Why Our Director Has Never Been Happier feat. 1st AC Tyler Hollman

Director Phillip Carrel (Stone Key Films) with Focus Bolt RX. Photo by Jeen Na.

“We used to have everything cabled when I first started working in film 8 years ago. But when you’re loading vehicles, pulling focus, packing monitors and wearing multiple hats on set, cables just get too time consuming. Given the scope of the projects we have here, having tech that’s easy to use and adds convenience changes everything.” - Tyler Hollman, 1st AC based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Today’s shoots have tighter schedules and higher standards for quality than ever before. When you’re on set, you want to waste no time getting the shots you need because clients and investors are waiting for your production. At the same time, you want to create something that both you and your clients are satisfied with.

Directors play a critical role in the pace of every shoot, but several things can really slow down their work. Crowding in video village is one of them. When budgets are small and there’s only 1 or 2 monitors on set, video village gets packed tighter than a Spirit Airlines flight. But departments need to monitor to do their jobs better, so everyone shares the limited monitor space.

Tyler Hollman, a freelance 1st AC based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, decided to search for a solution that worked much better for his crew, and he found it in the Focus Bolt RX. A SmallHD & Teradek solution, Focus Bolt RX is a 5” monitor with a built-in Sidekick II (or Bolt 500 receiver) and hand grips. The lightweight integrated monitor allows crews to be completely mobile while seeing the shot.

He shares with us why the Focus Bolt changed the game for his director and crew:

Small Crews with Many Roles

“I was born and raised here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We don’t have the same kind of big city film jobs like they have in Los Angeles or New York. Most of our jobs are commercial work where local companies hire us to make branded content. Aside from filmmakers who sometimes come in from Chicago, we’re a very small community doing film work here. But we did have a time where our city produced a generation of extremely talented camera assistants. Joshua Cote - who you guys featured on your blog - started off as a 2nd AC here. He and I worked together on several projects before he made the big move. Quinton Rodriguez also started off here. He and I used to trade 1st and 2nd roles a lot.”

“Our productions here are all on the small side: small crews, budgets, clients. What that means is that, unlike in Hollywood where you can have one person for every single role and only focusing on his or her role, each crew here does the jobs of 2-3 people. I’m the 1st AC, 2nd AC, and VTR all in one. I’m swapping batteries, filters and lenses. I’m pulling focus and I’m in charge of all the equipment. I wanted something that could simplify everyone’s roles on set, which means I get to focus on my job of assisting the cinematographer that much better.”

Directors Want to Be Mobile

“We’ve had several shoots now where I was able to bring my 3 Focus Bolts and the CTRL.1 from Teradek RT. The first was a music video shoot with a local electro synth-pop band called Pink Sky with Director Phillip Carrel and DP Jeff Sukes. We were shooting on a single Alexa Mini with Lomo Round Front Anamorphic Primes and a Bolt 500 transmitter. I was pulling focus on the larger monitor in our video village, so I handed a Focus Bolt to the director and one to the art department.”

“Since this monitor is so small, the director was able to carry it around with him wherever he went. This was game changing because it completely changed the way he worked on these sets. Normally, we’d have people running around between takes like the director going back-and-forth from talents to monitors or art departments that restyle actors often. Phillip comes from a production design background, and since he started directing, he’s gotten used to being 20 feet away from the talent where 3-4 people are crowded around his monitor. I decided to give him one of the Focus Bolts so he can be free from the director’s chair. For the whole shoot, he just kept it on him 100% of the time and he never had to go back to our village. He was able to stay close to the set direct everything from there.”

“I also did a basketball shoot with DP Tyler Grimm for She Fit, which is a sports bra company based here in Grand Rapids. On this shoot I had the Focus Bolt and CTRL.1 linked together with a mount I created using Cine Locks, rosette clamps and arms. The lens mapping tool was life changing. We had to shoot a scene early in the day only to go back and shoot the same scene later in the day with talent using different products. So what I did was mapped the lens focal distance, saved it into the SmallHD, and go to shoot a completely different scene. When we came back hours later, I went back and used the same exact settings again. We were shooting the same shot with a different product, which we match cut with the shot from hours before.”

Simple for Every Department

“My goal was to find something that I could easily hand to department heads and have them understand it effortlessly, which the Focus Bolt was perfect for. It’s so light that anyone can carry it around without even noticing it, but still robust enough to have a huge impact on the flow of the shoot. The tech is easy enough to understand so they don’t have to bother me for questions. But the most important thing is that it makes us way more efficient on set. It helps us stay out of everyone’s way and we’re not all crowding around the same monitors. It allows us to do our jobs without having to think about the subtle parts that make shoots inconvenient. My crew’s jobs and my job are simpler because of them.”

Check out more of Tyler Hollman’s work on his Instagram:


*Manufactured under licence
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