Multimedia

L.A. is moving steadily toward becoming the epicenter of multimedia especially now that many of the city's multimedia companies, including Digital Planet, Boxtop, W3 Design and Digital Evolution, have forged relationships with Fortune 500 companies.

The advertising industry is helping to fuel the growth. Madison Avenue is paying increased attention to how it can utilize new technologies to catch people's eyes more effectively and cut across language barriers in global ad campaigns.

Digital Domain, one of the industry's most prominent players, reports that its commercial division has seen 20 percent to 25 percent growth in the last year or so, and expects a similar growth rate for the year to come.

Interactive set-top boxes, or enhanced television content, represent another growing segment of the multimedia industry. Microsoft's WebTV is the most familiar name in this much-anticipated technology, which insiders believe has the potential to attract a mass audience.

But while interactive creative content on television has a rosy future, creative content on the Internet is not faring as well as last year's failures at Microsoft Network painfully attest.

The digital special effects industry, meanwhile, saw a great deal of downsizing in 1997. Nonetheless, effects are such a standard feature in Hollywood movies these days that while the market may be cyclical as projects come and go, demand will remain steady.

"It's a very tough market, and our layoffs were driven by necessity," said Scott Ross, president of Digital Domain. "The summer of '97 just had disastrous returns, and the Hollywood pipeline slowed to a trickle. But there are few films that do not have some form of digital effects nowadays and the business should be fine."

Another thing to watch in the coming year is the fate of the multimedia divisions created by the major movie studios. After rocky beginnings for many, they are finding their niche.

Warner Bros. Online is earning accolades in the industry, with several ambitious projects in its pipeline. Disney Interactive also is attracting a lot of interest. Even DreamWorks Interactive, much-maligned a year ago, now is said to be relatively stable.

Sara Fisher

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