The Film & Video Production Company

CLAi's principal, Chris Layhe, has been shooting 35mm film and the highest quality broadcast video for over 25 years. In an ever changing technical landscape it is this sort of expertise and experience that allow our clients to sleep before a shoot day.

Production is where we put together the raw ingredients that will create the final program.  We do this on complete projects that we produce for end clients, and as a service that we provide for other production companies.  Usually these are:

  • Film and Video Shooting
  • Motion Graphics
  • 2D and 3D Animation

On most projects the biggest of these by far is shooting.

This area, along with editing and color grading, is where our principal, Chris Layhe, is a little different in the way he came up the ladder.

His film degree was taken at Harrow Film School, who had very close links with two of the major London Film Studios – Pinewood and Bray – along with the BBC.  These institutions all follow an apprentice system of development, where you have to prove your ability to perform in one discipline to a panel of your peers in move to the next level or skill.  It’s one that we still believe in at CLAi because it teaches you how to manage multiple parts of a project, and communicate clearly with others through a common understanding, while providing the opportunity to become a master of several disciplines – if you have the drive, determination and raw ability.In Chris’ case receiving his director (film documentary) ticket through the BBC chapel meant passing through every stage from directing both film and video, following a ladder to becoming a director of photography, that started as a 3rd camera assistant grunt, as well as qualifying as an online editor.  Fortunately he was accepted onto the fast track or he would only now be making that grade – with a lot of luck!

The big benefit of this is that it means CLAi can take on small documentary style projects with just a 2 or 3 person crew and be able to direct, DoP, and handle audio recording and lighting at a very high level of quality and sophistication – and a very high probability of getting terrific results every  time.  On an even smaller scale  Chris can go out solo as a cinematographer to capture b-roll or shoot interviews for those projects that simply have no budget – like many non-profit and arts videos.

Of course, we prefer to crew projects the right way and give everyone time to do their jobs properly, when the budget and time is available...

…which is where the clarity of communication that comes from knowing each role intimately is such a benefit.

Shooting is also an area where CLAi do things differently in terms of our rapid scaling capability.  Other than Chris we don’t have any shoot crew on full time staff.  We much prefer to bring in the right crew for any project on a contracted basis, and over our years in the business have assembled a huge database of friends and associates to call on to do this, in the Bay area, across the US and Europe.

We do this for three reasons. First, it allows us to fit exactly the right skill to each role that we need to fill – if we need to bring in a camera operator to shoot a fast moving subject like a hockey game then we bring in a cinematographer with many years of doing nothing but shoot that sport.  If we had an in-house camera operator then he would be expected to shoot everything from hockey to still life products, and have no significant experience at any one subject.  Obviously the guy who does nothing but shoot hockey is going to be the one you want behind the camera to give the best probability of getting every shot just so.

Secondly is availability, the best crew people are self-employed so that they can both earn a decent living and choose the jobs they take – and we only want the best.

The last factor is cost, we don’t want to ask our clients to pay for the overheads and downtime that come with in-house crew members (because you certainly aren’t shooting 7 days a week) which increase the rates that have to be charged significantly.  By choosing our crew members we are able to pick the right people for both the budget and shoot complexity and allow them to work to their capabilities – not every project needs an A list audio recordist who would get bored silly monitoring one lavaliere microphone!

We are very open about this side of CLAi's makeup...

The flip side on the shooting front is that we have always run our own state of the art equipment rather than renting gear on every project.  As you can see on our in-house gear list we run Sony F5, FS7 and A7Sii cameras in 4k RAW, along with the best of Leica and PL lenses, audio, lighting and gaffer gear – and we have a selection of every flavor of RED camera on call through our RED network.  This means we only need to get equipment from rental houses when we need some specialist gear – be it camera based or lighting based.

This is a big deal because, as we all know personally, whatever piece you need at short notice from a rental house is always out on a rental or broken or has tripled in cost!  Having the right quality gear in-house to put with the right crew allows us to be extremely flexible on dates, on specifications and on budget… and to be certain that the last user didn’t take the camera out on their surfboard  🙂