EDnet Emerges as Global Leader in Convergence of Professional Digital Communications:
EDnet the company that pioneered globe-spanning professional digital communications for the entertainment and advertising industries, is thriving through new strategic and technological alliances.
All digital transmissions may one day be carried over the same pipeline, and EDnet has the expertise and experience installing and managing true start-to-finish professional digital networks to make that happen. Thus, it was a natural step for EDnet to integrate Internet communications into our ISDN-based audio/video network.
In fact, complete “end-to-end” service, including hardware, software, 24-hour technical support, and a crucial edlink™ “digital bridge” that allows networking between incompatible digital compression formats, has always been a hallmark of EDnet’s business model. “Studios and other facilities buying high-speed, high-quality digital communications equipment have to select a preferred standard, and there are competing and evolving standards,” notes Tom Scott, EDnet’s Vice President of Technology. “edlink guarantees that if they’re part of our network, they will be able to communicate digitally with each other.”
The networking technology used by EDnet was first developed by Tom Kobayashi, Company co-founder, with VP of Technology, Tom Scott, when they worked at Skywalker Sound, a division of LucasArts Entertainment. For the making of the hit movie, Backdraft, Kobayashi and Scott created a fiber optic link to transmit high-quality audio between Skywalker’s Northern and Southern California facilities. With the blessing of LucasArts, Kobayashi, Scott and David Gustafson founded EDnet in 1992.
With its “end-to-end” business model and commitment to top-quality digital transmission – and a management team with roots in entertainment as well as computers – EDnet started signing up network affiliates, beginning with audio facilities. Film and television audio post houses and music recording studios found they could not only save money but link far-flung talent and other creatives by using EDnet to share production-quality sound. Howard Schwartz Recording in New York and San Francisco-based Music Annex were two of EDnet’s earliest audio-for-film clients, along with Warner Bros., Turner Entertainment, and Disney’s Buena Vista. In the music world, Capitol/EMI, Sony Music, and The Hit Factory were soon joined by such leading producers as Phil Ramone, who installed EDnet connections in their own project studios. Entertainment clients included record labels Atlantic, Elektra, and Arista, the Disney-MGM studios in Florida, and an expanded presence at 20th Century Fox. Frank Marshal, James Cameron, Frank Oz, and Chris Columbus are among top film directors who have employed EDnet in their array of must-have tools. Seeing the chance to travel less while staying on top of recording projects, recording artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Bruce Springsteen to Celine Dion have followed suit in their private studios. Composers James Newton Howard, Alan Menken, David Newman and David Foster have successfully used the EDnet network. Corporate advertising clients include J.W. Thompson and McCann Ericson and WB Doner.
By the mid-’90s, EDnet began adding video to its digital-networking package. The company used VideoFax and Spot Rocket™ systems to send full-motion, full-screen “approval-quality” video spots and visual effects over ISDN lines. In 1999, in a move that opened up major markets in film and television post production for the company, EDnet launched a new video network service based on a revolutionary store-and-forward digital media delivery system, Telestream’s ClipMail™ Pro. ClipMail features a variety of LAN and WAN support configurations that give EDnet affiliates the ability to send and receive both short- and long-form video. ClipMail Pro was recognized as the “editor’s top pick” at that year’s NAB. EDnet also continues to collaborate with Polycom to provide the next generation of live, interactive video, utilizing broadband IP-based video conferencing for a number of TV series producers.
Strategic partnerships that have helped build EDnet’s network include those with Verizon/MCI, Dolby Laboratories, and Audio Processing Technology (APT). EDnet and MCI have been cooperating for for almost twenty years to provide EDnet clients with trouble-free, direct-dial international ISDN-line connections. EDnet not only uses the DolbyFax™ and APT audio transmission codecs throughout its own network, but also acts as sole North American distributor for both products. EDnet’s unique “end-to-end” service model was the key to securing such elusive distribution agreements. “With EDnet, we are confident that DolbyFax customers will receive the best possible service, support, and sales options for their ISDN audio requirements,” says Dolby’s Marketing Manager for Professional Audio Products.
