Patricia Rattray, Director of Sales and Marketing, MYT Works, Inc.
Tyler Phillips, Vice President of Product Development & Marketing, Matthews Studio Equipment
Wes Phillips, Chief Executive Officer, SmallHD
Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor, Red Shark News, Ned Soltz Inc.
Toby Sali, Co-Owner, BBS Lighting
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we are looking at lighting and camera gear. We start with Patricia Rattray, director of sales and marketing for MYT Works based in New York City. They create camera dollies, skaters and sliders. Tonight she describes what got the company started, and the products they make.
Larry Jordan: Wes Phillips is the co-founder and CEO of SmallHD. They began as filmmakers, but a strange twist of fate led them into manufacturing camera attached monitors. Wes describes how he built his company on a foundation of potato chips.
Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz helps us make sense of all the camera rigs for DSLR cameras that are out there. What do we need, and how do we pick the best option? Is a DSLR always the best choice for a video shoot?
Larry Jordan: Toby Sali is one of the co-owners of BBS Lighting. They specialize in creating LED based lighting for broadcast theater and film. Tonight Toby explains why the industry shifted to LED lighting and how to pick the best lights for your next project.
Larry Jordan: Tyler Phillips grew up in the grip industry. His father co-founded Matthews studio Gear and invented the C-stand. Tyler, who is their VP of product development and marketing, talks about the state of the grip industry, and what they are planning for the future.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo, with our weekly DoddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts: production, filmmakers, post production and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry covering media production, post production and marketing around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan.
Larry Jordan: There is big news today from AMD and new reports that cast doubt on the success of virtual reality. James DeRuvo will have the details in just a minute. After the news we’ll focus on all the production stuff that isn’t a camera. This means the lights, monitors, stands, hooks, clamps, and gizmos you need to shoot pictures. We’ll be talking with one of the oldest grip equipment companies in the industry, along with one of the newest and we’ll also look at on-camera and production monitors and lights. To put all this gear into perspective, Ned Soltz shares his opinions on the best gear to get when shooting with a DSLR camera.
Larry Jordan: By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week gives you an inside look at The Buzz, quick links to the different segments on the show and curated articles of special interest to filmmakers. Best of all, every issue is free, and comes out on Friday, which means now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: It is good to hear your voice again. What’s the news this week?
James DeRuvo: News from our top cub reporter, named Larry Jordan…
Larry Jordan: Small guy, yeah. Go ahead, I’m just giving myself a hard time.
James DeRuvo: AMD announced their largest graphic software update today which offers support for virtual reality applications. It was designed specifically for high performance gaming, and the creation of virtual reality, and some of these applications converge. AMD said that they found that high level users are more and more demanding professional grade tools, especially when it comes to gaming and virtual reality. So they have tweaked their software to give their graphics a 30 percent performance boost, and in addition they’ve also rebranded the FirePro GPU line to become Radeon Pro. So moving forward, you’ll be hearing the words Radeon Pro whenever they talk about their high end level graphics cards.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that impressed me about their press announcement is how much they’ve stressed how hard they’ve tested this software and the fact that they’ve given it QA levels way beyond what they’ve ever done before, and that this software now underlies all of the AMD products. So I’m curious to see what the market’s reaction is to it. It started shipping today, and the downloads are free, so curious what people say about it.
James DeRuvo: Indeed.
Larry Jordan: What else we got?
James DeRuvo: Mocha also announced a firmware update today for mocha Pro version 5.2. Again, for planar tracking material it has been completely updated and they’ve leveraged the video card GPU via OpenCL. OpenCL’s that open standard that enables you to use the video graphics card processor to lighten the load on the computer processor. It’s where everybody’s going now. They’ve also added a floating point license support to make mocha a plug-in for such applications as Adobe After Effects, Avid Media Composer and others and you can get a render license to use mocha Pro with a render farm for about $99 and that’s a good deal.
Larry Jordan: That’s an amazing deal.
James DeRuvo: The mocha 5.2 update is free to mocha 5 users. It’s mostly a housekeeping update, but that update has really tweaked the performance, so people who use mocha to do their motion tracking should notice a dramatic difference.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking about what mocha can do because it’s an amazing piece of software, and reflecting back to AMD’s announcement of their new emphasis on both gaming and VR, what have we got that we’ve heard about in the world of VR these days?
