Deluxe and Efilm go from strength to strength

05 November, 2009 by IF

Press release from Well Above

Major force in Australian film and television markets


One could argue that Deluxe Australia has had an impact in Australia for over 70 years as the company, in its earliest incarnation as Commonwealth Filmcraft Laboratories (CFL) was founded in Surry Hills in 1928 by the Budden Family and two other shareholders. The business was set up primarily to service the requirements of the Cinesound/Movietone News Reels. The lab also supplied B&W theatrical release prints for the cinemas of various ‘film exchanges’ (studios) such as Paramount, United Artists and MGM.

Today, though born of humble beginnings, Deluxe Australia is a powerhouse with its main facility in Lane Cove, Sydney, providing processing, printing, post production and distribution services for feature films, television and commercials. Deluxe Australia’s Sydney operations also include EFILM Australia, offering a broad range of creative services including digital post production, digital intermediates and deliverables; and StageOne Sound, a first class sound mixing facility. The 400 channel mixing stage is fully integrated into Deluxe’s film laboratory and EFILM Australia’s Sydney location so that filmmakers can manage all of their post needs under one roof. The group also includes Deluxe Melbourne’s film and digital operations and film laboratory services at Deluxe Auckland.

According to Deluxe Australia’s Managing Director Alaric McAusland the one defining factor in the company’s rise has been the people it employs and successfully keeps on board. He said, “There’s no denying we have some of the world’s best technology and equipment at Deluxe and EFILM but more importantly we have some of the world’s top talent sitting behind it and that’s why we have been able to grow so successfully all these years.”

The emergence of Australian film and film culture in the 1970s and 1980s saw industry greats such as Don McAlpine ACS and John Seale ACS start to develop relationships with the company (then known as Colorfilm) starting a trend that would last for decades amongst Australia’s top DOPs.

McAusland continued, “The company has enjoyed an extraordinarily exciting ride to get to where we are now. The long-term relationships we have been able to foster and nurture with Australia’s top creative talent over the years have really held us in good stead.”

In 2002 a key strategic partnership was formed with Deluxe acquiring a 50% interest in the Australasian laboratory operations of Atlab. In 2003 Atlab/Deluxe jointly constructed the highest capacity release printing facility in the Southern Hemisphere in Lane Cove, Sydney where it operates supplying prints throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

McAusland has had a very clear strategy which he has strived to put into place. As the company expanded he also saw growth in local productions and in the post production market. Looking to capitalise on these opportunities in 2004 Atlab/Deluxe deployed the region’s first ‘True’ Digital Intermediate (DI) in Sydney going on to service the cream of Australian feature productions including Ten Canoes, Rabbit Proof Fence and Happy Feet. In 2004 the lab and digital post operations were expanded further and relocated adjacent to its release printing operation creating, for the first time, an integrated end-to-end lab and digital feature post and distribution pipeline. In 2005 it expanded its ‘True’ DI offering to Melbourne.

Further digital expansion followed in 2006; telecine dailies being added to its suite of Sydney feature and broadcast digital services following the installation of a Thomson Spirit Datacine and daVinci grading. This service is currently being installed in  Melbourne.

In 2007 Deluxe’s market leading DI brand EFILM was launched in Sydney (the first affiliate outside of North America) with the upgrade of scanning and recording systems and installation of the cutting edge Eworks proprietary colour grading system. EFILM then went on to provide DI services to Australia, Bright Star, Disgrace, Samson & Delilah and is currently working on Peter Weir’s ‘The Way Back’.

McAusland says, “As you can see we have a history of serving filmmakers and the entertainment industry. Our strategy has been to offer a real one-stop shop providing technical services from behind the camera all the way through to producing the cinema prints.”

McAusland’s strategy is well on track. In 2008 Deluxe expanded its sound mixing facilities (having just completed the sound mix for Happy Feet) with the launch of StageOne Sound. StageOne went on to provide mixing services for Australia, Alex Proyas’ Knowing, Daybreakers and Peter Weir’s The Way Back.

Deluxe acquired the remaining 50% stake in Atlab in 2008 with the business rebranded as Deluxe Australia from early in 2009.

“We service most requirements under one roof” added McAusland. Post production is a big part of our business but we offer our services in a modular fashion – taking a boutique approach to VFX, sound, film and data processing, mastering, duplication and replication. We are well aware that there is plenty of competition out there and we set our standards very high to encourage our clients to use all our services and to keep them coming back. At the end of the day it’s always their choice how much and how many of our services they use.”

