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Cine Gear Expo 2021: An Overview of the Production Tech World Amidst a Pandemic

September 27, 2021 08:00 | By

CineGearThe 2021 iteration of Cine Gear Expo took place over this past weekend on Friday, Sep. 24, and Saturday, Sept 25, at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and it was definitely a more subdued affair than years past, although to many exhibitors Below the Line spoke to, they felt they had a good show and it was “more manageable” than the usual waves of browsers looking for demos or free handouts.

There were a few questions leading into the weekend whether Cine Gear would actually go on after the October NAB Show in Las Vegas was canceled less than two weeks ago. 

Getting into the show was pretty easy as there weren’t the normal long lines at registration, and even with a bit of a snafu, we still got in quickly and easily to give the exhibit hall a quick walkthrough. As noticeable as it was that there was far more space between booths and far fewer exhibits than could have filled said space, it was more obvious which exhibitors weren’t at the trade show geared primarily towards camera, lighting, grip, and electrical. 

The Expo Guide featured productions from manufacturers like Blackmagic Design, Panavision Group, ARRI, and Red were four of the major camera companies that didn’t have much of a presence, although Blackmagic Design offered two seminars in the fairly scant schedule of panels — a couple of which were held virtually even for those in attendance.

But we did make a beeline to our friends at Matthews Studio Equipment, purveyor of all things grip, who had a great outdoor booth, which was probably needed to show off their new The Air Climber, being called “the biggest light stand in the world,” because, in fact, it can telescope up to 25 feet high with relative ease. Matthews was also showing off its new Veeboxx, a portable soft box enclosure that works with recently introduced Matthews Claw to quickly transform the Astera 40” Titan tube into a diffused lighting source. We spent a bit of time talking with Matthews President and CEO, Tyler Phillips, who has done amazing things with the company in the two years since taking over from his late father, Matthews Co-Founder and President Ed Phillips.

Despite the lack of camera companies, the biggest presence at the show seemed to be manufacturers of filters and lenses, and we spent a bit of time at the Schneider-Kreuznach booth checking out their range of current and upcoming filters, as Vice President of Filter Technology, Ron Engvaldsen, gave us the rundown. Although Schneider is a German company, they had reps from the States who were able to make it out to Cine Gear. 

Lindsey Optics

Lindsey Optics Directors Viewfinder (Photo: ED)

We also spent some time talking to Connor Lindsey at Lindsey Optics checking out their filters, but their big new release was their Large Format Directors Viewfinder Set, a bundle that ranges from $10,500 to $12,000 depending on how many filters and mods you want to get initially. It seemed like it could be a nice holiday gift for the filmmaker that has everything.

“Virtual Production” continues to be a big buzzword in the tech realm, and there were many companies that offered the lights and LED panels, the remote cameras, and others that put together full packages to get a project or studio into that world. One such company, London-based Mo-Sys, manufactures and creates advanced camera robotics and virtual production technologies for film and broadcast. It will be opening its brand-new Mo-Sys VP Sandbox in El Segundo in mid-October, which will act as a local showroom for sales, rentals and on-set services, but more importantly, it will be used for R&D and testing to create more technology. CEO Michael Geissler offered us an invite to visit the stages.

That transitioned us into lighting, and we spent some time looking over the lighting products offered by Zylight, who also distributes Aladdin lights and accessories.  Zylight was showing off its new Go-Panel, a lightweight and portable bi-color LED panel that offers a lot of flexibility for a fairly reasonable price (retail $1,575). Regional Sales Manager Kevin Kennelly gave us a hands-on demonstration of the power of the Go-Panel that also offers its Active Fusion technology that can be adjusted with the mere turn of a nob. Zylight was also showing off its F8-200 Bi-Color field and studio fresnel. Aladdin also seemed to be specialized in portability and flexibility with LED light panels that can be rolled up easily, the latest being the 200 Watt 3X3. 

Los Angeles’ own Hive Lighting also had a presence at Cine Gear, showing off their Super Hornet 575-C  Omni Color light, as did AputureAs with all tech industries these days, the move towards making things smaller and even somewhat consumer-friendly on the lighting side was fairly pervasive.

Cine Gear

Aputure at Cine Gear (Photo by Patrick Graham)

There were other less obvious exhibitors like Kentucky’s Macrotrac, who manufacture durable, military-grade injection-molded plastic flooring and roadway mats that can be used to protect flooring even from any damage that may be caused by trucks and other heavy equipment.  We spoke with Sales Manager Ryan Manz about the possible uses for their flooring in the entertainment industry, but particularly in movies and television. (Macrotrac currently has an account with Live Nation for their live concert events.) 

While we spoke to a few of the exhibitors about the potential for a strike by IATSE that may happen sometime in the coming weeks and how that might affect the tech industry, more of them were curious to know our own thoughts. Many realized that Below the Line has been on top of covering the potential strike quite as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  A bigger problem for manufacturers, at least in terms of production, is getting the needed chips for some of their products, many that need to be shipped from China. Shipping costs have also become far more expensive and cost-prohibitive, and that’s despite delays that make it hard to get much-needed parts and chips overnight. A few people mentioned to us that there were 74 cargo ships docked off the coast of Los Angeles County probably carrying some of those much-needed parts. Production may have slowed down but at least a few of the smaller companies have shifted to a “make-to-order” mentality rather than having vast stocks of all products taking up space. The amount of necessary inventory certainly seems to be one of the tougher balances to maintain in this portion of the tech world.

The people we spoke to at Cine Gear seemed to feel fairly safe with mandatory vaccine checks at the entry and everyone wearing a mask in the Convention Center as per L.A. County COVID rules. The panels definitely had healthy attendance, but they weren’t so packed that it might make anyone feel uncomfortable. It was hard to tell if the lack of attendance was due to the pandemic and its Delta variant or if people were just so thrilled to be working again that a trade show just wasn’t in the cards at this point in time.

At least one exhibitor told us that they were happy to support the industry by coming back to Cine Gear, but there was still some uncertainty about the upcoming IBC 2021 in Amsterdam, scheduled to take place in early December. Quite a few exhibitors were burnt by the sudden cancellation of NAB Show, and for some, money has become too tight to shell out a fair bit of money only to face yet another cancellation.

You can check out some more photos below, all taken by Below the Line Publisher Patrick Graham. (Click on images for larger versions.)

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