Blu Digital Group Opens London Facility

Blu Digital Group, a provider of media and entertainment digital media services and software, announced the opening of a new facility in the creative media hub of Hatton Garden in London.

The new location will provide a full range of content distribution, media management, post-production, localization and distribution services for existing and new clients in the region, as well as serve as a base for the company’s cloud-based software division in Europe.

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“We’re excited to expand our services and software to even more U.K. media companies,” Paulette Pantoja, CEO of Blu Digital Group, said in a statement. “Our new facility is in the heart of one of the most vibrant parts of London, known for its creative and media firms as well as historic landmarks and the new Elizabeth tube line. We’re right where our clients need us to be to attract the best talent and provide the best service to our European client base as they continue to explore new ways to reach consumers with their content.”

Blu Digital Group’s new London facility will offer content distribution, dubbing, subtitling, post-production and accessibility services.

Blu Digital Group Launches New Quality Control Technology

Digital media services and software supply chain company Blu Digital Group has launched BluQC, a cloud-based interactive quality control solution with automation technology.

The solution significantly enhances how organizations conduct automated and manual reviews of media file packages, such as linguistic and technical checks on video and localized audio and subtitles, according to the company. BluQC is offered as a complete cloud-based workflow environment through its enhanced proprietary interactive video player. Coupled with BluConductor, users are equipped with extended capabilities such as scheduling, assigning, version control, and API integrations, according to Blu Digital.

BluQC helps operations teams to review media files fully in the cloud with DRM security, frame-accurate controls, and automated checks. The interactive environment also incorporates automated technical analysis of video, audio and subtitle files without any human interaction, according to the company. Results can be reviewed within the BluQC online interactive UI using features such as “click-to-timecode,” which takes users directly to the frame accurate location of the reported issue, along with the proper audio and subtitle language components automatically loaded.  

BluQC also allows users to playback streaming video within a dual, triple or quad-player view for an in-sync review of multiple subtitle files. This allows users to toggle between audio and subtitle components in real time, according to Blu Digital.

With its integration into BluConductor, users can access BluQC and provide feedback, approvals/rejections, assignments, etc., based on individual user permissions, giving a full workflow and orchestration solution for quality control checks of media. Research through use cases has shown increased workflow efficiencies of more than 150% and decreased costs by 77%, according to Blu Digital.

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“Media operations teams have unique needs that standard off-the-shelf systems don’t address,” George Rausch, chief product officer, Blu Digital Group, said in a statement. “Many software run automated QC checks, and even more tools that generate QC reports. But BluQC is the first solution that combines project management, QC reporting, enhanced media playback, and automation into one fully secure system, and completely in the cloud.” 

Blu Digital Group will demonstrate its full digital media distribution software suite at the NAB Show in Las Vegas April 16-19.

Blu Digital Group Acquires Subtitling and Dubbing Services Company Haymillian

Blu Digital Group, an entertainment media technology company, has acquired Haymillian, a dubbing, subtitling and access services company.

Following the acquisition of Haymillian, which offers services in more than 40 languages, Blu establishes its presence in the United Kingdom, Greece and Mexico. The newly expanded dubbing studio in Mexico is centrally located and enables access to an extended pool of voice actors and localization professionals. At the same time, the Greece-based operations team facilitates timely communication with clients and vendors, according to Blu Digital.

The acquisition enables Blu to further enhance its localization and access services capabilities, and to expand its presence in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. The venture aims to cater to the growing localization needs of the entertainment industry as well as to contribute to the industry’s efforts to enhance content accessibility for people with hearing loss or visual impairment through the provision of  access services (closed captions, subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and audio description), according to Blu Digital.

“When we launched our localization division to complement our content distribution and software divisions, we saw a gap in the market for full service media management facilities which integrated localization into the content distribution workflow,” Paulette Pantoja, CEO of Blu Digital Group, said in a statement. “By acquiring Haymillian, we substantially grow our localization footprint, adding services and territories in key areas. We can now integrate our proprietary project management tools into the end-to-end workflow, taking clients from post production all the way through packaging and final delivery to platforms. We are excited to welcome the team from Haymillian into the Blu Digital Group family, joining us on the next chapter of our growth story.”

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“We are excited to join Blu Digital Group and combine their experience in digital media management with Haymillian’s know-how to better respond to the evolving needs of the entertainment industry,” Aida Martirosyan, managing director at Haymillian, said in a statement. “We are going to build on the expertise of our talent pool and internal teams to keep becoming better at what we do: helping the entertainment industry reach a wider audience with its content.”

In May 2022, Blu Digital expanded its English dubbing capabilities with the acquisition of Central Post LA (now Blu Digital Group’s Hollywood studios), an audio recording facility in Hollywood. The facility has enabled Blu Digital Group to significantly grow its localization services, according to the company.

2022 Hedy Lamarr Awards Reception

Blu Digital Group founder and CEO Paulette Pantoja was honored the evening of Nov. 16 as this year’s winner of the sixth annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology. The award, presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, recognizes female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry. Also feted, with the 2022 Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology, was Danielle Takahashi, an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California who is majoring in Media Arts and Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts. This award is given each year to a female college student whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise.

