In our second sit-down with the team, we were back in the kit room joined by Alex Camper our Video Creative, and Tom Zandt- Valentine our Head of Technical, and this time we were talking cameras.
One of the key things to note about both Tom and Alex and their wealth of camera knowledge, which we will get into shortly, is what started the passion for videography. Both have been filming and editing since long before Bexmedia. They started playing around with cameras for fun, filming either themselves or their friends skateboarding and mountain biking. “For Christmas when I was 13, I asked for a Fujifilm bridge camera. I had some friends, who used to go to skate parks all the time. I would try and film them and get into making some edits for them. That’s kind of where the camera hobby started for me, says Alex. The outdoor activities actually led to both Tom and Alex securing their jobs at Bexmedia. On this Tom says, “I used to do a lot of mountain biking, and then, same as Alex, I ended up going to the skate park quite a lot on BMX and skateboarding. From there we used to make sort of little edits and stuff like that. I actually ended up meeting Craig there, which is how I got this job essentially”.
As many of our clients and freelancers will know, we have a wide variety of kit in our kit room and naturally the key player for a video production company is the camera. We chatted about what each of the boys’ favourite Bex cameras are and why, naturally trying to get them to pick just one was a bit of a challenge. For Alex, the Blackmagic 12K and Sony FX3 are his top picks. “I think it’s (Blackmagic 12K) super versatile and for a lot of the stuff that I normally film it’s a very good camera. The (Sony) FX3 is also really, really cool. I always love small cameras, and the fact that they can do so much in such a small form factor is amazing”. “It’s really hard to say which one’s my favorite, but the 12K is amazing. They all, have their own uses, but I think for the form factor, the FX3 is really cool and probably my favourite in that case” says Tom.
We went on to chat about the different cameras we own and what we use them for. Tom talked me through the vast array of options we have. To meet the broad needs of all of our different clients from the smaller end of the spectrum, phones and GoPros (“really useful for the social media side of things and our personal projects” adds Alex) to the Blackmagic 4K, 6K, and the 12K that we mentioned earlier (“much better for studio environments or times when the storyboard or shortlist is down to a T, that’s when the Blackmagic’s really shine”). Whilst we’re talking about the Blackmagic, we should talk about the different Ecosystems we have at Bexmedia. An Ecosystem is when the camera, lenses, mounts, etc are all made by the same brand to be used together. “We sort of split the kit into two ecosystems, so depending on what we’re shooting we choose one or the other, but for example, the Blackmagics all shoot in raw, so it means when we come to color grading and whatnot we can get right into the footage and actually edit it to how we want it to look”.
It doesn’t matter how many special features you’re camera has or how much experience you have – sometimes things go wrong. I asked the boys if they remembered a time when things had gone pear-shaped on a shoot and how they fixed the problem. Alex was quick to jump in “I remember specifically shooting on the 6K Pro in the studio, the Blackmagic 6K Pro. We’re looking at playback, and every time I sort of touch or adjust the screen, there would be these weird, wacky colours and lines that would come through. I remember just turning to Tom and saying, we might have a problem here. I’m not sure if the footage is corrupted, or if it’s the display. So Tom kind of worked his magic…”. “Yeah, I think we ended up relying on the monitor, but I do remember coming back one day, sort of taking the screen apart and having to re-plug in this ribbon cable. It’s quite a delicate little operation, but, it turned out alright in the end.” The general consensus amongst the team is that Tom is the fixer – “Tom fixed it, as he fixes everything”.
When it comes to getting the best shot Tom and Alex are in agreement about their top tip – planning. “Plan, plan, plan. Make a storyboard, shot list. I think the easy thing to do is turn up and wing it, but if you’ve got a really strong idea of what you want, it’s kind of priceless actually to have the idea in your head or planned out beforehand and even if you get to the shoot and the shots change, at least you have a foundation to work from” says Alex. “I’d agree with Alex there. I think knowing what you’re trying to shoot, what the message of the video is, helps because it means even when stuff changes you can sort of adapt to it” adds Tom. With such a wealth of knowledge between the different members of the team, coming together and building a plan where everyone can contribute and add their levels of experience and opinion has paved the way for not only some really great videos but also ensuring that people are still learning and having fun on shoots. “We’ve spent so many shoots now honing the right lighting methods and making diaries or taking photos and documenting how things are set up so that we’re always prepared. Then we just keep adapting and adding on top of that, so hopefully just keep improving”.
As King of the Kit Room, asking Tom what is on his no-holds-barred camera wish list is a risky question and as Alex added, an expensive question. However, I did get them both to narrow it down, not to one camera but that’ll have to do. “ I can’t pick one, but, slo mo camera, some sort of phantom would be amazing” says Tom. He adds, “if we’re going for a badass camera, we’ve got the Alexa 35, which is quite new – that’s a pretty cool camera”. When it comes down to it though, Tom can’t pick ” I don’t think you can. I think you need a camera for what you’re doing… I think having different brands is also good because it means you’re not, restricted by what that brand does”. For Alex, his love of smaller cameras came into play again, “I think any of the Arri Alexa Mini or the Alexa Mini LF, those would be amazing, I mean specifically the Mini LF because it’s a slightly higher resolution, large format so you’ve got more lens choice and beautiful colour science”.
It’s really important, as a video production company, to stay on top of the newest technology and updates in order to provide the best services for our clients. In our ever-changing digital world where it feels like AI is about to take over everything, we asked the boys to tell us about some of the new tech that’s caught their eye. “I quite like the Venice 2. Recently they did Top Gun and they used the, I don’t know what they call it, the piggyback system, so the sensors separate to the body. So, I think they ended up having six of them in the cockpit, which was pretty cool. It’s a very high-end camera, but it’s also very adaptable for those sorts of situations” says Tom. Alex provided some fun facts about the recent film hit Oppenheimer – “I guess this isn’t technically a new camera, more of a format, but the black and white film stock they developed for Oppenheimer, for the IMAX cameras. It really was quite interesting to find out that the black and white film stock in that larger form film format had never been produced before, so you know, Nolan had to work with Kodak to develop that and produce this new film stock, and that really caught my attention”.
We have come to the end of question time with the Techie Twins but if you want to hear more from the team or if you have any tech or camera-related questions please feel free to reach out to the team, as you can see we love to chat about all things videography. Check back in soon for a chat with our Creative and Operations Director to hear him spill the beans on what it’s like managing the Bex team.