(New Straits Times, Wednesday, 24 November 2010 – Life & Times – Page: 16)
KRU brothers Norman, Yusry and Edry Halim tell DENNIS CHUA of their new studio and collaborations with foreign stars
Company executive president Norman says: “Our aim is to make Malaysian films and music that go global without losing their Malaysian identity. “To do this, we utilise the latest in film and musicmaking technology, and collaborate with credible entertainers and .production companies from developed countries as China and the United States.”
The brothers’ studio, not far from the Cyberjaya police station, is recognisable in its bright orange and grey colours, the KRU corporate identity. Yusry says the studio, completed last year, has a 929-sq metre sound stage. He says: “Films such as the upcoming Karak, music videos such as those for Akademi Fantasia 8 students, and productions for Astro are done here. Three videos or films can be shot at a time.”
For maximum efficiency, the floor is smooth and elevated and the walls are soundproof. Yusry says they learnt about world-class studios through visits to the United States’ Universal and Warner Brothers studios over the last decade. Norman says the 1.4-hectare site will expand in the next five years, taking up an extra 4.6 hectares. More outdoor sets will be added, too.
The studio was planned in 2003 and is now worth RM85 million. It was designed by close friend, actor and architect Azhar Sulaiman. Investment will increase to RM100 million by year end as the brothers will bring in 3-D stereoscopic technology from the United States. Norman says: “Construction of the RM35 million studio was a joint venture between developer Cyberview and us.
“The business agreement gives us the option to buy the land in a decade.” Norman says the studio has a centralised control system and editing of films does not require tapes. “Instead, high-definition computers and cameras transfer information from the film and recording sites to the editing room via a network of cables. The system is also equipped with virus protection and backups.”
Edry says 11 animators work for KRU, most recently for the film Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, which will hit cinemas at year-end. The film was shot in 52 days and special effects were completed in nine months. It is now marketed in 50 countries including Canada, the United States, Russia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Britain.
“We had four ships constructed for the movie which is 75 per cent Computer Generated Images (CGI),” he says, adding that it was shot at the studio as well as a temple in Taman Seputeh and a commercial centre in Jalan Pahang. KRU Studios also has 60 recording employees, eight sound engineers and 10 editors. “We have 200 to 300 people working with us in our movies.”
Norman says the mixing studio is linked to two live recording rooms as well as video shoots in the main studio. “It creates the right sounds for films and music videos. Anuar Zain’s song Sedetik Lebih, the theme from Mahawangsa, was also completed here.”
In addition to television programmes, films and music, KRU also does advertisements and multimedia products. In 2006, the company came up with an information video for Kuala Lumpur Tower, explaining its history and features in four languages. Edry says: “We’ve done several documentaries on historical and cultural topics as well as tourist attractions and aim for 150 to 300 hours of television productions and 12 cinema and television films a year.”
Coming films include the 3-D animated Ribbit, a joint venture with Crest Animation from the United States. Norman says: “It’s our idea about a frog and its identity crisis.” There is also the locally filmed Vikingdom written by James Coyne of Britain and co-produced by Epic Pictures of the United States, which is the distributor of Mahawangsa.
Norman says: “Then there’s Hantu Kapcai, a supernatural comedy directed by Ghazali Bakar, and the chick flick about a talking tortoise Cinta Kura- Kura written by Nizam Zakaria of Hotel Mania.” The brothers will also embark on a major musical 29 Februari. Edry says: “This is a love story that covers 100 years of Malaysian history from the British era until the present.
“The protagonist is born on Feb 29 and celebrates his birthday every four years.” The home-grown superhero Cicakman will have his third movie Cicakman 3D, a re-branding of sorts, and his animated television series Geckoman. Norman says: “The RM1 3 million horror film Karak, out in April 2011, is the first to be shot in our studio. A story of legends along the Karak Highway, it’s 20 per cent CGI and (From left) Yusry, Norman and Edry outside their studio stars AF8 champion Shahir Zawawi.”
KRU Studios also collaborates with its fellow filmmakers in CGI and distribution. Yusry says: “For instance, we did the CGI effects for the comedy Sifu Dan Tonga and distributed the awardwinning films Hag and Legenda Hudak Setan.” Edry says: “We distribute local films via our subsidiary United Studios. We also help foreign producers shoot films in Malaysia and assist them with animation.”
The brothers’ hit songs have also been translated into Mandarin and Cantonese, performed by artistes from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The company’s latest online venture is KRUTV, an entertainment channel in the high definition video portal TonTon. Norman says: “KRUTV will have television series as Hotel Mania, Bio-Nik and Arjuna and feature films as Cicakman, Cicakman 2 and Duyung.”
KRUTV will also feature the latest music videos of KRU artistes, which have not previously appeared on television. Norman says: “Thinking `glocar is our Prime Minister’s vision and we have always wanted to do our bit by working with credible international producers, singers and actors.
“Going international is the true test of our abilities, and it’s our contribution to his mission to put more Malaysian products on the world map.”