What began in 1984 as a small-time start up has since grown into an internationally recognized HD institution. The early 1980s signaled a shift in ENG production. News was no longer the sole domain of the major networks. In an effort to reduce overhead, networks chose to hire independent freelance owner/operators for much of their camera work. A young Amnon Band realized that these new independents needed a supplier for their tools of the trade. He seized the opportunity and opened Band ’84, the precursor to today’s internationally known Band Pro Film & Digital, Inc.
Milestones: Anton Bauer, Chrosziel, Sony
From his Burbank storefront, Amnon Band’s first line,Anton Bauer, fast became an industry staple and for two decades Band Pro was the largest reseller of these power products. But the new company needed more top lines.
Amnon Band saw the many accoutrements filmmakers enjoyed over videographers. “From the beginning, I was determined to bring film accessories to the digital world,” he explains. “When a new camera came out, I wanted to be there with accessories that were derived from the film world but worked in the digital realm.”
With a plan, he flew to Munich, Germany, and miraculously convinced Alfred Chrosziel to make Band Pro the exclusive U.S. agent for Chrosziel matteboxes, baseplates, whip zooms and follow-focus controls. “Putting a mattebox on a video camera sounds simple today,” Amnon Band admits. “But back then – it was unheard of.”
Returning to Burbank, Amnon Band urged Howard Preston to modify his popular handheld MicroForce zoom control to work with Fujinon and Canon ENG zoom lenses, allowing videographers to do cine-style zooms. Thirsty for competitive advantages, the freelance community readily purchased the gear.
By 1986, Band Pro was ready to shake up the Ikegami-dominated ENG market. Explains Amnon Band, “Greg Pine, manager of Sony’s handheld camera business sent freelance cameramen to our 500 square foot warehouse to buy our accessories. Those guys were defying the market by using Sony cameras.” A light went on. Soon Band Pro forged a relationship with Sony U.S. and went on to become their biggest-selling sales partner for many years.
High Definition Education
Band Pro became a widely-recognized supplier of cameras, lenses, audio, power and lighting gear. They searched the globe for unique equipment to give shooters an edge. Their warehouse was stocked, ready to rush to any set or location. Their showroom displayed the latest cameras fully-rigged. The Band Pro team knew their stuff and went to the ends of the earth for their clients.
To Amnon Band, education was and is a key to success, “With the arrival of the HDCAM in the 1990s, we stepped up our business ideology to train users to fully understand the equipment.” The workshops were informative, crowded and fun—a meeting place for technicians, artists and equipment makers.
In 1994, Band Pro Tek opened. “It was time for us to go beyond selling and back the equipment with technical expertise,” Amnon explains. “The division specializes in Sony authorized warranty and non-warranty camera service and new technologies.” Today, aside from Sony’s own facility, it is the top factory-authorized service center in the U.S.
Band Pro worked with Sony in preparation for the first handheld 2/3” HD camera. The line started with the HDW-700, HDW-700A, and evolved into the HDW-F900 and HDW-F950 24p 4:4:4 CineAlta. When each was unveiled, Band Pro was ready with an ensemble of cine-style accessories. They supported the new format that seemed to finally be the answer to electronic cinematography.
Band Pro Israel & Equipment Bags
The next year, Band Pro Israel opened. On a routine business trip to Tel Aviv, Amnon Band met with the owners of KATA, makers of products for the military and high tech markets. Disappointed with existing camera carriers, he worked with KATA to design a line of soft bags for filmmakers/videographers to hold cameras, lighting support, audio and more—all lightweight yet rugged and smartly designed with a place for everything. KATA-Band (later KATA) was introduced at Band Pro’s NAB booth to massive crowds.
Friends & Features
Amnon Band’s relationships grew. Friendships with people like Marker Karahadian, who’s Plus 8 Video was also championing High Definition, gave Band Pro insight into the feature film world. If there was a major HD production, chances are Band Pro and Plus 8 played a part. Their support of Lucasfilm’s Fred Meyers on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith was key to HD’s acceptance.
KATA and Band Pro eventually parted ways. Later Amnon Band introduced his new Petrol™ equipment carriers at IBC. The comprehensive soft bag line included a new concept of hidden, hard panels within to protect the valuable contents. Seven years later, Petrol was sold to the Vitec Group.
Focus on ZEISS
Amnon Band realized that Hollywood’s acceptance of High Definition wouldn’t happen until cinematographers trusted the lenses that went on the new HD cameras. So in 1999 he flew to Oberkochen, Germany, and solidified a relationship that eventually led to a worldwide partnership with ZEISS to make high-end prime lenses for 2/3” HD cameras.
Band Pro kicked it up a notch in 2001 with the premiere of ZEISS DigiPrime® lenses at the IBC tradeshow. This elevated Band Pro from an equipment source to a Hollywood powerhouse and spawned relationships with major camera houses, as well as with individual operators, technicians and cinematographers. DigiPrime and DigiZoom™ lenses opened doors and proved to be an endorsement for Sony HDCAM and for digital acquisition as a whole.
16x9 Inc. & Band Pro Munich
Band Pro opened the subsidiary, 16x9, Inc. in 2000 to distribute several European brands such as Alfred Chrosziel and Bebob. Optical specialist Jeff Giordano was onboard to launch the 16x9, Inc. lens accessory line that includes high-end wide angle adapters, converters and fisheyes for DV cameras.
That same year, Band Pro Munich opened to become the distribution center for Zeiss DigiPrime and DigiZoom lenses and to bring Band Pro’s electronic cinematography expertise and enthusiasm to the European market.
Focus on CineAlta®
It was 2004. Back in Burbank, Band Pro hired Jeff Cree. According to Amnon Band, “With his background as a Sony camera specialist, Jeff added in-depth, hands-on knowledge, from CineAlta camera menus to workflow.” Cree knew how to make the cameras sing and was gifted at teaching others the song. His workshops and on-set help are globally renowned.
Digital acquisition for feature films was heating up. Top filmmakers like Michael Mann, David Fincher and Francis Ford Coppola were choosing DigiPrimes and DigiZooms for their groundbreaking digital motion pictures.
The next year, Band Pro East opened to serve the New York and Eastern seaboard community with Jim Hegadorn at the helm. 2006 also marked the introduction of the revolutionary Sony F23 2/3” 3-CCD HDCAM SR format camera with dockable SRW-1 recorder at Band Pro’s Open House-turned-tradeshow, One World on HD. The camera quickly caught on and was used on high profile projects from the Academy Award®-nominated feature, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the upcoming Michael Mann project, Public Enemies, to hit television series’ like Gossip Girl.
A year later, ahead of schedule, Sony delivered the phenomenal F35 camera complete with PL mount and full-frame sensor. “The F35 is probably the best digital camera ever built, the closest to film,” says Amnon Band. “Contrary to the state of the economy, the sale of F35s is surging. It’s already working on major Hollywood productions and television. Rental houses tell me their F35’s are all out.”
The 2009 Anniversary
Despite the economic slowdown, Band Pro is investing in the future. They now offer Silicon Imaging’s new digital camera that helped Slumdog Millionaire sweep the Academy Awards. The SI-2K camera is available in full Band Pro style with everything from a Chrosziel mattebox to a ZEISS DigiPrime lens.
The Band Pro staff of highly-qualified experts was at NAB ’09 to display the new offerings that are ready to work in today’s world. “We’re moving into another exciting phase of the technology,” says Amnon Band. “Products like the Sony F35 and SI-2K are changing the face of production.” And at Band Pro’s 25th anniversary “One World On HD” open house Band Pro will unveil a new set of 4K “Mystery Primes”, the next horizon in optics.