Life at the Vantage Point

A small Bavarian town, Weiden is home to no more than 90,000 people, don’t test me on that though. There is a “city centre” of cute, quiet shops and cafes that line a square with a church in the middle. A quaint European city that I will be staying in for the next 7 weeks.

It is my first day at my work placement at Vantage film- one of the greatest rental companies on Earth and manufacturers of the infamous Hawk lenses. It’s a household name for the industry and camera department and today, I begin working there. Based in Weiden, the owner’s Peter and Wolfgang grew up across the street from each other. The company has built a home in Peter’s childhood home with his mother still living upstairs. But don’t picture it as a small garage that rents lenses- that was 15 years ago after all. The company has expanded every few years to now from what appears to be a small company on the outside opens to a multi floored vessel that houses the greatest camera and grip equipment known to anyone in the industry and beyond. They manufacture lenses under a team of 4, repair filters, lenses, electronics, have admin staff, camera staff and everything in between. The bosses stay next to the techies and everyone is involved in the process together. Well, that’s what I learned on my first day.

At 8:56 am, I buzzed the door at Vantage and entered into a fantastic, technical world of all things camera and film. You walk through the hallways past history, vintage zooms and primes, 6000 different filters, everything on display as you walk by in awe. As a student, I have never had access to this much equipment in my entire life and so I can’t wait to test it all. I met with Patrizia, who I have been in contact with over the summer regarding insurance, employment ect. 

After meeting everyone on a quick tour of the place, I settled into a standing desk in the camera, technical floor. Artiom and Mohammed are the lead technicians. My bosses Chris and Fabian, showed me the ropes and slowly explained how to pack, test and clean cameras, follow focus remotes, external monitors and some rigging gear. We started with the RED Dragon and followed with the Alexa RT and Mini. Everywhere had a place and every cleaning solution was used for something different. The body was to be cleaned with alcohol, the sensors and chrome accessories with Benzin. In school, I have always been told not to even THINK ABOUT TOUCHING the sensors of the cameras but today they had me clean it with a large cotton swab and use compressed air to dry it off. It was terrifying but also liberating as it makes you look at the camera as a piece of machinery that each part is accessible to the holder or filmmaker, and event though its delicate, I feel more comfortable with the handling of each camera because I can understand the do’s and don’t’s of each as well.

At lunch, my original connections from Vantage, James and Alexander, along with Julia (a new friend, yay!) took me out to lunch at this Italian place. We spoke about my aspirations, what I hope to learn, what I should explore while here ect. When we got back, I continued to get a bit more comfortable with everything in the camera department. 

James, later in the afternoon, gave me a very descriptive tour of each department, who is there and what they are responsible for. We spoke about his job, managing the website, the use of 16mm film at a workshop they did at their Paris office with the Arri SR3 and the 16mm v-lite hawk lenses with film factory. We also toured camera floor as he pointed out that Vantage not only rents thing out but manufactures things that they have found will better aid the industry such as a matte box that holds to whatever shape you would like so you can get rid of/add flare or have a specific filter or zoom that requires x amount of distance. They have also created a handle for some monitors that allows you to adjust a 3 point ball system to change the direction, height, length of anything attached to it. He also described the cases that everything is kept in.

Every single piece of equipment at Vantage is particularly organized. Each case is hand made and designed the insides according to size and what is in it, and colour coded. Red cases are for the RED cameras, grey, black and white are the vantage cases, blue is underwater. In addition, some lenses and filters have metal tags which state if its a 1.3x or 2x squeeze factor before even looking in the box. James explained that it not only makes it easier in house but on set if you have 100 cases in camera that you can quickly look for the red box for the camera and know what’s in it. Vantage is exactly like this colour coded system; particular, exact, brilliant and vibrant.