Interview with Elisabetta CARTONI
- Could you give us a little bit of history about how CARTONI camera support came into being?
- We are one of the oldest brands in camera support. The company was founded by my grandfather Renato Cartoni in 1935. He was the Director ofThe StateInstituteof Cinematography. At that time Mussolini was in power and he had an understanding that the propaganda was extremely important so he founded this film department for thepropaganda and promotion of the regime.
My grandfather was in charge there as the Technical Director so he felt the need ofhaving some kind of support for the camera. Camera at that time was extremely heavy.He was an engineer himself and based on his research onthe tripods that were used in engineering to do the measurements of building etc., he improvised keeping the three legs and worked on a joint on the top to give the movement.It was a fine movement but sometimes it must be fast movement so he elaborated the pattern with fly wheels that would turn very fastinside and give some impression of drag that was his 1st pattern 1948.
He built some units which were only for the use of institute.They became very popular. They were seen abroad by the Germans. He entered in a contract with Mr. Arnold and Mr. Richter founders of Arriflex, and when my grandfather died my father took over. He is 94 now andkeepson producing new ideas.
Since Arriflex wereproducing the 16 ST and 35mm they needed a support for the same. So for that purpose my fatherprovided them with two heads.
The standard head &thebaby head, the smaller one for 16 mm. It was coming out of my father’s lab in Rome, marked with the Arriflex label. They were sold together as a package with Arri camera.
In alliance with Arriflex my father got the opportunity to meet very important cinematographers and this enlarged his vision and also the kind of technologies were required.
These were the gyroheads in the beginning but then there was demand for fluid heads.
The first fluid head was invented by Miller in Australia. My father elaborated the variable fluid head putting some disks inside inspiredby what happens in anautomotive gear box of a car that will change the speed because you are changing the number of disks which are involved and that was the pattern he developed.It was first fluid head for Arri and was called the FL-4 and it has four speeds.Later the management collaborated with Sachtler as it was easier being in the same town of Munich and we started on our own to being represented by dealers worldwide. We had a huge success in Hollywood and in all the important markets.
Also our reference point in Italy to work in close relationship with important cinematographer like Federico Fellini’s cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, who was a great friend of my dad and others like Vittorio Storaro, being in Rome which was for some years important hub for cinematographers. This helped us to developnew technology.
CARTONIowns presently more than 30different patents which are patented worldwide on those two technologies,“The fluid technology” and “The counter balance technology”. It is extremely important that the movement of the camera should be soft and easy to operate. It is important to get to the zero weight of the camera because if you have to counter the weight of an unbalanced camera then you cannot express the moment you want to get. So the counter balance is another very important element in the construction of the Fluid Head.
The policy of the company is not to outsource anything. We are manufacturing everything in house, in Romeeven if thelabor is expensive because we want to maintain the quality and inspect on every single piece which gets out of our factory.
- Can you tell us about your Distribution network of CARTONIProducts, especially in India?
- A. As for the international distribution of our products, United States, Europe and Germany have been very good markets for us for a long time. Then we started travelling around and India as a matter of fact is an important market for us which started twenty five years ago. We partnered with Hytech Communications & Broadcast Ltd,belonging to the Narayan family who are very good friends and through their contacts we approached the Doordarshan and major television channels in India.We had a very good response because the technical staffs are very choosy and they understood the quality of the products and after sale service and have awarded us with nice orders.
So we are proud to say that in India itself we have more than 3000 CARTONI heads, mainly in broadcast.Strangelynot as much as in motion picture industry. Because motion pictures also goes in fashions and it has been difficult to break the leadership of the other brands.
We have been favoredby very prominent cinematographers in India like Mr. R. M Rao. He has been a good promoter. Also he had the opportunity to talk to my father and exchanging some opinion with them is very encouraging.
- It has become very important in today’s competent market to provide after sale service. What is the after sale service available for CARTONI products in India?
- The CARTONI has a warranty of five years which is extremely long. Our Products are very durable. Since 25 years Hytech Communications & Broadcast LtdCompany, based in Delhi is working with us.They are fully trained to do the regular maintenance. There is no need to send the equipment to Italy for service, it can be sent to Delhi and Mr.Narayan can take care of it.Service is a very critical concern for us because you have to maintain your equipment.
There is a project that we are putting on board right now which will be service online through the internet.Inside the factory we are making a small studio equipped with lighting and cameras where it will be possible to have direct conference call withthe technician and physically see some of the procedures and the sequences for adjusting and controlling somemechanism. This way the customer on his computer will able to see it through ‘Skype’ very easily and free of charge.One of our engineerswill be explaining what the problem is and will be able to guide the correct procedure shown on the screen by our engineers.Now due to quick courier service, sending spare parts in two-three days time is not a problem once the problem is identified.
- Now the Digital cameras are becoming smaller, at the same time head has to remain heavy to give smooth movement.So what do you think will be the solution?
- Shrinking the dimensions is a challenge of course because it is very difficult to put complicated mechanism in such small space. As a result of the engineering research, new material has been evolved. For instance ‘the composite’ which sometimes are definedas plastics, are really not plastics, they are harder than the aluminum metals and perform better.
The tubes used for the legs are made of the carbon fiber that has become extremely popular. We are using extensive quantities of carbon fibertubes for which we have special extruding tools
Nevertheless the small compact and lightweight heads carry the same sophisticated technologies for fluid drag and counterbalance in order to have no compromise on the quality of the shot.
- Research and development are very important part for any organization. What is new avenue you are exploring in that direction?
- We are promoting research constantly.Now we are exploring new trends of the camera support like the “robotics head”.We are developing them and also the tracking system inside.
A few years ago, Cartoni was the first manufacturer developing a special support for 3D rigs.
We have developed the TWIN 3D head supporting,abig rig even with two I-max cameras for Vincent Pace in United States.Practically this was a double Lambda head with fluid modules in tilt and pan supporting those huge rigs and allowing then to turn on the 2 axis for 360 degrees.
To develop new products is part of our constant research and development and we are always looking for what is needed and how we can serve the film and television industry in creatingwonderful images at the same time giving freedom to the operator.