DEG TechOps Awards 2022

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group announced the winners of its second annual TechOps Awards at a ceremony in Los Angeles Oct. 12. The event was the first live awards celebration, following last year’s virtual ceremony, and drew nearly 200 people to the DTS Sound Stage on Wilshire Boulevard’s famed “Miracle Mile.”

Q&A: Blu Digital Group’s Paulette Pantoja Discusses the Founding and Growth of the Company

CEO Paulette Pantoja founded Blu Digital Group in 2007, focusing on quality control for film and TV content distributed on physical media. The company has since created proprietary workflows and patented applications as a solution for content owners and platforms to deliver streaming content. Pantoja’s expansion of the localization division within Blu in 2021 further broadened the company’s ability to deliver international content to audiences around the world.

After working at Ascent Media and Panasonic Hollywood Labs, Pantoja set up Blu Digital as the first dedicated Blu-ray Disc testing facility. In 2015, she evolved the business to provide content services for the digital media supply chain, leveraging Blu’s cloud-based automation software for content distribution to broadcasters and OTT platforms. In 2017, Blu began licensing its software to give clients control and visibility of their content preparation and distribution workflows. The company now also provides localization services and ad-insertion technology. Since its founding, Blu Digital Group has reached more than 300 million viewers, provided media services for more than 25 film and TV titles recognized by the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards, and has serviced 3 million content hours. Blu has been recognized as one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the United States for 2021 and 2022, and Pantoja is an Ernst & Young Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of The Year 2022 finalist.

Media Play News asked Pantoja — who this year is also being honored with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment — about the history of her company and what’s next for the industry and Blu Digital.

MPN: Can you tell us about the history of Blu Digital Group?

Pantoja: I founded Blu in 2007 as a services company, providing quality assurance services (QA) for film and TV content, as well as consumer electronics products and technologies. I set the business up on my own, out of my apartment, using just my credit card to fund the business.

I credit my initial success to spotting gaps in the market, forming strategic alliances, and applying efficiencies to workflows. While I was working for Panasonic, I saw a lot of inefficiencies used in the QA processes of testing Blu-ray discs and realized there was an opportunity to implement software testing methodologies.

I left my job at Panasonic to set up the first dedicated Blu-ray testing facility and gained the interest of THX, George Lucas’s soundtrack recording and reproduction subsidiary. I pitched a strategic alliance with THX to outsource their THX certification, enabling me to fund my business and turn a profit in my first year with Warner Bros., Fox and Deluxe as clients. I then productized the world’s first online reporting system for Blu-ray and patented the product in 2012.

In 2015, I evolved the business to provide content services for the digital media supply chain, leveraging Blu’s cloud-based automation software for content distribution to broadcasters and OTT platforms. In 2017, I began licensing its software to give clients control and visibility of their content preparation and distribution workflows.

After securing series A funding in 2020, I have been able to build my management team, attracting key talent and taking the business to the next level of growth.

MPN: What services does the company offer?

Pantoja: Blu Digital Group is one of the leading media service providers in the industry today. The business is a premier end-to-end digital media solutions company empowering distributors to easily process and deliver their film and TV content by using Blu’s services and custom-tailored cloud-based software. The company’s mission is to continually innovate better ways to prepare, process and deliver media content so Blu can empower distributors and video platforms with tools and services that will help them share their stories with global audiences.

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MPN: You’re being honored with this year’s Hedy Lamarr award from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. What are your thoughts on the honor and the progress of women in the industry?

Pantoja: I strive to build a culture of innovation and inclusion at Blu Digital, and the DEG is helping to do that on an industry level with these awards recognizing women, who have traditionally been underrepresented in media technology. The pace of technology is always evolving, and I am honored to accept this recognition of Blu’s dedication to developing better and more efficient media management workflows.

MPN: As a home entertainment industry veteran, how do you see the evolution of the business, from disc to digital? How have the challenges and opportunities changed with the formats and how have they remained the same?

Pantoja: As the industry has evolved from disc to digital, we have gone through a plethora of different standards and automation opportunities. What has remained the same is the core service we provide — providing a streamlined service to entertainment companies enabling them to focus on their core services of creating content. Throughout the evolution of delivery methods, whether on a physical piece of plastic or a digital file, we have always strived to utilize the latest technology to streamline the process.

MPN: What’s next for Blu Digital?

Pantoja: We are on an aggressive projection of growth along with the rest of the media and entertainment industry. We are using our funding to make strategic acquisitions to build services and grow into new territories while refining our products and services for our existing clients.

DEG Announces Upcoming Los Angeles Event Dates

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group is planning a series of upcoming events in Los Angeles.

Aug. 23, in concert with Media Play News, the DEG will produce an event feting the magazine’s “40 Under 40” honorees, presented in the August issue. The event will take place 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Oct. 12 the DEG will present its TechOp 2022 Awards. Nominations are open through Aug. 19. Categories include the Best Multi-Company Team Collaboration Award, Everyday Hero Award and Localization Trailblazer Award.

