Off Trax interview for TV-Bay


TV-Bay Magazine
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TV-Bay interviews Off Trax partners Crispin Kyle, Jonathan Dennis and Doug Urquhart.
Tell me about Off Trax:
Off Trax was set up in 1995 to fill a gap in the market as a specialist light grip company offering a unique dry and wet equipment hire service to the television and film industries.
We are three partners, Crispin Kyle. Doug Urquhart and myself, Jonathan Dennis.
We have a sister company, Electra, a broadcast video facilities company providing equipment and crew to the television industry.
What is your involvement in the company?
We’re all equal partners in Off Trax. I joined the company as a trainee cameraman and Jimmy Jib operator in 2000. I loved the job and expanded my skills into remote systems, operating cameras on tracking vehicles and on remote heads, on cranes, on rigging towers and even from helicopters.
I’ve built myself up to what I hope is a pretty good cameraman. I still love the work I do – it’s brilliant. I specialise in stabilised systems and hothead systems.

What has the company equipment philosophy been?
Well in the early days we were trying to concentrate on the traditional stuff, Jimmy Jibs, the bigger heavier duty kit. We also got into tracking vehicles. Our first one we developed from our Jimmy Jib relocation vehicle. Now we are into our third generation vehicle.
Were you specialising in anything particular at that time?
No, right across the board. We were doing quite a few car programmes – ‘Driven’ for Ch4, the early days of ‘Top Gear’, a lot of car corporate work, ‘The Bill’, ‘London’s Burning’, all those types of programmes.
Were you aware of Polecam at that time?
Yes, in the sidelines. Chris and Doug kept bumping into Steffan at shows, and we would see rigs around, but like I said, we were into heavier cranes.
What led up to your first Polecam purchase?
We started looking into the bigger and more advanced cranes then decided that in today’s financial market production budgets couldn’t afford them.
We reversed our direction and started buying lighter grip. I have done a lot of extreme filming – I’ve been to the Arctic in minus 40 degrees C and taken things like Jimmy Jibs and ABC cranes. I’ve been lucky enough to work on BBC Human Planet and did the desert shoots in plus 50 degrees C. For all these type of jobs we shipped everything with us and carried it too.
We have seen shipping costs rising and rising, so freighting a Jimmy Jib around is getting very expensive. This was another reason to look for lighter kit. Cameras have become a little lighter and smaller too. All this led to our decision to buy the first Polecam. The final push was when Steffan brought out the new more powerful, larger heads allowing bigger and heavier cameras. The Polecam Starter Pack meant we could offer a sophisticated, extremely portable and lightweight package at a very attractive rental price.
What cameras are going on to it?
A mixture of rental cameras from Electra and the client’s own cameras – the Canon 5D Mk II, the 6D and 7D, the Nikon equivalents, the Canon C300 and XF305, the Sony F3 and the Panasonic AF101 and PMW200.
So how was the experience with the first Polecam rig?
What excites us about the Polecam is that you can actually get a DOP or a cameraman in who is pretty au fait with rigging – because a lot of times it’s only him going out now, not even a sound man – so they will come in, we’ll give them some training and off they’ll go. It’s proving to be very popular for dry hire, and this is budget led.
On the other hand, some cameramen don’t want to touch it – ‘it’s not my job – not what I do’. They want somebody, like me, to go with them, which is also fine. Then you get the ones who want you to come with the Polecam but they can’t afford it. If the cameraman’s game I’ll ask him to come in and I’ll give him the once over- ‘this is what you do – this is what you avoid - read the manual and don’t do anything stupid.’
I’d say 90% of the response has been positive – like anything it’s horses for courses, but most people love it. It’s a good price, and for the price you’re paying it can massively increase your production values - and it’s extremely portable. So it’s proving very popular with both wet and dry hire.
What was the reason for buying the second Polecam?
Simply because of the success of the first.
What about from now on?
I think over the next year or two we will be adding more Polecam rigs to our stock. That will be down to demand of course, but it’s all going very well.

www.offtrax.co.uk

www.electra-tv.com

www.polecam.com


Tags: iss073 | off trax | Crispin Kyle | Jonathan Dennis | Doug Urquhart | polecam | hire | rigs | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus

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