James DeRuvo: I’ve been saying for a while now that I honestly don’t think VR is really going to be the future. I think it’s more of a gimmick, because one, it doesn’t seem the public is very interested in it because in spite of the fact that you see these commercials where people at Christmastime are putting on their headsets and enjoying this experience, the sales of the headsets just doesn’t bear that out. Apparently because of the high cost of the equipment and the lack of content, people just aren’t buying it. Augmented reality has some really good applications, but I think that this type of system is going to be best suited for video gaming. I really don’t think it has a future in the cinema, simply because we want a lean back experience. We don’t want to be looking around, because if we’re looking around, we might miss something, and some people flat out get sick with virtual reality. So the latest sales figures indicate that right now, virtual reality is a bust.
Larry Jordan: James, for people that want more information about what’s happening in the industry, where can they go on the web?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS. James, as always, thanks for joining us and we’ll talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: Take care Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: I want to introduce you to a new website, Thalo.com. Thalo.com is an artist community and networking site for creative people to connect, be inspired and showcase their creativity. Thalo.com features content from around the world with a global perspective on all things creative. Thalo is the place for creative folks to learn, collaborate, market and sell their works. Thalo is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers, and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Visit Thalo.com and discover how their community can help you connect, learn and succeed. That’s Thalo.com.
Larry Jordan: MYT Works is a designer, manufacturer and retailer of camera motion and support equipment for professional camera operators worldwide. Patricia Rattray is their director of sales and marketing, and joins us to tell us more. Hello Patricia, welcome.
Patricia Rattray: Hi, I’m happy to be here.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you here, except I realized that I may have mispronounced the name of the company. Is it MYT or Mighty?
Patricia Rattray: Well, we are identified by both names so you can say Mighty or MYT.
Larry Jordan: Which would you prefer?
Patricia Rattray: MYT.
Larry Jordan: How did the company get started?
Patricia Rattray: We’re actually the only camera equipment manufacturer in New York founded by a professional filmmaker who had been making films for about 30 years, and he decided that he wanted to end the frustrations of setting up camera equipment and trying to achieve really great camera motion.
Larry Jordan: What was your first product?
Patricia Rattray: He knew he wanted to create something that was fail proof, and he also wanted to create something that offered the most consistent type of camera motion with very clean starts and stops. Also something that lasted a long time with very few performance issues. So the first product was our Glide slider, and that product is still our most popular product.
Larry Jordan: There’s about 800 million different pieces of camera support and sliders of various sorts. What is it that makes your gear special?
Patricia Rattray: We’re special in a lot of ways. Many people who create sliders talk about the camera motion. We have excellent camera motion because we have a very innovative design. Our slider has a sleeve wheel system so the wheels are covered, they’re protected from a lot of the dust and the grime, and it allows for long lasting performance with very little maintenance. All of our systems are designed with a natural damping, so that it’s very easy to start and stop the camera without a lot of bounce back, and we use the highest quality materials. So you can use your system over and over again without worrying about deflection in the rails, or poor quality parts getting damaged, even in the most adverse environments.
Larry Jordan: You’ve talked about your first product, but what types of products do you offer now? I’m not looking for an entire list, but what categories?
Patricia Rattray: We basically have three main groups of products. We have the slider dolly, then we have a skater dolly, which also can be used as a rigging plate. Then we have nodal tripod heads that are fluidless.
Larry Jordan: What’s the difference between a slider and a skater?
Patricia Rattray: The slider dolly is a system that has a fixed rail length, and a carriage that sits on top. It’s also very innovative, we have a detachable high hat on that slider. So you can easily take your camera off of the rail and in seconds, it’s its own mount. You can set it up and do a shot without the rail, and then you can put it right back onto the rail and continue with a moving shot. We build our systems to be modular, and that’s really what differentiates us from our competitors, that every part is multifunctional. That’s really important when you’re on set because many camera operators have to be prepared to do challenging moves and challenging set ups and they don’t have a lot of time to do so. We build with not just motion in mind, but we address the practical issues of setting up, breaking down, without needing someone else to hold the camera, without worrying about the whole system falling over because of heavy packages. We really try to address all those little nuisances that experienced camera operators face every day.
Larry Jordan: OK, I’m convinced that a slider dolly is cool, but I’m still confused what a skater dolly is.
Patricia Rattray: A skater dolly basically has a plate with actual skater wheels on the bottom, and that type of dolly runs on what we call speed rail. So you can lay rail down of any length, and the camera sits on a mount which is on a plate, and that runs along the rail. The real difference between a skater dolly and a slider dolly is the skater dolly, you can take that plate and run it along a variety of different types of rails or surfaces. With a slider dolly, you have a fixed carriage, and a fixed length rail.
