If you spilled your popcorn while sitting in a movie theater recently, because just for a second you thought that onrushing train or flying axe was going to land right in your lap - you probably have David Martin ('91) to blame.
As CEO of Legend3D, a position he's held since 2002, Martin runs the nation's leading digital technology media company that's creating three-dimensional effects for the film industry's top studios and directors. In that capacity, he says he "gets the fun job of being responsible for everything. It's great and a challenge at the same time." The challenge comes in part from the size of the exploding 3D film market.
According to the company's web site, (www.legend3D.com) more than fifty-five major motion pictures are expected to be released in 2010/11, up from fifteen such releases in 2009. The company also converts numerous previously released titles for DVD and Blu-Ray release, including the classic Shrek catalog, which the company worked on for the Dreamworks Animation studio and Tim Burton's recent take on Alice in Wonderland.
"There's been hyper-growth in the industry in the last twelve months," Martin said. "We've grown our San Diego office from 35 to 270 and our Indian studio from 100 folks to 750. So, we've gone from a small company to having over 1,000 employees in less than a year." As head of the company, he says that he's very focused on hiring great people, on building the infrastructure through such things as a search for office space to hold all his new people and bringing in new business from the major studios. Martin notes with a laugh that the company has several new major projects in the works - he just can't tell anyone what they are yet.
After earning his MBA at UCLA Anderson, Martin began a career in investment banking, eventually ending up as a Managing Director at Montgomery Securities, a company that was later bought out. He became CFO of Hollywood Entertainment, the publicly-traded retail movie rental company that did $1.4 billion in revenue, in over 2,000 stores. When he correctly saw that the video rental business had peaked, he left Hollywood with a desire to do something entrepreneurial. Martin then met with Barry Sandrew, "the technological genius" behind Legend3D and the pair founded the company together. He notes that not all successful entrepreneurs start off in their 20's by inventing something in someone's garage; he's proven it's possible to go from investment banking, to managing a billion dollar publicly-traded company to finding the right partner and starting a new business from the bottom and building it up to the top.
"We started with the world's leading technology to convert black and white films into color," Martin said. "But unlike the early colorization of the "Turner era" (Ed. Note: When Ted Turner originally set about colorizing his catalog of classic movies, the effort was met by considerable backlash from both the film industry and the public) we did it so beautifully you wouldn't know the movies weren't shot in color. In five or six years, we colorized 130 movies, working with people like Shirley Temple, (legendary film producer and special effects pioneer) Ray Harryhausen, and ESPN (on classic sporting events). One other difference between Legend's work and colorization efforts of the past is that the company worked with the original filmmakers instead of simply doing it independently of their efforts.
About four years ago, Martin and Sandrew concluded that the process of converting 2D to 3D was technologically similar to converting from black and white to color. Anticipating the boom in 3D films, they created a series of demos, which Martin shopped to the major Hollywood studios. They kept refining the process, becoming the industry leader and when James Cameron's Avatar hit, they were in position to mine the gold rush.
There are actually two ways to make a three dimensional movie. One is to use 3D equipment in the filmmaking process. But, Martin said, this process is more expensive, more cumbersome for filmmakers and even more significantly does not always offer the better product. The other way uses regular 2D cameras, and then a company like Legend3D does the conversion. "What is important is that the movie is visualized with 3D in mind, even if it is shot with 2D cameras," Martin said.
Legend3D is poised for continued growth. Martin says that it won't be long until 3D glasses are no longer necessary for three-dimensional viewing and that 3D screens for personal entertainment, including televisions, iPads and other mobile devices are just over a close horizon.
Martin also does not hesitate to note the impact his Anderson experience has had on his career. He still counts among his close friends Eric Mokover ('80) who was admissions director when he arrived in Westwood and is currently associate dean and executive director of the school's Office of Alumni Relations as well as classmate Elaine Hagan ('91), executive director of the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, valuing their counsel and advice. The Anderson Venture Fund made an early investment in Legend3D as did Ed Shapiro ('90) and his company PAR Capital Management, who are the largest shareholders in Legend.
"I strongly believe 3D represents a complete revolution in all media, as big or bigger than when television and movies went from black and white into color," Martin said. "There's no reason why media has to be flat because life is in 3D, that's where it's going."
David Martin shares his three-dimensional vision on business at Alumni Weekend, October 15, 2010 on the UCLA Anderson campus.