Finally, after many years of reading trade magazines drooling over cutting-edge equipment, surfing the internet for new gear leaks, and listening to countless television engineers talk about it… I AM GOING.

I am going to the biggest gathering of television geeks on the planet: The National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Think of this like a big Star Wars convention, except nobody will dress up like a Wookie. At least I hope not.

I will be working while there, splitting my time between Vinten (camera support company from the UK) and Letus (35mm lens adapters) so I am not sure if I will be able to get out and shoot a proper short film with my camera… but I am going to try! I do plan on shooting a few quick video blogs for my website.

Before I get into my Vegas expectations and tell you what I will be doing at NAB, let me give you a little history on yours truly… (So you can better understand why I can’t wait to get out there to “geek out”)

I have been involved with television for almost 20 years and I am only 30 years old! I started young with the cable access television station in my small home town. Below is a picture of me back in 1990 when I was 11 years old covering my older sister’s high school graduation for the town-wide cable channel 8.

Young Tom Guilmette

Take a look at that hi-tech calculator watch. Those things were big back in the 1990s and I give that little piece of heaven credit for my high math scores back in middle school! The camera I am standing behind was the JVC BY-110 color tube camera. Yup, I started in tv (like so many other legends) using a vacuum tube to create the pictures. Never shoot the sun and stay away from bright lights, they use to tell me. That JVC took quite a while to warm up, I recall. The colors would shift on the monitors in our little white Ford econo-line mobile production van for at least fifteen minutes before the camera was ready to be “phased” at the control unit. This graduation setup included two other BY-110 cameras, set up on bogen tripods, passing video down unreliable 26 pin multi-core cable. We mastered the show on 3/4 inch Umatic machines.

As time went buy, I produced some quality local award winning television through high school and then ran the television station at college. I drank a few beers during my four years in New York. Soon the party was over and I was in the real world, operating real broadcast equipment… real expensive broadcast equipment. I even won an Emmy for a documentary I shot in the mountains of New Hampshire back in 2000! People in the Boston market called me, “Young Tom”. But as I approached 30, I became just “Tom” and my hair began to fall out! I blame the radiation from the electronic viewfinder I pressed into my eye socket for two decades… or maybe it was working with a guy named Jesse.

Now fast forward almost 20 years to the glorious year of 2008…

Tom Guilmette running camera 7 at Fenway

I am on my left field roof perch at Fenway park running camera number 7 on the New England Sports Network broadcast of the Boston Red Sox. I also operated this position for Fox and ESPN baseball, including a few of those historic playoff games in 2004. This camera is the Sony high definition HDC-910 with a Canon 75×9.5 lens. The Vinten Vector 70 pan head supporting the heavy camera is the reason why I am so respected in television sport circles around the Major Leagues. That pan head is the number one reason I am able to do my signature camera shot at Fenway: lock onto and follow the ball super tight as it leaves the bat, tracking it through the air and pulling out just as it lands in the crowd or flies over the Green Monster. I even wrote a hand written letter back in 2004 to Vinten in the UK praising the Vector 70 and asked them why they were planning on discontinuing it. I had used the new Vector 900 and it was utter rubbish! I later learned that Vinten listened to crazy people like me and was interested in feedback for their research and development team. The combination of this letter, my years of experience and this website praising the Vinten name is the first half of the story behind why I am going to NAB in a few days.

The Letus Extreme

The second half of the story is because of a small ingenious device called the Letus Extreme.

About 15 months ago, my buddy TJ Powers and I were discussing 35mm adapters one day at the Boston TV station he worked at. He pointed me toward Philip Bloom’s website. Phil lived in the UK and was using the Letus Extreme and posting his results online. I knew instantly that I wanted that selective focus look on my documentary sit-down interviews and hell, on the entire documentary! I saw the chance to capture the “illusive film look” and the rest was history. I built Tom Guilmette dot com from the ground up and decided to use the site for both promotion and to help people create good television.

Manny Being Manny Doc

I thank the Letus Extreme and a 50mm f1.4 old Nikon lens for my recent Emmy nomination (along with Torey Champagne and Kevin Miller) for the documentary I shot called, “Manny Being Manny“. TJ Powers, Ray Lepre and I were also nominated for the Providence College Friars Basketball spot that I shot with the EX1, Letus and my home made PVC pipe dolly. The organic filmic look that the Letus creates has turned a lot of heads in the New England television market. Got the fingers crossed for the Emmys.

