Kerner, the 30-year Marin County-based visual effects company that was once home to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), has refocused its efforts on stereoscopic 3D production. The move comes as the company finds itself under new ownership, and has honed its already-formidable skills in 3D technology and production.
First, some history: Kerner—formerly Kerner Optical—has long been the center of compelling new technologies, with significant achievements in motion control and other specialized camera systems. When George Lucas founded ILM in 1971, he assembled a cast of the most talented and innovative visual effects artists, who created not just digital, but also practical, effects with miniatures and models. When ILM moved its CG artists to the San Francisco Presidio, it was determined that the practical visual effects division would stay put at the historic facility on Kerner Boulevard. And Kerner Optical was born.
Since then, Kerner Studios has continued to serve ILM projects as well as offer its services to producers of television, film, commercial, music video, and corporate productions. Among its many offerings, Kerner houses a state-of-the-art production space with several fully equipped indoor and outdoor stages, camera (2D and 3D) equipment, and experienced talent.
As it evolved, the Kerner Group has also launched other new service divisions, including those involved with commercial production, model and miniature design for non-entertainment clients, corporate/government research, and the production of original 3D film and television projects.
The refocus on 3D stereoscopic production—based on the company’s Kernercam 3D rigs—grew out of a change in ownership. The Kerner Group was acquired a year ago by Eric Edmeades, who was managing director for nine years of the ITR Group, a mobile computing and wireless networking firm in Bristol, England. He was first introduced to Kerner as a consultant and, because of his passion for film and technology, decided to devote his energies and resources to Kerner.
Also on the team is president Tim Partridge, who joined the company from Dolby Laboratories where, during his 20-year tenure, he played a critical role in the adoption of Surround Sound and Dolby Digital sound in film industries around the world. His leadership in the development of Dolby 3D led him to his position at Kerner. Other new executive team members are CGO John Goetze and managing director of Kerner Studios (Canada) Gavin Wilding.
The new executive team undertook a year-long analysis of how to push Kerner’s brand and capabilities forward. A year later, the Kerner Group launched its emphasis on 3D production and technological expertise, built atop a foundation of its existing facilities, camera rigs, and expertise.
Edmeades praises the talent, skills, and creativity of the Kerner team, and notes that the focus on stereoscopic 3D production is a natural for the company that developed the Empire Camera, a super-high-speed camera using the Vistavision format for The Empire Strikes Back. (That camera—still in use today—is available only through The Kerner Group.) The company’s Kernercam 3D capture systems are beam-splitter rigs of varying sizes, available for broadcast or cinematic applications.
The company has now gone into full-on production of its Kernercam 3D rigs, in response to an increasing demand for 3D production gear, and the Kernercam 3D camera rig has already been used in productions. One of those was the production of actor David Arquette’s short 3D film, The Butler’s In Love, which opened the Sixth Annual HollyShorts Film Festival, August 5, at the Director’s Guild of America Theatre in Los Angeles. The Butler’s In Love, directed by Arquette, features Thomas Jane (HBO’s Hung), Elizabeth Berkley (CSI Miami), and Arquette. Edmeads reports that Kerner’s 3D team made a point of including fire, glass, and other elements that are very difficult to do in 3D, to show off the capabilities of the Kernercam 3D rig.
Kerner 3D Technologies also recently delivered two Kernercam 3D systems to Japanese broadcaster NHK Cosmomedia America, Inc., where they are being used for sports and entertainment programming, as well as one 3D system to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, based in Vancouver, Canada.
In addition to 3D production, Kerner 3D Technologies—following Kerner’s tradition of research and development into innovative camera systems—focuses on developing new and better 3D filmmaking tools.
KernerStudios is home to three divisions: KernerFX, Kerner3D, and Kernerworks. KernerFX provides physical effects to the film, television, and commercial production industries. Specialties include elements (wind, fire, water, smoke, dust, and so on), pyrotechnics, scenes of destruction, the design and production of models, and practical miniature effects of all scales. Recent credits including visual effects contributions to Terminator Salvation (for which the company earned a Visual Effects Society Award nomination), the 2009 version of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, and Ironman II. Kernerworks, similar to Lockheed-Martin’s Skunkworks department, undertakes a variety of important (and sometimes secret) projects for government and private-sector contractors.
Key personnel within The Kerner Group include Brian Gernand, senior creative director who oversees the newly formed KernerFX unit; Greg Beaumont, engineer, Kerner 3D technologies unit; Geoff Heron: practical effects supervisor; and Rose Duignan, executive producer, The Kerner Group.