As 2010 comes to an end, we prepare for yet another year packed with new products, new cameras and of course, a new building! Cinevate continues to grow, and we’ve found the need to expand for the fourth time in 3 years. Thunder Bay has the distinct advantage of affordable property, meaning our most cost-effective solution for this next expansion, was to find a used building and look at converting it to our needs. What you’ll see from us (documented of course) over early 2011, is the process of taking an empty warehouse and converting it into a net-zero energy footprint building. It will house Cinevate’s studio, LEAN assembly space and several of our current, creative partners. It will be the first building in the region where, rather than focusing on short-term profit, the future of our children will be a prime consideration along with our operational needs.
Since the last CEO blog a great deal has been going on around us. For one thing, our involvement with the Henry’s store chain in Canada has resulted in more and more of our products being available for hand’s on trials in Canada. What transpires over the next few months will see the same happen in the U.S. In Australia, you’ll find our products now distributed by G.D.B International AV to various locations across Australia and New Zealand.
On the product front, Cyclops has been receiving extremely positive feedback from the field. PhotoLife.com published this DSLR Viewfinder Review. Our pals from MediaBall in Ottawa, just came up with a great clip that had the entire Cinevate team laughing. The clip ironically reveals my brother-in-law (thanks Franco!) who braved frigid conditions with the boys to make us all laugh. Cyclops is one of those rare products that cannot be evaluated from a picture, but the second you look into it, everything becomes very clear (pun intended). Check out The Game Changer - Cyclops DSLR Viewfinder.
In the “what’s new” department, look for Proteus Simplis. You wanted smaller, lighter, more versatile, less expensive right? Take a close look at our Cineman tweets and Facebook posts! We’re very excited about this new rig system, which of course fully compliments our entire product line.
On the camera slider side of things, the Atlas 10 (DSLR Slider) launch set new records across the board. Like Cyclops, feedback from the field has been consistently enthusiastic as folks get the units in-hand for the first time. You might say we’ve learned a great deal developing no less than four different camera slider systems. This experience has provided a solid knowledge base, that we infused into the Atlas 10 product line. All of our camera slider systems will soon see motion control available as add-on kits, further enhancing creative possibilities. On the topic of camera sliders, Cinevate’s Vimeo plays spiked this month after launching the Pegasus Carbon Video University piece. This collaboration with Imaginarium combined our concepts with their cinematographic skills. We were thrilled with the result.
Stillmotion continues to knock our socks off. Their recent productions for the Golf Channel showcase their refined story telling techniques that shed new light on the personalities behind the clubs. They also recently shot a commercial for Canon and produced an amazing and comprehensive behind the scenes tutorial.
We were pleasantly surprised last week by a review from At First Sight. This DSLR Core Package Review is the most in depth review we’ve seen and we really appreciated the fact that it was tested in the snow.
If you haven’t checked out our Festivus promotion yet, you’ll want to. We’ve discounted our most popular gear to give you a break over the Christmas Holidays. Seinfeld fans will recall Festivus as an attempt to circumvent the Christmas season, something the Cinevate crew has no illusions of attempting. I’ll be taking some time off to spend with my family, celebrating all that we have to be thankful for. This whole operation began accidentally with the Brevis35 as I explored filmic ways to record family memories.
Cinevate has enjoyed the very best in terms of your support this year. Looking forward, we’ll be doing our best to take your creative vision to a whole new level in 2011. On behalf of the entire Cinevate team, please accept our thanks and a wish for a very Merry Christmas.
Recently one of our Facebook fans, after viewing a clip of ‘yours truly’ running around the Henry’s Show in Toronto while shooting with our small camera stabilizer and a GoPro camera mounted on it, commented that “we sure know how to sell”. My reply? A better analogy for what we do here at Cinevate would be to compare us to kids playing in a sandbox.