Larry Jordan: Why would somebody use a slider dolly if a skater dolly gives me all kinds of arbitrary lengths? Why would I want to do something which is fixed in length?
Patricia Rattray: It speaks to the nature of being a camera operator. Sometimes you don’t have time for elaborate set ups for putting things together. A slider dolly, especially our slider dolly, is a grab and go product. So within minutes, you’re ready to go, and it doesn’t require a lot of tools or a lot of thought to assemble it, and it’s really just a fail proof way to get your shots quickly and always be prepared. A skater dolly might take a little more thought. It can be a little more flexible especially when you’re traveling because you can just carry the skater plate, and get rails on set or on location. So a lot of times it just boils down to the practical needs of the operator, which one will work for them.
Larry Jordan: You’ve mentioned several times that your products are reliable. What are they made of that keeps their reliability so high?
Patricia Rattray: All of our products are machined out of aluminum and steel and we do this right here in Manhattan in our shop. We don’t source our parts from other parts of the world because we believe in knowing where our products are coming from and who’s making them, and we have great quality control. We are a micro manufacturer. We hand assemble to order, and that means we’re testing out every single part, every single system, and making sure that the performance level is high.
Larry Jordan: Your website makes a differentiation between machining a part, and casting a part. Why is machining better?
Patricia Rattray: Machining is more precise, and you end up with a better surface finish. So we pride ourselves in having systems that have a high level of performance, and you really need precision to do that. Any slight imperfection in a part will impact your final video so you just can’t afford to have problems with either a damaged part or deflection in the rail or just pieces that don’t fit together quite correctly which gives a normal in the set up. So in order to create great video, you have to have extreme precision in how you’re making each part, and they all come together in your entire set up.
Larry Jordan: I remember you said that the founder of the company whose name you’ve never mentioned by the way, who is it?
Patricia Rattray: His name is Etienne Sauret.
Larry Jordan: He decided to make his first slider because he was frustrated with the stuff that’s out there. How do you decide which products to create, because now you’ve got a whole line of skaters and sliders and high hats and everything else? How do you decide what’s next?
Patricia Rattray: I think it comes from speaking to our clients, and really understanding the life of a camera operator. They’re really unique. They have a creative side, they have to have an eye for framing a shot, but they also have to carry heavy equipment and they have to deal with safety issues, and they have to deal with maintenance issues. They always have to be prepared. They always have to have everything in their toolbox to create a set up or to rig something the way a DP or cinematographer wants it. Everything we do is just driven by those day to day practical problems that camera operators face, and we’re asking them every day, we invite them into our shop, to demo our products, tell us their stories so that we truly understand how they work and that we can help them.
Larry Jordan: Do you do custom work if a DP has got a specific task that needs to be done? Can they come to you for some help?
Patricia Rattray: We really don’t do a lot of custom work because it’s very expensive. We do manufacture in small quantities so what we do is, we listen to a request, and if enough people are requesting something, we do look at models to see if we can build that feature into the next design. That’s really the wonderful nature of being a micro manufacturer, that we can take the feedback, and because they produce in small quantities, we can actually change our design more frequently or improve our design to meet the needs of our clients. It’s a much more facile operation than a large mass manufacturer.
Larry Jordan: How much does your gear cost? I know that there’s different prices for different gear, but give me some examples of pricing.
Patricia Rattray: Our sliders start around $1,000 and they can go up to about 1800 for the small slider. The medium is in the 2000 to 2500 range, and the large is around 3,000. Honestly, if you order a 12 foot large glide you can get up to $8,000.
Larry Jordan: How does the camera person decide which piece of gear they should get?
Patricia Rattray: Many of our clients are owner operators, and they’re doing all kinds of work, so a lot of times they’re picking tools that are the most versatile. And we also have clients with several of our systems. They might have a three foot small, for working with a smaller camera. They might have a six foot large for working with a heavier camera package. So I think a lot of it is just based on the types of sets they’re on, and they kind of work they do. Yes, it really just depends on your own preferences.
Larry Jordan: As you look at the industry, as clearly we want to have shots continue to move, and we want to have them be as stable as possible, what trends are you following? What’s caught your eye in terms of things that we might want to develop products for?
