In Late January I was fortunate enough to have a guided tour of the new CVP facility in the heart of London. The grandly titled Creative Experience occupies one of those achingly hip townhouse sized buildings in Fitzrovia, all bare brick and grey paintwork on the outside with no intimation of what awaits inside.
What does greet you is every bit as cool as the exterior, a reception with armchairs and an open fire, yes, an actual open fire for Christ’s sake! Any notions of this being a showroom are immediately dispelled.
My guide for the day was Sales Director Jon Fry, who, even when you dial out the fact that he is a sales director, has an infectious enthusiasm for what they are doing and how uniquely they are doing it. CVP has been in existence for 30 years and Jon is part of the management team who did a MBO a few years back. They have steered the business into being as much a service and knowledge provider as being a purveyor of some of the best camera and lens kit available.
So what does this space in Newman Street offer? At the simplest level it is somewhere to test an awful lot of cameras, lenses and associated gear. What makes it really special however is how they have organised it around the needs of the customer, this is no showroom, it’s a place to get hands on with the gear to find out if it will really satisfy your needs.
Jon was almost apologetic for them choosing the grand sounding title of ‘creative experience’ for the building. But once you realise just what is on offer here, that title starts to sound almost modest. What CVP has built here has been driven by the need for camera professionals (whether a freelancer or a top end DoP), to be able to test kit. Test it in different configurations, be able to make comparisons, find out what works together and what doesn’t – and crucially, find out what works for you. The Creative Experience in Newman Street, and also their ARRI showroom on Charlotte Street both offer their customers the time, space and expert advice to find the right solution.
The Canon Room
Testing equipment is absolutely crucial whether you just want to buy a new lens, or need to put together a whole camera and lens package to shoot a multi-camera project with. This building has been put together around that deceptively simple premise; so you have five floors, each with a couple of rooms dedicated to production equipment from the likes of ARRI, RED, Sony, Canon, Zeiss, Panasonic, Angenieux, Leica and Blackmagic. There is a ton of accessories, a whole room devoted to motion solutions… your head soon starts to spin with the possibilities.
The angle that they have taken is that people need time to make decisions – an anecdote Jon share was of a group who spent 6 hours just debating their choice of baseplate. CVP helps the process by sharing their knowledge and experience, the team of technicians here have that in spades, plus a genuine and infectious enthusiasm for what they are doing. You want to spend a day comparing Zeiss and Angieneux lenses? No problem, bring your camera, shoot with all of them and get that footage into an edit for you to go away and mull it over. Need a camera monitor but don’t know which to choose? They have a wall of them running so you can compare with the footage you shoot.
Pick a monitor!
Obviously, this is all kit that CVP sell, but it’s not a pressured environment, the people you deal with are techies not salesmen. Certainly you can talk to a salesmen when you want to, they are kept in the basement just in case. They know that the decision making process can be a complicated affair and have structured everything around making that as informed and straightforward as possible.
The building also is also an event space, hosting training sessions by manufacturers and professionals, seminars and screenings. In fact whilst I was being shown around, the whole building had been taken over by VMI to run a 3 day anamorphic and large sensor event.
CVP will be on the mezzanine at the BSC Expo 2019, taking over the entire space to bring the whole Creative Experience to the Expo. Go and check all the amazing gear out, but most importantly talk to them and dip into their huge bank of knowledge.