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CARTONI, CAMERA SUPPORT SOLUTIONS AT THE SERVICE OF WORLD CINEMA
Cartoni is something of an Italian “miracle”. Founded in 1962 with the launch of a mass-production of professional supports for cine-cameras invented by Guido Cartoni, this Rome company currently has 50 employees on its payroll, it made a turnover of 8 million Euros in 2008 (with an export share of 80%) and sells to 62 markets, with particular concentration in the United States, across Europe, India and South America. Hollywood still remains cinematography's number one client, but Bollywood, in Mumbai, is just as important. "In our niche market - begins general manager Elisabetta Cartoni - the main competitors are Sachtler, Vinten and O'Connor; all three are part of Vitec Group and together they control 70% of the global market. The only other independent player is Miller, an Australian." But there is something that qualifies Cartoni and makes her unique: excelling in after-sales service and constant innovation.
The ability to provide the fastest possible assistance is a vital element for those working in this very demanding industry. "If one of the camera's components breaks - says Elisabetta Cartoni - you have to be in a position to replace or repair it as soon as possible: in cinematography, productions cannot allow for downtime when shooting." Cartoni, who offers up to five-years’ guarantee in an industry where the average age of equipment is around seven years, provides technical assistance through its global network of distributors, almost always exclusive, who are put through ad-hoc training courses at the headquarters in Rome.
In practice, however, what happens if a component breaks thousands of miles away and it's not possible to have it repaired? "We have - says the general manager - a large stock of spare parts for all our products: we can have a piece sent and delivered overnight". In the event of more serious damage, the equipment will be recalled to our headquarters, with the Italian company paying the transport costs should the malfunction be the result of a manufacturing defect. Serving the U.S. film industry, we have a dedicated three-technician team based at the Cartoni USA Division in Hollywood. By and large, distances are not a problem for the Italian company, which has neither agreements nor alliances with any cinecamera or telecamera manufacturers, but acts completely independently thanks to a network of selected distributors throughout the world. It creates publicity by participating in major international trade fairs (Nab Las Vegas, IBC Amsterdam, CABSAT Dubai, Broadcast India Bombay, and BIRTV Beijing).
The credibility that the Italian company has gained over the years is not just the result of the business relations established and consolidated at industry fairs, but is largely down to the "special" relationships it has forged with users. Over the years, collaborations have been formed with big-name directors, directors of photography, and television technicians working for major global networks - and these have developed into friendships. "Many solutions have come about through listening to their needs - recalls Elisabetta Cartoni - such as deciding on the positioning of commands and controls or improving the ergonomic design of the product. Our founding principle is that, when used, the technical means should be as natural, pleasant, and intuitive as possible – liberating the cameraman’s creativity as he forgets the equipment is even there.
Cartoni supplies a family of cinecamera accessories including trestles, tripods, pins, adapters and supports, each with different features and various special selling points. Assisted support for telecameras and cinecameras is a vital accessory when it comes to achieving homogeneity and continuity throughout the shoot; it is necessary regardless of the camera and filming conditions. The supports are made up of a head, the actual joint where the camera is mounted and a tripod or pneumatic "pedestal" to support both camera and head. "The more sophisticated technology - emphasises Elisabetta Cartoni - is found in the head, which must fulfil a task that is two-fold: support the camera safely and strongly, and balance its weight perfectly; allowing for horizontal, vertical and oblique panoramic movement with a fluid head whose intensity is constant, accurate and adjustable."
Research carried out by the Italian company over the years has focused on improving the performance of balancing systems on fluid mechanisms but also on innovative materials to reduce the weight and size of the support, without compromising optimum performance. From the first patented "gyroscopic" head, invented by Renato Cartoni in 1935, to the first 'FL4' fluid head in 1960, almost 30 patents have been lodged in the Rome firm’s history. And the innovation keeps on going, even when researching materials. “We source special aeronautical aluminium alloys, carbon fibre, and special plastic polymers that are resistant to stress and temperature variations. For example - concludes Elisabetta Cartoni - the silicone fluid used in movement fluid damping systems is the same used by Boeing for their aircraft shock absorbers.”