i3 | September 25, 2017

Canon Burbank: Ready for Tomorrow's Technology

Cindy Loffler Stevens

In July, Canon opened its state of the art Professional Technology & Support Center in Burbank, CA.

In July, Canon opened its state of the art Professional Technology & Support Center in Burbank, CA. The facility provides professional filmmakers and still imaging customers with an enhanced technical environment that includes product evaluation, testing, product and workflow training, industry events and repairs. Eliott Peck, executive vice president and general manager of the Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon U.S.A., Inc., who also sits on CTA’s Executive Board, said, “When you have smart people and great technology, that is when innovation really happens.” He explained the concept behind Canon Burbank to i3.

Why did you create Canon Burbank?

Canon’s outreach to the film industry was homegrown in the U.S. because of the unique nature of Hollywood and film production and our expertise in image capture in both still and video. Six years ago we launched our Cinema EOS line of cameras and lenses and offered a facility in Hollywood to service and support these high-end professional products. When we saw how quickly Cinema EOS was embraced by the filmmaking community, it became apparent that we needed a bigger boat, as they say in Jaws. We learned that real hands-on experience is critical. The directors, the director of photography (DP) and the camera operators rely on an environment where everything connects and everything works – from the prepping of equipment to being able to screen films – so we approached Burbank with a fresh slate and listened to the experts. We started from scratch and built the facility to their specifications. The building is a real working evaluation and testing studio that meets clients’ needs. It is a direct result of spending years truly listening to our clients and then demonstrating our commitment to them in a very visible way.

What is the ecosystem?

It takes a village to create a film but it takes a city to deliver the content to users in a changing environment. Many of the content creators and parts of that ecosystem are members of CTA. We live in a world of streaming and 4K content delivered directly to users but changes in the technology will eventually move us into 8K and beyond. How do you demonstrate or service that? We created this environment to demonstrate this technology in a way that helps professionals share their vision when they create a film, TV show or documentary. We built the infrastructure and cabling to make it future proof and ready for tomorrow’s technology – that means more data storage and bandwidth. In this facility, to move data from our DI suite or editing bays to our screening room, you transmit the information the same way that it gets transmitted to your house. Every step in that ecosystem can be demonstrated or tested at Canon Burbank.

How does this facility encourage innovation?

Creating films, TV shows, or documentaries is an art. Every DP has a vision for their story. It could be as simple as somebody who has an SLR camera and wants to create a documentary all the way up to the big budget films where they are going to spend upwards of $100 million. No matter how big or small, we want to inspire and shape their vision and bring it to life. Canon Burbank is a tool to help us do that. When clients come in, we can demonstrate and test under different shooting conditions, we can see what the resolution is going to look like or how our products look under different lighting conditions. We can support their editing, test material, allow them to color grade it, and finally screen it in a state of the art 4K screening room. We also want to educate and inspire young people. For example, we can bring in film school students or high school students, or even elementary students that may be interested in filmmaking.

How do you view CES?

We realized that some don’t recognize us as a technology company; they see us as a product company. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually our lenses, sensors and other parts of our technology have opportunities to be used in practical applications outside of the cameras, printers, camcorders and copiers that we make. At CES 2017 we took a very different approach to find partners that can take our core products and create new businesses. Making a big change like that in our approach to CES was risky, but we were very successful in accomplishing that goal. Our theme was “Visionaries Welcome’’ and we met with many people who may never have considered us an imaging solutions provider. We have a recognized brand, great technology and are a well-respected company, but we are not necessarily thought of as a technology partner. We plan to make CES 2018 even more innovative in how we approach startups, innovators and the people who want to talk with us about incorporating our technology into new products and solutions. Our takeaway at CES was to say, “We have amazing core technology – what can be done with that?” The possibilities are endless.

What don’t we know about Canon?

Most people don’t know that we are one of the most innovative companies on the planet. Canon Inc. has been ranked among the top five U.S. patent holders for the last 31 years. In 2016, we ranked third, ahead of companies such as Apple and Google that are always on the cutting edge of innovation. We are best known for our cameras and office machines, but we are so much more. We are involved in everything from healthcare technologies to the life sciences to semiconductor equipment and more. Not only that, but we are always growing and expanding into new businesses, Last year, we acquired Toshiba Medical. If you look at CES attendees, the medical side of the technology business is enormous. It is one of the fastest-growing areas for innovation. Another area that is growing quickly is network security cameras. One of the most important aspects of a security system is making sure there are cameras that can produce high-quality images in difficult conditions, including low light. Our technology does this exceptionally well. We demonstrated our intentions to grow in this business by acquiring Axis Communications, a global leader in network video solutions, and Milestone Systems, the market leader in video-management software. Adding these two outstanding companies to Canon’s own expertise creates a powerful combination. Looking at the things I have just mentioned and everything else we are doing, it is safe to say that we see no limits or boundaries to what we can do. For instance, our cameras have been used to shoot from outer space and from deep in the oceans, and we even launched our first satellite last month. We always push ourselves and look for new challenges to overcome.

Where do you see Canon in five years?

I am proud to say that I have been with Canon for 42 years, and I have seen some incredible changes along the way. No one knows what the future holds, but we are well-positioned for it. If you look at what is happening with self-driving cars, robotics and AI – at the heart of these technologies there is some type of sensor, and in a lot of cases, optical technology, and this is our area of expertise. We want to find the partners to create new kinds of businesses. Where will we be in five years? I can’t answer that. What I can say is that we have the core technologies, the know-how, the manufacturing capability, the brand, the people and the infrastructure to succeed. Burbank is one example of the support that we can give to these new industries. We are fully committed to that.

September/October 2017 i3 Cover Issue

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