Switching Gears: Lighting and Gear Company Draco Broadcast Launches New Direct-to-Consumer Rental Services

As a moviemaker, you’ve probably used Draco Broadcast gear without even realizing it.

Draco Broadcast is a leading manufacturer of professional-grade LED lighting and equipment for the video and broadcast industry. They sell business-to-business, providing dealers all over the U.S. (notably B&H and Barbizon Lighting) and internationally with high-end gear, which they in turn rent to production companies and moviemakers.

Starting this fall, Draco Broadcast will add direct-to-consumer retail to their portfolio with a new storefront in San Jose and another in Los Angeles in early 2019. As more retail stores announce closures, this move to brick and mortar may seem counterintuitive. According to CNN Money, more stores closed in 2017 than any year on record. Over 6,700 store closures occurred in the U.S., including big retails brands such as Kmart, JCPenney, and Staples.

“Rentals is a new piece for us,” said John Armendariz, President and COO of Draco Broadcast. “We’ve heard from so many people in the Bay area who want to see the gear and try it out (by renting). Now we don’t have to turn them away.”

“Online sales and the dealer-centric business models have been effective, but we wanted to establish a storefront,” said said Aaron Street, Draco Broadcast’s General Manager. “We want to create our own sales channel in the community to reach Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs who have a high interest in technology.” The film industry in Silicon Valley capitalizes on the high-tech industry, particularly reflected in Cinequest, San Jose’s indie film and tech festival held each March. The festival, highlighted in MovieMaker’s 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2017, is known for its marriage of cinematic arts with technology innovation, by including cutting-edge moviemaking tools in its program.

Draco Broadcast is no stranger to change. It was founded in 2010 in Silicon Valley as Dracast, selling Dracast LED lighting to re-sellers. Dracast includes a wide range of LED fixtures in panel, fresnel, and tube form and the lighting equipment became the company’s flagship product. After developing additional production equipment and brands, the company renamed itself Draco Broadcast. This move led to new ventures in rapid succession and took the company well beyond lighting. In 2014, the company began selling Avinair (HD monitors, signal extenders, and other video accessories) and Magicue (carbon fiber mobile teleprompters, studio, and speech teleprompters with apps and software support). In 2015, Draco added MaxxMove (camera accessories, rig equipment, dollies, and stabilizers, including SmartPhone camera accessories), AXRTec, and Aparo—both of which are new lines of LED video lighting. Aparo, also known as the “Luna” creates round soft light, which according to Draco Broadcast, appears like ambient light because it removes hot spots and hard shadows. AXRTec is a brand of light weight panels, focusing on value in LED lighting because of its high output per cost.

“You can’t let the grass grow under your feet,” said Street of the company’s rapid evolution. “But we want to grow properly. One of the ways that we do that is to be in touch with our customers. The industry is changing. There are a lot more novice moviemakers out there with their own niche. We’ve been a trusted brand and we want to support them and their work.”

According to the Draco Broadcast team, they plan on engaging with the moviemaking community in San Jose in new ways, given their new storefront and business model in the area. Last August, Draco Broadcast held a hack-a-thon to demonstrate how to make the most of their lights. Users shared ideas with the Draco team and others. Future plans include more hack-a-thons, seminars, and clinics with experts, networking events, and product swap meets to build their local presence and help moviemakers keep up with technology changes.

As Draco Broadcast ramps up their new headquarters and business model, they know how important the human element is with their technology. “It’s always all been about our end users—the people who use our lights and gear,” said Street. “They ultimately decide the success of our company.” MM

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