Zooid - a colony of individuals
To start with, let's clear up: what's "zooid"?
A distinct group of separate individuals that form a colony of animals with the ability to act or function independently (eg. an individual in a colony of coral).
We chose that name for our company when we became Limited in 1984, as we were then predominantly an independent film and TV production company. That is to say, a film crew (colony) composed of individuals (director, cameraman, sound recordist, editor etc.). And zooid is an analogy that still works for us today.
Picture research, film and tv
I founded Zooid after working as a journalist and as Head of the Picture Library at Camera Press for several years and then as a freelance picture researcher. I had also been an artist and filmmaker since graduating from Oxford in 1976. Zooid became one of the first production companies to be commissioned by the new Channel Four TV, established to change the face of British broadcasting. We were radical, innovative, different. Channel Four, we thought, was meant for us! After eight years, the Channel changed radically when Jeremy Isaacs left. We shared his dismal view of his replacement, Michael Grade, and soon afterwards ceased to work with the Channel.
Continuing as an independent production company outside the commissioning structure of TV was a challenge that produced a great deal of exciting work and also encouraged me to curate programmes of British short experimental films at international film festivals.
Picture research remained the mainstay between tours abroad and spells of film finance. By 1994, the digital revolution was gathering pace. Analogue continued to dominate motion pictures, but the photo business was changing. Multimedia CDs were in production, even though no one would buy one! However, the future was clear to me and I quit contract work in others' offices and began to operate from my front room with my first Mac, a 12.4 kbps modem and a fax machine. At that time a black and white fax machine was still massively more efficient than the internet. The fastest modem could scarcely enable viewing of a single picture on the web, and too few people had email to be reliable.
Getting organised, getting faster
Two years later, I had a house, a family, a new office, an assistant and a hugely expensive ISDN line that gave us a then massive 128 kbps (about a tenth of the speed of most domestic ADSL broadband today). More importantly, we had produced the first digital book (for the Guinness Book of Records) and digital pictures were becoming more common. However, there was little or no understanding about how to manage digital pictures among photographers, agencies or trade organisations like BAPLA, most of whom saw the digital future as a threat posed by electronic pirates determined to steal their silver nitrate heritage. Many simply missed the boat.
A unique Picture Desk
Most important, our Picture Desk project and asset management system had been developed. This enabled us to manage large volumes of pictures for many clients and many many projects simultaneously, to instantly track every image and to clear the rights. But digital supply was still rare. Picture Desk therefore also tracked hundreds of thousands of transparencies (each National Geographic travel guide required over 12,000 trannies for selection alone, and for that one client we had over 100,000 pictures at any time), barcoding them to deliver to clients, scanning for production and tracking them back to the suppliers. Our insurance covered us for £12M of lost trannies. We established digital standards in 1994 that have stood the test of time. We became the digital conduit between analog suppliers and analog publishers, slowly enabling both to develop a digital workflow, that required less of our management time (and less tranny insurance)!
Helping clients to move (at their own pace) into a digital workflow eventually enabled us to offer online viewing of picture research. From these static HTML pages, we then moved to interactive online databases, directly fed from our Picture Desk, and the two-day picture selection meeting slowly became a thing of the past as clients became increasingly comfortable with online selection. On the whole, clients were faster to grasp the potential for digital workflow and standards than were suppliers (which is strange when you consider how much in the interests of suppliers it was to embrace new opportunities), but Zooid still remained the sausage machine through which all data needed to pass to enable efficient supply and demand.
By 2006 we had been back in the footage business for some time (having largely evaded the mess that is videotape and moved straight from film to digital!) and had finally cracked how to get away from tape completely and enable clients to select from material that we digitised in-house and offered through our Picture Desk with the same ease as photos. But ADSL speeds were simply not reliable enough for online viewing of video, and so we bought our first dedicated leased line (T1), which gives clients the full bandwidth dedicated to Picture Desk, 99.99% guaranteed uptime, 24/7 monitoring and ADSL backup just in case the line ever goes down.
All media vision
Picture Desk continues to be developed in-house with new features being added almost weekly: sometimes functions requested by clients, more often behind-the-scenes internal management options and simplification. The result remains a highly flexible tool which far outstrips anything that might be cobbled together by bolting bits of commercial software together.
We have repeatedly refused to sell Picture Desk, though we do work with clients and suppliers to ensure that their production tools and ours can efficiently talk to one another and work effectively together. This has led to a growth in our client base which directly benefits everyone: new museums, exhibitions and digital developers win from our expertise and experience in educational publishers, whilst the latter and broadcasters win from seeing new features added to Picture Desk as a consequence of our work with the former.
Today, Zooid remains a unique company, providing unrivaled expertise in researching and licensing pictures and motion pictures, sound, music and illustrations to publishers, broadcasters, museums and corporates worldwide.
We are the only company to offer such a comprehensive range of picture and footage services. Our reputation for excellence is unsurpassed in the UK and we are quickly growing our client base in the USA, South America, Europe, the Middle East and beyond.
Zooid continues to develop Picture Desk and remain at the cutting edge of technological innovation that delivers an unbeatable win-win-win formula for our clients, our suppliers and your team here at Zooid.
And today our systems integrate and interact directly with those of our Cleints, provising them with up-to-date rights management data and assets.
Our in-house languages include English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish and Swedish
PLUS Zooid licensing expertise provides Clients with a ressuring legal framework and our staff includes an Intellectual Property lawyer.
Zooid is re-established on demand by favoured Clients, Harvard University, international museums, operating on a very selective basis only