It seems every month brings us a new camera with increasing image performance, lower cost and more features. Cinevate has been right there increasing production value in all departments. Cinevate’s Video University productions have taken a new turn to increase the value of the pieces for our customers. We’re continuing the practice of hiring local filmmakers to shoot and edit the productions. Our Atlas 10 DSLR Slider piece features an original score composed here in Thunder Bay by Jean Paul De Roover. Like the Atlas 10 piece, the Pegasus Carbon LTS improvements video describes the creation of a real commercial used by the folks that we featured in the pieces. It’s a new concept for us, and without question, the most rewarding work we’ve ever done.
On the product side of things, Cyclops, Cinevate’s take on the DSLR viewfinder, shipped as promised and is proving very popular with the folks posting early reviews:
Cyclops was a long time in coming but the feedback we’ve received tells us the time we spent in development was worth it.
By the time you read this post we will have launched Atlas 10 - Cinevate’s new DSLR Camera Slider. The Atlas 10 sets new standards for price under $500 and also boasts an impressive feature set. The Atlas 10 launch video was one of the coolest shoots we’ve done to date thanks to the climbers from the Alpine Climbing Club of Canada. Curtis and Steve from AppleWagon Films take credit for the shots you see with still photos by Shannon LePere and original music score by John Paul De Roover. Thanks are in order to the many customers who made our Atlas 10 launch last week, without question, the most successful in Cinevate’s history.
Recent product refinements to our Pegasus Carbon DSLR Slider justified shooting a new Video University piece to showcase this product’s evolution. Shot on location at a local coffee shop, this production showcases the creation of a real commercial, but goes a step further to show how each shot was constructed. The entire team here agrees that this production sets the bar for the way in which we educate our customers. Check out the new Pegasus Carbon, DSLR Camera Slider clip.
Finally I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of our customers that enabled the Cinevate team to get our collective, vicarious, creative buzz on. First of all, who would have predicted that Steve Chase’s NOS energy drink commercial with BTS would see over 14K views on Vimeo so quickly? After spending a few hours on the phone with Steve, I can tell you that amazing things are afoot as we enter 2011. Patrick Moreau and the Stillmotion crew continue to redefine how the NFL franchise visually presents itself with clip after clip, that have even casual fans like myself, engaging with the sport like never before. Building on that momentum, Patrick was asked to do a series of shorts featuring the likes of Palmer, Player, Els and Mickelson - some of the best golfers to ever play the game. Shooting in Hong Kong, Paris, Taiwan, and across the US, Stillmotion has illuminated the golfers, blending their visual sense with real moments.
KGB films made us instant fans after sending us a clip of the Pegasus Carbon DSLR Slider at work in a production environment at 12000 feet of altitude in several feet of powder. As a skier myself I can tell you I’m staring outside every morning to see if the white stuff has arrived yet.
A shout out is in order to our man Vinny Minton, a semi-retired pro inline skater, whose work was seen in the intro segment of episode two of “House”. How many folks can do tricks on skates whilst managing a fully stabilized camera?
So what else is new at Cinevate? Your continued and increasing support has resulted in a very big problem. We’ve run out of space! How does an empty windowless warehouse “Cinevated” into a bright, warm, net zero building sound? Stay tuned.
Lastly, The 12 Days of Festivus Sale is fast approaching. For those of you who don’t remember this event from last year, let me just say that it is an ‘event’. For a limited time we significantly discount 12 products from our catalog. Tweet us at @cinevateinc to let us know what products you want to see included in the sale.
Wow! That word sums up the last three months. It has also been three months since I’ve taken some time to report on what’s cooking here at Cinevate. NAB 2010 was a huge success for us, and no doubt the busiest month of the year for the Cinevate crew. The needs of HD DSLR shooters around the world created a greater demand than expected, particularly for our Core HD DSLR Rig. I know there were a few customers upset over the long wait times, so to be fair we refunded any orders on request. For those of you who waited so patiently, thank you. Our mission is always to keep our customers (and potentially future customers) happy.
