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Codemill – solving interesting problems for the media industry

Wed 12, 06 2019

This article has been taken from IABM Journal Issue 109.

 

Rickard Lönneborg
Co-founder and CEO

 

We caught up with Codemill co-founder and CEO, Rickard Lönneborg and Johan Bergström, Sales, to find out what drives this dynamic, young Swedish company that recently joined the IABM family as a Silver member.

Exactly where in Sweden Codemill is based has clearly played an important role in its success – alongside the drive and vision of Rickard Lönneborg and his co-founder and CTO, Johanna Björklund.

“600km north of Stockholm in the heart of Norrland, Umeå has quietly but successfully built a reputation for success in technology and innovation – particularly around serving the needs of the media industry,” Johan Bergström explains. “Some of the companies which were either born or are based in Umeå include Ardendo (acquired by Vizrt), Codemill, Limes Audio (acquired by Google), Intinor, Toontrack and Vidispine (acquired by Arvato).

“In the case of Codemill, its founders Johanna and Rickard both studied here and developed the business with the support of local business incubator Uminova. As a digital product studio, with a special focus around media and video, Codemill works with major studios, broadcasters and publishers across Europe and the US, including ITV, the Guardian and ProSiebenSat.1 among others.

“Though only Sweden’s 13th city by population, when it comes to technology, Umeå punches above its size,” Bergström adds. “Key to that is its university, with more than 30,000 students. It holds an enviable track record, particularly in Product Design, Interaction Design and Computer Science and gets consistent top ratings for this faculty.

“One of the area’s most famous sons is Stieg Larsson, author of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ series. The city is also the birthplace of a number of world-famous death metal bands. Umeå’s ‘Guitars – the Museum’ has one of the largest private collections of famous stringed instruments in the world. The museum featured prominently when Umeå was awarded European City of Culture in 2014.

“Last but not least, Kung Fury, an 80s throwback action film which raised more than $600k via Kickstarter, was conceived, edited and shot in Umeå, mostly in an office, before VFX was liberally added. The film now has more than 30m YouTube views, while its creator, David Sandberg, is now working on a full-length sequel, featuring Michael Fassbender and Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Bergström concludes.

Interesting problems

Umeå is clearly a great place to start a media technology business. But a great location and resources is of course not enough. What makes Codemill stand out from the crowd? “Codemill began as an idea in 2007 but really came together in 2008,” says Rickard Lönneborg. “The idea was to work with international clients to solve ‘interesting problems’ and the broadcast and media space was becoming an attractive place to do that. The move to the cloud was going quite slowly due to security concerns and data transfer costs, alongside competing with a lot of investment in legacy systems that needed to be amortized.

“Initially we were looking wider than broadcast and media, supplying development services for all kinds of projects, but we quickly realized this was the place to achieve what we wanted. Our first customer was Vizrt –providing extra resources for R&D work, followed by Vidispine. We then moved forward from sub-contracting R&D work to working as a partner with Vidispine’s customers on custom workflows, MAM and supply chain. Our core value – then and now – is the UX, making workflows elegant and easily manageable with great user interfaces, then transforming those workflows with custom solutions either fully into the cloud or hybrid, depending on the customer’s needs. Some customers keep storage on site with applications running in the cloud.

More fun, less tedium

“What drives us is doing international business and all the ways we can simplify work for people, making it more fun and less tedious – meeting new people, taking on new challenges and learning new things,” Lönneborg enthuses. “We’re working with some big names including major Hollywood studios, and in London, New York, Los Angeles, Germany – sometimes we pinch ourselves!
“We have 60 people now at Codemill. It’s a private company with three main partners. I look after the technical side, building relationships and business development, Johanna keeps our university links live, recruiting new talent and interfacing with research projects (particularly AI); and Niklas Jansson, who founded one of the fastest growing companies in Sweden, left it to join us to bring onboard his expertise in how to grow a company while maintaining its unique culture and values – the things that made it great in the first place,” Lönneborg adds.

Growing product range

Based on all its learnings in serving the media’s diverse needs and use cases, Codemill launched its first dedicated customer-facing product, Accurate Player, in September 2016, a truly frame accurate HTML5 player developed with broadcast, post-production and media professionals in mind.

“Accurate Player, which can be integrated to cloud-enable solutions, is a building block in most of our solutions,” says Lönneborg. “We’re targeting the professional media supply chain, from the studio and production to QC, QA, executive reviews and Dailies. Accurate Player has an easy interface to access highly secure material with custom workflows that have just and only the facilities customers need. We are acutely aware of the cyber threat studios face; we design with security in mind and team up with DRM watermarking partnerships. We want to stay very focused on user interfaces – we are gaining quite a reputation for our user experience expertise.”

Lönneborg continues: “We are also working on adding a second product – Adlede – using AI to deliver the best, most appropriate advertising content in the growing content-aware advertising business. We have a dedicated AI team working on Adlede and also on workflows for archiving, media tagging, compliance and finding/blurring brands. The cost of deploying AI will become less of an issue in a very short time – GPU processing will help greatly here. You will always need to be selective over how and why you want to tag content though – if you have too much metadata it can make it very hard to find the right thing quickly.”

‘Codemillism’ and the future

“We want to continue to grow but I don’t see us becoming an extremely large company – maybe we can double our size without breaking the culture that drives our success,” Lönneborg explains. “Our staff care for each other and we all work together in a friendly atmosphere – we call it ‘Codemillism’ – and this includes popcorn on Fridays! Also, we are built on talking to our customers – digging deep into what they want and delivering it. We can’t afford to lose that connection. While we will continue to develop custom workflows for our customers, we also see our product offerings being a greater part of our revenues over time.

Codemill and IABM

“There’s a lot of knowledge in the IABM network, and by being members we are showing that we are committed to this industry. IABM provides lots of good networking opportunities for partnerships, and so, more business. We also want to be contributors as well as takers – that way, you get more back,” Lönneborg concludes.

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