Monthly Archives: February 2018

ISE Exhibition

A flying visit to ISE this year for Adamantean; but there’s nothing like a bit of time pressure to keep us focussed.

Well prepared with comfy shoes and a pocketful of business cards we hit the show floor. Whizzing around the halls on a mission to catch up with old faces and introduce ourselves to some new ones.

Between brightly lit big brand behemoths and simpler ‘let the kit speak for itself’ stands we raced; engaging in some interesting conversations and lively debates centred around 2 keys themes: the clever ways in which we can use finance solutions to keep installs and project builds cash neutral throughout and how the AV industry is seeing a decisive shift in corporate spending from Cap-ex to Op-ex budgets.

Damn that IT mentality of never owning the hardware – or not, as the case may be! Perhaps those fruit flavoured tech giants are on to something; surely a kit refresh every 3 – 5 years sounds good to customers and suppliers alike? And think of the value adds; management, warranties, servicing. All can be monetised in a single ‘managed services’ document tying the customer to you for the term, and guaranteeing future opportunity to do it all again at the end of the contract.

With so much to do and so little time it was tough not to get distracted by all the fantastic kit on display from super thin see through LED Panels to serious arena worthy sound systems. With halls crammed full of kit we know and love (to finance) unfortunately, we were unable to get up close and personal with the 8K Ecosystem (that’s right 8K Broadcast ready camera and TV to watch the content on) which made its debut on the Sharp stand – just too much tech, too little time!

So, we’ll be booking ourselves an extended trip to ISE next year before heading off to BVE Show in a few short weeks for more tech, more talk and more teaser product launches, after all, isn’t that what tradeshows are for?

 

 


BVE 2018 – Did you make it pay?

I had a pretty good BVE. I spent a day and a bit walking the aisles, meeting lots of customers, old friends, and a good few new contacts. The bar was predictably busy on both afternoons, and the Fox is always a great chance to meet with people that you missed on the show floor.

I’d even arranged a cheesy hand-shake photo op with a customer signing a deal up on the Cooke stand. It wasn’t until I got there that I realised that Cooke weren’t exhibiting. Nor were Sony, or Canon, or Panasonic, or AVID, or Fujinon, or Grass Valley, or RED etc etc…you get the idea.

And if these headline acts weren’t around then you’d have hoped that the resellers of their products would be on hand to talk through the new kit. But no… I only saw one camera reseller, ProAV, who seemed to be doing well with no competition, and of the key post production resellers, only Tyrell and Digital Garage were there. It was only a couple of years ago that CVP, WTS, Top-Teks, Jigsaw, Altered Images et al would have been demonstrating the new kit for eager customers to try out. Even Arri never really looked as busy as I’ve seen them in previous years. If you went to look at some new kit, as many of my clients did, I wonder how you got on?

However, even though the exhibitor list was barely recognisable from a few years back, I saw all the usual faces from all of these businesses at the Show. The networking opportunities of BVE are unrivalled in the UK, and therein lies the greatest challenge for the organisers.

I think the BVE trade show model is broken. The burden of paying for the event falls squarely with the exhibitors and sponsors, and I fear it’s getting just too much for too many of them. It is eye-wateringly expensive to take floor space for the 3 days, which is likely to be as much to do with how much the venue costs to hire as it is the organisers taking too much for themselves. And the additional hidden costs of essentials like power and internet are considerable. I heard that one of the larger stands paid over £5,000 for their internet connectivity for the 3 days, and even if this was a drink-fuelled, pinch-of-salt type conversation, I know first-hand that exhibiting is a big financial commitment.

Maybe there’s another way?

If it’s worth your while spending the whole day away from your usual workload, spending £30 on train fares, and as much again on a few liquid refreshments, would you pay to get in? If you did, and the cost of exhibiting was much lower, then it might attract the major players back, and rejuvenate the whole thing. If you’re not willing then I fear it will disappear, and I genuinely don’t want that to happen. I did ask a few friends if they’d make this investment, and I was surprised that answers were mixed.

BVE seems to be suffering because, in global terms, it’s mid-sized. IBC and NAB, for all their faults, are must-attend events if you’ve got business interests in those territories or major clients who attend that you want to shmooze. And the much smaller regional Kit-Plus shows, and even the dealer-hosted events are excellent ways of learning about the new kit. The BSC show is a shining example of how to manage a trade show. It’s a focused, small (ish) show that draws high quality attendees and all the manufacturers and resellers are desperate to exhibit. BSC was also the chosen launch show for the Arri Alexa LF and their new Signature lenses and the new Panavision DXL2 camera, which was quite a coup for such a niche show.

