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AMIRA Multicam rises to high fashion

The world’s top fashion design companies are demanding ever higher standards of coverage for their shows.  The French company PhotoCineRent has become one of the leading specialists in multi-camera shooting, using ARRI AMIRA and ALEXA Minis. Its founder and director, Albrecht Gerlach, talked to us about the complexities of coordinating as many as 18 cameras to bring seamless coverage to high fashion.

Sep. 28, 2018

How did you get to work on the fashion shows?

Customers used to come to just rent our cameras to shoot their shows. But their needs and expectations have evolved towards a more comprehensive service. They wanted cameras,  but they also wanted the staff to install the equipment and manage the workflow during the show. We have adapted to this changing demand by offering them more and more services. This led us to create PhotoCineLive in 2015. Today we collaborate on 20 to 30 shows and concerts per year, both with ARRI and with other manufacturers’ equipment.

Why use ARRI AMIRA Multicam on haute couture shows?

Our customers want to have an ARRI image. They are used to shooting their commercials and promotional films with ALEXAs, and they want the same quality, the same look, on the coverage of their shows because those are central elements of their communication. For the past three years we have been using AMIRA because it has the same sensor as the ALEXA Mini, and practically the same functionality. In fact, the two products are often mixed on a fashion show. The cameras on tripods—equipped with long focal lengths—are AMIRAs, while the ALEXA Minis are used on cranes, handheld, or with Steadicams.

How many cameras do you normally use on a fashion show?

For very large fashion shows, this can mount up to 18 cameras, but the average show has between 8 and 10 cameras. These productions require cinema lenses, like the Angénieux zooms which are not motorized. We add cmotion motors and control them with Master Grips. The idea is to adapt cameras to the multicam environment and get the best of both worlds.

Do you supply the director?

Very rarely. We bring the equipment and the technicians who install the mobile production flight pack, the cameras and who will wire everything. Usually the production supplies the camera operators and director. There is also a video engineer who has an important role that controls all the remote cameras to create image homogeneity, adjusting the iris, color or adding an ND filter remotely. We also sometimes work abroad, in London or Italy. Recently, we did the COS fashion show of the H&M group in Florence. We work regularly with them in Europe.

How are the AMIRAs and the ALEXA Minis connected with the mobile production flight pack?

We deploy the Ereca and Multidyne fiber optic system between the cameras and the mobile production flight pack. All the remotely controlled parts of the AMIRAs go through the fiber: video, audio, energy, time code, data and genlock. We use wireless with the ALEXA Minis on Steadicam or Cablecam because we have no other choice. But we avoid wireless as much as possible, because in live events there are signals flying in all directions which brings the risk of interference.
We can also interconnect by fiber with the OB vans of broadcast service providers, with whom we regularly work on major fashion shows.

What is the biggest difficulty on this type of projects?

The usual challenges that come with live broadcasting. A fashion show lasts on average 10 minutes and there is often a live stream, so everything has to be perfect because we don’t get a second chance. We set up many redundancies, or "spares", ready to take over in case of failure. It is quite rare that we have a problem with an ARRI camera, but if something does happen, we have to be ready—we can't make mistakes.

What are the next developments on multicam?

Our customers are very demanding. They always try to find ways to make their coverage different. The future challenge is to capture in HDR or even anamorphic. What producers want is a real cinematic look. 

PhotoCineRent has grown a lot in the last ten years. What’s been the key to your success? 

We are dedicated to large sensor cameras. It's very specialized. We try to be responsive to market demand by equipping ourselves with the latest cameras. Our strength is also to offer rental, service, and sales. We are in the center of Paris, which is an advantage for many of our customers, and we’re in the process of expanding into new premises, which will have a new test area for our technicians.