Fo' Realz.....The Value of choosing REAL tools

October 13, 2015

 

The thing that attracted me to the motion picture biz in the early 90's was in large part the awesome equipment. The cameras, lights, cables, sound....everything was built so purposfullly and perfectly. Most of the camera gear was a cross breed of miltary robustness and medical precision. At the time it was all film, of course, and the workhorses were ARRI III's and BL-IV's but soon replaced with 435's and 535's. Everything was big, heavy, expensive, and required a symphony of technicians to realize the workflow that nearly guarantees a good result. 

 

Fast forward to 2015 and we see only hints of the past. The focused discipline of the film process is slowly fading in favor of the faster work flows that boil down to the 'try it and tweak it' method we now see. The high-end cameras generate a real-time image that can be poked and prodded to get the lighting and blocking dialed in with a continuous feedback loop. In the film days, the DP, Gaffer, and rest of the crew had to just visualize what the film was able to capture. Crews believe they can get away with guessing their way through the day since they can fix it before they record it. Maybe. The best and most succesful DP's and crews know exactly what they want and how to do it before call time. The instant feedback from the super accurate monitors on-set are for verification only. Those crews truly rely and demand consistant performance from thier gear. For the human skills the be useful, the tools have to able to keep up. 

 

As things are pressed to move faster and faster, there is also a lot of pressure to get cheaper and cheaper. I use the word 'cheaper' for a reason. The goal of production is to lower costs, but they look for cheaper options. There is a difference between the 'lowering costs directive' and being cheaper. Let consider a simple example.

 

 

 

What is lower cost:

A cheap wrench costs $5. The pro model costs $15. You buy the cheap one to lower your costs and go home to fix somthing on your car. The bolt is sticky and the cheap wrench bends and finally cracks. You drive to the store and they replace it under warranty. You drive back home with the new wrench and try again. This time the head of the bolt gets stripped becuase the wrench is slightly too big. Now you have figure out a way to repair a stuck bolt that has a stripped head. This could take a while and you have already been to store twice. Now you have a far bigger problem to solve. 

 

The second option is that you get the pro wrench, it fits perfect and is very strong. After a few minutes of pushing  - your bolt comes loose and you move on to the next thing. Done. 

 

One wrench is cheap and one is expensive. One wrench is high-cost and one wrench is low cost. 

 

This is a critical concept when picking tools related to your camera package. Every single piece, part, cable, etc. must work when you ask it. Even if it is abused, it must work. The industry has changed from super heavy duty to HDMI connectors. There is a mix of consumer and professional tools on set. There is an unawareness if how those consumer and low-end professsional devices eat time and cause panic - thereby wasting more than the money they saved by being 'cheap'.

 

Saving money is an art-form. When you add all the elements, did you actually spend less in the end? The most expensive things I have ever purchased were the cheapest. Those experiences drove the development of the ScatterBOX2. I wanted a power solution that was a REAL tool for a tough job. 

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