Now that was a good trade show…

It’s not often that every single person I speak to at any given trade show is raving about it. Those of you who have read some of my previous Trade Show blogs/rants will know that I’m not always effusive about them.  But that happened this weekend, and the BSC has hit the Goldilocks sweet spot for a show.

A trade show managed by industry people, over two days including a weekend day that isn’t trying to be all things to all people is really smart.  But it’s a little more than the Kevin Kostner, “if you build it they will come” principle. Crucially, every stand in the hall was relevant to BSC members. The range of products and services on show were all of interest to the production of top-end TV or feature films, digital or silver halide, and this vetting process is clearly working. The place was rammed with knowledgeable people having engaging conversations with open minds. Perfect. 

All the major manufacturers were present, showing off their latest must-have kit. Sony Venice seems to be flavour of the month right now, and they have hit on a formula that other manufacturers, and to be fair Sony themselves, have struggled with previously. Launch a camera, publish a timescale of when the various upgrades are coming, and then stick to it. It really doesn’t sound that difficult, but it’s surprisingly rare. 

The latest Version 3 upgrade gives the crucial higher frame rates that brings it in to line with what the market is demanding. RED seems to have been one of the major winners as Sony has played catch-up on the frame rates issue. I was told that at least one major UK production really liked the look of the Sony images, but the production chose the excellent RED Monstro camera as it could manage the required higher frame rate. I think that now this free-of-charge upgrade has arrived you may see more Venices (Venii? What actually is the plural of Venice??) on sets around the world. That also assumes Sony can keep up with the demand, which has been tricky for them in recent months. I might just add that if you’re quick, Adamantean can offer a 2 year, 0% deal on these too. 

Panasonic was also present, promoting some impressive cinematography hardware, and I was reminded that both series of Ozarks, one of my favourite shows of recent years, was shot on Pana cameras, and it has one of the most iconic “looks” of any recent TV series. 

Cooke and Zeiss were also well represented as you’d expect, and the Zeiss Supreme lenses are proving very popular.

As an aside, a quick note of praise to Zeiss who had, without doubt, the best coffee at the show.  It’s the little things..

There seemed to be a general consensus that the next major camera announcement is likely to come from Arri, with NAB in April now looking favourite for an announcement. It was this time last year that Arri, Sony and Panavision boosted the global BSC show profile by announcing their Alexa LF, Venice and DXL2 cameras there. The Arri Alexa Mini has been ubiquitous for many years now, and it seems likely that a new true 4K, or more likely 6K or 8K, camera will be coming soon. But I’ve been wrong before….Let’s see. 

There were plenty of resellers at BSC too, and the lure of free beer was clearly a powerful draw on the enormous CVP stand. It was a nice idea to have live frogs on one of the camera test areas. Trying to work in a pun here about the beer being too hoppy…but that may be a bit of a leap. 

Top-Teks seemed just as happy with the show attendees keen to discuss the Venice, Pro-AV’s Kinefinity camera was drawing some attention from the more budget conscious, and Wex Photo were also exhibiting.

The independent camera rental companies were there in force too; Movietech, Picture Canning, Promotion Hire, Shift 4, New Day Pictures and One Stop Films were all prominent. Did I miss any? All of these seem to be benefitting from the great God Netflix, and to a lesser extent, maybe just saint-level, Amazon, who keep driving the demand for the really high quality content that is keeping the hire businesses and post houses of the UK busy. And with budgets which allow these businesses to invest in proper kit, everyone is winning. 

One piece of kit on the Promotion Hire stand which really caught my eye was the extraordinary looking macro lens with a depth of field that would give even the sharpest of focus pullers sleepless nights.

With the added benefit of dimmable LED lights around the front element which enables the production to shoot inside ant hills/undergrowth etc with a PL mount lens, it made for a really interesting piece of hardware. And surprisingly inexpensive to hire. Lego man was an optional extra.

The Ovide video assist was another amazing piece of technology, allowing instant playback of on-set shots from a variety of angles, and its touchscreen-driven, instant grade facility  allows the user to see what the image will look like post post-production. I’ve not seen anything quite so easy to use, and of such practical help to a director/DoP. Clever stuff.

Another impressive event at the show was the auction organised by Mission Digital to raise awareness, and over £2,000, for the Mark Milsome Foundation. Mark was tragically killed as he filmed a car stunt in Ghana in 2017. Some of the Mission Digital guys were working with him on set when it happened, and have clearly been profoundly affected. To find out more, and donate, click on the link. Nice to see the industry pulling together in tough times. 

The show itself was not without its issues, as anyone who wanted to leave quickly found out to their cost on the Friday with a 30+ minute wait to get your bags from left luggage. And maybe it was a blessing in disguise that there was minimal phone reception and no wifi as you could concentrate on what was in front of you. 

The queues for coffee were even longer than the queues for the coats on occasion. But without doubt the best time to get anything done in the show, was when Roger Deakins was speaking!! He may well be the closest thing to a rock star in the industry, and the coffee queues and food concessions were noticeably quieter when he was doing his thing on stage. I didn’t manage to get in. For those of you who did, how was it? What did you learn?

I wonder how the other trade shows will adapt their offering, given the great success that this one has become. I also wonder how BSC will react to its success. It’s not that long ago that the BSC led a nomadic existence, changing venues between Elstree, Leavesden and Pinewood Studios before settling, and blossoming, in Battersea. 

My fear is that its popularity will be its downfall. The only negative comments I heard were from manufacturers  who couldn’t exhibit as there was no room, and were too late to secure a pitch. The venue itself was full to bursting, as the hastily erected extra marquee at the front demonstrated. I hope they don’t get greedy, move to a bigger venue to allow more peripheral suppliers in, and lose their USP. That’s what other trade shows have done, and where they have gone wrong. But it’s run by industry people rather than a generic trade show organiser, which gives me hope.

That’s my take on BSC 2019 – over to you.  What did you think?