by Jacques Lipkau Goyard
BIRTV – Beijing (China) 2016.
Two time Oscar winning master cinematographer James Wong Howe, ASC whose career stretched from silent pictures through the mid-’70s, stated during the shoot of The Rose Tatoo directed by Daniel Mann, “Sometimes it’s not how much light you use to get an effect, it’s how little you use and still make it work. There are a lot of rules to be broken in photography, and you’ve got to have courage.”
Today, the entertainment industry is the sunrise light in China, while the steel industry is the sunset light. The growth potential for the film industry is huge, with an increase of 17% per year since 2011. The media and film industry at the end of 2016 will be worth $180 billion and next year an increase is expected, while the domestic film audience will exceed that of the U.S. in less than four years.
Today, China’s movie ticket sales is second only to the U.S. Last year’s box office revenue hit a record $6.8 billion – up 49% from 2014. That’s up from $1.5 billion a mere five years ago. According to a McKinsey report, “the Land of the sleeping Giant” is expected to see a movie cross the $500 million threshold domestically in 2016. Some Chinese movies have already come close: Monster Hunt grossed $380 million to date while Lost in Hong Kong reached more than $250 million. The record for an American film, Avatar, was $760 million on U.S. screens.
All this activity was tangible at this year’s BIRTV in Beijing, Asia’s most influential exhibition in the film and broadcast industry. China’s BIRTV gathers, as usual, the latest developments and technical innovation from leading brands around the world. This year’s attendees during the 4 days were circa 50,000 vs 46,900 in 2015 and the number of exhibitors — 506 — was about the same as last year. Interesting to note the 2015 visitor statistics: 28% (Broadcast managers & engineer/senior technical ministry officials), 22% (Studio program producers), 21% (Technicians, professors, researchers from related industries), 7% (Officials and technicians from network operation companies), 15% (TV, production and broadcasting equipment manufacturers), 2% (Overseas visitors), 5% (Others).
As usual, BIRTV’s major international brands attended – just to name a few — were Arri, Sony, Red, Panasonic, Avid, Cooke, C-Motion, Schneider Kreuzach, Lite Panel, Kinoflo, Cartoni, Blackmagic, Angénieux, Panther, Canon, Vocas, Zeiss, HPRC, Atomos, Cinectech italiana, Miller, Fujifilm and the Vitec group companies.
This year’s BIRTV appears to have generated more business than last year. Among the international exhibitors, FDTimes received positive comments from international exhibitors from the United States, Europe and Hong Kong.
Steve Scammell, Founder & CEO of KFX Technology (USA) said, “This was my first visit to China for BIRTV and I was very curious to see where the industry is in relation to the West. I’ve had some experiences of China before, including shooting there as a motion control tech back in 2009. I know that the government has put considerable resources into the industry over the past 10 years and have been very outward looking in the process.
“From what I can tell, the last 5 years have seen a big expansion in China, but it is still a young market and there is plenty more expansion to go. Typically, the Chinese don’t hang around so I can see the market getting mature quite quickly.
“The most common reaction I get when talking about entering the Chinese market is that next year I will see Chinese clones of all my gear. Yes, I did see a lot of clones at the show. Most notably O’Connor head rip offs and GFM crane rip offs (not to mention the many jimmy jib type products).
“The Chinese people are very conscious about brands though, and those that have the money really do want the genuine article. ‘I’m not going to risk $200,000 of camera, lens and remote head on a Chinese made “QF-8” crane’ one Chinese grip told me. Luckily I didn’t see any Chinese made Remote Heads that would compete with the European and US made ones in terms of quality or size.
“From my business perspective, BIRTV is a new challenge. I have exhibited at all the usual shows in the US. UK and Germany. As a new comer I am still in the process of establishing my brand. Exhibiting at trade shows is a very important part of doing that. Coming to China presents a new challenge. The Chinese buyers want already established brand names, so partnering with the right company in China is very important. Even for that company, they needed to see a good reaction from their customers to instill some faith in new products.
