Best of a Backlot: A Veteran AD Tests Top Tech From Cine Gear Expo 2018 So You Don’t Have To

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With its aisles upon aisles of eye candy for the big kids into cameras, grips and lighting. Cine Gear Expo has become a veritable amusement park for film professionals.

In May, the annual event on Paramount Studios’ New York street was awash in technocranes, cable-cams, grip-rigged dune buggies, and remote-controlled everything, while the sound stages were packed with the latest drool-worthy offerings from the majors like ARRI, RED, Canon and Panasonic. Add to that an array of fun swag, food trucks, plus numerous options for adult beverages, and it’s easy to see why the event has cemented itself as the below-the-line summer kickoff block party.

All of the above, plus a lot of old school social networking, offer more than enough reason to fight the parking, sun, and crowds. Cine Gear brings that “Hey, you should call Bob, he’s starting a show,” and “I had no idea you’re making your own film, how can I help?” sort of handshaking, back-slapping type of networking. I ran into the guy who gave me my first job as a camera PA in New York more than 20 years ago and found out that another of our college friends is running the rental department of a major camera house. (Can you say “family rate”?)

But—and there’s always a but—I went this year with the express purpose of looking to see what new gear, upgrades, or technologies were offered for indie moviemakers working with lower budgets who are trying to thread the needle between the gear they want and the gear they can afford. Yes, the new ARRI LF and Signature Series lenses are stunning, but if you’re maxing out credit cards or cajoling your family to invest in your feature, they’re just not a consideration. Even based on one or two-day week rental prices, a full frame RED, or Alexa package with lenses, batteries, and support can range from $7,000 to 10,000 per week. The same can be said of most of the new gear offered by Defy, Leica and Atomos, as their rental prices place them out of reach of moviemakers with majestic vision and micro budgets. When bankers set up booths on the backlot to help with on-the-spot financing, you know you’re shopping in the Neiman Marcus of big boy toys.

So, with that, here’s some of the gear showcased in 2018 that’s poised to earn back its cost in the field, perform flawlessly, deliver professional results, and save time—which means money.

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