BVE numbers were certainly down, and whilst it’s easy to blame the Beast from the East, it may well be the Pest from the West, the newer Media Production Show, that’s taking some of the attention. The Excel is an amazing facility for a trade show, by far the best of any that I visit, with multiple on-site restaurants, and even some clean toilets. But these benefit the attendees, who aren’t paying for the event. Olympia isn’t a patch on Excel, but the cost of exhibiting is significantly less, and the attendee profile may be similar enough to make the switch. The Excel is also regularly criticised for being too remote which makes “popping in for a half day” impossible. The irony is that the Crossrail station at Custom House is opening soon, and will get you to Tottenham Court Road in 16 minutes and Heathrow in 50. Just a shame it may have come too late.

I’m told that many of the seminars were good, and the show seems to have morphed in to a learning and meeting event, not to look and touch and buy things, which doesn’t really work for the exhibitors.

It also feels like a Show run by Show organisers, not industry people. I gather that the Show is now “for sale” along with a number of other events that the owners produce, which tells you what you need to know about their commitment to our industry. It bothers me that so much money is pouring out of our industry, in the same way that it bothers me that IBC doesn’t end on the Sunday, saving millions of £/$/€ that we spend in the restaurants and hotels in Amsterdam for an extra day of the show that no one attends.

I did speak with some exhibitors who felt that they had had a good show, which was refreshing to hear. Garland Partners for one, who had a great spot near the entrance to the show, seems happy. Let’s hope that they can do some business as a result and some enthusiasm and momentum might begin to grow for next year. I genuinely put great value in a major UK show. BVE has always been a great enabler…to meet, to learn, to sell, and to buy. What value do you put on it?

As I left the exhibition I passed numerous shiny staff wearing shiny BVE sashes holding shiny “thanks for coming” signs. Two words sprang to mind….”why?” and “really?”


YES YES YES

Written with camera operators in mind….

As we approach the new shooting season, it seems the perfect time to put straight a few common misconceptions about finance. I know that in all my time in this industry, finance has always been seen as a bit of a black art. I also know that the more entrepreneurial companies and individuals have reaped the benefits of understanding the basics, and taking advantage of the benefits that it can undoubtedly bring.

In my experience, these misconceptions tend to be based around what kit can and can’t be financed and who we would consider to be a ”suitable” client.

1.     Can I get finance if I’m a freelancer

YES

Specialist finance companies love freelancers. Think of it this way…The finance company owns the kit until the end of the agreement, so we need to know that it’s safe and being looked after. All the freelancers I know are totally in love with their kit, and treat it with more care and attention than some members of their own family! Limited Company freelancers are especially loved.

2.     Is it easy getting finance in place.

YES (most of the time).

It is true that we generally need to see your year-end accounts and some bank statements to decide if you’re good for the finance. Adamantean never closes. We are industry people, and recognise that a good freelancer is busy most days, so if you call us at odd hours / weekends we’ll generally pick up.

Of course if you’re looking to borrow a large amount and you are new to us then as you’d expect, we will need to do some checks on you, but most of our deals are approved within a day or so.

3.     Can I get finance on second-hand kit.

YES

Think of a finance agreement from our perspective. We lend money against a camera / lens and this asset remains “ours” until the end of the term. So the longer any piece of kit can hold its value the better as it makes the loan less risky. Once a brand new camera is turned on, it’s no longer “brand new”, so is now worth perhaps 15% less than it was 5 minutes before. A piece of “pre-loved” kit doesn’t have this initial immediate devaluation, so it may actually be easier to get an approval on a used piece of equipment than a brand new item.

There are other issues that we’d consider such as where had the kit been used, service history, and hopefully you’ll get a warranty from the seller, so if you’ve found the second hand camera / lens / audio console of your dreams we should be able to help.

Cinematography lenses are perhaps the most extreme example. You can wait 18 months for a set of new Cooke 5i lenses. They are beautiful and “reassuringly expensive”. If you were lucky enough to find a set of used lenses you might find that they are as expensive as a new set. But they are available now, and you don’t have the expense of hiring-in other people’s lenses while you wait the 18 months for your set to be made. And because these lenses last “forever” we can fund them over a long period. Only someone who really understands their long term value could do this.