Patricia Rattray: There are trends in camera movement. Even though the idea of moving a camera has been around, many of our clients are just realizing how versatile they can be with movement. So camera movement is always new, there’s always something new you can do if you have the right equipment. Some of our clients are doing more curved shots and that’s pretty exciting. Some of our clients are just discovering that there’s this creativity in moving when they had not moved before. So it’s not necessarily that there’s some big trend in movement but when you have our tools, you’re more comfortable attempting the movement, or knowing that you’re prepared to try movement in circumstances that might be new because you have the confidence of equipment that won’t fail.
Larry Jordan: And for people that want to check out what these tools are, where can they go on the web?
Patricia Rattray: Our website is HYPERLINK “http://www.mytworks.com” www.mytworks.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, mytworks.com. Patricia Rattray is the director of sales and marketing for MYT Works. Patricia, this has been fun, thanks for joining us today.
Patricia Rattray: Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Founded in 2009, SmallHD has become a leading innovator of on camera monitoring solutions for professional cinematographers and videographers worldwide. For example, they created the world’s first on camera HD monitor. Wes Phillips is the CEO and co-founder of SmallHD and welcome Wes, it’s good to talk to you today.
Wes Phillips: Thank you for having me on Larry.
Larry Jordan: I have to ask, how did SmallHD get started?
Wes Phillips: There is a great video produced by Hurlbut Visuals that sort of documents our start up story, and it actually starts off with submitting an ad entry into the first Doritos Super Bowl ad contest which we actually ended up winning, twice at one point, and we won some money from that and that seeded our products and got us to where we are today.
Larry Jordan: So your entire foundation’s built on potato chips?
Wes Phillips: That’s it, yes. And a little bit of creativity mixed in there.
Larry Jordan: That shifts gears, because there you were creating something like a commercial, and suddenly you’re in hardware manufacturing. What got you interested in hardware?
Wes Phillips: Yes it is kind of a weird shift. We were creative professionals starting off really and we realized that there was sort of a gap in the market. We were trying to shoot on a computer, recording to a computer really, as well as using 35 millimeter lens adapters before the DSLR revolution really happened. We needed a monitor that had a high definition resolution. We started looking around and realized that nothing existed even though the technology existed. So we just started trying to cobble together basically our own solution, and then we realized that there are other people online interested in something similar, and so it sort of evolved into a product company. But again, we started off in a basement, and it was a very small operation then, and we weren’t really thinking of forming this large company at the time. It was just to provide a solution for us as shooters. So we kind of know the plight of the shooter, which I think helps us when it comes to developing products.
Larry Jordan: Your website indicates that you are a leading innovator of on camera monitoring solutions, yet when I go to your website, I’m looking at 32 inch monitors and 24 inch monitors and 17 inch monitors which I really don’t want to have to mount and carry on a camera.
Wes Phillips: Yes, those probably won’t fit on a camera. That actually is relatively new to SmallHD. We’ve got large monitors now which sort of makes you question the name a little bit. Isn’t 32 inches sort of the new small for high definition these days, especially in the home? But we have shifted to production monitors because people have been asking us to make them for a long time, and we wanted to bring our ruggedness and just the way we think about as far as form factor, and utility to the production monitor industry, and so now you can buy an on camera monitor and a production monitor from us and have the same user experience because the menu system is effectively the same. It’s very simple, easy to use and we think that that really helps shooters work more quickly which you know, is everything when you’re on set.
Larry Jordan: That gets to a bigger question. There are a lot of monitor manufacturers out there and if I go to NAB I can’t throw a stick without hitting four of them. What makes your products unique?
Wes Phillips: There are a lot out there and a lot of them offer really great features and stuff, and on paper, sometimes ours don’t even look the best. But like I said, we offer very consistent, really nice user experience, and once people buy and own our products, they really get it, and they’re customers for life. It’s sort of the Apple effect because Apple hardly ever has the fastest hardware for the price, as a lot of its competitors, but people go to Apple and continue buying from Apple because they provide a fantastic user experience. Really, that’s our goal as a company, is to try to make the user experience the best possible experience.
Larry Jordan: One thing I noted on your website is that you’re promoting some of your monitors as being HDR. HDR is defined as more pixels for 4K. Greater saturation and greater brightness.
Wes Phillips: Correct.
Larry Jordan: It’s defined by the Rec. 2020 spec. How much of this do your monitors hit?