The great news for those who waited for their Core rigs was that they ended up with a free upgrade. Our integrated Proteus Quick Release System arrived in their kits, taking the core to the incremental next level of excellence. This system, now included in every rails kit we manufacture, is the world’s first multi-plate quick release design. This means that the three most popular quick release plates, in use today, can be used on our Proteus system and can be height adjusted infinitely with zero shims, zero downward interference and with outstanding rigidity.
A recent addition to the Cinevate catalog is the very cool DSLR Core Custom Case - designed and manufactured by Cinevate in collaboration with the good folks over at Portabrace. This bag system takes a complete Core rig with camera attached, the new shoulder mount and fillable counterbalance.
Another surprise since NAB 2010 is the newly designed shoulder mount system and non-slip pad, which was also produced in collaboration with Portabrace. Not only are the aesthetics improved, but combined with Cinevate’s new fillable dslr counterbalance system, we’ve created a level of stability, in fatigue-free shooting, that has yet to be seen in the market.
The sneak peek of our iPhone and small camera stabilizer was received with exceptional interest at NAB 2010. The production model will have a much larger weight tolerance, retain it’s organic good looks and offer many more options for host cameras. Apple was kind enough to release the HD recording iPhone4, which was the news we were waiting for! This rig will spawn creative opportunities for small cameras and smart phones previously impossible to achieve.
With Cyclops about to drop, we are preparing to launch the world’s first full face, LCD viewer. Even more significant is what Cyclops means in terms of lower cost DSLR Rigs. Cyclops supports no less than four mount options, meaning that for some, their viewfinder solution will also be their support solution.
Finally, and most importantly, let’s talk about you, the folks using our gear! Over the last few months Cinevate has been involved more than ever in the filmmaking community. Kevin Shahinian’s “City of Lakes” wrapped up with the release of a series of BTS clips and a contest that we hosted. We are also proud to support “1057” and “Big Finn Hall”, which are two local films currently in production.
Bill Frakes and Laura Heald continue their globetrotting, clocking some serious mileage on our rigs. They gave a big collection of our gear a workout at the Kentucky Derby and were kind enough to send us a behind the scenes clip.
Those of you who haven’t heard of Vinny Minton will soon enough. Vinny amazed us with his work whilst inline skating. If you haven’t seen any of his work check this clip and keep in mind he was on skates shooting it? The producers of House saw some of Vinny’s work and invited him to shoot a scene on the show last month. How cool is this? Cinevate gear on the set of House! If you Google Vinny, you’ll see that he’s already very well known and sponsored as a professional inline skater. Evidently there’s a set of skates named after him.
Celebrity photography Jerry Avenaim recently shot the “Dr. Phil” Newsweek cover and was personally thanked during an episode of the show. Jerry is another example of a pure stills photographer crossing over into motion. If you’re a reader of Rangefinder magazine, watch out for Jerry’s new article there. There will be plenty more to come here as we release behind the scenes clips of some of Jerry’s projects.
Congratulations to Carlos Baena of Pixar films, not only for his work on Toystory 3, but also for his work on an amazing BTS clip he shot. Carlos has been using our gear going back to the Brevis adapter several years ago. If you haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet, go see it in 3D. I did last week with my 7-year-old daughter and loved every minute of it.
This brings us to Vincent Laforet, a fellow I met four years ago in Toronto at a Canon Pro Expo. I had no idea who Vincent was at the time, but the folks over at Stillmotion sure did. After attending Vincent’s talk at the event, I definitely knew who he was, and certainly had an appreciation for his work. Recently Vincent and his crew requested the use of our Atlas 200 LTS system and evidently fell in love with it. You’ll see reviews of the Atlas 30 as well as Atlas 200 systems posted over at Vincent’s blog in the very near future. Like so many folks we deal with, Mr. Laforet brings serious talent as well as a keen sensitivity to ethics in how he conducts himself. In talking to Marcus, another member of Vincent’s team, it’s obvious this sensitivity is contagious.
