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Cinematographers Love Toys. Cybel Reviews Cine Gear Expo – NYC

Cinematographers Love Toys. Cybel Reviews Cine Gear Expo - NYC

For those unaware: Cine Gear Expo is a trade show that happens once a year. There are seminars and exhibitor booths showing off the latest technology and services in film production. Sadly, the NYC expo is nowhere as extensive and diverse as the shows in LA or NAB in Las Vegas. What follows is what gear caught my eye, appeared to be an improvement over what I currently use and seems feasible given my typical budgets. You can’t really judge any equipment until “out in the field”, but this is a good start.

Favorite camera: My number reason to attend Cine Gear Expo this year was to see the new Arri Amira, a “versatile documentary style camera”. I was raised on the Arri SR at Tisch, have done some of my finest work on the Alexa and was excited to play with a lighter, built for run-and-gun digital camera. But it was a no show. I had my geek moment with the Alexa XT (see photo) and moved on.

Favorite light: I was immediately sold on the Area 48 LED light system from BBS Lighting. Very strong light output but at a low wattage. I liked the interchangeable 3200k or 5600k phosphor panels for more accurate color correction. Most significantly, I loved the “Snap Bag” Soft Box with diffusion. I’m not a fan of the tradition Chimera with Speed Ring. One day, someone is going to injure themselves with those adaptor rods. I like the ease of just “snapping” on a softbox. I also like that their soft box is, for lack of a better word, “mush-able”. You can contort it to shape and mold your light. The Area 48s are only available to purchase, but I hope NYC rental houses start offering them. Great for documentary and tv work.

Favorite camera accessory: I was relieved to hear presenter, David Leitner at the Sony seminar, address the awkward ergonomics of the FS100. He was actually presenting the FS700 but showed off a Vocas handgrip with rods. Vocas actually wasn’t presenting and may be an old company, but it offered a solution to making some modular cameras easier to operate handheld (in particular for those of us raised shooting Aatons or SRs handheld). I find a number of the cages or SLR camera support awkward and (for how I operate) non-sensical. The Vocas made sense.

Favorite film service: Light Iron. They offer a lot of services but the two I found most attractive, and worth convincing a producer to budget for, were the Live Play and Lily Pad services. Both are explained in this online demo. I can use Lily Pad to create, on set, same day dailies with custom looks. Live Play is an iPad Video Assist that allows my director and I to watch dailies from anywhere. We can add production notes that are stored in the meta data.

Favorite Camera Support “Maybe”. Matthews is offering a new slider which looks great. When I have had the budget for a slider/pocket dolly, we often did not have enough money for the motorized version. Either a grip or myself had to manually move the camera along the slider. The move was most fluid when shooting on a large camera but SLR shoots suffered.

My other favorite “maybe” goes to the Freefly Systems Movi. I’m sure you’ve seen this video by Vincent Laforet. It’s pretty amazing but I’m also not convinced it will work within my budgets. I believe the rig can only take any camera up to 12lbs. To really exploit what the rig can do and get that dynamic footage, you need one operator to run with the camera, another operator to handle the pan/tilting and the 1st AC to pull focus. If I’m DPing an SLR shoot, its hard to convince my producer to hire a 1st AC. Additional crew means more paychecks, potentially more cars for transportation and more “mouths to feed”. If we do have the budget to add more crew, then I may just opt for a larger camera and a Steadicam Op.

My budgets usually fall into two categories: 1. me, a camera (5D, PMW200, FS100) and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Or 2. me, a camera (Alexa, Red, C500), a 1st and 2nd AC, DIT, Steadicam Op day player and a Camera PA who has a whole lot of enthusiasm. Maybe I would use the Movi for B-camera on a bigger shoot? Maybe.

Going to these trade shows are fun but ultimately, I trust my Keys’ suggestions as to what G/E package and camera accessories we should rent. In the same way my directors trust me to know what to do to create their vision. I trust my crew to know what they’ll need to fulfill my vision. I will always know what camera, lenses and filters I want to use. I also have my preferred Post Houses. But I want my Dolly Grip to get the dolly they are most effective with. I want my AC to have accessories that make it easiest to build a camera, shoot in an adverse location and protect the footage. And my Gaffer and Key Grip to get the G/E package that executes my lighting plan that’s easiest for them to set up given crew size, location, time and budget limitations.

I love toys. But I love my crew more.

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