Light bulb moment leads to export success

Tama Berkeljon was at the top of a ladder changing yet another blown light bulb while an entire film crew waited to continue work when he decided there had to be a better way to light a movie set.

So he designed and created a rig of 100 LED ring lights – one of the first high-power, large-scale LED installations to be used in a film industry environment.

The success of that lighting rig was the seed that grew into Outsight, a company that designs and manufactures high-power LED lighting systems for the film and television industry.

Outsight Director Sasha Marks said the company began in a tiny room under a stairwell, bootstrapped with personal savings and nurtured with a huge investment of time and effort.

‘You have to be across so many different areas, like product design, accounting, sales, marketing and compliance, and of course we couldn’t afford to hire people to do it for us,’ he said.

‘I think the biggest challenge for us has been establishing our “route to market” – finding the right dealers who actually understand our products and how to sell them has taken years of effort, and we’re still learning.’

From inception, Outsight has focused on designing reliable and innovative equipment that solves problems in the film and television industry, where there is constant pressure to provide more and better content on a reduced budget.

Marks said industry professionals needed flexible tools that could be set up quickly and used in multiple scenarios depending on the needs of the project.

‘Product ideas often spawn from conversations with our network of users and dealers about issues and challenges they face, which we use to feed a concept design for potential solutions,’ he said.

‘After feedback and refinement of the concept, it’s down to the nuts and bolts of product design through several prototypes and iterations before we arrive at something we’re happy with taking to the production stage.’

The range of products available from Outsight includes the Creamsource Micro, Mini+ and Doppio+ varieties, which provide a focused, powerful beam that can be diffused and shaped. The Creamsource Micro was awarded ‘Best in Show’ at a National Association of Broadcasters tradeshow in Las Vegas in April 2017.

Another product, the Creamsource Sky, is a full-spectrum soft-source unit that produces very high-quality white light, as well as producing millions of different colours for special effects shots. 

Lighting the way

Outsight’s rapid design and build capabilities, coupled with rigorous quality standards, have led to work with some of the content production world’s most innovative companies. 

Since its initial product release in 2009, Outsight has delivered lighting fixture solutions to many major movie productions, including Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: Rogue One, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Marks said that expansion into international markets was always the goal, given the relative size of the domestic industry.

‘We always understood that the Australian market was not going to be big enough to sustain us on its own and that we would need to tap into the global market,’ he said.

‘Outsight now has dealers in around 30 different countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.’

The utility of Outsight products is being demonstrated in a range of uses and locations, such as in-studio and location interviews, live-streamed sports events like the Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup in Canada and French public television broadcaster France Télévisions.

Marks said the uptake of Creamsource lights in so many places and by so many people was an indication that their product design was hitting the target.

‘We aim for design that has the flexibility to meet a range of needs, whether it’s a single luminaire lighting the cab of a moving vehicle or a bank of lights in a studio,’ he said.

Bright future

Outsight has been an Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) recipient eight times and has used the funding available through the scheme to support marketing activities, advertising and participation in trade shows in a range of overseas markets.

Marks said the grant had been of great assistance to Outsight in reaching international markets, where they have the opportunity to interact with people who are interested in what the company has to offer.

‘Knowing we’ll be able to get some of that financial investment back at the end of the year has definitely increased our confidence and now that we’ve reached our maximum number of claims we’re certainly going to miss it,’ he said.

‘We have always done the applications ourselves and I was quite hesitant about that first one but actually the whole process was not so hard at all, and the EMDG staff are always helpful with any questions.’

In addition to EMDG, Outsight has benefited from Australia’s Free Trade Agreements with the USA and Thailand.

Marks said Outsight had the same mission today as in the beginning and that it would continue to provide reliable solutions to industry needs through application of technological innovation.

‘There is a fantastic opportunity with LED lighting becoming more and more mainstream in our industry and we want to be at the forefront of this surge, innovating great product and getting it out into the world,’ he said.

‘It’s really rewarding to see our products being used to create great content by news organisations like CNN and CNBC, or major features like Ghost in the Shell and Thor: Ragnarok.’

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Outsight Director Tama Berkeljon demonstrates the award-winning Creamsource Micro at the 2017 NAB Tradeshow in Las Vegas.

Image supplied by Outsight.