Wes Phillips: We are sort of at the mercy of the panel manufacturers, so we don’t make the glass part of the very front of the display. LG or Samsung or Sony or some other company you’ve never heard of, makes that part of the display for us, and then we make the back light section for it, and all the surrounding circuitry and hardware to drive it. So when it comes to the displays, we’re a little bit at the mercy of those making it, and something that you can’t control is the saturation that you’re talking about, that’s called color gamut. And Rec 2020 has a very broad color gamut, and most displays cannot come close to touching 2020 at this point. So it’s sort of a target to shoot for as a general rule. As we move forward, our newer displays have a wider and wider color gamut that goes toward Rec 2020 but it’ll take some time to get there. The brightness, because we can control the back light brightness, we apply that for the HDR displays. We’re able to juice it up well over 1,000 nits, which is more than most of the consumer displays doing HDR can perform. That’s our sweet spot for that, and we do that with 10-bit color depth which is just the number of colors. If you have a higher bit depth, it doesn’t mean that it’s more vivid in any way, it just means that you see less banding in a gradient. So if you have a gradient from one dark gray to a light gray, it just means you’ll see less vertical stripes or banding the more bit depth you have. That’s something that’s important to HDR because of how much range there is. If you had low bit depth, you’d see lots of banding.
Wes Phillips: That’s where we fit. We don’t do 4K displays yet, again because most people on set are not actually transferring 4K signals around set and monitoring on them as a broad rule. It’s still 1080p because there hasn’t become a very common standard for 4K distribution on set yet.
Larry Jordan: So the Rec 2020 spec which defines what HDR is, is a goal and what we’re doing now is we have a series of incremental steps to get to that goal, but we’re not there yet?
Wes Phillips: Correct.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information, where can they go on the web?
Wes Phillips: They can go to smallhd.com and find everything they need.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, smallhd, and Wes Phillips is the CEO and co-founder of SmallHD. Wes, thanks for joining us today.
Wes Phillips: Thank you again.
Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is an author, editor, educator and consultant on all things relating to digital video. He’s also a contributing editor for Creative Planet, and Red Sharp News, and best of all, he’s a regular here on The Buzz. Hello Ned, welcome back.
Ned Soltz: Good to be back Larry. Good to be back. I hope you’re nursing that cold along.
Larry Jordan: We will soldier on in spite of our severe illness, I tell you.
Ned Soltz: We’ll make it right?
Larry Jordan: We’ve been talking about everything except cameras today, and with you I wanted to talk about the gear that we attach to DSLR cameras. If I’ve got a DSLR, what gear should I consider adding to it to enable me to shoot better pictures?
Ned Soltz: Well, DSLR and or mirrorless. I like to extend that right now, because so many of these hybrid still video cameras are in the mirrorless range, as opposed to the DSLRs, so I think we need to extend the terminology. But having said that, of course there’s a place for them in production. I don’t think we need to rely upon them quite as much right now since there are smaller dedicated video cameras. But if you are shooting those, usually for perhaps B-roll, perhaps for something on the go, you have to sort of weigh the portability of these cameras against rigging them out so, you know, so Frankenrig to use the term that a lot of people are using, that you actually have something that becomes almost as costly and more cumbersome than a dedicated video camera.
Ned Soltz: But having said that, I think the most important thing, particularly if you’re moving with this, is some form of stabilization. That’s the most critical.
Larry Jordan: What does stabilization mean to you?
Ned Soltz: Stabilization can mean to me the internal stabilization, such as with some of the Sony cameras right now, with the on sensor stabilization. That still isn’t stable enough really for extensive hand held or motion video. That can either mean one of these hand held gimbals which can be in the under $1000 range, but they can be very heavy if you’re trying to hold these things one handed, depending upon the camera and the lens, and a little difficult to balance. Or something like a Ronin, which of course is going to be a little bit more costly, but once you’ve got that balance, you’ve really got the best of all possible movement types of gear for these mirrorless and DSLR cameras. So that’s one thing. I think the stabilization is the most critical.
Ned Soltz: Beyond that, perhaps the cage which will give you some mounting points for microphones and or viewfinders. I hear we just had Wes Phillips on with SmallHD, so with a SmallHD monitor or whatever you’re using as a viewfinder, and lights and a mike, and external power. I think that’s pretty significant, but then some people may want to add a shoulder mount to it, and then you may want to add handles. Oh and then of course the rods to attach those handles. Don’t forget your matte box for light control purposes as well as for mounting filters, because of course small cameras, hand held cameras like this, don’t have ND filters like dedicated video cameras do, so you may need to throw some ND in front of the lens. And you see how it goes on and on and on and it never ends.