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Nov. 15 the DEG will celebrate its Hedy Lamarr Awards with a reception and hold its annual meeting. The DEG is honoring Paulette Pantoja, founder and CEO of Blu Digital Group, with the Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology.

No times or locations have been announced for the October and November events.

Blu Digital Group Launches Cloud Storage Program Providing Unlimited Media File Access

Blu Digital Group July 21 announced the launch of a cloud-based storage program giving  production facilities and content distributors unlimited access to their content with no access fees.

The Burbank, Calif.-based company’s cloud-based storage program provides subscribers with long and short-term media storage for downloading or transferring. In addition, it gives subscribers control to potentially integrate virtually any software, including production workflows.

“Our industry depends on cloud-based production workflows that require active and repeated access to media files for editing, transcoding, conforming, and delivery to an ever growing number of destinations,” Mike Gassner, chief technology officer at Blu Digital Group, said in a statement.

Gassner claims that most cloud storage services charge a fee every time a change is made to a content file. When the customer wants to retrieve their assets, these providers will charge fees for  “egress” of content leaving their storage. For media, entertainment and gaming content owners, who need active and repeated access to a wide array of content and often a large number of files, this business model becomes very expensive.

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Blu Digital Group’s cloud storage program charges a flat monthly fee based on tiered storage for customers to access their content whenever and as often as needed. The solution can sit on top of existing media asset management systems to help operations teams visualize their assets.

“Blu Digital’s storage  workflows pave the way for much easier, and cost sustainable migration to the cloud,” Gassner said.

Blu Digital Group Appoints Tony Rizkallah Chief Operations Officer

Blu Digital Group has appointed Tony Rizkallah chief operations officer, responsible for the operations and increased automation of business processes for the Burbank, Calif.-based provider of digital supply chain services and software to the media and entertainment industry.

Tony Rizkallah

Rizkallah spent 15 years building and running digital media management facility Bitmax, where he was responsible for the technology and operations of the business and was instrumental in the foundation of a number of its key contracts, including running the Apple iTunes preferred status contract from its inception.

He also built and set the standards for the company’s localization division, providing languaging and dubbing services for a variety of foreign content for distribution to platforms including Apple, Google and Amazon Prime Video. In addition, he set up QC processes and developed software and tools for a variety of media management and delivery applications.

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Rizkallah’s appointment comes soon after the acquisition by Blu Digital Group of Central Post LA, a 4,000 square foot post-production facility in Burbank, and its technical and creative teams. Rizkallah will be helping to integrate the existing infrastructure, which includes recording rooms and a Dolby Atmos-certified mixing stage, into Blu Digital Group’s existing operation, helping expand Blu’s English dubbing and audio description division.

“Tony’s background in technology and operations in media management will be instrumental to the business as we continue to build and grow Blu Digital Group,” Paulette Pantoja, founder/CEO of Blu Digital Group, said in a statement. “He has the unique skill set of bridging technology and operations which is so important for Blu Digital as we integrate new business units and automate processes to continue our growth trajectory.”

Blu Digital Acquires Post-Production Facility Central Post LA

Cloud-based software and digital media entertainment services company Blu Digital Group has acquired Central Post LA, a full-service post-production facility specializing in automated dialogue replacement (ADR), lip-sync dubbing, voiceover recordings, as well as audio post services, including Dolby Atmos mixing. 

As part of the deal, Blu Digital Group has taken over the 4,000-square-foot facility in Burbank, Calif., and its extensive technical and creative teams. Utilizing the location’s existing infrastructure, which includes state-of-the-art recording rooms and a Dolby Atmos-certified mixing stage, the acquisition enables Blu Digital Group to further expand its English dubbing and audio description division with in-house production capabilities. 

This venture comes in direct response to the rapidly growing appetite of U.S. audiences to consume foreign content and the industry’s joint efforts towards enhancing the experience of visually impaired viewers through quality descriptive audio tracks, according to Blu Digital.  

The acquisition positions Blu Digital Group as one of the premier providers of localization services in the United States and complements and further solidifies the company’s commitment to providing quality-driven end-to-end digital media services to its clients, according to the company.

“Since expanding our English dubbing and audio description division late last year, we have had huge interest from the industry to grow these services as they integrate into media management operations,” Paulette Pantoja, CEO of Blu Digital Group, said in a statement. “Acquiring Central Post LA’s facility, infrastructure, and talent into the Blu Digital Team helps us increase these services for our clients who need to localize foreign content for English-speaking audiences. We are eager to help our clients expand the audience of their content anywhere across the globe.”

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The Blu headquarters, based in Burbank, will continue to be the main hub for its software development and its cloud-based media operations management teams.   

Some of the offerings that Blu Digital Group will be facilitating from the new location include:

  • English and foreign language ADR, lip-sync dubbing, and voiceover recording;
  • English and foreign language audio description;
  • editorial audio post work;
  • audio mixing, including Dolby Atmos;
  • M&E augmentation;
  • audio conformance, compliance and censorship;
  • complete English and foreign language quality control services;
  • video mastering; and
  • subtitling and captioning services in 80-plus languages.