If there was one thing I would leave you with after this, (the longest CEO blog ever!) is that increasingly in this world of ours, one of the most important things you can bring to your business are commodities you can’t buy. I see these qualities again and again as we grow relationships with some of the most successful people in our business.
April wraps up another hectic winter for the crew here at Cinevate. As NAB rapidly approaches, our preparations for Booth C5647 are in high gear with our expectations set even higher than last year. The biggest change, from the perspective of folks not attending NAB, is that you’ll see a lot more in terms of media that will tell the story of Cinevate at NAB, right from loading the truck here in Thunder Bay, through the event, and yes, even the take down. You’ll see at least 5 new products from Cinevate, one of which will surprise even long time customers. Included in the four will be the SI-2K camera on our 2/3” single CMOS relay, new quick release Proteus base plate, Proteus fill-able aluminum counter-weight (works with all of our rigs), shipping version of our 12V smart power supply and a final surprise we’re saying nothing about. The NAB 2010 show runs from April 12th to April 15th at the Las Vegas Convention Center. If you’re not there, you won’t miss any news…just keep tabs on the Cinevate site during the show.
Visiting Cinevate at NAB 2010 will not only yield some surprises with respect to hardware, but also special people. You’ll get a chance to meet many of the Thunder Bay crew including Nick, Dan, Milosz, and Piotr, but you’ll also see Michael Wong, Konrad Czystowski, Kevin Shahinian, Patrick Moreau and our latest Shooter Showcase feature, Bill Frakes. If you check out EventDV’s next issue, you’ll find Joe Simon, Casey Warren, Patrick Moreau and Kevin Shahinian gracing the cover. All four of these guys worked on the City of Lakes project, which Cinevate was closely involved with. Additionally, all four have been featured in Cinevate’s shooter showcase over the last eight months. One of our corporate goals is to assist in bringing talent together where there is potential for “good soup”. With regard to Kevin’s project…mission accomplished!
April also brings a whole new series of DSLR Packages to the catalog, all combining a 10% discount over separate costs. These kits were created based on what many users (beginning with the DSLR Atlas 30 Package) were already doing with our gear. You can thank Casey Warren for that first kit! Dave Clement, a local filmmaker, took it one step further by spending a week in our shop, building his ultimate 7D rig from stock components (The DSLR Core Package). The resulting video and package are proving immediately popular with other shooters, a virtual guarantee of similar kits to come.
One of the fellows pushing kits like these six month’s ago was the venerable Bill Frakes. Let me first offer up a big thanks to Jerry Darling over at Apple who introduced Bill Frakes to Cinevate in the first place. Aside from being featured in Sports Illustrated Magazine, featured on Apple’s web site ( http://www.apple.com/pro/profiles/frakes/ ) and being part of a Pulitzer price winning team (Hurricane Andrew coverage), a simple Google search for ”Bill Frakes” is all you need to figure out just how hard this man has worked in his lifetime. The fact that our profile of Bill includes a picture of US President Barack Obama, taken at a private session, should give viewers an idea of just how special Bill and Laura are. It was a big thrill for all of us to have Laura and Bill in the studio for a few days. They were kind enough to host local photographers here at Cinevate for an evening of wine, cheese, conversation, and jaw-dropping visuals. The Straw Hat Visuals team brings consummately professional feedback directly to Cinevate regarding how our products are working with fusion crossover artists. Our soon-to-be introduced Cyclops viewfinder system has at least 3 features introduced directly as a result of Straw Hat’s feedback on version 2 of the prototype.
For me personally, Bill and Laura represent a model for any group to emulate in terms of ethics. They commit, deliver, and take the time to communicate often. The fact that as individuals they’re warm, witty, and genuinely humble, likely has a lot to with their success. You’ll get a chance to meet them personally on April the 13th at Cinevate’s NAB 2010 booth. Hope to see you there!
Recently Cinevate gear was covered in a review entitled the Cinema5D DSLR Rig Review. To be fair to all parties involved we decided to share this clip that clarifies some inaccuracies and demonstrates our continued efforts to better serve our customers.
