GROW with the Flow: The Lab at West is Scaling Up!
When most people think about visiting a “lab” they likely imagine a large room with high ceilings and whiteboards covered in formulas. They might envisage scientific geniuses in long white coats, hunched astutely over microscopes, while test tubes and beakers bubble gently with mysterious solutions inside.
The Lab at West is NOT one of those!
Our lab technicians don’t wear labs coats or mix up chemical compounds, but they certainly are geniuses when it comes to managing the technical side of content delivery.
West Entertainment’s in-house lab is a place where content of every kind – be it a red-hot Hollywood release, an indie documentary, a popular sitcom, or even some outrageous stand-up comedy – comes to be manipulated (in a good way!) so that it has the right formatting, languages, subtitles, or any other technical specifications needed to make sure it reaches its intended audience and plays back perfectly every time.
“With all the different embedded IFE systems out there, plus a growing number of wireless and streaming solutions which play content on the passengers’ own devices, there are countless different formats that a piece of content might need to fit for optimum playback to the passenger”, explains Shafin Virji, VP of Lab Services at West Entertainment. “In addition to that formatting work on the technical side, the lab is also a place where our post-production experts will edit according to customer guidelines and localize the content by creating audio for different languages, or by adding subtitles or closed captions.”
For West Entertainment, having this lab in-house is very important. The Lab at West enables a level of quality assurance and control that just wouldn’t be possible with an outsourced post-production lab. It also means that only approved personnel will have access to the content, which is critical in preventing any unauthorized distribution or use.
Recently, The Lab at West team has grown to support a broader range of services, and to accommodate a larger volume of content. But it’s not just about upping the manpower when it comes to expansion at West. We believe that it’s imperative to support our growth by leveraging the right technology in the right places. We count foremost on the expertise of our team, but investment in technology is what makes our experts even more efficient.
“We like to think of ours as a hybrid approach to dealing with larger workflows”, says Virji. “We utilize the cloud for our services, but we also feel it’s important to touch each and every deliverable file to make sure it’s absolutely perfect. Five years ago, studios were wary of the cloud for security reasons. Today, cloud computing is common practice and offers a multitude of benefits in content management. Some labs do everything in the cloud (even encoding), but we think that our dual approach – using cloud where it makes sense, and on-the-ground expertise where it counts – is the best way. We know the content is safe in the cloud, but we like to bring down it to our servers for manipulation, back-up and quality control. It just gives us that extra level of precision. Every piece of content that comes through our building is checked and vetted by a real person.”
Presently, the Lab at West has a team of highly specialized experts (which has doubled in the last two years) who are dedicated to executing the post-production services for clients including Warner Media (Warner Bros, HBO, HBO Max, Turner), Captive Entertainment, Gate 23 Entertainment, Ricochet Digital Media, Horizon Distribution and Skeye Inflight.
Each member of the team loves what they do, and they form a powerful coalition of IFE industry veterans and subject matter experts with broad knowledge of specific media fields.
“Our director of audio is a perfect example of a hire that wasn’t an IFE person from the start”, says Virji. “He came into the company as a true master of all things audio. He was totally new to the IFE business, but his audio skills were really next-level and he worked very hard to figure out the whole airplane bit. Now we’ve created, in my mind, the most dependable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable audio expert in the IFE space. Plus, his pre-existing skill set gives us the flexibility to branch out into other revenue channels, whether that’s working with local agencies or making TV commercials and digital content.”
By recruiting top talent, watching the trends, refining our methods, and using best in class technology to aide our team, West Entertainment has built a lab that can handle whatever our clients throw our way.
That’s how we GROW with the flow!