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The St.Catharines Standard
Saturday, August 21. 2004

St. Catharines firms plan to ride HDTV wave

Illusions Media Group, TVN team up in quest to bring high definition TV to Niagara

Standard Staff

Television’s high-definition future was front and center for two St. Catharines businesses as they joined operations this week.

Illusions Media Group Ltd., whose clients range from the Niagara Parks Commission to movie giant MGM, announced a major restructuring this week. The video production company has partnered with investors from Television Niagara (TVN), who hopes to obtain a license to broadcast in high-definition (HDTV) as early as 2005.

With digital television about to become the dominant form of broadcasting, both companies will benefit from the merger, the president of Illusions Media said Friday.

“We have the facilities they need to get going and we’re ditors, not marketing or sales people,” Steve Hutchings said. “It’s a good marriage.”

The company is in the process of a 720-square-metre expansion of its offices at Corbloc. Included is a full $500,000 Sony HDTV editing suite. Part of the plans also call for a 315-square-metre studio to shoot commercials and other programming.

The new equipment isn’t common in Canada outside of production centres in Toronto and Vancouver, Hutchings said.

“We went HD early because a lot of our clients are in the States and we had no choice.”

The Federal Communications Commission has targeted 2006 as the date for the United States to switch from analog to over-the-air digital transmissions.

And by July 2005 all television sets larger than 36 inches must have a built-in digital tuner if sold in the U.S.

In Canada, two-thirds of programming must be digitized for HDTV by the end of 2007, though no concrete data has been set for a full switchover from analog. Citytv was the first station to broadcast a digital signal, starting in January 2003.

Television Niagara would feature both a high-definition and traditional analog signal, said president and CEO Wendell Wilks.

He and another TVN investor, Fonthill commercial producer Paul Herriott, are two of Illusions new shareholders.

“This is an obvious tie-in,” Wilks said.

He’s hopeful the relationship will help produce content for the proposed station, which still requires approval by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.

They hope for an announcement this fall, after which a full merger with Illusions Media may be discussed.

“The CRTC realizes that we represent an underserviced region,” Wilks said. “We’re talking to them on an almost-daily basis.”

Wilks was careful not to characterize the partnership as a takeover by TVN, calling Hutching “the best editor in Canada.”

“It’s world class and it’s coming from St. Catharines, as good as New York or Toronto,” Wilks said.

In A four-day span earlier this year Hutchings shot and produced a video used by the Niagara Parks Commission to promote it’s proposed gondola ride in the Niagara Gorge.

And the native of England is now working on a three-minute James Bond compilation to be shown at an MGM movie attraction in Niagara Falls.

His company currently produces a number of automotive and outdoor sports shows that air on TSN, Outdoor Life Network and other stations.

Listen to TVN's CEO Wendell Wilks on a radio interview from CHSC.
A terrific interview in MP3 format, which you can stream from our site or download in four segments.

To download these files, please RIGHT-CLICK on the link and select "Save Target As" to save the MP3 files onto your computer.
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