The Film & Video Production Company
As CLAi's principal, I have been shooting 35mm film and the highest quality broadcast video for over 25 years. In an ever changing technical landscape it is this sort of expertise and experience that allow our clients to sleep soundly before a shoot day.
Production is where we put together the raw ingredients that will create the final program. We do this on complete projects that we produce for end clients, and as a service that we provide for other production companies. Usually these are:
- Film and Video Shooting (usually the biggest by far)
- Motion Graphics
- 2D and 3D Animation
Camerawork (or Videography, Cinematography and the Director of Photography role), along with Editing and Color Grading, is where I’m a little different in the way I came up the ladder.
My film degree was taken at Harrow Film School, who had close ties with two of the major London Film Studios – Pinewood and Bray – along with the BBC. These institutions all follow an apprentice system of development, teaching you how to manage multiple parts of a project, and communicate clearly with others through a common understanding, while providing the opportunity to become a master of several disciplines – if you have the drive, determination and raw ability. In my case receiving my director (film documentary) ticket through the BBC chapel meant passing through every stage from directing both film and video, becoming a cinematographer and director of photography, as well as making the grade as an online editor.
Unlike many occupations where, including narrative film production, where you aim to become the master of one role and discipline, the goal in documentary film development is to become a master of several harmonious disciplines at the highest level, as crews have to be small by the nature of the filming and the long production schedules.
The big benefit of this is that it means CLAi can take on small documentary style projects with just a 2 or 3 person crew and be able to direct, DP, and handle audio recording and lighting at a very high level of quality and sophistication – and a very high probability of getting terrific results every time. On an even smaller scale I can go out solo as a cinematographer to capture b-roll or shoot interviews for those projects that simply have no budget or more people would be invasive – as is the case with many non-profit and arts videos.
Of course, we prefer to crew projects the right way and give everyone time to do their jobs properly, when the budget and time are available.
This is where CLAi do things differently in terms of our rapid scaling capability. Other than myself we don’t have any shoot crew on full time staff. I much prefer to bring in the right crew for any project on a contracted basis, and over the years in the business I have assembled a huge database of friends and associates to call on to do this, in the Bay area, across the US and Europe.
I do this for three reasons. It allows me to fit exactly the right skill to each role that we need to fill – if we need to bring in a camera operator to shoot a fast moving subject like a hockey game, then we bring in a cinematographer with many years of doing nothing but shoot that sport. If we had an in-house camera operator then he would be expected to shoot everything from hockey to still life products, and have no significant experience of any one subject. Obviously the guy who does nothing but shoot hockey is the one you want behind the camera to give the best probability of getting every shot just so.
Secondly is availability, most of the best crew people are self-employed so that they can earn a decent living and choose the jobs they take – and I only want the best.
The last factor is cost, we don’t want to ask our clients to pay for the overheads and downtime that come with in-house crew members (because you certainly aren’t shooting 7 days a week) which increase the rates that have to be charged significantly. By choosing our crew members we are able to pick the right people for both the budget and shoot complexity and allow them to work to their capabilities – not every project needs an A list audio recordist who would get bored silly monitoring one lavaliere microphone!
I'm very open about this side of CLAi's makeup... and the reasons why I choose to go this direction.
The flip side on the shooting front is that I have always run our own state of the art equipment rather than renting gear on every project. As you can see on our in-house gear list we run Arri Alexa Plus, RED Dragon and Sony A7Sii cameras in 4k RAW, along with the best of Leica, Nikon, Art and PL lenses, audio, lighting and gaffer gear – and have a selection of every other flavor of RED and Arri cameras on call through our professional resource network. This means I only need to get equipment from rental houses when we need some specialist gear – be it camera, audio or lighting based.
This is a big deal because, as we all know personally, whatever piece you need at short notice from a rental house is always out on a rental or broken or has tripled in cost! Having the right quality gear in-house to put with the right crew members allows us to be extremely flexible on dates, on specifications and on budget… and to be certain that the last user didn’t take the camera out on their surfboard.
The following links take you to pages about most of the services that we offer. They are meant to provide fairly detailed information and insight… which is a nice way of saying you may want to skip over them unless you need sleep!
The Pre-Production Company