A more difficult question to answer would be “why wouldn’t I finance my purchase?” rather than “why would I?”

I funded a new Arri Alexa Mini kit recently for a cameraman. £40K is a lot of cash to spend in one go for any freelancer. It’s taken years to build up a nice nest-egg that makes sleeping at night a little easier. Repaying under £1,000 per month, and allowing the camera to generate its own revenue to pay back its own cost works. At least for him it did.

Your job is hard enough as it is, with demanding production companies, reducing budgets and longer shooting days the norm. Let me take just a little of that stress away. Finance can be seen as a bit of a dark art. I hope this has thrown some light on the subject. My numbers are below if you want tot talk.

Good luck for 2018. It looks like an interesting year ahead.

Duncan

07841 015400

payned@adamantean.net

Adamantean is a finance broker specialising in the media sector. It’s owned and managed by Gareth Wilding, Sam Arlow and me. Call us. We can help.

www.adamantean.net


My best guess at what 2018 holds…

A shortened version of this article is published in the February edition of TVBAY. The article was written in early January.

The New Year has arrived…and it promises great opportunities for those prepared to seek them out, with the one certainty that change is constant.

Let’s start with London studio space, and the lack thereof. The issue is finally being addressed with fortuitous timing (or maybe some expert planning) as Riverside Studios in Hammersmith opens its shiny new doors this summer following a 4 year, multi-million pound reincarnation that will see it vying to be the leading studio space in Central London. They will certainly be on many a producer’s speed-dial with the recent or imminent losses of ITV’s The London Studios, Fountain Studios and BBC studios, since the old Riverside closed its doors for the last time. Also opening this year are the Procam-owned Mountview Studios in Peckham, but London studio space still seems to be at a premium. The proposed new mega-studio complex in Dagenham is a while off yet, and will need an enormous investment to make it a desirable destination to compete with Pinewood.

Trends in production suggest that the On-Demand services Netflix and Amazon continue to offer healthy budgets for first class programme-making. Comments from the hire companies I speak with indicate an encouraging trend for these productions to demand the best kit and crew but with a budget that makes it commercially viable. It seems increasingly novel for a production to have champagne funding to go with its champagne taste, which enables the hire companies to give world class support and service.  UKTV has also committed to their first four original drama commissions too, which is all good for the UK TV industry.

On a business level, the MBO of CVP in December is big news, and good luck to the guys who have taken that exciting step. Selling kit is a tough business, and finding differentiators that keep existing customers coming back whilst attracting new ones is the ongoing challenge. It seems to me that being mid-size is always tricky. Being small and lean allows for quick decisions and great customer service, but the buying power may not allow for best pricing, whilst being a huge business (in broadcast terms) can leave the feeling of an impersonal touch, but with a potential price advantage. I anticipate some casualties as the resellers cut their cloth accordingly.

When I joined this industry in 2000, many of the key manufacturers were selling directly to end-users, and the dealers were almost an unnecessary, margin-sapping after-thought. Fast forward 18 years and the manufacturers have trimmed their salesforces so much that a good reseller is key to their success, and the size and influence of the resellers has grown considerably as a consequence. The best dealers will always be easier to engage with, certainly faster to engage with, and have the in-house infrastructure and knowledge that gives the customer a much better experience than dealing directly with each individual manufacturer.

The same “mid-size business” issues have always been the principal challenge of the post production world where the mid-size Rushes closed late last year, whilst other “boutique” post-houses like The Look are expanding under strong management. As with most things, it’s the people that count. When was the last time you bought anything from someone that you didn’t like? Good sales and support staff can make or break any business, and a can-do attitude will always remain the fundamental bedrock of a successful business.

Surprising news of a reshuffle at North American equipment manufacturer Ross Video, with a few key personnel now seeking pastures new. Unfortunate timing for them just before Christmas, and especially after the great recent successes they’ve enjoyed in Europe, (based in my opinion on employing good people while others have been reducing head count). I’ve long ben a fan of the products, and it will be interesting to see how their European business fares. With SAM pushing hard in the large mixer market, and not forgetting the established incumbents Sony and GV, relationships can tip the balance. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some consolidation in this sector. There just seems to be too many major players.

