Lower Mainland company wins Oscar for unique inflatables

Four business partners from the Vancouver area will head to the Oscars in Los Angeles after winning an Academy Award for developing a unique air wall used on movie sets. David McIntosh, Steve Smith, Mike Branham and Mike Kirilenko of Aircover Inflatables will receive a Scientific and Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“It was quite a surprise to hear we had won,” admits Steve Smith. “I got a call from a friend and now the four of us are going to the Oscars.”

The four met working as key grips in the movie industry and came up with the idea of the inflatable wall as a safer alternative to regular walls and overheads. “There have been accidents on movie sets where a strong gust of wind has taken down big walls and overhead rigging. As key grips we’re responsible for these large structures and the wind is very unpredictable.”

The air wall is a system of modular inflatable panels that were first used on the set of Godzilla and are quickly become the industry standard. They have since been used on other film and television productions, including Game of Thrones, Tomorrowland and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The inflatable wall will be used on upcoming film projects, including Star Trek Beyond, Planet of the Apes and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

The panels can be quickly inflated and deflated on location at lengths reaching hundreds of feet to support blue or green screens. They are also less costly than regular walls, saving on location fees, labour and equipment rentals.

Smith credits David McIntosh with creating the inflatable walls, which were built in 2010. Mike Branham and Mike Kirilenko are vendors in the film industry and Smith is devoting all his time to Aircover Inflatables. “It all fit together and we became friends and built a company.”

Aircover Inflatables has grown to five full-time employees with up to 15 working at busy times. The company has moved from North Vancouver to a larger 15,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Annacis Island.

Smith says the inflatable walls have uses outside of movie sets. “We have other products and intend to keep growing. There have been a range of requests from making temporary billboards to using inflatable walls to cut the sound at outdoor concerts.”

For now, the four Oscar-winning partners will take a break from their busy schedules to claim their prize in Hollywood.

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