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Expanding focus

John Coyle wants an Emmy and because of his Grass Valley company’s recent work on the BBC’s “Planet Earth” series, he feels his company could get one.

“It’s the kind of show used to justify a camera award,” said Coyle, vice president of engineering at Axsys Technologies Inc. in Whispering Pines. The company’s high-definition camera and steadying turret device, known as a gimbal, were used by the show to capture animal shots from long distances.

“You can sneak up on (the animals) without being noticed,” Coyle said. Animals hardly can hear the helicopter because the cameras allow them to shoot video from so far away, he said.



Coyle founded the company, formerly known as Cineflex LLC., in Santa Rosa in 1998; he brought the company to Grass Valley in 2003. He owned Cineflex until last month, when he sold the company to Connecticut-based Axsys for $27 million in cash.

Axsys specializes in infrared cameras used for various surveillance purposes.




Workers at Grass Valley’s Axsys division still are adjusting to their new corporate ownership and their new location at 380 Crown Point Circle, Coyle said, though he expects much of their work to stay the same.

Their cameras and turret devices are used for aerial shots in films, TV news and police and fire surveillance.

Movie clips

When Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson’s characters in “The Island” were trying to escape their fate as human spare parts, aerial helicopter camera shots using the Cineflex gimbal and cameras captured some of the action.

The list of films, law enforcement agencies and TV news crews using the now-Axsys product is growing, and Coyle said he expects continued growth under Axsys’ corporate leadership.

“As more and more directors and producers become educated (about the technology),” Coyle said, he anticipates his business will expand.

In addition to “The Island,” the cameras have been used in “Miami Vice,” “Domino” and “Mission Impossible 2.”

And when the devastating Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, all initial aerial shots of the destruction came from Cineflex cameras.

Coyle said it is gratifying to know his product is helping to better inform people.

Axsys isn’t going to change the operation of its new Grass Valley-based division much.

Getting the camera technology into films, TV news helicopters and police surveillance will continue. With Axsys corporate leadership, the company is looking to expand into their market to include government projects potentially involving the Homeland Security Department.

Three or four workers could be added in the next few months to the nearly 25 currently employed at the company’s Grass Valley site, Coyle added.

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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