Whilst on the subject of manufacturers, is this finally the year when Arri announces a new camera? I’ve been saying that before every trade show for the past 3 years, but with the technical requirements of the OTT commissioners requiring genuine 4K+ resolution it has to be this year, doesn’t it? With Sony bringing their Venice to market in the Spring, it will be fascinating to see how that plays out.

2017 was a big year for educational spend as tertiary education establishments recognised that they needed the latest equipment to attract student numbers. Salford & Sheffield Hallam, to name a couple, have invested heavily in new technology this past year. National Film School Digital Village project saw investment from Channel 4 and Sky, and the University of the Arts is planning a state of the art new premises in South London.

4K is pretty much established, and HDR adoption is close behind. To my mind, this was really the wrong way round. With so much content viewed on small screens now, trying to spot the difference between 4K and HD on all but the largest screens is impossible, whilst the SDR – HDR jump is evident on any size device.

The momentum of IP adoption in studios and the OB market seems not to be as fast as most had expected. The technology will no doubt get there, but the demands of instantaneous switching of a 4K, HDR, HFR signal with Dolby Sound is proving a challenge. In time, the technology advances should allow for cloud-based remote production from multiple locations. Imagine covering the next big sporting event… the video sources coming in from the sports venue, archive footage from HQ, remote audio mixing from Dolby HQ, and graphics from yet another location, all synced and played out seamlessly, with minimal delays, all over IP. This seems to be the current holy grail for broadcast visionaries. Let’s see how close we get before someone proposes a different one.

The technical engineering requirement of most OB companies is shifting to an IP knowledge base, so it will happen. Just not quite as fast as was billed, and 2017 being an “odd” year will have contributed to that slowdown.

It’s generally the two global sporting events – the football World Cup and the Olympics – that are the catalyst for major advancements. This year’s World Cup in Russia will be the first major sporting event to be covered in its entirety in 4K/UHD, and who knows how many K’s the Tokyo Olympics will be covered in, in 2020.

Brexit is the gift that just keeps on taking, and the VFX sector seems to be the most concerned, as freedom of movement issues are scaring talent away from the UK. Whilst this may create opportunities for home-grown talent, it will take time and investment to develop these skills and in the meantime the UK industry will lose its appeal for this vital sector.  Post-land generally has concerns over Brexit with the major players voicing worries over big business moving their offices, and their decision-makers, to mainland Europe.

However there have been some short-term wins as the falling pound has encouraged overseas productions to spend their Euros and dollars here. “Wait and see” seems to be the prevailing strategy, which is understandable, if not a little nervous-making. Perhaps a better approach would be to strike some deals while the agreements are still in place, or has that horse bolted?

And whilst on personnel-related issues, under the leadership of Bubble Communications MD Sadie Groom, RISE continues its admirable work promoting opportunities for women in film and television. My colleague at Adamantean, Sam Arlow, is on the advisory board, and the principal aim is to make the industry more attractive and accessible for women to join, succeed, and most significantly, stay in. I am hearing of some smaller production companies taking a more flexible approach to their working practices, which will help women returning to the industry after having children. This is good news as the industry needs all of its collective talent to truly flourish.

I expect the trade shows to be spectacularly similar in virtually every respect to all previous trade shows. The drinks may be more expensive, the hype will be over-hyped and IBC will still be too long. And will we learn anything more? The BSC, in my opinion the best show for learning about new gear if cinematography is your thing, is fast approaching and I’m hoping it will remain as good so long as it doesn’t grow too big. BVE and its newer competitor MPS will continue to fight for the same space, and the non-paying public will continue to get their beer funded by exhibitors hoping to get a new lead or two.

Often it’s the reseller events or the smaller regional shows where the same experts are on hand, but the crowds are a little thinner where you can get some quality one-on-one time to find out what you need to know. The Kit Plus shows in Manchester and Bristol are good cases in point, and rather than expanding these events as they gain popularity, they’re adding Glasgow back to their event calendar which is planned for May this year.

I have no doubt that this year will throw up many challenges and opportunities, and I am genuinely excited for what lies ahead this year. We are a year old here at Adamantean, and Sam, Gareth and I are extremely grateful for the loyalty and support we have experienced from customers, manufacturers and the industry generally as we have launched our business.

Good luck to you all for the coming year. I hope it brings good fortune and happiness in abundance. Certainly the Royals have helped the OB businesses this year. Thanks to the Harry and Meghan wedding/FA Cup final clash in May the demand for kit will certainly spike over that weekend. I just need to decide which invite to accept.

Duncan