Right now somewhere in Boston or beyond, a piece of video I shot with the Sony PMW-EX1 and the Letus Extreme is probably airing on television. It might be a playoff commercial on a sports network promoting the Celtics or a 30 second spot visually promoting a college basketball team. Perhaps a commercial about a little shop who specializes in African aquarium fish or it could be some of my shallow depth of field shots from Fenway Park showing up in a documentary. I even have Letus stuff airing on world-wide networks like The Learning Channel and Discovery. I jumped on the idea of being one of the few DPs in Boston to shoot HD video through 35mm prime lenses.

Tom with the EX1 and Letus

I will be working with Aaron Pinto from Letus, Steven Dempsey, Ryan Walters and Philip Bloom in the BH Video booth for Letus Direct a few hours a day Tuesday through Thursday of next week (April 21-23). The BH Booth is #C11022 and they will have four cameras set up for you to play with. I do not charge for advice, so feel free to ask me anything regarding the Letus and the Sony EX1! I will do my best to help you. Once I know my exact schedule, I will post it to my site so you can find me (if you really want to buy me coffee). I hope to get out and out-shoot Phil with the great Letus 35mm lens adapter…perhaps borrowing an Ultimate?

The super-secret new Vinten panhead

I will be manning the booth (#C6028) for Vinten on and off during that same time period. I will be helping Vinten with their super-secret new product launch. I will have a video running at the stand in Vegas that I shot a few months ago as I tested a brand new line of Vinten tripod heads in Boston and New Hampshire. The prototype was super smooth and the new products have some excellent additions not found on the previous Vinten line. Stay tuned, I will have this video posted to my website in a few days so even if you don’t make it to Vegas, you can get an exclusive inside look! I will also show some footage on my laptop from my days running the camera with a Vinten pan head at Fenway Park. Here is the Vinten NAB webpage.

My self-promotion

I really do not know what to expect in Vegas. I just got some business cards printed up to promote my site, so I will hand them out by the thousands…like those card snapping guys on the Vegas strip.

Staying at the Monte Carlo

I am really looking forward to speaking with people who visit my website and enjoy my work. I am also looking forward to speaking to some of the people who research and develop the television broadcast products I use every day to make a creative living. I am looking forward to seeing Phil again and buying him that apple-tiny drink he seems to drink by the gallon. My bud Zach will be there and so will TJ. TJ will bring along some of his edited Letus footage I shot that is currently airing on the Boston TV station he works for. I am staying at the Monte Carlo, so every night you can find me at the bar! I think Art might be there waiting for me!

I must attend a big dinner with Vinten Tuesday night, with over 150 people attending. I am in the press release as the big “Director of Photography” that tested out the companies new products with a brief write-up. I am even quoted (with pictures) in the new Vinten product flier that will be sent out to television professionals all over the world! I am honored. I just can’t wait to shake the guy’s hand who created the Vector 70 pan head. I hope the guy who made the Vector 900 is not that same guy! In fact, over the next few days before I head out west, I plan on shooting a short film on the vector 70. The short will include unpaid Boston camera operators giving on-camera testimonials about the “buttery” feel of a Vinten. I am not the only guy around here who loves Vinten!

Camera at Fenway
The Vector 70 Panhead

I remember when this Vinten Vector 70 pan head was brand new back in 1999. For almost a decade, I have used the same pan head to lock onto either a baseball, basketball or other fast moving object. Many times, the replay operator in the truck was able to slow down my high speed pan or tilt to help show exactly what that fast moving object did to change the outcome of a professional sporting event. I was able to keep the darn thing in frame with this amazing piece of equipment. It looks like it has been through hell, but even if I were offered a brand new Vinten Vector 950 Active, I would still keep the beat-up Vector 70 close by just in case!

Thanks for reading all that…wow. just one more thing, I got a few emails asking me if I recommended just jumping on a plane and heading over to NAB. I say yes! I am pretty sure that this year it would be easier to get in, because the show if not suppose to be as big as past years. NAB is an excellent place to meet others in the television business, scope out new gear and make contacts. You can go to NAB Show for more information. See you there!