Larry Jordan: I was just picturing this erector set with a camera in the middle of it.
Ned Soltz: And that’s what it is. The other thing that I would really caution people about, in terms of kitting these cameras out extensively, is that every time you attach one more item, that’s one more mounting point. That’s one more thing to come loose. That’s one more thing that may need more precise adjustment to be straight or to be level. So I think that we’ve really got to be careful in this extensive kitting. And the other side of that too is, people often look at the very inexpensive Chinese knock off kinds of cages, and mounts. They’re just not as precise. To mention a brand name, nothing is built like a Zacuto. Nothing is priced like a Zacuto. I mean, you get what you pay for. It’s a higher priced item, but it’s an item that lasts. The Redrock micro is also similar to that. It’s something that is a more precision created and milled and fitted item. So I think there are a lot of caveats when kitting out your DSLR or mirrorless camera. But the most important thing is with any kind of movement, some kind of stabilization.
Larry Jordan: Ned, for people that want to keep track of what you’re writing, where can they go on the web?
Ned Soltz: Well, the best place to go is HYPERLINK “http://www.redsharknews.com” www.redsharknews.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, redsharknews.com and Ned Soltz is a contributing editor there. Ned, as always, a delight chatting. We’ll talk to you soon.
Ned Soltz: It’s a pleasure Larry, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Toby Sali has a background in audio technology as well as marketing for visionary brands like Light Panels, and the Open Television Network. Now, Toby is co-owner of BBS Lighting, and marketing their new LED lighting gear. Hello Toby, welcome.
Toby Sali: Hey Larry, how you doing?
Larry Jordan: I am doing great. How did BB&S Lighting get started?
Toby Sali: This company is 17 years old, started in Copenhagen, Denmark. Peter Plesner with 20 years of opera lighting, and Henrique was doing 20 years of world cup and Olympics lighting. They formed a company to do only LED lighting, 17 years ago which is actually kind of scary.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of LED lighting companies out there. Why should someone consider BB&S?
Toby Sali: Well the technology. They started out building lights for Arri, Desisti, Robert Johnson, Robert Juliat, and all the professionals. The first four or five years they went to IBC International show in Amsterdam, and NAB, all the factory guys knew them, all the manufacturers knew them, but no consumers knew them because they built stuff for everybody else. About seven years ago, they started using their own name as Brother, Brother & Son, BB&S Lighting, so that’s what we’ve called it, and we’ve just reincorporated under BB&S Lighting again, and we’re merging our two websites worldwide.
Larry Jordan: So they got their start doing OEM work, manufacturing for others?
Toby Sali: Yes. Very specially worked because they were the only ones who really knew how to power an LED light and get something out of it. I mean it was very difficult back in the beginning to get an LED that actually worked, and they were a terrible color.
Larry Jordan: Yes, well I was going to talk about that, because LEDs were really limited in their color spectrum for a long time. How did that change, and how have these guys addressed it?
Toby Sali: BB&S, Brother, Brother & Son, BBS Lighting is known for having the best white light LED in the business. Against all of our competition. I mean, CNN went out and tested every light on the market place before they rented and bought all their lights for the debates, for the elections this past year. We won. James Cameron’s doing a film right now with Rod Rodriguez, and they checked out all these lights, and they called us up and we didn’t even know we were in the running. They called us up and said “Give us a couple of hundred of these things.” So it’s pretty amazing, but what we’ve done is, we’re over 90 CRI which is really good white color. We don’t do a lot of black, we only have one black color product, and there’s 40 of those on the new Alien spaceship, the new Alien movie coming out next year. Secret sauce there.
Toby Sali: But we’ve gone into remote phosphor and remote phosphor means that we remote the phosphor from the LED itself. The biggest problem over all these years has been as soon as you put electricity into an LED, you start to do a color shift, and you burn the phosphor around the smallest edges, like a chocolate ice cream cone. It drips around the edges. You get too much electricity in there, the heat builds up and it burns right there, and it changes the color of the LED. That’s why no LEDs ever matched. There was nothing, even four, five years ago, they weren’t even the same color, and after three months they’d be a different color again, and you just didn’t know what was going on. So, even the light panels, we went through that whole process of trying to find and buy the right batch of LEDs, buy the best color you could get. With remote phosphor, we’ve remoted the phosphor from the LED, so we use blue LEDs, and then we put the phosphor about anywhere from a quarter of an inch to an inch away from the LED itself. So no heat, no dissipation, no color shift, no flicker, no change, and it works fabulously with all these new cameras and they have really fast chips that are sampling so fast that they’re looking for daylight. it’s not the amount of light, it’s the proper quality of light. So the new cameras can work their best, good magic.
