SANTA CLARITA, CA—Santa Clarita may not be as synonymous with film and television production as Hollywood, but in 2016, the city’s film office recorded 548 film permits and 1,366 film days—a reported 52 percent increase since 2011. Capitalizing on the area’s growing content creation, Dennis Ho, CEO of longtime Hollywood-based full-service post house Digital Jungle, has relocated and will officially reopen in Santa Clarita in a month or so.
Ho hasn’t personally relocated; he has long lived in the area. That experience partially informed his decision to move Digital Jungle 25 miles north of Hollywood. “The commute is rough going from here into Hollywood, Burbank or the Westside. But as you commute, you look on the other side [of the freeway] and it’s clear,” he says. “So we’re capitalizing on traffic flow.”
Santa Clarita has more than 20 sound stages (several studios, including Disney/ABC, have recently announced expansion plans) plus 10 movie ranches that can stand in for anything from an urban setting to a desert military base. The city is also within the 30-mile radius that the studios use to determine rates and driving distances for crew members on union film projects. The increase in production is additionally being driven by the California Film Incentive Program, which has helped attract shows such as HBO’s Westworld and Ballers, and Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet to the area.
Despite all that production work, says Ho, “There isn’t one full-service post facility like us out here. It is a bit of a gamble to pick this location and to build a full-on facility, but business has always been a risk-taking proposition.” Santa Clarita may not be a post production hub yet, he says, “But it could be.”
Ho has plenty of experience building facilities; this is his fourth. This time, though, he says, “I’ve got a smaller footprint and a lower overhead. If I want to kick around in this business for another five, seven years, the stress is off.”
Starting with a clean slate, Ho has packed a lot into a smaller space. “Technology keeps changing, and if you want to stay in the game, you’ve got to change with it. I’m not a huge facility, but I’ve got one bay of everything. With all this technical firepower, there’s no reason why we can’t compete with the bigger boys in Hollywood and Burbank,” he says.
The new facility is also home to feature film development and production studio Digital Jungle Pictures. Ho currently has three finished features in various stages of distribution on streaming, VOD and, eventually, broadcast platforms. “My plate is very full,” he says.
Phase one, building and outfitting a color grading room, a visual effects suite and an audio mix bay on the upper floor, is complete. “At the very least, I needed three rooms to deliver projects to our indie feature clients,” says Ho, who recently finished a feature for Lifetime.
“We have DaVinci for feature color grading work. For visual FX, we have Maya, Mocha, Combustion, Smoke. Both rooms are editorial rooms, too, if need be.”
The audio mix room is equipped with a 7.1 system of JBL LSR6328P two-way speakers and includes a voice over/ADR booth that comfortably accommodates two. Digital Jungle was an early adopter of the Avid S6, which is in the room temporarily, says Ho. “Once phase two is done, this will be our pre-lay and voice over room. The console will go into the larger room; I’m not sure what I’ll put here.”
Phase two includes an upstairs server room plus a 4K Barco projector bay for the large dual-purpose theater under construction downstairs. “I think we may be the first or the only in the industry to design a theater that will serve as both a large mix bay and a DI theater,” says Ho.
“I wanted to maximize the flexibility of the real estate that we have here. I think it’s cool that a client can walk into one bay, color grade their project, conform, do the visual effects, and mix in there.”
If clients don’t like the dual-use concept, he says, “We can always change it. It comes down to scheduling and logistics, more than anything else. You can do 80 percent of the audio work in the small room upstairs and bring everything downstairs for the final mix.” The facility will be fully networked, he adds.
Ho is still weighing his options—7.1 versus Dolby Atmos—for the mix/DI stage. Currently, a system of 10 JBL LSR6332 speakers and subwoofers are earmarked for installation in the theater. Whatever the format, he says, “We hope to be Dolby certified.”
A peek into the temporary machine room demonstrates that Digital Jungle will not be abandoning legacy video formats. “We have one-inch, Beta SP, Digibeta. It’s important for a full-service facility to be able to handle a plethora of formats,” he says.
Ho is happy to have left behind the grime, crime, traffic congestion and parking problems of Hollywood for the tranquility of his new Santa Clarita digs, and hopes his clients will share his enthusiasm for the new location. “Wouldn’t it be nice if clients could come into a serene, peaceful, woodsy environment to do their work and not worry about all that stuff they have to contend with in Burbank and Hollywood?”
Digital Jungle Post Production