McAusland sees Deluxe Australia as a safe pair of hands in a challenging market. He concedes that it is the only company that can truly take a project from on-set to in-cinema. He also realizes that this level of service comes at a cost.

“One of our key principles is to get in early and help manage as much of the project as we can. We have a good infrastructure that can equally manage everything from data dailies or processing two million feet of film with the same level of efficiency.” Said McAusland.

Deluxe saw the digitization of the industry that started in 2000 continue to dominate and affect the way the industry was changing and evolving. With EFILM firmly established in the market the combined companies currently employ over 250 people in Australia and has a list of formidable successes under its belt including Mao’s Last Dancer, Bright Star, the award winning Samson and Delilah and Peter Weir’s The Way Back.

“We are particularly proud of The Way Back.” Comments  McAusland. “Peter (Weir) and U.S. based Spitfire Productions wanted a facility that could handle the  bulk of the film’s post production requirements in-house and with the $5million PDV rebate as an incentive, Australia became a very viable option. We met with Peter and his editor Lee Smith (best known for his work on Batman) and mapped out all the creative post options available. The movie was going to be Peter’s first full DI feature and because of this we wanted to make sure we covered all bases, we sent our senior colourist Olivier Fontenay to the shoot in Bulgaria to see the landscapes and  sets first hand and to establish an early creative dialogue with Peter and Lee.”

Fontenay spent a good deal of time in Bulgaria meeting also with the movies’ DOP Russell Boyd (Master & Commander) collaborating on a series of tests to develop and establish the look of the film. The DI was completed at 4K using EFILM’s proprietary Eworks colour grading system, Arri scanners and recorders in EFILM’s multiple colour timing suites.

McAusland added, “One of the other critical deciding factors for Peter Weir and the production in finishing the film in Australia was the existence of a world class re-recording stage, we were delighted he recognized our StageOne Sound as one of the best mixing facilities in the world.”

At 1500 cubic metres in size, Stage One, the larger of two mixing stages at StageOne Sound, is one of only nine in the world to be Dolby Premier certified. Centred on a 410-input Neve DfC Gemini Console with 72 faders configured for dual mixer operation, this is the largest and most technically advanced console in Australia.

The Way Back was a massive undertaking with tight timeframes. Even with that as a backdrop Weir and his team enjoyed the seamless transfer of data between suites and the convenience of having many of the editorial and post functions under one roof at Deluxe Australia. Deluxe also generated colour references for Adelaide VFX house Rising Sun, who completed the bulk of the film’s complex visual effects sequences.

The Way Back is a true example of a project where Deluxe Australia, EFILM Australia and StageOne Sound helped manage the creative workflow from start to finish. Commencing with pre-vis, Telecine and look-development, the sound was finished at their facilities on both stages with pre and final mixing completed alongside DI grading and VFX. Deluxe printmastered, created the film’s digital negative and sound negative elements and produced the final answerprint and digital cinema deliverables all in the one location.

On many occasions, Deluxe Australia has found that Fujifilm stock has given customers a great pre-vis on the show with excellent results.  

In 2009 Deluxe Australia purchased Theatrical distribution Services (TDS) from Paramount Pictures Australia. TDS offered inventory management and logistics solutions to the motion picture distribution community including theatrical film prints, DCinema drives and in-cinema marketing materials such as trailers, posters, 3-D glasses and cinema standees. The TDS acquisition reaffirmed Deluxe’s commitment to its customers by providing the highest quality in physical and digital asset management. TDS’ expanded footprint in Australia means that Deluxe Australia is now unique in its ability to offer true end-to-end management of digital and film media assets from camera to projection booth, both securely and efficiently.

Explaining his future vision for the company Alaric McAusland concluded, “We want to continue to offer the best quality technical and creative services to the industry and stay 100% client focused. We will continue to invest in the best people and back them with the best technology to help bring out their passion for what they do so well. We are currently expanding Deluxe Melbourne to offer the same level of services as Sydney and further capitalise on the successes we have already had there with great movies like Bran Nue Dae and Last Ride. All in all the creative locks are being unpicked every step of the way. With DI and D-Cinema ever-growing in significance there are real possibilities and opportunities and we aim to capitalise on these by delivering the same highest quality post in Sydney and Melbourne. Our strategy therefore is very simple, always give the industry the very best of every discipline it can expect in creative services, post production and film processing under one roof and tailor our offerings to the local market and its unique requirements.”

If current success and growth to date are anything to go by, most would say Alaric McAusland and Deluxe Australia are right on track to deliver.