EVENT CINEMA ASSOCIATION .ORG
ECA INTERVIEW: GOFILEX
AUTHOR: MELISSA COGAVIN, MANAGING DIRECTOr (ECA)
INTERVIEWEE: Cathy Huis in t’Veld – CTO/Co-owner
VISIT MEMBER WEBSITE: GOFILEX.NL
Ahead of the ECA Barcelona Showcase hosted by the ECA in Barcelona, Cathy Huis in t’Veld – CTO/Co-owner at Gofikex had a chat with the ECA's Managing Director Melissa Cogavin about their services and international growth.
ECA: How is it all going at Gofilex?
CV: Gofilex is now active in 19 countries around the world, something we are very proud of. In the main this is in Europe where we are slowly but firm expanding, but we are also active in the USA and Canada, and even some exotic places like Martinique and Kenya!
ECA: Wow that is exotic! Must have been a pretty tedious business trip.
CV: Haha! No we send out kit to the cinemas and they install it themselves supported by our helpdesk.
ECA: So you haven’t had to go out to Martinique yourself?
CV: No, but you’ve reminded me we need to find a business reason to head over there…! Now we send out a pre-installed kit so there’s no need for a visit. At the moment we have 1300 cinemas worldwide connected to our network and intend to grow further in Canada and USA.
ECA: So what message do you have for people?
CV: We want to show people our technology works without any boundaries. We can get several signals from multiple sources without any problems. Time differences, we can overcome via variable buffering options for each cinema separately; in that way we can do the live in Canada as well as in Martinique and Europe. The only question is, do cinemas in other time zones target their audience live at 2pm in the afternoon or delayed live in the evening?
ECA: I guess that’s a question for the distributor….
CV: I agree. All we need is the internet connection and it works as agreed between cinema and distributor, and it’s great to service a place like Martinique to prove that it works worldwide.
ECA: As a CTO in the cinema industry, what you do is relatively unusual for women. How did you get into this area of work? Was it something you always wanted to do?
CV: I have been working in the IT business since I left school. When I was at school I was really good at maths and I was offered my first job while I was still at school with IBM in the Netherlands. While working as a systems engineer I did university at night school. I was there for 5 years.
ECA: That’s very impressive. Most 16 year olds aren’t thinking that long term or that seriously. I was mostly concerned with passing my driving test!
CV: My whole career was about IT; when I was 30 I started my own IT company - what I sought was mainly integration systems. At that time I was already into innovation and I was interested in the newest technology and how we could implement them into existing workflows to make things easier, simpler. We had 5 employees and we did innovation, systems integration etc. When my husband Paul in 2004 took over Gofilex, which at the time was doing 35mm film and was concerned with postproduction and transportation, POS materials etc. Then Paul realised the systems weren’t that great, so he has his wife build something for him!
I joined him in 2005 and dealt with various systems and developed workflow driven systems like online tracking and RFID driven tracing system for our yearly 160.000 shipments. These days that’s normal, but at the time it was unheard of and this solution was little short of spectacular! It was a big innovation at the time.
ECA: I can well imagine. Had we been able to track shipments like they do now when I was at the two studios in the early 2000’s (Disney and Paramount) it would have been so much easier and quicker. Back then it was all by 2G and 3G mobile phone, and sometimes not even phones, it was just guesswork. So did all your trucks have tracking devices on them?
CV: Yes – we could see where the drivers were and where the film was on the truck as well. We offered this to the studios in America at the time and they loved it. That’s around the time when 35mm stopped and everything was going to digital hard drives. All that changed for us was the size of the box.
The first few hard drives we transported made us to decide to jump from 35mm to online delivery without much exposure to hard drives. Digitisation was slower in the Netherlands so we were able to make the leap from 35mm to online delivery without really getting involved in the duplication and delivery of hard drives.
Then in 2008, we realised logistics were too expensive for a small hard drive in tiny quantities so Paul and I developed the internet concept instead. Piracy was a big concern obviously for the studios. Anyhow we had a long history with the studios and we had a good relationship with them so they were happy to give us a go. In 2011 all cinemas were connected to our network and as of summer 2012 all content was delivered through our network.
We started our Event cinema solutions in 2013.
ECA: Really impressive that you could see so far ahead. It was a confusing time of dual inventory and colossal expense to upgrade to digital, never mind satellite. There was a lot of misinformation around and uncertainty about the future due to the recession as I remember it.
CV: That’s right. The only stipulation was that all distributors must be able to use it and the pricing model must be cheaper than using hard drives. The challenge was keeping the price point the same for a small distributor and a studio like Disney.
ECA: How did you find career progression in an arena traditionally considered to be a man’s world?
