The camera operator/ editor reveals what’s in his kit and why he chooses camera supports from Cartoni tripods
From covering movie launches for The Hollywood Reporter to editing sizzle reels for RED digital cinema cameras to acting as a camera operator for Direct TV’s The Dan Patrick Show, filmmaker Brian Rovanpera has done and seen a lot. In just over ten years in the industry, he has developed quite a resume, including earning EMMY nominations for his work at The Dan Patrick Show and The Rich Eisen Show three years in a row.
“The Dan Patrick Show and The Rich Eisen Show are two daily radio/tv shows that both got nominated for 3 Emmy’s each while I was tenured at DirecTV. It was a cool feeling being part of a team that got recognized like that – for shows we loved working on and guys we liked working with. We always tried to do the biggest project our budgets and time would allow. For instance, we shot a show open for The Dan Patrick Show during the Super Bowl when San Francisco hosted the game, and we were able to permit Alcatraz Island for an ‘Escape from Alcatraz” style open. It was a bucket-list experience to have the entire jail to ourselves at night for about 8 hours. To that end, I like the idea of coming up with big ideas and then figuring out how to make them happen and like to think the body of work my team created on those shows impacted the culture of how the public perceived them.”
Rovanpera started his career in entertainment journalism with The Hollywood Reporter. The role gave him a front-row seat to learn from elite actors, cinematographers, and directors. That job also gave Rovanpera an unexpected benefit – namely, access to top camera manufacturers with a chance to learn and see the benefit of using a high-end digital cinema camera. Rovanpera would soon purchase his own RED Epic Dragon. That decision opened more opportunities for him.
ROVANPERA ON HIS GEAR
“After I got my own RED Epic Dragon, and my career trajectory took off. I could pretty much cold-email bands, brands, and anybody I thought was cool to market myself as a RED shooter. This led me to work with ODESZA, Red Bull, World Surf League, Jeep, Quiksilver, ESPN, among others. During my transition from entertainment journalism, DirecTV scooped me up, and I began Producing, shooting, and editing for The Dan Patrick Show and The Rich Eisen Show. A lot of my role there was working with the shows’ many sponsorship brands to create original content with the cast – usually surrounding big events like the Super Bowl or Final Four for college hoops. Also, at this time, I was moonlighting as a freelance shooter for brands like Jeep and World Surf League – a collaboration that allowed me to travel all over the globe creating branded lifestyle content in surf. It was an incredible ride over the last decade as I was growing my reputation and my cache of gear.”
To support his camera investment, Rovanpera chose a premium camera support. So, he turned to Cartoni Camera Supports. Cartoni holds an industry-leading 44 patents, and still, handcrafts their camera supports from their headquarters in Rome.
“My introduction to Cartoni was purely based on reviews. I hadn’t used one first-hand until I did a bunch of internet sleuthing and liked all the features their products had. Specifically, I absolutely required my next tripod to have a quick release plate, and the legs be short enough to fit inside a Pelican 1650 case for easier travel. The SDS legs on the Cartoni tripods were a huge perk for a guy who usually needs to pick up and go when out on jobs. I instantly fell in love.”
The SDS or Smart Deployment System is unique to Cartoni Camera Supports. The legs can set up and fold in an instant – allowing Rovanpera to move quickly to get the shot. The system supports payloads of up to 49 pounds. For his fluid head, Rovanpera turned to the Focus 22 – a robust head that is often used to support outside broadcast setups, studio setups and cinema sets due to its robust build and ultra-smooth pan and tilts.
“The Focus 22 system is a beast. It can handle one of my largest camera setups: a RED Epic Dragon with a Cooke 20-100mm zoom lens (14lbs!), follow focus, ARRI dovetail, matte box with filters, and brick battery – a setup that weighs roughly 35-45lbs. I love the quick-release lever on the head. It feels like how a luxury car drives with how smoothly it operates. The entire system is incredibly solid – and confidence in gear is the number one thing I rely on. I hate equipment that breaks, and my Cartoni’s have been solid foundations for my camera support.”
WEARING MULTIPLE HATS
His secret to success has been the ability to wear multiple hats.
“Most of my clients expect me to direct, shoot, light, run audio, operate a drone, and edit an entire self-contained project. Usually, that’s because my clients are flying me places or, more recently, want to limit crew due to Covid. This is great in terms of creativity but can be taxing when it comes to physical work. I would say it’s an even split between editing and shooting when it comes to the gigs I get hired for. For example, on one program with ESPN, I edited a majority of 30min episodes for the entire season. At the same time, I was a camera operator for commercials, and Discovery shows in the same year. I like doing both because it exercises two production muscles, and I’m constantly learning on the jobs.”
Being able to do it all is just half of the reason for Rovanpera’s success. As more productions adopt a cinematic look, it’s no surprise that Rovanpera uses a cinema camera and tries to add a cinematic look and movement to each shot. He explains, “I like movement whether it’s adding a zoom or using a gimbal. People have told me my work looks cinematic, and that’s about the best compliment I could imagine. When I’m shooting, I try to make every project look like it’s a bigger budget and high quality.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Like so many others, Rovanpera needed to pivot during the pandemic.
“During Covid, I lost my job at DirecTV, which I held for six years, as they restructured their entertainment division and found myself incorporating my own company. The challenges I faced at the beginning of Covid reminded me of the ones I faced right after I graduated college when there was a recession, a writer’s strike, and very limited jobs available. This time though, people were literally afraid to be around one another because of the pandemic, which is a pretty integral part of production. So, I decided to create my own company, which I named Split Peak Films Inc. The name is a nod to my experience working in surf, where a ‘split peak’ describes a wave that breaks so that a surfer can go either direction on it. I was able to secure a gig editing a golf show from home for ESPN+. The opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time – when we were all expected to stay home, and the virus was stifling productions, I was being mailed hard drives from across the country and pumping out full episodes. Eventually, once Covid protocols started becoming more stabilized, I found myself getting a lot more opportunities to shoot again – primarily for shows on Discovery Investigates and various commercials and brand campaign pieces. The decision to start my company was born out of both necessity and the desire to grow professionally. It was one that kept me afloat during one of the craziest times in human history but also reflected the amount of work I did to get there in the first place – working for clients that didn’t value any of my work at all when I first started in the industry to clients that now fly me places for jobs.”
Follow Brian Rovanpera at Split Peak Films on Instagram.
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