UK firm is the star in film revolution

British technology has scored a hit in Hollywood, writes Roger Trapp

Few people have the opportunity to make a fortune once. But Paul Bamborough has done it twice.

Because the details of his latest deal - signed in Las Vegas a few days ago - are still being worked out, he cannot divulge exactly how much he is getting. But he says: "It makes me rich again. I can't deny that."

Indeed, since Tektronix, the US company that is acquiring his Lightworks Editing Systems, is a $1.3bn-turnover organisation ranked 305th in the Fortune 500, it is reasonable to assume that any slice of the action will better the several million pounds he received when he sold out of the audio manufacturer SSL in 1986.

However, Mr Bamborough, who trained as a psychologist before moving into film making, insists that the real value of the latest agreement is that it secures the future of Lightworks as it prepares to move into fresh fields.

Lightworks develops and produces systems for editing feature films, documentaries and news broadcasts electronically. The five-year-old company is not alone in this field but it is starting to dominate it.

Many of the latest Hollywood movies, including Pulp Fiction and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, have been made using the system, which was created in Britain. Last month it was awarded an Oscar for outstanding technical achievement.

The company is based in Soho Square, London, and has offices in Manchester, New York and Hollywood, as well as a manufacturing plant in Reading. It was founded in 1990 out of Mr Bamborough's conviction that recent developments in computer technology could revolutionise the way films were edited.

Usually this involves either physically cutting and taping together sections in the case of traditional film, or copying from machine to machine in the case of video. Both methods, particularly the video approach, are cumbersome and time-consuming.

Random-access editing of the kind offered by Lightworks transforms this process by allowing any part of the picture and sound to be accessed immediately and put together any way the editor chooses.

This means editing is reduced to its essence - making decisions about what to see and hear and when - without having to bother with cutting, sticking, copying and waiting.

When Mr Bamborough first started toying with the idea he envisaged spending £250,000. In fact, it used up about £2m. Soon, however, that investment looked small, since the company began producing about 60 of the machines a month, at approximately £35,000 each.

The system has attracted hundreds of buyers in production companies handling television news, dramas, documentaries and commercials, as well as Hollywood studios. The secret is its user-friendliness, Mr Bamborough believes. His experience of the film world has enabled him to cater better than his rivals for the average computer-phobic editor.

The system is essentially a processor unit, 20-inch graphics monitor, console and sound system and is compact enough to be taken on location.

The agreement with Tektronix was prompted by Mr Bamborough's awareness that the niche he was operating in would go away as the technology became cheaper and faster.

Lightworks was starting to shift from film into the broadcast arena, but it was conscious that it would be difficult to survive there as a small organisation of about 100 people and £20m in revenues. It had tentative plans for a stock market flotation, but saw in Tektronix an organisation that thought the same way as it did.

Tektronix, which is based in Wilsonville, Oregon, has a long history of innovation. It has recently hired Lucie Fjeldstad, former IBM multimedia chief, to run a division aimed at the video information market. It is expected that Lightworks' editing systems will be integrated with Tektronix's disc storage, networking and archival systems.

Under the terms of the stock swap, Mr Bamborough and key members of the team he has built up will be tied into the company for at least three years. But, since they too will be getting a share of the spoils, they are not complaining.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003