Larry Jordan: I like the idea of separating the phosphor from the LED, that’s very innovative. And for people that want more information, where can they go on the web?
Toby Sali: HYPERLINK “http://www.bbslighting.com” www.bbslighting.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, bbslighting.com and Toby Sali is a co-owner in the company. Toby, thanks for joining us today.
Toby Sali: Hey thank you so much Larry, take care.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Tyler Phillips is the vice-president of product development and marketing for Matthews Studio Equipment. This means that he manages the engineering and tech support teams and helps plan the future product and marketing strategy of the company. Hello Tyler, welcome.
Tyler Phillips: Hey Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: When I started in this industry, Matthews was already legendary in terms of its grip equipment, but for people that may not be familiar, how did Matthews get started?
Tyler Phillips: It goes back about 47 years ago, a gentleman by the name of Roy Isaiah had a small sewing shop. My father met him and they kind of partnered up and started doing a number of things together, including the development of industry standard hardware and after about a year or so of my father working with Roy, Roy decided to go in a different direction and my father bought the company from Roy. Took it to where it is by developing the first folding spring loaded C-stand, many various types of hardware. He also helped standardize what we know now as the baby pin, or five eighths inch pin, and the junior pin, the inch and an eighth pin. Our catalog now has just over 1400 different lighting control, probably a couple of hundred different versions of stands, and menace arms, and jibs and dollies and you name it, if it holds something we have it.
Larry Jordan: Your dad’s blog, which is on the Matthews’ website, reads like a history of grip equipment. You grew up in the industry, I mean you spent your whole life there. What was it like growing up and watching this evolve?
Tyler Phillips: I didn’t spend all my time here but I did go out on my own for a while when I was in college, and I pursued the banking industry which I did ending in high school, throughout college. You know, mid way through college I ended up changing my major from finance into film and television and graduated with a film and TV degree and I almost got a job at NBC. I was offered a job and then my father said, “Wait, what the hell am I going to do? You need to come work for me.” That’s really how we came together, although I did kind of grow up in the shop, I wasn’t here for a lot of my teenage years and half of my college years.
Larry Jordan: Putting your product development hat on, there’s about 283 million pieces of grip equipment in the world. What are the most popular pieces?
Tyler Phillips: Right now, as far as our catalog goes, things like Matthellini clamps and Mafer clamps and now our micro grip line are selling every day into probably over 100 countries in this world. On top of that, things like grid clamps and pipe hangers and bread and butter hardware is an everyday sale for us.
Larry Jordan: As a marketing guy, that’s wonderful news. But as a product development guy, you’ve already got thousands and thousands of pieces of gear in your catalog. You’ve standardized on typical interconnects. What’s left to create?
Tyler Phillips: Well I can kind of hint at where we’re going with it. Yes, there is a standard now, you know, the baby and the junior and the Matthellini clamps and the C clamps and the junior pipe clamps and things like that. We’re working on a system that’s all interchangeable, where you can take a standard C-clamp that may not have a baby or a junior on it, or a Matthellini clamp that may not have a pin that goes, you know, left or right or straight. But we’re working on a system that you can take one clamp and turn it into a junior or a baby, or you can put a right angled pin on it, or you can take a pin and make it six inches instead of three inches. I think that’s probably the direction we’re going to go in in the next year or so.
Larry Jordan: More interchangeability or more convertibility? Is that what I’m hearing?
Tyler Phillips: Yes, more convertibility, more interchangeability.
Larry Jordan: When you’re designing a product, what’s the process? Are you doing clay models, or talking to customers or lathing aluminum? How does it work?
Tyler Phillips: Conceptual starts with one of two things. It’s either we’re working with an industry professional like a key grip. I’ll give an example, like the Max Menace Arm, which is a very popular product for us, was developed by one of the better key grips in the world, Richard Mall. And ten, 12 years ago, him and my father worked together on bringing that to market and still today we work with a variety of dolly grips and key grips to develop together in conjunction things like our new Dutti dolly or the Matthellini clamp which was done by Steve Cardolini and others like that. Today we now have our own product development team which consists of a couple of engineers, my father, myself, our VP of sales and a few other people around the office. Sometimes it starts with a napkin, a couple of beers at a bar, and eventually goes to a CAD system, like solid works, where it gets drawn up and we can tweak it and we can see it in a 3D space. Once we’re happy with the design and solid works, we’ll go ahead and prototype it either on a lathe, or a four axis CNC. We haven’t really got into the 3D printing yet, but it’s something we’re looking into. Really starting with solid works and then going into our machine shop from there, and then we get to test it out. Take it out in the field, hand it off to a few people we trust, get their approval and that’s really the process there.