The company also offers systems employing MPEG Layer II and Layer III algorithms, including codecs made by Telos, Mayah, and Musicam (CCS).
The company has also developed long-distance multi-channel transmission capabilities in response to increased demand for 5.1 surround sound mix delivery and approval screenings and in anticipation of the emergence of DTV, and the advent of HDTV and digital delivery directly to theatres.
Though not a name known to the ticket-buying public, EDnet has played an important role since the 90’s in major entertainment productions. Hollywood blockbusters Titanic, Saving Private Ryan (which won the Oscars for best sound in ’98 and ’99 respectively), Shakespeare in Love, A Bug’s Life, Tarzan, A Civil Action, Stepmom, Mulan, and Babe, Pig in the City, and popular TV shows South Park, Hercules, and Xena have all used EDnet to accomplish key audio recording and post-production tasks. For Saving Private Ryan, EDnet set up synchronized screenings with six-channel audio between Dreamworks in LA and Skywalker Ranch in Northern California. EDnet also provided long-distance six-channel playback synchronized with video for the new Star Wars trailer, allowing George Lucas to give mix approval from Australia.
On one of the earliest music recording projects to involve EDnet – and one which demonstrated the exciting creative possibilities presented by reliable high-speed, high-quality digital networks – famed producer Phil Ramone used EDnet’s services extensively to create the Grammy®-winning Frank Sinatra Duets album. EDnet enabled Ramone to make musical magic without attempting the daunting task of getting each singer into the studio with Sinatra. More recently, Bruce Springsteen used an EDnet connection in his home studio to work long-distance with engineer Bob Clearmountain on Tracks, approving mixes and even adding new harmonica and guitar parts. And Santa Monica’s FX & Design has repeatedly used EDnet on major film projects to link distant shooting locations with visual effects houses in Vancouver and its own offices in Southern California.
But the EDnet connection is not always a long-distance one. In shades of things to come, some producers have found it more cost-effective to view commercial rough-cuts via EDnet than to kill half a day traveling roundtrip from LA to Santa Monica or Long Island to Manhattan. Tom Ringo, then chief engineer for film director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black and others), remarked, “The EDnet connection between his home studio and Magno Sound saved Barry enough time and grief to pay for itself in the first week.”
“Top creative people want the freedom and power that high-quality digital communications can deliver, but they don’t want headaches – hardware, software, or otherwise,” notes Scott. “I believe that’s why so many top creatives have put their trust in EDnet. They know they’ll get the productivity boost and we’ll take care of the headaches.”
EDnet’s network has grown steadily since the company’s inception and today counts over 700 affiliates across North America, with another 200 associate facilities throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim. With a reputation built on nearly ten years of dependable service, feet planted firmly in strategically important markets, and with so much new technology – and technological savvy – in hand, EDnet is uniquely positioned to lead the way in the broad deployment of effective wide-area digital media networks.
EDnet’s ambition to become a leader in networking solutions for business as well as entertainment took a giant leap forward in January of 1999 when their parent company, then called Visual Data Corporation, now known as Onstream Media Corp., was selected by PR Newswire to provide its customers with live audio and video webcasting services.
PR Newswire, the world’s largest distributor of news releases to the media and financial industries, had been using the services of Broadcast.com. Under the agreement, EDnet and Onstream Media produced a virtual news conference for business supply giant W.W. Grainger, launching a new on-line marketplace in partnership with five other industrial supply leaders. The live, interactive news conference was widely praised for the exceptional quality of its video and audio. EDnet and Onstream Media have since Webcast events for many of PR Newswire’s Fortune 1000 clients including General Motors and the New York International Auto Show, Blue Cross, Dow Corning, and Hyundai among others.
According to Onstream Media’s President and CEO Randy Selman, “Our worldwide network of webcasters, combined with EDnet’s worldwide high quality audio network, provides clients with a cost-effective, real-time broadcasting solution that can be deployed on short notice and reach millions of viewers. Ultimately, [the combination] will provide our clients with a start-to-finish set of solutions for their audio and video creation, broadcast, and distribution needs.”