CV: Speaking from a technology perspective I think changes have been very fast. Over the last 6-7 years the industry has changed completely. We used to send 35mm prints and hard drives, and now young cinema visitors don’t even know what they are, things have moved on so fast. On a technical level very fast, but the cinema industry is slow by comparison. The technology industry in cinema is mainly dominated by men and I haven’t seen many women yet. Compared to TV or telecoms for example, there are hardly any. This really needs to change but change is slow.
Do I feel like I should be a mentor? Sure yes I do. Most women work on the content side of the industry but we need women across all the tech areas of the industry. Women can add a lot and it would be good for the industry as a whole.
ECA: Talk me through an average day Gofilex.
CV: Our biggest job is monitoring the network but that is now being done 24/7 and it’s done in shifts. If we can’t reach one piece of our hardware then we take action. We want to always be proactive so that’s the way the system is designed – spotting problems before they become problems.
We have at least 5000 shipments each week to multiple territories and we have the same organisation then as we do now, so who used to work with 35mm, now found a place in our digital services. With live events in 2016 we did 113 live events and in 2017 we’ve done 63 so far. As you can see we have 2-3 live events each week so we have a dedicated staff doing tests with cinemas, checking the kit is working, checking communication lines are working fine.
We have 32 employees in total, 4 offices, one in Netherlands, one in Finland, one in Germany, one in Switzerland and one in USA.
ECA: What is the long-term plan for Gofilex and your plans for expansion in the US? Do you plan on expanding elsewhere over time?
CV: We would not only like to focus on the territories we are already in but also grow to areas where our solutions contribute to develop what we call the Free flow of content.. We would like to improve the products that we already have for live events and we have proven that all the links in the live event chain work, and we have added variable subtitles to live events (very important in Europe) – we now offer an option for subtitles so you can choose your own language and even have double subtitles in certain territories such as German and French in Switzerland for example.
We don’t only listen to the content owners, we listen to the exhibitors too; they have a very mixed audience and a live event with double subtitles means extra revenue for them. Our innovation isn’t just about the total chain of event cinema but what are the requirements for the cinema itself. How can we make it easier for them? It’s about future-proofing as much as keeping up with the flow now.
We are now streaming at a higher bit rate – we can do 4klive streaming at 50 frames per seconds, and if you see a football game or E-gaming at 4k/50fps you can really see the difference in quality. We want to make sure that the live event streaming can be at a higher quality. And the good thing is that you don’t need to change anything along the chain, it only needs to be recorded in 4k in order to stream it. The exhibitors don’t need to buy any more new kit to stream it, so it’s win-win.
ECA: Your company is unique in that is has such history – established in 1938 and stronger than ever is really remarkable. With technology changing as fast as it is, do you find that a burden or an asset in your plans for the future?
CV: It’s absolutely an asset, because the film industry is a closed market now and it’s really good we have this track record, and it’s why we are so familiar with content owners and cinemas and the solutions we have built have been successful as a result. We are a trusted supplier and that’s altogether an advantage.
ECA: What has been your greatest achievement?
CV: We have been providing technology but from my point of view, there is one story that stands out for me. There was a cinema with a projector problem and the feature couldn’t play; because of our technology we were able to save the show because of our streaming. The people in the cinema there saw a perfect show without any problems and they never knew there had been any. The next day the cinema thanked us for working with them till 11pm that night and for saving the show. That’s what we get out of it: we have built technology and the opportunities for entertainment are there, because of that technology.
ECA: Husband and wife teams are unusual and I always admire people who manage to make it work! What’s your secret?
CV: Paul and I are a good match – not only as husband and wife but also because of our strengths at work. He is a logistics guy and a great businessman. I am a technology person. What he sees, I can build! I really enjoy it because we can build this stuff together. It’s a gift.
ECA: What’s going on at CineEurope that we should know about and how can the ECA help you?
CV: We are really interested in China as there are streaming possibilities there so it’s amazing that you have lined this Focus On China up at the Hotel Zero as I was just about to ask you if you could help us with our potential in China. 80% of their content is local and they have their own production companies there, so there is maybe even more possibilities for the ECA there. If we can provide Gofilex solutions there and get the content delivered to and from China then the potential is limitless. It’s an exciting prospect!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ABOUT THE MEMBER:
Name: Cathy Huis In ‘t Veld
Cathy Huis in't veld-Esser is CTO and co-owner of Gofilex. Up to 1998, Cathy worked internationally for leading software companies in the field of transportation and warehousing. She then successfully founded her own IT Company specialised in integration and workflow-driven solutions. From 2005, Cathy took care of the state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary ICT architecture and software development of Gofilex.
First with fully RFID supported logistic & warehouse services followed by European wide specialised digital content delivery network: ODD (Organized Digital Delivery network). In 2011, Cathy started to develop a very high quality and error-free streaming solution for live-, semi live- and encore events for cinemas which offer an optimised digital delivery workflow using the ODD network. Gofilex has now delivered to 62 live events to cinemas in multiple countries.