Groundbreaking tech bubbles up from an irreverent team.
Los Angeles's Chemical Wedding has serious cred — the firm won an Engineering Emmy Award in October for an app that has evolved into an industry standard — but it doesn't take itself too seriously.
That app — Artemis, the world's first digital director's viewfinder — is described on the company's website as "A New Beast Entirely," accompanied by a photo of an imposing gorilla and a tongue-in-cheek video about its merits.
The Emmy announcement shows a more benevolent gorilla sharing screen space with an Emmy statuette. And along with glowing testimonials from filmmakers, there's one from a surly fishmonger who asserts that the app does him no good whatsoever.
In person, the three founders — Aussie Nic Sadler (a cinematographer and lead product designer) and Brits Toby Evetts (developer of Artemis and other apps) and Simon Reeves (business development and product planning) — are just as irreverent.
Over a lively lunch at a classic Hollywood restaurant, Evetts notes that Sadler first joined him and Reeves "in 2006 or 2007; it started over a drunken conversation."
Their personal chemistry informs Chemical Wedding, which takes its name from an archaic term for combining elements to make gold.
"We're about technology and understanding and design, and there's a chemical wedding between those things," Evetts says. "Turning base metals into gold — that's what we're attempting to do with an app," Sadler adds. "I'm not sure if we've succeeded, but we've tried."
By almost any definition, they've succeeded. They released their first app, a sunlight planning tool called Helios, in 2006. After introducing Artemis in 2007 as an iPhone app, they adapted it in 2010 to create Artemis HD for the first iPad. (An Android version came out that year, too.)
In 2017, the company merged its apps into Artemis Pro, which works on all iOS devices. A physical device called Artemis Prime incorporates an iPad and the Artemis software, but at $9,500 (versus $30 for the apps), it's mostly rented from camera houses.
Artemis products enhance collaboration between the director, cinematographer and crew by allowing everyone to see and share info simultaneously when scouting and shooting. Designed to replicate thousands of cameras and lenses, the app's features include exposure and color emulations, virtual stand-in actors and props, pre-visualization and shot-planning tools, and video recording.
Consumers worldwide, from students to Emmy and Oscar winners, use the app.
Sadler says the partners were pleasantly surprised, first by winning an Emmy and then by meeting their customers at the awards ceremony. "We set out to make a director's viewfinder application that would have a level of utility better than the existing option, which was a little chip that could reproduce four formats, sometimes five," Sadler says.
"It's ended up being something radically different from anything we'd thought about. It's changed how people work in a fundamental way. It's democratizing, because it makes the director's vision more accessible to people, thus changing the nature of how we communicate our visual language."
Not bad for technology that began, Evetts says, with plumbing tubing from a home supply store.
The company's Helios app, now in its second generation as Helios Pro, allows cinematographers to pinpoint the position of the sun, moon and stars anytime and anywhere, so they can visualize the sunlight, shadows and nighttime appearance of shots. It, too, has become an industry standard.
"There's been this pattern, which is not having any clue about what we were doing, but going ahead anyway," Sadler says. "There is a fearlessness in the process."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2019