My first task as CEO in 2010 is to once again thank all of our customers for their amazing support last month, making it the busiest December in company history. Cinevate remains modest and earnest in it’s desire to build positive relationships with all whom we encounter. This year promises to be an educational one as Cinevate partners with Adobe, Canon, Nikon and a growing family of highly creative studios. Our Shooter Showcase crew so far has included Casey Warren, Joe Simon, Ray Roman, Kevin Shahinian and this month Stillmotion. December saw the beginning of a great new friendship as Bill Frakes and Laura Heald of Strawhat Visuals came on board using Cinevate gear with Nikon DSLR equipment. Bill Frakes works extensively with Nikon worldwide, although most will recognize his work with Sports Illustrated Magazine. Googling his name is all you need to figure out that Bill and Laura’s contributions are a good thing for all of our customers.
It would be irresponsible to start 2010 without talking about some of the great new Cinevate gear coming down the pipe. These days, a great deal of product development comes not only from our professional shooters, but also in the form of suggestions from you, our customers. Uno for example came about as a result of a suggestion from Simon Scheiner, a fellow I met in New York during a NJPVA event. He liked our Proteus DSLR rig just fine, but asked for a simpler, lighter, more compact DSLR rig. We made Uno for him, and every other creative artist out there looking for simplicity. Be sure and follow the Uno launch contest as we post entries that promise some seriously healthy laughter.
Medusa, another new product this month, came from the original Proteus cage concept that has been quite popular with many of our customers. Medusa gives them everything they asked for in terms of integrated grips, limitless configurations, quick release functions, variable height/width and better looks. We did this all and shaved 150 grams off the weight too! You’ll be introduced to the Durus Focus Gear Lever this week, a simple idea that required serious thought. This little addition to our Durus Follow Focus system makes it possible to pull focus without actually using a follow focus! Lest we be accused of laziness, Cinevate also introduces our Atlas 30 LTS to compliment the robust Atlas 200 system. To make sense of all the new gear, we’ll be shooting no less than six sessions to be hosted on Cinevate’s Video University next week.
None of this would be possible of course without some serious hard work and dedication from the entire Cinevate team, which has nearly doubled in size over 2009. I would be remiss in not publicly acknowledging their work, tolerance and dedication to the cause with a very sincere thank you. This year promises to a very exciting one indeed as the stream of problem-solving equipment continues.
Cinevate has been busy indeed over the last six months with gear that will redefine how shooters support their camera. Regardless of whether you’re shooting with an iPod, or a $25K ENG camera, we’ve been listening and planning very carefully. For example, our full face viewing aid for DLSR cameras (Cyclops) doubles the effective size of the camera’s LCD using an achromat optic, and provides integration for our amazing Medusa grip system, also coming this month. Not content to settle with just these advancements, we’ve also come up with a solution for still photographers who just want “something” simple. We’ve yet to show a single picture or even hint at this rig until now, but it’s coming this month.
Being that the holiday season is upon us, and indeed, our version of Festivus, this is a perfect time to simply thank all of our friends for their kind support. Cinevate is all about relationships, be it with our customers, sponsored shooters, industry partners or families. Business has been very good as we expand our product lines well beyond what started this all...the Brevis 35mm lens adapter. Cinevate has received no less than three innovation awards this year, including the Royal Bank of Canada Innovation Award, and the Premier’s Catalyst Award. The third award we’re not allowed to talk about yet It’s hard to explain the feeling in the air here, but basically I’ve never been more excited about supporting the creative abilities of everyone we work with. We remain inspired literally daily with what folks are doing with our equipment.
This is part 2 of the Q and A with Corie Levitt - a student currently in film school who asked some excellent questions.
Q: 6. If you could magically develop any camera rig to promote motion by snapping your fingers what would it be and how do you see it benefiting film makers.
A: 6. You’ll see my answer to this question over the next two months. My only frustration is that I can’t have these products available at a snap of my fingers right now!
