THE MUSE

Welcome to the Adamantean blog

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May the Force

Spring has finally sprung and with it a flurry of new business opportunities for Adamantean.

We started the month departing a drizzly London for a surprisingly sunnier Leeds for the annual PLASA Focus tradeshow which is always a favourite in our calendar. Stand space is limited so exhibitors focus (see what they did there!) on key kit; but overwhelmingly the real focus of the show is on the networking opportunities afforded by the quality of attendees year on year.

In True PLASA style we both worked and played hard with a number of Line Array and Lighting systems under discussion and the opportunity to support interest-free finance at a console supplier open day later in the month.

The Sunny start continued to brighten our month as the warm weather turned thoughts to summer, and many of our customers started to gear up for the busy summer shooting and festival seasons.

Our Broadcast division saw us almost hit double figures of Sony Venice cameras, with three more delivered into our Pinewood customers, along with 20x PTZ cameras headed to observational documentaries, and another Arri Alexa LF.

The Post Production community also had an eye on the shooting season ahead with investments in transcoding software and Storage, as ever more productions are shooting 4K.

In the AV market we’ve been excited to get involved with cutting edge see-through LED screens that will – rather unconventionally– be mounted front of stage at Hyde Park this summer. We also funded hire stocks of Martin Professional Lighting and Martin Audio Line Arrays.

Add to all of that a complex refinance deal to facilitate one business buying another; new photo-bearing business cards for the upcoming Media Production Show; and our first own-book deal, and you’ll see it’s not just the sunshine giving us something to smile about!

Long may the sunshine, and the varied opportunities it brings, continue!


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Big Brother Is Watching You (Twice a second)

Anyone heard of ACR? Automatic Content Recognition may well be fitted in to your SmartTV already, and almost certainly will be in your next one.

Every half a second your TV takes a “screen grab” of whatever you’re watching and sends it to a master database which is also monitoring every terrestrial and OTT channel. So it can then match the screen-grab with its database to identify what live channel you’re watching. It can even recognise if it’s something that has been recorded on your DDR, or if you’re watching something On Demand from Netflix or Amazon which the database has already reviewed and processed.

This extraordinary technology allows broadcasters and commissioners access to  accurate viewing figures, and couldn’t be more removed from the old-school method of a little box on top of a tiny proportion of the nation’s TVs.  It’s amazing, and a little bit terrifying.

I learnt this at a TVConnect seminar, and whilst the show itself didn’t offer any great benefit for me or my business, every day is a school day, and the seminar I attended was stimulating and well produced. Good work guys.

Still pondering the Big Brother-esque implications of my new-found knowledge, it occurred to me that if the major film studios collaborated and shared short sections of their latest blockbusters, it might be possible to identify individual users viewing pirated content. The ISPs are unwilling (or unable) to identify pirated content on streaming devices such as Kodi, but ACR is built in to the screen, so it bypasses the need for the ISP to police the content. Sounds like a great way of identifying illegal activity, even if it does sound like something Winston Smith might have come up against.


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Are you talking to a decision maker?

Are you talking to a decision maker?

A new business needs to play to its strengths. Fairly obvious. And true for any business, but more so for a business in its infancy.

How often will you be asked by the person you called if they can call you back once they gain the knowledge or authority to give you an answer? I’m guessing quite a lot, because it happens to me too.

And herein lies perhaps our greatest strength…when you deal with Adamantean, I guarantee that you’ll be engaging with a knowledgeable decision-maker, because Sam, Gareth and I own the business.

So if you want to know what your options are for financing your next purchase (or your last one come to that) give us a call and try us out. We’ve all been around a little while and we know what we’re talking about.

Also, as it’s our business, we’ll generally pick up your call out of hours / weekends / bank holidays etc etc when the rest of the world has its feet up. Our media industry doesn’t fit around a 9-5 culture, and nor do we.


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Going out on a limb?

NAB 2018 – Getting over the FOMO factor

Who went to NAB? Of my network, I could see that many did, and I can confess to a few pangs of jealousy as my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of late night exploits that I have enjoyed myself in recent years.

We decided not to go, and I’m trying to get a feel for if we made the right call. As a new business, it’s a big investment to make. I’m guessing it would have cost £4Kish a head by the time all the actual costs have added up like flights, accommodation, parking, taxis etc etc. Add in a bit on for “recreation” and it feels like you’re spending monopoly money by the end of the week.

And as important is the cost of not doing your day job. March was our best ever month, and April is looking strong too. All three of us picked up nice deals, two of which were with new clients, in the week that we would have been away. We may have missed these had we been 6 time zones and a million miles away enjoying all that Vegas has to offer.

