Although Covid-19 threatened to decimate his business almost overnight, animation pioneer Sir Ian Taylor says world-first technology and a lower carbon footprint was the long-term result. Jane Phare reports.
Sir Ian Taylor says that in hindsight Covid-19 did him, and the planet, a favour.
The founder of Animation Research Ltd (ARL), which developed 3D graphics for major sports events including various America’s Cups, didn’t think that at first.
With sports events cancelled, and stadiums and golf courses closed, the initial outlook was grim when the coronavirus wreaked havoc around the world. Gone was the prospect of covering every major golf tournament, cricket, major league baseball, and the coming America’s Cup World Series.
“When Covid hit we lost 90 per cent of our income in the space of 24 hours,” Taylor said.
He told his 50 staff that they would all keep their jobs at least until the end of 2020, asked them to look after their families and to use the downtime to think creatively. What about all those projects they’d thought and talked about, but had never had time to do?
“Let’s hit the ground running when we come out of this,” Taylor told his staff.
In the space of six weeks, ARL computer technicians developed world-leading technology that enabled them to cover major sports events around the world from their headquarters in Dunedin’s Dowling St.
“Productivity went through the roof. The change in the software and everything that was needed to be done was built while we were in lockdown.”
It is technology that Taylor estimates would not have been thought necessary for another five years if Covid-19 and closed borders had not forced their hand.
ARL’s Dunedin base started life in the 1870s as Garrison and has variously been a military drill hall, a concert venue, a basketball stadium, a post office, and broadcasting and television studios.
This week it will be used to cover one of the world’s major golf tournaments, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Gold Resort on the coast of South Carolina which starts on Thursday.
Pre-Covid, Taylor would have flown to the US with 18 of his staff to be onsite.
Instead they will be delivering 11 separate feeds, by far the largest golf production the company has done, from their base in Dunedin.
Earlier this year ARL staff covered golf in Saudi Arabia and cricket in Australia at the same time without leaving the office.
“Covid forced us to think differently. One of the things it forced us to do is reduce our carbon footprint,” Taylor said.
“Our international carbon footprint is 95 per cent less than it was before (Covid-19) and it was enormous.”
Taylor estimates he has averaged more than 500,000 air miles a year for the past 10 to 15 years, sometimes reaching one million miles in a year.
“And they’re gone. That was Covid. I talk about Papatuanuku (mother earth), she sent us messages and this was one of them. There’s another way to do this.”
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