The Project: Used the Web to bring together teams of editors when Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers fell behind schedule in the fall of 2002.

The Payoff: Although the rescue effort cost $1 million, the final edit was done in time for the film's premiere.

At Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. (SNE ), they call it a "9-1-1." The call came in last year from New Zealand. Editors on the special effects-laden Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers were running out of time to make the movie's Dec. 2, 2002, premiere. Worse, director Peter Jackson was in London working on the musical score, his Weta Ltd. special-effects team was in Wellington, New Zealand, and the 650-person Imageworks special effects group was in Culver City, Calif.

Even for Hollywood, where fresh-shot "dailies" are often beamed by satellite to demanding studio heads, Sony's use of the Internet was imaginative. The company set up a private network, linking the three sites across 20 different time zones and letting Sony's editors download more than 100 shots from Weta. Then they started editing, putting clubs in the empty hands of Urukhai warriors and arrows in star Orlando Bloom's bow. During lengthy conference calls, Weta producers, Jackson, and Sony producers used a secure Web site to review updated scenes. Special software allowed the three to watch simultaneously as each person used a digital pointer to discuss specific details or pull up frames or footage.

The rescue effort cost about $1 million. But by using the Net instead of overnight couriers, it saved weeks of production time. Otherwise, New Line Cinema Inc. (TWX ) would have missed the deadline and lost millions in wasted promotions and ads. Now that's emergency relief.

By Ronald Grover

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