When King Phillippe of Belgium visits India next month, Laurent Renard will be one of the CEOs accompanying him as part of the 86-member business contingent, representing big and small businesses from diverse sectors. Interestingly, Renard is the poster boy not only for the influential SME sector of this tiny European nation but also for the famed Belgian IT sector. I-Movix, the small company he set up in 2005 is giving Japanese consumer electronics goliath Sony sleepless nights and is on its must-have acquisition radar since many years. In India, outside broadcasting facililator Zoom Communications as well as media and entertainment company Star India are customers of i-Movix. Backed by a growing global network of distributor partnerships, i-Movix is a name to reckon with today. The company’s distributor in India is CINEOM.
Nestled in the suburb of Mons in the Belgian province of Hainaut, the I-Movix headquarters is a techie’s paradise. For the uninitiated, I-Movix is the pioneer and world leader in extreme slow-motion technology (from 75 to over 5,000 fps) so crucial in sports broadcasting. A policeman for 19 years of which 11 were spent as a royal horseguard, Renard is an unconventional entrepreneur. An amateur photographer, he stumbled upon extreme slow motion while filming a family function. “Before I knew it, offers had started pouring in evincing interest in the technology,” he recalls. After a couple of courses to hone his tech wizardry, Renard launched I-Movix as a manufacturer of products that are the first true utra-slow motion systems, fully integrated for broadcast use, offering the unprecedented combination of very high frame rates and instant replay, or continuous streaming. Within a couple of years of its debut, I-Movix was the toast of European sports circuits bagging the very prestigious European Seal of e-Excellence 2009, in the Gold category.
But what catapulted I-Movix into the big league was its first big contract—Beijing Olympic Games 2008 where its cameras were used for events like archery and trap shooting. There, along with India’s Abhinav Bindra, I-Movix too struck gold, shooting to fame with its precision extreme slow motion technology. The I-Movix technology has applications in live sports and other live TV productions, as well as in commercials, documentaries, feature films, industry and scientific R&D. Ask Renard how the SME sector is performing in the tiny European kingdom and pat comes the reply, “The fact that I am part of the king’s delegation shows the accessibility we have with those in power. And though the failure rate of SMEs in our country is comparable with other countries at a significantly high 80%, our government is doing all it can to incentivise and handhold those SMEs which
But i-Movix products don’t come cheap. Typically, a camera carries a hefty price tag of about 200,000 Euros but can conveniently be used out-of-the-box. “We are pioneering the fact that a very high speed camera can store an hour of RAW material in its head without having the need of a slow motion server. So the camera can literally shoot and record a continuous 600 images/sec and grants access to its memory to operators without any delay. It just gives an incredible 12 times slow motion in real time and in continuous. It seems 500-600 frames/sec are enough for cricket,” he says.
At NAB 2016, I-Movix launched the debut version of INFINITE, a radically new innovative ultra-slow motion camera that combines high scalability with trigger-less operation. Based on Vision Research’s Phantom Flex4K camera and the I-Movix X10 platform, INFINITE is the first to provide continuous on-board loop recording of more than one hour of high frame rate in HD and frame-accurate ramping of speed without compensation and interpolation, and has many distinctive advantages that make this new technology the frontline ultra motion camera. The trigger-less workflow at the heart of the INFINITE ultra motion technology empowers production teams to review and save ample content for the live show, for post-game analysis and for marketing—all of which dramatically reduces the per-minute cost of this unique technology.
Today, this tiny company has a turnover of over three million euro and over 70 loyal customers, largely comprising international sports channels. With technology moving rapidly, isn’t there an inherent fear of copy cat companies spawning? Pat comes the reply, “Our technology is virtually impossible to copy as it is logic programmable.” On the company’s future plans, Renard says the focus would be on making the company’s products more affordable. Do giants like Sony pose any challenge for its survival? “Thankfully, broadcasting forms a miniscule portion of Sony’s gameplan and so they don’t pose any threat to us,” Renard says. Any plans of an outright sale if the price is good? Renard’s smile is impudent and inscrutable!