A DIFFERENT KIND OF VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANY
CLAi are a video production company in the San Francisco Bay Area who have been making innovative and effective movies since we were founded in London in 1984. We pride ourselves on creating consistently outstanding productions – digital films and videos that motivate, entertain and drive viewers to action, whatever the project complexity or budget.
Of course, every agency says this, each claims to be the best film and video production company in town. In reality we are anything but the same: skill, experience, raw creativity, the ability to listen and understand, equipment capability, and the quality of the contract personnel we all rely on to build production teams varies as enormously as final budgets and client satisfaction.
But CLAi are… well we are just a little strange – we view the business side of production a little uniquely and we do things a little differently. We choose to operate at the highest end of the production company spectrum in terms of quality and creativity but to remain very affordable, putting profit a distant second to making great films and videos that excite and motivate.
We all know what great quality and creativity looks and sounds like, because we see it every day in programs and films that stand out on HBO and the like, and in commercials of all types on every media that capture and hold out attention – and every one of our clients and potential clients want to achieve this (even when they say they are happy with iPhone video!). The barrier to doing so is always the same – the cost. CLAi want to make the best possible programs, and so we have structured the company in a way that lets us do so without compromise – by making CLAi scaleable. In just the same way that most companies now use logistics management to cut their costs, we operate our company with just Chris Layhe and an assistant as a core team, and then bring in other team members only when they are needed. This translates into project budgets that run all the way from less that $1,000 for a basic shoot, edit or color grade to more than $100,000 for a complete complex production – all with the same quality.
Of course, carefully managing our overheads and constantly scaling the active parts of the company is only part of the equation – the teams that we put together for each individual project are selected from a small group of highly skilled specialists that we have worked with for many years, chosen to make every project an enjoyable and painless experience. To complete the picture, and allow CLAi to be extremely flexible, we own and run 100% state of the art technology, with a production studio full of the latest and greatest 4k+ shooting, editing and color grading equipment and software – the right tools to create outstanding films and video programs.
But if we had to pick one quality that sets Chris and CLAi apart from the crowd? It’s our commitment. It’s being prepared to put every project and it’s success ahead of earnings and egos, doing whatever it takes to make it work with a passion for storytelling through images and sound that burns as strongly after decades in the business as it did when an eighteen year old Chris Layhe picked up his first camera back in England…
SOME OF OUR WORK
It’s easy to talk the talk, but at the end of the day it is only what is seen on the screen that tells the story.
These are a few of the film and video projects that CLAi have created or worked on… and there are lots more on our portfolio page.
And these are our little show reels: production, color grading and cinematography…
VIDEO PRODUCTION OR FILM PRODUCTION?
Like all good creatives Chris Layhe has developed just a little bit of a split personality over his years in the industry. It's most apparent in the work that he and CLAi take on, like a very wiggly line in the sand with Video Production for Corporate Entities and Non-Profits on one side and Film Production for Entertainment and the Arts on the other. In the immortal words of one of our editors, it's complicated...
THE VIDEO STORY
Video Production for Corporate Entities is a very big envelope, and includes everything from corporate PR documentaries and product or service background videos to web or broadcast advertising commercials and startup investor videos, and much more. But you have to make a break somewhere, and so as far as this little piece is concerned “Corporate Entities” includes companies, groups of individuals, federal government and local government, not-for-profit organizations and any project which isn’t designed to be seen on a theater screen.
THE FILM STORY
Film Production for Entertainment and the Arts is just as large and complex an area – and one which CLAi tend to approach quite differently. Some of the projects we work on are pretty small, such as a music, theater or dance videos – and on these we tend to create, produce and direct the entire production.
Other projects are on a much larger scale, particularly narrative, social issue and documentary feature films and shorts, and these are almost always extremely demanding in terms of skill, equipment, knowledge and time in the key roles. Because of this Chris usually works as an independent contractor with the producer and director in just one or two roles. These are normally editor or/and colorist (often combining these last two very specialist roles and adding in sound finishing to be better able to complete the mastering part of the project).
SO WHAT MAKES US UNIQUE?
Video production companies are like schoolgirls - they want to appear to stand out from the crowd while actually staying happily in the middle of the herd. Chris Layhe and CLAi revel in being the black sheep in our ideas, our workflow and our interaction with clients... because truly being different in any creative industry is always a good thing.
REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE, there is no substitute for it. We are eclectic and accomplished. We come from the worlds of broadcast documentary, corporate video, commercials, indie film, music and the arts – on both sides of the camera and microphone.
We are bound by a common commitment to creativity, quality and accepting nothing short of excellence. Our two decades of experience allow us a depth of expertise that takes the risk out of the film and video production equation. Large or small, ultra-low budgets or mega-funded, we’ve pretty much seen and done it all before… and Chris is always happy to talk about any potential project and bring that experience to suggesting the right solution.
JUST AHEAD OF THE CURVE, we are creatives who suffer from a touch of tech geekiness, using the latest technologies well before they become mainstream is a given. CLAi have always been early adopters of software and technologies, but only when it will boost quality, increase flexibility, open up new possibilities for the projects we work on, or simply give clients a better deal. Chris was a Bay Area leader in using 4k and 6k RED camera digital cinema systems as both a shooter and as one of the first post-production specialists to design and operate a viable camera to screen workflow… one of many technical and creative firsts for the company.
But expertise doesn’t stop with knowing the technology inside out, it demands a mastery of the disciplines needed to get the most out of the hardware and software, and best apply it to the story you are telling. We achieve this by practice, of course, and by taking on small “test” projects where we can have time to play without high expectations – and where we can involve industry newbies in making these so they get a chance to learn on the job too. Chris also passes on his expertise, as a mentor to a history of assistants, staging hands-on workshops for other industry professionals and as a guest lecturer at Colleges across the Bay… helping to grow the next generation of filmmakers.
CREATIVITY is so critical to turning any idea into a wickedly good final program, but it’s not something that you can easily put into words without sounding totally full of yourself – and, of course, the English side of the company would faint at the prospect of talking about his personal accomplishments… it’s just not done!
That’s one of the reasons we put quite a number of both film and video client testimonials into this web site – because they provide the reality of working with us. We also include just a few of the awards that our peers have given in recognizing our work, and feature a bunch of programs and films that we have produced as CLAi or that Chris has helped to create as an independent specialist… that way you get to make your own informed decision!
CLAi don’t actually accept that words like “COMPROMISE”, “GOOD ENOUGH”, “LATE” and “OVER BUDGET” exist. It’s not word blindness, just a belief that if it is worth doing something then it is worth doing it as well as humanly possible. Cutting corners is fine on a Ducati hitting a fast bend at 100mph but it’s never acceptable on a video or film, it’s why we believe excellence should never be a goal to work towards, it should be the reason to do the work. Of course, real life sometimes has other ideas, and then it’s acceptable to bend the rules a little and aim to make the best lemonade possible out of those lemons!
It’s a philosophy that wins lots of praise for the projects CLAi touch, from our peers and our clients’ clients – and that translates into films that win award after award, and corporate programs that get the job, sell the service and raise the funds. Which makes us all very happy!
EXPERIENCE, EXCELLENCE, CREATIVITY and EXPERTISE all sound very cool and trendy, but they don’t account for what is perhaps the most important aspect in making any project a success… common sense. One of our favorite film quotes is “A man’s gotta know his limitations” from Dirty Harry, such a simple phrase that we all too often forget when it comes to production, budget and time.
It takes common sense, confidence and street smarts to realize that there is a problem on a project or a shoot, identify the cause and be able to come up with a solution on the spot and put it into action. So CLAi spend a lot of pre-production time – even on just post-production projects – designing the right workflows that avoid potential disasters, save money and give the best quality before anyone gets too far in to change direction…
It’s part of the service CLAi provide to clients, and one of the reasons why we try to never say “No” to any request, even on the craziest phone call, is that we try to evolve an answer that will work. Sometimes that means finding and then passing the job on to someone else, or making a budget work for a project by cutting our rates, or sticking to a quote or deadline promise regardless of what might change. I guess it’s a Santa Cruz hippy thing, but Chris had a lot of help from a lot of people in achieving his goals and so giving back just makes sense…
A FEW OF OUR CORPORATE AND BROADCAST CLIENTS
You can contact Chris Layhe and CLAi in several ways, any day of the week:
Use this automated email form and please do give us as much detail as possible so we can get back to you asap and make some sort of sense!
Or take a chance on understanding Chris’ Manchester accent and call us on 831-419-7590
Check out the “Contact CLAi” menu tab for more info…