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BFV's Big Interview: Alias Hire

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It might not have swayed voters during the EU referendum, but when it comes to the broadcast equipment rental business, Alias Hire Managing Director Danny Dawson still believes in the mantra of 'stronger together', as he tells BFV in this month's Big Interview...

BFV: Can you tell us a little about Alias Hire?
DD: Alias Hire was formed many years ago. Sometimes it seems like it was so far back in fact that even the thought of sending a human into space was merely a dream. And, at that time, many people still questioned how we had colour films in the cinemas but not on our TV. These were all valid questions of the time. Okay, it wasn't actually that far back but given the sheer number of technological advances that have happened since our year of formation in 1999 it may as well have been.

In the year that Alias Hire opened for business, the absolute top-of-the-tree standard for broadcast cameras was Sony DigiBeta. Yes folks, a camera format with a full 720 lines of resolution: wow! And it was a digital format: wow! The future was no longer ahead of us – we had caught up. In fact, DigiBeta was so advanced that some people wondered if it could ever be bettered. But then HD came along. And then affordable HD. And then affordable tapeless HD. And then we got large format digital sensors. And now we have 4K. Next it's 8K. And drones. And then 8K drones. And then probably mobile streaming from 8K drones. And so on. My point is this: as a hire company we have to adapt. Harking back to the good old days is a pointless act and a waste of time.

How do you cope with all the changes?
When the anti-tapeless brigade of five or six years ago were bemoaning the fact that tapeless formats were the worst thing since unsliced bread (assuming that sliced bread is still the best thing), I kept thinking to myself that it's impossible to un-ring a bell. You have to accept what has happened, adapt and keep moving. If you don't, you stop altogether. But how does anyone keep on moving? It's not easy to adapt and that's one of the fundamental reasons why Alias joined the dia media group. The dia media group is family of companies that together supply technology, talent and other production services to the creative industries. By combining our different strengths and skills we can put the need of the client first. This makes coping with change that bit easier.

What are the different business arms of the group?
Currently the dia group is made up of Alias Hire and the equipment dealer PEC and we work together in a mutually beneficial way. PEC is a long-standing, central London-based dealer, founded way back in 1932, that offers a whole range of video equipment. Alias Hire is constantly looking for, and buying, a whole range of video equipment. It makes a lot of sense for us to share and trade equipment internally. The real beneficiaries of this, however, are the clients. From broadcasters and independent producers to sole traders and owner operators, we serve and supply the biggest and the smallest of the industry on a regular basis both nationally and internationally. With such a wide variety of clients we need a wide variety of equipment and the expertise to back that up. That's where Alias is now stronger than it once was. Now it can call upon its partners to assist with both securing the work and then making a good job of it too.

Can you give us an example of how you work together?
Earlier this year we were working on an international shoot using one of our drones, the DJI Inspire to be precise. This coincided with the release of a brand new camera called the Zenmuse X5. The X5 is a great addition to a drone because it ups the on-screen production value by offering an image quality and resolution that is far superior to most others in its class. Thanks to our relationship with PEC, who are a recognised DJI dealer, we got early access to the X5 and became one of the very first companies to use it – much to the client's delight. It put us ahead of our competition and provided the client with better quality pictures. It's a fairly niche example but there are many more I would love to brag about but I don't want to give away all our secrets.

Are there further expansion plans for the group?
The plan is to eventually offer as full a range of production services as possible through further acquisitions and by branching out into other areas of the market. It will be a natural continuation of what we already do as Alias Hire and PEC currently offer extended services beyond hiring and selling camera kit. At Alias we provide an in-house crew service on just about everything we have to offer equipment-wise, including all the things you might expect with camera and location equipment. For drone work we have in-house pilots and we also provide live broadcast and streaming services. PEC has always delivered a wonderful, personal service while seeking out emerging technology from all corners of the planet, and bringing those products to the UK market. This will continue. They have just as big a range of equipment as anyone else but with the added bonus of being based right in the heart of the creative community in the West End of London. Plus they have a genuine retail outlet namely the PEC ProShop so in all recognised ways PEC is as much a 'shop' as they are a film and video equipment supplier.

In my opinion, regardless of what you make of the political upheaval that has occurred over the last few weeks, Alias Hire and PEC under the umbrella of dia really are stronger together. Long may it continue.

This article is also available to read at BFV online here, page 5.


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