“For KFX I found the show very successful and that there is definitely a gap in the market for our products. We had a lot of positive feedback about our products, and also some constructive conversations on how to make it more attractive to Chinese buyers. I found that there are a lot of very informed customers in China.”
Pat Grosswendt, co-founder of LitePanels and a BIRTV regular, commented, “I think everyone should come to BIRTV. It keeps us aware of what ideas other manufactures come up with, how they view the market changes that affect their thoughts of what is important as far as product development to those end-users that are in the image capture market. It is a positive way to see how our product development; of our products, touches the end-users and allows us to converse on technical and lighting levels. If you love lighting, you love talking with others that share the same passion. Passion has no borders.”
Ira Tiffen, VP-MPTV Filters at Schneider Optic, said, “This was my third visit to BIRTV. Each year it seems to get better. Being more familiar with how things work certainly helps. Schneider Kreuznach exhibited as part of the presentation of our local representative, Jebsen International. That offered two key advantages: a central booth location that brought more people to us and the wonderful assistance of the Jebsen associates who are knowledgeable about our products and can communicate most effectively with our visitors. Both were of great value.
“We brought our Xenon FF Prime lenses, ideally suited for the full frame format, as well as the Cine Xenar III lenses, for Super35. As these lenses are relatively new, our visitors were excited to learn about their many features, such as being color matched through the focal length range, and exhibiting beautiful bokeh, all at a price that makes them a standout value.
“And, of course, we showed off our broad range of optical filters for cinematography, including our award-winning effects filters. Foremost were our new True-Streak multi-color and multi-point star configurations, as well as the recently introduced One-Stop Circular Polarizer.
“As a result of our ongoing local presence, in addition to our prior appearances at BIRTV, there was a good range of technical knowledge already evident among our visitors for the effects filters that have been available for a while. And the strong interest in ‘what’s new and exciting’ showed the clear desire for more from us. All in all, this was a valuable opportunity to bring our message and products to an increasingly important market. And the market clearly wants us back.”
Wolfgang Gelep, Panther GmbH Area Manager, Asia, said, “Camera support continues to grow strongly in China, along with the general film market. We did not expect to see further increase in 2016 after a strong 2015, however we think we will have another significant increase in business for 2016.
“Panther successfully introduced the Maximus 7 stabilized remote head in China this year, followed by another series of new useful accessories for cranes and dollies. BIRTV constitutes an excellent platform for introductions. For 2017 we expect to do business on the same level. Customers are asking increasingly for payment terms.”
H.M. Lai, Shriro (H.K.) Ltd Business Manager for Video & Cine gave his view to FDT. “Shriro continues to bring the latest products and technology in the broadcast and cine industry to BIRTV 2016 for the 5th consecutive year.”
“In International Hall 8, Shriro displayed a full range of video/cine products including ZEISS CP.2 and CZ.2 cine lenses, ZEISS Milvus, Batis and Loxia photo lenses, Cartoni fluid heads and tripod, Vocas professional accessories, RED digital cameras, Kino Flo LED lighting and HPRC professional equipment cases.
“This year is the first time we displayed in our booth Kino Flo LED lighting and RED digital camera as Shriro newly becomes the official distributor of RED and Kino Flo in 2016. These latest cameras and lighting products successfully attracted a lot of attention from the visitors in the professional video production field in China.
“BIRTV is the largest video/cine equipment show in China. Visitors come from all fields in the film and video industry such as production, post-production, equipment rental, broadcast, distribution and exhibition markets.
“Professionals such as directors, cinematographers, producers, purchasing managers, colorists, etc. came to BIRTV to see the latest technology available. Through face to face interaction, we at Shriro listen to comments, enquiries and technical questions from all industrial professionals and give the best and possible advice on product applications, technical suggestions and configurations, to meet the ever-changing demand in the China video/cine market.”
BIRTV is worth attending, as year by year it becomes more important for the players than want to sell their high-end products—hopefully now without the fear of being copied and as an excuse to come taste delicious flavors of the world-renowned Chinese cuisine.