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Outfitting a Remote Production Truck

From The Creative COW Magazine


Creative COW Magazine presents - Outfitting a Remote Production Truck



Ken Martini Ken Martini
Sonoma, California USA

©2007 Ken Martini and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus:

Ken Martini has advice for building a remote production truck - and a business - that's ready for anything. In this Creative COW Magazine article Ken discusses what it takes to have a successful video production truck outfitted with all the tools you need.


My love of filmmaking started with still photography. The journey started in 1992 when I sold the commercial photography studio I owned for ten years. After that, I took a long break and used the time to learn new skill sets that would serve me well as a filmmaker.

During my time as a commercial photographer, I learned lighting and compositional skills. As an electronics contractor I became friendly with a good deal of the technology that applies to this field. Even my skills that I used in CAD to do metal fabrication, was learned in one of my businesses.

Over the years, like many businesspeople, I have leveraged the things that I have learned, taking my "tools" into areas where they were not even intended to go. For example, my CAD program is such a powerful tool that I've used it for creating production forms, lighting diagrams, choreography layouts, and building a couple of houses.

Through it all, I have learned discipline. I've always had creative passion, but when I was younger I lacked the discipline to bring it to fruition. Too many people wait until they have all the answers before starting the journey. But as I get older, I see that oftentimes what we do know can be leveraged to give us much of what we need for the next step.

Production Truck


THE DRIVE TO BEGIN

I started my own production company like many in this field. I owned an XL1, a small lighting kit, and minimal sound equipment. But I needed much more than that to take my business where I really wanted it to go.

As I thought about my specific needs, I realized that I needed a grip truck. More precisely, I needed a fully self-contained production company on wheels.

Since most of my work is in the San Francisco Bay Area and the commute there and back can eat up a lot of time, I decided that my truck should have a camper that could accommodate me and another for a few days. I designed it with camper beds, microwave, sink, toilet and shower. Having a toilet on location has made many people happy and relieved.

The camper is a nice quiet place to watch the dailies. With the P2 system it is only minutes to having my takes on a timeline. It is a good feeling to be sipping a cup of tea and reviewing the days work.

Being self contained, staying on site, and seeing the dailies helps reduce stress and improves the project's outcome. I'm even thinking of putting a bicycle rack on front of the truck, to explore the areas I'm shooting in, and to reduce stress even further.

Back of Truck
Ready for most anything:
A look into the back of Ken’s truck reveals a production treasure house



OUTFITTING THE TRUCK

I purchased an Isuzu 16' truck on ebay. I was able to save about $5000 over local costs even after paying $2000 to ship it to me.

After creating the CAD design, I made a cut list for all the cabinetry. A local cabinet shop obliged me by ordering the 1/2" 13 ply plywood (Apple Ply) at cost and then did all the cuts for a nominal fee. I spent a couple of weeks working with a good all around craftsman to assemble and install the cabinets, electrical, and plumbing.

Since a third of the truck's space was the camper, equipment space was at a premium. Everything had to fit precisely, both the gear I have now, and the gear I'd like to buy later. I used my CAD skills to visualize how everything could fit, but as I carried a lot of gear back and forth to see if it actually fit, I made many CAD revisions.

I also had to consider case sizes. Where they were too big, I made smaller ones. For example, the Premier PD-1 dolly took up too much space if stored horizontally. So I designed and built a metal cart that held it vertically and had racks for all its pieces to keep it self contained. This reduced its footprint by half.

It wasn't long before I reached the truck's capacity and had to add overload springs. I also had to carefully plan how all that weight would be distributed - too much weight on one side can cause an accident

I've been using it in production, but there's more I want to do with my truck. The next big purchase is a diesel generator to insure that I can work anywhere the truck can go.

Ecstatic Film Productions grip truck layout:
(click to enlarge)
Grip Truck Layout

Filmmaker Ken Martini combined skills learned from areas of his career to generate a working layout that met the needs of his growing company, whose jobs required regular overnight trips into outlying areas.


THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD

My intention was to bring a comprehensive package to my clients, and it has worked. When all the planning, shopping, tweaking, and promoting were completed, the jobs began rolling in.

In fact, many jobs came specifically because of the quality and completeness of my gear, and because I'm ready to take it anywhere it needs to go. Having an inclusive "one stop shopping" package has obvious advantages both for me and my clients.

Mobile Editing Station


THE COST TO BUILD?

This might all sound very expensive to put together, but it cost less than you think. I shopped carefully for the best deals, managed to get some expensive materials at cost, and did much of the work myself or with a little help.

Tying it together required a broad set of skills that I learned across many jobs that wouldn't seem to have anything to do with production - but in my case, they did.

One of the most valuable things I've done along the way is making mistakes, sometimes painful ones. In school, mistakes weren't of much consequence. Mistakes in the real world have consequences.

Today, I never forget what I did wrong, though I keep trying to get more things right. On every job, I try to add at least one thing that I don't know how to do, so I'll have to learn it.

My wife was very patient with me as a chroma-key test subject. We both got a lot of laughs as I turned her into a levitating yogi.

Learning new skills, learning from mistakes, and directing them all toward a single goal requires discipline - exactly what I lacked before.

It all started with my passion for film and filmmaking. I may end up making money, but it's not what drove me to do this in the first place. I'm coming at this because this is what I want to do.

Who knows? I may be one of the fortunate ones who gets to combine their passion with their knowledge and discipline, with the money following close behind. So far, it seems the case and my clients and I are making good use of a truck designed to go where the work and opportunity takes us.

It's true, the difference between men and boys is the toys.


Ken Martini Ken Martini is the owner of Ecstatic Films, an independent film company creating both narrative films and documentaries, and helping others with their projects. For more about Ecstatic Films, please visit them online at: www.ecstaticfilms.com



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