public company Sun Innovation purchased majority ownership in Digital Domain Holdings (DDH) and appointed Daniel Seah as CEO.
数字王国中国参与制作：《西游伏妖篇》| Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back: some invovlment from Dgital Domain China
早在2012年，PO朝霆与数字王国就有所接触，当时是杨文杰前往洛杉矶拓展业务。四年之后，数字王国逐渐稳定下来，想要打入中国市场，以1.35亿港币买入了PO朝霆控股公司Lucrative Skill 85%的股份。
PO’s acquaintance with Digital Domain had begun in 2012 when Yeung went to LA on a business development mission. Four years later, looking for a route in to the Chinese market, a stabilised DDH purchased 85% of Lucrative Skill, PO’s holding company, for HK$135 million.
Was Yeung worried about the future before the sale? “The only thing I was worried about was that prices were too low, that they would destroy the whole postproduction market”, he says. “If we continued to only do service work, I think the company would have died in three to five years. I knew we needed to change.”
数字王国中国作品：雷克萨斯ES | Digital Domain China: Lexus ES
Though many production and postproduction companies aspire to do creative work, Yeung says for most that is impossible due to a lack of “funding, talent and technical ability”. For Digital Domain China, that is no longer the case. Bolstered by investment from Softbank and Citic Bank, the company is offering creative services for virtual reality, 360° panorama video recording and digital human rendering services for mainland Chinese cinema, TV, advertising, concerts and sports events.
数字王国中国作品：穿越火线DF | Digital Domain China: CrossFire DF
服务工作是公司的主要收入来源。最初被数字王国收购时，确实经历了动荡不安，很多PO朝霆的客户都去找别人做，但是现在又都回来找他们了，还有很多很久之前的客户也回来了。公司继续服务中国客户，同时还要处理洛杉矶工作室多余的工作量。高级调色师Nikola Stefanovic和Ben Conkey不仅服务北京上海客户，负责广告片和电影，还要远程服务数字王国洛杉矶等海外客户。
Service work remains the bread and butter. The initial uncertainty after DDH’s purchase saw some PO clients try new vendors but Yeung says they are all coming back, along with others that had long since departed. The company continues to serve its China clients and handle surplus shots for the L.A office. Senior Colorists, Nikola Stefanovic and Ben Conkey serve commercial and feature film clients in Shanghai and Beijing, and work remotely for DDH clients in L.A and overseas.
The company boasts a formidable workforce with around 200 VFX artists, six Flame artists in Shanghai and two in Beijing, seven in-house editors and seven colourists. The company is actively seeking to add to its existing roster of ten creative directors.
Despite the relative comfort that the company now enjoys, Yeung says he is as motivated as ever, traveling between his Hong Kong home and the Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan and India offices, where he oversees operations. “I’ll be wherever I need to be”, he explains. “Yesterday I was supposed to go to Beijing, but as I was about to check in at the airport, I got a call saying I needed to come to Shanghai to do an interview. My schedule is crazy. I’ve never worked harder”.
2016数字王国中国三大项目 | 2016 Digital Domain China’s 3infocus
王菲“幻乐一场2016”演唱会全场VR直播 | Virtual Reality Broadcast for “Faye’s Moments – Live 2016”
On December 30th 2016, Chinese singer Faye Wong gave a concert at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai for 8000 adoring fans.
王菲“幻乐一场2016”演唱会 | Faye’s Moments – Live 2016
Digital Domain China’s production team designed and produced special effects for in-show visuals for the songs “Smoke”, “That Fleeing Year” and “Beautiful Mistake”, and the transition effects for “Hope”, “Awakening” and “Indulgence”.
Meanwhile, thanks to the latest 360° camera, Kronos, over 100,000 fans across China were able to watch the show online via their mobile phones, on both Whaley’s live VR platform and Tencent Video. It is believed to be the largest ever VR audience for an event in China.
王菲“幻乐一场2016”演唱会：《烟》VR版本| VR version: Faye’s Moment – Live 2016: Smoke
Digital Domain China created visual effects for the virtual reality version including a virtual environment adorned with nebulas and comets for the song “Meteor”. “We cleverly used this technique to cover the top portion of the concert venue and deliver a 360-degree space”, says EP Loris Paillier. For “Divide”, the team applied abstract geometric effects to create a visual representation of the song’s title.
戴尔《街头霸王》| Dell – “Streetfighter”
The brief from agency VML was to animate a fight between characters Chun-Li and Ryu from the famous video game Street Fighter to promote Dell’s new gaming laptop.
戴尔《游匣热血魂》| Dell Streetfighter
Digital Domain China was less than 2 month to execute a 73-second, 90% animated spot. “No-one else in Beijing dared to take it. But we did an excellent job.”, says Yeung.
Working with such iconic IP brought challenges. Game company Capcom refused to provide the character assets, meaning Digital Domain China had to build them from scratch based on 20-page guideline manuals. Capcom were meticulous in every last detail to ensure the results stayed true to the brand, from the character build, to the rainfall effect, to the animation.
The studio employed motion and facial capture technology to bring another dimension to the character performance. To take things yet further, some of the action was retimed or overlaid with hand animation.
“For the time we had, this spot is pretty impressive. I’m very proud of what a great job the team did.”, says Yeung.
- 制作：Draft & Real
- Client: Dell
- Agency: VML
- Production: Draft & Real
- Director: Li Hailong
- Post: Digital Domain China
老板电器 – “太空厨房” | Robam – “Space Kitchen”
Outer space is currently a popular setting for Chinese advertising. In September 2016, Digital Domain China was briefed by agency Verawom to create a realistic zero gravity effect for an online spot for kitchen appliance makers Robam.
老板《太空厨房》| Robam Space Kitchen
Digital Domain China worked with the agency to make rendering, lighting and sound decisions in advance and had a presence on set for two full days and nights to ensure the shoot lent itself to a smooth postproduction process.
The studio then had a month to execute the post, which included combining hundred of elements like the floating ingredients and people, all of which were shot separately on wires in front of a blue screen. The high ceilings in the opening and the water would have to be computer generated.
The post process hit a number of bumps along the way but producer Alexis Que explains, “Our team is strong and professional. So much so that we finished the spot before it was due. The client was very happy.”
- 配乐：Sync Music
- Client: Robam
- Agency: Verawom
- Production: Greenspot Shanghai
- Post: Digital Domain China
- Score: Sync Music