Startup News – A Mug’s Game

Startup’s software allows users to insert 3-D versions of their faces in videos, photos, online content.

Los Angeles Business Journal Staff
Posted date: 11/10/2008
How many people want to see themselves in a clip from “Phantom of the Opera” or “The A-Team”? Enough to build a business?

Pasadena Startup Big Stage Entertainment Inc. is about to find out. The company last week publicly launched a software program that creates a 3-D image from photos of a person’s face. The image can then be placed over the heads of actors in movie clips and still photos at the company’s Web site, giving users the appearance of being, say, Mr. T or in a scene from “Night of the Living Dead.”

At this stage of Big Stage, which was founded two years ago by entrepreneurs Jonathan Strietzel, Jon Kraft and Jon Snoddy, the choice of clips and photos into which your likeness can be integrated is limited. Phil Ressler, the company’s chief executive, said Big Stage is in conversations with movie studios, video game publishers and ad agencies to offer more content for people to pop up in. He envisions a day when Big Stage users – he calls them “actors” – will be able to insert themselves into sites all over the Internet.

Big Stage, which employs about 25 people, plans to make money by licensing its technology to content providers, who will then commercialize it. The company will also open an online “shop” where users could pay a token sum for virtual merchandise like a pair of Oakley sunglasses to wear on their digital face.

Sounds wacky? Note that Big Stage isn’t the only company competing to push Internet users into 3-D. Gizmoz, a San Francisco Startup founded in 2003, and Oddcast Inc., a New York company, are also in the game.

The launch of Big Stage, which is backed by Mission Ventures, Selby Venture Partners and Tech Coast Angels, was delayed from October 2007 because the software took longer to develop than planned.

And the look of the technology is still being perfected: “We’re about 60 percent of where we want to be,” Ressler said.