Mike Wilder started Image Gear Inc. in 1991 after working in the film equipment rental business at PS Productions Services 1975 – 1980 and equipment sales at Kingsway Film Equipment in the 1980s. The new business grew out of Mike’s interest in developing new Canadian made motion picture production tools for filmmakers and sourcing high quality equipment, mostly from Europe and the USA.
Mike Wilder at Image Gear has been selling motion picture technology to professional film and television camera people for thirty five years. He was one of the first ambassadors of the Wireless Age in this unique industry marketplace, and ironically today a big part of his business is servicing purists who seek to return to analogue and come looking for classic implements that are no longer widely used.
Image Gear had its roots in the development and distribution of advanced electronics for film and TV production right from the beginning. Mike has a long history working closely with inventors who made some of the first wireless equipment to allow remote viewing of what the camera was shooting without trailing a lot of cumbersome cables.
Here is the Obelisk, developed in the late nineteen eighties. This was one of the first wireless transmitters for video cameras ever developed and marketed in Canada. It worked in accordance with a receiver connected to a television set. Soon other smaller devices followed along with portable ‘directors’ monitors’. “It was a very exciting time. This little gizmo opened up a world of production possibilities on top of the limitless opportunities that video already offered… And the Obelisk put Toronto Canada on the map as a leader in wireless film production technology.’
Among his business stories, one of Mike’s best anecdotes relates to an associate who worked developing the Canada Arm for the Space Shuttle during the day, and spent his nights and weekends developing high wattage power supplies for motion picture HMI lighting. In a subsidiary arrangement around a small soft light which could be mounted directly onto cameras, Mike liaised with international vendors in the film business to distribute the product. But sadly the development got caught up in some legal wrangling around a corporate split and never came to market. That’s just one a dozen concepts and creations that got away, or went awry, before the internet happened, and changed everything.
How Did High Speed Internet Change Your Business?
Because Mike Wilder started business in 1991, he’s able to reflect on how the internet changed film and TV production rentals in Canada. He remarked on the decline of equipment tradeshows and the near complete disappearance of printed paper spec sheets for technical implements – it’s all online now.
Mike smiled. ‘The internet killed our used equipment business,’ he explains how in the nineteen nineties Image Gear and its associates had a whole display counter and shelves stocked with refurbished used equipment for sale, but as eBay and Mandy.com developed in proficiency, it became more and more impractical. Mike’s paper database of suppliers and international manufacturers was also a victim of the purge and went online six years ago. “We had five large file cabinets full of brochures and spec sheets for nearly every piece of equipment offered for motion picture production. The only way to learn about new equipment offerings was to attend trade shows and read trade journals. That has all changed; it’s mostly all on-line now.”
“In another emerging aspect, some productions are employing multiple cameras and streaming the images directly to the internet through small lightweight electronic devices. What once took a tractor trailer full of gear and a satellite truck can now be accomplished with a small case of equipment.”
While the web destroyed some of Image Gear’s early revenue streams, it opened other doors. Today there are a great many Toronto area equipment installers that seek out Image Gear when sourcing parts for high tech surveillance systems. Mike specializes in providing remote controlled toys that allow users to access a motion picture camera iris controls, and allow remote head panning and tilting, and even follow focus mechanisms can be deployed. One camera can do the job of five with movement, especially if an operator can control the camera’s field of view remotely. Today Image Gear equipment and services can help make IP surveillance very convenient via the internet on handheld devices.
IP Surveillance in Toronto often relies on dedicated cloud storage provider like TeraGo Networks, or AllStream, Rogers, Bell or even Amazon to store all the acquired video data. The best technology utilizes economical storage solutions, especially in fixed cameras. Wireless cloud based IP surveillance systems are still maturing in the marketplace today, but these are becoming more frequently deployed in ‘temporary’ high security installations like college campus events, music festivals and trade shows.
Network IP video cameras come in multiple sizes and can be designed for indoor, outdoor, or low-light areas. They can capture high megapixel images or high-definition (HD) video and have zoom capabilities. Additional IP video features to consider include motion, audio detection, and alarm notification.
Twenty First Century Filmmakers Shop Online
The Image Gear Inc responsive website speaks to Canadian camera department crew members shopping for accessories while on set. Sometimes they’re shopping around for producers to present different price options over renting expensive equipment that will only get used once or twice per shoot.
Image Gear specializes in on-camera accessories such as matte boxes, filters, follow focus, zoom controls, optical adapters, wireless control and monitoring. The company continues to source new products and adapt conventional gear for use with the latest digital technologies.
Wireless technology is still a big interest to Image Gear, especially in the remote control of lenses. Cameras are being mounted on body harnesses, gyro controlled hand hold devices, dollies, cranes and small helicopters. Without the use of wireless lens control the focus pullers would have an impossible job. For example, the Chrosziel remote control follow focus and iris control mechanism allows motion picture camera people to control almost all in-camera variables when the operator and camera rig is mounted on a crane, or on the front of a car, or anywhere they cannot physically be there to ‘follow focus’ or ‘open the iris’ to better capture image elements.
MagNum Lens Control is a state of the art wireless device for filmmakers. It has a frequency scanner display to show the band it’s operating on, and any competing noise that might otherwise cause interference. This gadget is used by assistants for focus, iris and camera record start/stop. There are 16 frequency channels in the range of 2,4 GHz and 433 MHz. USB port, serial interface, BNC socket for cable or antenna, and four hotkeys.
Despite being online for almost twenty years now, Mike still prefers his customers visit the shop. “As hard as we try to keep all the information up to date on the website, we still prefer to have a face-to-face conversation with our clients and learn more about their particular needs, then match them with the equipment that will best serve those needs. A bit old fashioned I guess.”