Larry Jordan: Does product development start with a customer coming to you? Or does it start with you having an idea and you contact a customer to see if they’d be interested?
Tyler Phillips: A little bit of both. My job and part of my passion is to really read what the market trends are. I see lighting control going to let’s say LEDs, you know, maybe they need something smaller, lighter, faster to travel with. Or we may have a customer like a grip or a gaffer or a DP come to us, and say “I need a widget bar that goes this way. Can you do that for me?” We’ll go ahead and make it and prototype it, and if it’s decided among the team here that it has potential, we’ll bring it to market. Or sometimes we’ll just do a few of them for a smaller group of grips or gaffers or DPs.
Larry Jordan: That’s something I never even considered. You’ll do custom work as well as mass production work?
Tyler Phillips: Yes, absolutely. Sometimes that’s where some of our better ideas come from. Or technical parts. We’ll do a one off run for a client, and they’ll come back, and go “Oh man, everybody on set loves this thing and I’ve got people interested. Can I send them to you?” That little one off part maybe turn into a catalog product. But yes, absolutely we’re more than happy to do custom work, whether you want a piece of camera support or a stand that has five legs instead of three legs, or something that’s powder coated in red instead of chromed. Yes, we’re totally open to doing all of that.
Larry Jordan: One of the things you mentioned earlier is that you’re interested in developing better interchangeability and convertibility amongst your gear. What other trends are you watching that might turn into products in the future?
Tyler Phillips: Since I really started heading the product development team, we’ve been focusing on camera support and how to really move the camera faster, safe of course, but faster and make the gear lighter so you can get your shot off a little quicker, and you don’t break your back bringing it up the stairs or you don’t have a problem getting it into your car. Because today everything has to do with mobility as far as the video world. Of course we still have the larger items we sell for the major cinema world, but our focus has really been smaller, lighter, faster when it comes to camera support.
Larry Jordan: What’s your newest toy?
Tyler Phillips: There’s really two that kind of go together. One being the Dutti dolly, which is a very simplistic dolly system that fits in a small case that can go on an airplane, that is capable of being put onto a couple of stands or you can ride it like a skateboard, with a … on it if you want. Or you can put a seat on it and ride it down the middle of a bus aisle or an airplane aisle. And if you want to get really tricky you add our new elevator system to it, which is about a three and a half foot elevation system that uses basic Olympic counterweights to move your camera vertically, so you combine the elevator with the duty dolly, and you get this nice little tracking shot with a little elevation to it. Both of those things are super lightweight and super easy to maintain, and really easy to travel with. We’ve had tremendous feedback with those two products.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been in this industry your whole life. What still makes it fun?
Tyler Phillips: Working with the best of the best grips in the world, or helping somebody bring their product to life. I think that still gives me a ton of passion. Bringing it to market and seeing how people use this stuff. We come up with a product for one use, and then we find out people are using it another way and that is really cool for me to see how people use the gear we make.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to take a look at the gear you have available, where can they go on the web?
Tyler Phillips: The website would be msegrip.com or for social media would be matthewsgrip.
Larry Jordan: That’s msegrip.com and Tyler Phillips is the VP of product development and marketing for Matthews Studio Equipment. Tyler, this has been a fun visit, thank you for your time.
Tyler Phillips: Hey, it’s been a pleasure Larry. Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: It is an industry filled with toys. Whether we’re dealing with booms that connect microphones to the rest of the production, or we’re dealing with lights or the stands that hold them, or camera supports and skaters and sliders and dollies, it’s a never ending collection of really weird stuff that makes production so much fun. In finding new ways to tell stories with pictures we have to have new gear that makes said story telling possible.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, Patricia Rattray from MYT Works, Wes Phillips from SmallHD, Ned Soltz of Red Shark News, Toby Sali of BB&S Lighting, Tyler Phillips of Matthews Studio Equipment, and as always, James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online, and all available to you today. And remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
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