Q: 7. Film makers refer to specialty camera rigs as tools, in a market that provides many different tools by several different companies what makes Cinevate the go to tools for any given job?
A: 7. Our products carry a level of flexibility and integration that make nearly anything possible. The design team makes great efforts to ensure customers with existing products find enhancement, not obsolescence in our new products.
Q: 8. As a film maker myself, I have a generic brand Steadi-cam sled and vest, do you see Cinevate creating such a system that is more affordable than for filmmakers than the Steadi-cam brand. Why or Why not?
A: 8. Steadicam does a very good job at what they do. That said, you’ll find something very intriguing coming from us in about 2 weeks in this area.
Q: 9. After frequently surfing the Cinevate website I discovered that you have been naming rig setups after your customers, what inspired that movement and what role do the customers play in the development of cinevate rigs if any?
A: 9. Because our components are so flexible, we often find that our customers configure things in ways we did not predict. We also know that their peers often want the exact same setup, or collection of gear. We recently implemented a highly integrated management system that allows us to offer these kits with a minimum of added effort on our part. This strategy simplifies the purchasing process for our customers and just makes sense to us.
Q: 10. Myself being a struggling student film maker does Cinevate offer any student discounts if not would you ever consider such a discount? Why? Why not?
A: 10. We work on a very tight pricing scheme that ensures our products set a trend for price and performance. This is why we typically don’t have sales, but rather focus on intelligent pricing for everything we manufacture. With a growing number of sponsored shooters, we will however be offering their “retired” gear at significant discounts as it becomes available.
It’s been a long time coming. Those who’ve been around here for awhile know that I post personally in a growing number of forums, blogs, vimeo, youtube, facebook and twitter. This is a time consuming process but I’ve always felt it helped Cinevate as a company to stay closely in tune with its customers. Folks tend to be pretty honest with their opinions on the web. As you grow as a shooter, I grow too as a shooter, CEO, father and the like. Corie Levitt approached me in the hopes I’d answer some questions related to a writing assignment he had taken on for film school. This email also represents an entire flight pecking away at an iPhone so called keyboard. Once a bluetooth driver gets released for tethering keyboards to iPhones, I’ll be all over it!
Corie, first of all thanks for your interest in Cinevate. With your permission, I’d like to share your questions and my answers on our upcoming CEO blog as the questions have some familiar threads to things I often discuss with customers. Let me know on that point but regardless, here we go.
Q: 1. Your recent products promote camera motion, what do you feel is the importance of such motion?
A: 1. Moving cameras in a way that helps to tell a story in a compelling manner is one way we can help cinematographers. Tripod mounted, hand held, cable, dolly/jib shots, car mounts etc. are analagous in this sense as brushes are to an artist. Each has it’s place in a story.
Q: 2. What inspired the creation of such specialty motion camera rigs?
A: 2. Initially the birth of my 1st daughter Olivia (now six) prompted the purchase of a video camera and sparked this journey. Apart from constant joy in capturing my children’s antics, I also find myself both challenged and inspired by our customers. In many cases, innovation comes from my own frustration with gear, but very often this frustration comes from those we work with. This leads to problem solving.
Q: 3. Do you feel that Cinevate is placing a unique imprint on the film industry in respects to camera motion rigs available to today’s film makers. if so why?
A: 3. Yes. We’re solving problems for folks using highly innovative products with a build quality that is unique at our price point. There is a constant level of excitement from the team as we push forward with new creations.
Q: 4. How do you foresee your Pegasus cable rig system assisting the film makers of today.
A: 4. As mentioned previously, cable cams are a tool we want in the kit that are safe, simple and rapidly deployed. Our customer’s creativity should not be bound by their equipment.
Q: 5. I have observed that your rigs are assembled with tool-less quick disconnect methodology how do you see this design benefiting film makers.
A: 5. My philosophy is that transitions between shooting modes should be possible in less than 10 seconds. Efficiency and the ability to react spontaneously to changing situations is our ultimate goal.