Editor’s note: “Tech 2006”, one of the high-tech conference highlights every year in North Carolina, is set for Wednesday, Oct. 11 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. This year, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development has scheduled presentations from 27 companies as well as a number of speakers and panels.

To preview the conference, WRAL.com in conjunction with WRAL Local Tech Wire and the CED will profile many of the companies scheduled to present. This is the fifth in the series. ImagineOptix was featured on Monday, DeltaSphere on Tuesday, 6th Sense Analytics on Wednesday, INI Power Systems on Thursday, and Fortune Interactive on Friday.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A company most people never have heard of in Beaufort, S.C. has developed technology that more film and TV show producers in far-off Hollywood are embracing.

The firm is called Digitalsmiths, and its hot application is video search technology.

Digitalsmiths, which was launched in 1998 and relocated to Beaufort in 2002, will showcase the hit product, Media Access Pro, and more technology at the Tech 2006 conference on Wednesday at the McKimmon Center.

“Digitalsmiths’ goal is to become the industry standard in video search technology,” company co-founder Ben Weinberger told WRAL. Local Tech Wire in an online Q&A.

Toward that end, Weinberger, who studied radio and television production at Southern Illinois University, and cohorts have developed a patent-pending platform for indexing films, news footages — even entire TV series. Digitalsmiths in fact won a promotions industry award for an interactive database created from the “Just Shoot Me” TV series.

Other customers include most of the major Hollywood film studios as well as TV show producers of the hits “Seinfeld”, “Friends”, “King of Queens” and many more.

For a TV show, Digitalsmith technology can display episode number and title, characters in that scene, location, subject, any special guests, transcripts, and descriptions of action in the scene.

Archiving is a considerable challenge for video producers, Weinberger said, and his firm’s technology provides many solutions.

“As video production continues to grow through tools such as digital video cameras, video phones and other handheld devices, the need to catalog, archive and search this material becomes paramount,” he explained. “Businesses and individuals need to mine video data in much the same manner as people search web pages and other documents.

“Additionally, enabling people to search video creates new revenue opportunities for content owners. Initial commercial success of Media Access Pro helps to demonstrate the need for the technology. Customers report time savings in the hundreds of hours for tasks such as locating specific scenes (i.e. New York City). Now, they can find the data in seconds rather than watching hours of video or relying on archaic hand-written logs.”

Digitalsmiths, which recently received some angel investment funds, was originally launched as a website development and web hosting company before moving in to video search.
Now, Weinberger said the time appears to be right for Digitalsmiths to develop additional technology and capitalize on the momentum the company has generated.
“To date, the management team has chosen to grow the company organically and has funded the development of the product, internally,” he explained. “The management team now sees an opportunity to rapidly build on the success of Media Access Pro.”

The Q&A with Digitalsmiths:

What makes your technology unique?

We’ve developed a technology for indexing, cataloging and searching video at a deep level. Our combination of multiple technologies enables us to locate granular information within a video (speaker, character, dialogue, locations, etc).

Companies are more than technology. How is your management team trying to mold the company into a winning venture beyond having a technical advantage or needed service?

The cliché “Our people are our strongest asset” holds true for Digitalsmiths. The management recognizes the value each person brings to the table, and we make sure everyone understands our goals. While we push everyday, we also try to have fun. It’s apparent around the office that we enjoy what we do. The local ice cream shop has pitched in and the birthday-people get to make their own sundaes for the rest of the company– we also have an ongoing beanbag tournament. The bottom line…without our people, we’d have a technology with no fun and no momentum.

What was the original inspiration (or invention) that led to the launch of your company?

Originally, Digitalsmiths developed a video search application for locating specific data for the TV series “Just Shoot Me”. From there, the company continually refined and focused efforts on this technology. Today, there is a robust and integrated application, Media Access Pro, that handles video indexing for television shows, films and other types of media. The technology is also the basis of future product lines.

What needs are you seeking to address?

We are looking at the television and film markets as well as specific facets of those. For example, the advertising market within TV/Film is approximately $50 billion dollars a year.

What have been the primary challenges you have faced in launching and then growing your company?

There is a constant challenge to stay agile and respond to market changes rapidly. In addition, it’s imperative the team stays focused. Managing expectations and keeping focus are battles we face almost daily. It’s a fun opportunity, though, and I believe our team helps each other as we grow.

Was entrepreneurial spirit a real driver for your company’s founders and executive team to bring your firm to this point? Please explain.

Entrepreneurial spirit is at the heart of our company. All of the executives have founded and grown their own companies. The unique blend of business acumen and knowledge of what it takes to start and grow a company are the principles behind Digitalsmiths. Additionally, our lead investor is a highly successful entrepreneur (founder of Nextel/Sprint). We pride ourselves in the occasional 4am email.

Do you have patents or patents pending?

We have two patents pending. Both involve aspects of video indexing and search along with some specific applications in the television and film industry.

How is your company financed?

We recently accepted our first funds as part of an angel round. We’re fortunate, though, to have already been a profitable business, so we’re also using existing capital for financing. We plan on seeing additional capital as market conditions dictate. The exit strategy will be defined by the market and the management will respond accordingly.

For more facts about Digitalsmiths, see: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=15215