As the Internet becomes the people's stage and online video takes off, AtomFilms today will launch what could be one of the first of many new studios dedicated to the production of video for the Web.
The Internet video pioneer, which already runs a website for preproduced video shorts or clips from independent creators, said it would continue to bank on what it calls "atomized" pieces. But with AtomFilms Studio, it will finance select projects, investing upfront in the production of original content designed for Internet-based delivery.
The development house has six projects that are under production already -- due for release in the spring -- and as many as three dozen others planned for the studio's first year. The initial round ranges from a Craigslist-inspired online dating reality series to a short film about a man who finds himself fighting for his life after a successful date.
Parent company Atom Entertainment Inc. plans to invest "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in the initiative in 2006, with budgets per project expected to vary widely, said AtomFilms founder and Chief Executive Mika Salmi, declining to be more specific.
Atom hopes its roots dating back to 1999 will give it a jump in the latest online video rush, which has attracted deep-pocketed rivals such as Yahoo Inc. and CBS Corp.
In the early days of AtomFilms, the San Francisco-based start-up and other websites such as Icebox.com and Pop.com struggled to gain niche viewers with poor-quality, mostly amateur video played over slow Internet connections. The dot-com bust then dashed a number of grand ambitions to produce original content for the Web.
But times have changed. Video quality and computers have improved. More people have faster Internet connections and are turning to the Web as a source of entertainment.
AtomFilms Studio intends to fund projects that are preferably less than five minutes long.
"We believe in snack-sized content across all our brands," Salmi said. "We think this is what consumers want for broadband entertainment across various screens."
Atom will not have a physical studio like Paramount Pictures Corp. or Warner Bros. in Hollywood because it plans to leave film production up to the creators.