The high-definition helicopter camera system that Alan Purwin used to bring us the steady images of the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase through Los Angeles, the flyover panoramas in "Jurassic Park" and, more recently, the startling images from the Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" documentary is now going to be utilized in the war on terror.
Purwin recently sold Cineflex LLC, a unit of his Helinet Aviation Services LLC of Van Nuys. Cineflex developed and patented the technology behind an ultra-stable camera system he's been using for aerial photography in movies, TV and newsgathering, and the buyer, Axsys Technologies Inc. of Connecticut, a defense and aerospace supplier, will use the special camera system partly in the war on terror.
Axsys paid $27 million in cash, with another $42 million to be handed over if the company meets certain revenue targets over the next three years.
So with that pocket change and maybe a little free time, what's Purwin going to do?
"Flying, that's what I love to do create and choreograph aerial sequences," said Purwin, who started flying as a teen. "I go completely antsy when I am not in the seat of a helicopter for two or three days."
Purwin said that he sold the camera sales portion of the business, which was a valuable and growing segment, because Helinet wasn't equipped to deal with the growing global demand for his technology, from both a development and manufacturing standpoint.
"We were growing so fast we could have had potentially serious problems, because demand had outpaced our ability to create infrastructure," Purwin said.
Purwin had been making most of his money using the company's helicopter-mounted camera system in film and TV production. The camera system includes a gyroscope, among other technology, to keep it fixed on its subject even from long distances and while being bounced around on a helicopter. That led to its extensive use for animal photography in the recent Discovery Channel mini-series production, "Planet Earth." The firm has done work on a number of films, including "The Italian Job," and the forthcoming features "Transformers" and "National Treasure 2."
It was over the past few months, however, that Purwin realized the most lucrative application of the technology was in the burgeoning national security and surveillance industry.
The executive team at Axsys realized it, too, and approached Purwin. They expect the camera technology to become an integral part of their company's core infrared camera business.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.