“We are happy to be exclusive distributors for GoPro in India” – Harish Samtani, Founder, Stereovision

By Philip Bode
November 15, 2014

They’re one of the oldest and most reliable distributors of filmmaking resources in India today, Stereovision is associated with top companies worldwide such as Vision Research, Hydroflex Deep Water, Kino-Flo lighting, Arri Lighting amongst a horde of other well known names. Talking about the latest products that Stereovision’s taken under its wings Harish says, “We have a new product from Australia called Atomos, a field recorder and the unbelievably versatile DJI Ronin, which made a giant step with camera stabilization technology that we are happy to be involved with.” Broadcast & Film, catches up with Harish Samtani, founder of Stereovision at his massive booth at the Broadcast India Show 2014 to talk about his initial beginnings, his Oscar winning cousin Kish Sadhvani, being exclusive distributors for GoPro in India now and participating at Broadcast India Show over ten years in a row.

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“We were able to access a lot of companies based out of Hollywood” So how do you go about gallivanting in the business of aiding resources and specialized products to film-making and broadcasting folks? Harish reminisces and says, “Stereovision, a company based in Chennai was established in 1975. About 15 years ago it moved into products that manly focused on film-making. Thanks to my first cousin, Kish Sadhvani who won an Academy Award many years ago, we were able to access a lot of companies based out of Hollywood since he lived in Hollywood boulevard LA. With my blood ties and good relations with him, we were fortunate enough to start dealing with people there. Back in those days, India was too far away from business dealings in filmmaking and nobody really wanted to do business with an Indian as such. It was because of Kish, I had the luxury of working and networking through the big players there.”

“We became an agent for ARRI”
Giving us a gist on their initial innings in the filmmaking business, Harish says, ”Kino-flo, one of the most popular and high selling lighting systems in the world today was the first product that we started dealing with. Gradually from starting with our first product we became an agent for ARRI, the most popular film camera manufacturers in the world. Today tells a different picture, we deal with special products on the movie making and commercial side such as, the Phantom camera. The Phantom Camera is one of the most widely used slow motion cameras in film and commercials today. Almost 90% of the slow motion content and footage such as cars flying, water, liquid simulations visible on TV is shot using the Phantom Camera. This camera retails at Rs. 1.2 – Rs.1.3 crores and this is one of our premier products at Stereovision.”

“Prime audience included enthusiasts who dove, jump off cliffs, planes”
Talking about being the exclusive dealers for the peppy and innovative Go-Pro Camera series Harish says, “Initially the first 3 years the business was a bit slow because, the Go-pro Camera was a very specialized product which targeted mainly sports people. Their prime audience included enthusiasts who dove, jump off cliffs, planes or even high-octane sports folk such as racers. Suddenly, the makers shifted their focus in a sense towards the broadcasting side of things. All of a sudden you would see that they were using Go-pro cameras for television shows, in broadcasting studios, for wacky interviews etc. The Go-pro Camera is a revolutionary product and it is one of our biggest selling products today, we are happy to be exclusive distributors in India.”

“One of a kind show in the country”
Talking about the importance and his involvement in the Broadcast India Show Harish says, “My involvement with Broadcast India goes back 10 years, and we’ve been supporting them throughout. It’s the only one of a kind show in the country. Although, there are similar shows in Delhi, but they cater to a much narrower targeted clientele such as Doordarshan. This is because they have a budget which needs to be spent or none would be allocated for the same in the following year. Here the story is more diverse because you got all the top honchos and players from broadcast, film, music etc. We have hundreds of these entire vendors and professionals under one roof, which is pretty amazing.”

Anamorphics with Phantoms – Like a Maharaja!

Shooting with the Phantom Flex (2K) with anamorphic lenses is exciting. Add a great crew and a stunning location like Jodhpur to the mix and what you have is cinematography heaven.

Stereovision was given yet another opportunity to meet the high-end Bollywood film demands. We traveled to Jodhpur for a very challenging project: the first shooting day of a feature film directed by renowned director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra of Rang De Basanti fame. Not surprisingly, the crew was very professional in all departments. The cinematography was lead by Polish DOP Pawel Dyllus, who brought with him a cameraman, focus puller, and a steadycam operator from Europe.

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Rakyesh Omprakash (center) watching a playback with polish DOP Pawel Dyllus (right).

Capturing +1000 fps with a Phantom FLEX 2K generally means low apertures. This makes the focus pullers’ job very precise, especially with anamorphic lenses as shallower depth of field is obtained. One of the main technical challenges we encountered was focus, but we managed to increase the shutter angle on the camera and closed down a stop or two to make sure focus was right and images were less affected by soft focus on edges, chromatic aberrations, distorsions, etc (with anamorphics we recommend not to shoot full open as it can create issues as mentioned). The flexibility the Phantom FLEX 2K provides, with a customisable shutter angle from 22,5-359º, made the workflow quite FLEXible.

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A Rare 150-600mm T5.6 Canon Otto Nemenz Conversion Zoom Anamorphic Lens on a Flex 2K.

The Phantom FLEX 2K sensor is 2560 x 1600 in size. For a 2x anamorphic image we had to capture it in a 4:3 aspect ratio and then unsqueeze the video at Stereovision’s facilities to deliver a 2.39:1 ratio. Phantom’s huge sensor allowed to capture the full 1600 lines, therefore not reducing resolution as much as other digital cameras in the market. Again the flexibility to customize resolutions in the camera was an excellent advantage.

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A Hawk V-Series 55mm Anamorphic hooked on a Stereovision Phantom. Great performance !

A pleasure to work with a Camera Operator like Shemak, who enjoyed working in India and Stereovision for the first time.

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Stereovision DIT Amaro Gómez-Pablos with Camera Operator Shemak, from Poland, at the end of a long shooting day.

In total we use a set of V-Series Hawk Lenses, a 150-600mm T5.6 Canon Otto Nemenz Conversion Zoom Anamorphic Lens and a new Angenieux Anamorphic 56-152 2S which gave an excellent performance in terms of focus & sharp images due to its combination of cylindrical and spherical configuration (it is equipped with a rear anamorphic attachment, like an anamorphic adaptor) to achieve superb sharpness & no distortion. A lens very suitable for digital sensors, and super light!!