Often a big new product launch is a great buzz-generator around a show, but 2018 has seen three big camera launches already. Sony’s Venice was announced at IBC last year, and started shipping in March to rave reviews. We’ve funded quite a few of these already and early reports from DoP’s are very positive. I’m sure the Venice timing prompted both Arri and Panavision to launch their new cameras at the London BSC show in February rather than having a global NAB launch. The Panavision XL2, and Arri’s LF camera as well as their new Signature lenses are big news, but by NAB they were already known about.

For me though, the best draw for any trade show are the networking opportunities, and I guess I’ll never know which new customer I missed out on sitting next to on the plane / meeting in a bar. We had the same decisions to make around the big Frankfurt based Prolight and Sound show, and came to the same conclusions.

It’s this FOMO factor, the Fear Of Missing Out on the next big announcement or new customer that often drives attendance at such events. I’m with Donald Rumsfeld on this one…I have unknown unknowns.

With hindsight, I think we probably made the right call, but I’m interested in all views if you feel that you made the right decision, whether you attended or chose not to. This was the first NAB where I’ve owned my own business, so it really was our own money that we were spending. It certainly focusses one’s mind on whether it was truly going to show any ROI.

The reality is that in our role, buyers might get all revved up about the shiny new kit on display, and may even place orders at the shows, but then they need to sort out how to pay for it, which is what we are good at. It generally only takes a day or two to confirm a finance facility, so we can have the money agreed long before the kit is ready to ship.

I saw lots of friends who are employees from various manufacturers making the trip, and I see the justification for going if they have clients attending. And Company global sales meetings are often planned around NAB, which makes perfect sense. But if you’re a UK-based owner of a hire company, production company, OB business, or you’re a freelance cameraman who made the trip, I’d love to hear your views if you feel that you made it pay.

Adamantean is still in its infancy, and we are growing fast, so the decision next year may be different. I did miss adding a few days on for a road trip which I’ve done the last two years. But I’m pretty sure the Grand Canyon will be there next year, and will look pretty similar to how it looked a few years back.


If you had to sum up your business in a single word what would it be?

If you had to sum up your business in a single word what would it be?

Quite a challenge isn’t it? You want your mission statement to encompass all that you do, probably across multiple disciplines and definitely across a varied customer base; so could you distil it down to just……one……. word??

I recently had this concept thrust upon me as I was trying to give my ‘elevator pitch’ to a prospective new customer and had no time for a protracted debate or ‘phone a friend’. I had to think on my feet! I opened my mouth to respond and without hesitation I said ‘Flexible’.

Now upon reflection pretty much every finance company ever will have used the ‘Fast, Flexible Finance’ line at some point – its’ nice alliteration – and you can of course add another F at the start if you’re having the conversation in the pub rather than the boardroom!

However, the more I ponder how better I could answer the question, the more convinced I am my first answer was the right answer.

Over the past couple of months, Adamantean has arranged a consortium of funders to undertake a £1.8m studio refit, funded numerous new start businesses, some buying used kit; financed a new joint purchase of a camera kit by two freelancers, paid for over £2m of kit for a customer prior to it shipping from the U.S and China and refinanced £250k of owned assets with a next day turnaround – whilst both kit and customer were out of the country. Now that’s flexible!

We’ve met with customers to sign up documents in random locations from a Toy Fair at Excel to Wembley Stadium and we’ve even undertaken a customer/credit meeting at the Eastern end of the Jurassic coast at 3pm on a Friday afternoon – admit it, there’s not many corporate bods that would do that!

Yes, I think I can safely and proudly say that Adamantean is most definitely ‘Flexible’.

So, if you feel like there’s too many hoops to jump through or are struggling with a scenario similar to one of the above, give us a call – We’ll bend over backwards to help you!

 

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Samantha Arlow

Director.

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Did you catch Duncan’s recent review of BVE?

Adamantean Director Duncan Payne’s recent article on BVE 2018 has really sparked conversation, with comments from leading figures across our industry.

If you’d like to read the article on our blog, you can find it here.

If you attended BVE and would like to join in the conversation, you can comment on the LinkedIn article here.


NEXO Speakers

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The Geo M10 ‘s were recently installed in the Stadsgehoorzaal in Kampen – a classic 125-year old city theatre in the Netherlands as the system is perfect for speech and music events with larger audiences.

This 2 year 0% interest offer is available until 30th September 2018 and can be extended over a longer term if required*

* Interest will be charged on extended period

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For further information on this offer or to discuss any funding requirements please contact us.
Download the NEXO 2018 brochure here.


ISE

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?

 

 


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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?”


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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