During IBC 2022 we had a chance to record two videos in the SmallRig booth. In the first one, we covered some of the new products SmallRig released recently, and in the second one we are publishing today we talked to Simon Able about the SmallRig Dreamrig initiative.
DreamRig – Design your own rig
We already covered the very high level of innovation SmallRig has as a relatively small company with less than 500 employees that makes hundreds of new designs per year (the company is aiming for more than one new design per week on average for 2022 which is phenomenal).
Today we want to talk about a very unique initiative that SmallRig started a few years back apply named DreamRig. This is how the company explains the basic goal of this project:
SmallRig’s original intent of co-designing with users was clear: to listen to the creative and imaginative voices from around the world and provide the resources, support, and solutions to help them reach their full potential and bring their practical ideas to other creators.
Since 2017, SmallRig has co-designed over 2,000 customized DreamRig products with over 400 global photographers and videographers. Many of these products have gone from custom production to mass production. And several of the custom co-designed products have been awarded prestigious international design awards!
The official Dreamrig video
As far as we know the idea to have an entire division within a company work solely on designing products with individual customers who are not (typically) trained product designers or engineers is unheard of in the photo/video industry and to be honest, we are not sure if such a concept even exists in many other industries.
For those who never designed a product before, it’s important to realize that the process is not typically simple or fast. There are many complex things to consider, from the choice of materials, parts, prototype manufacturing (creating molds in some cases), testing, and making changes to a product to mundane things such as package design not to mention the cost of producing the first batch of products and of course the completely separate aspect of marketing, sales, and shipping of the products, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
What’s unique about SmallRig’s approach to this problem is that it utelizes its existing design and manufacturing knowhow and infrastructure used by the company to design and develop its own broad range of photo and video gear to help individuals from the industry take an idea that they have and guide them through the process and create an actual product that might eventually be sold by SmallRig (and of course give the designer sales commission).
While it’s unlikely that your next camera rig design is going to make you a millionaire if it happens to make it all the way to the SmallRig store, this approach does have quite a few advantages. First of all and on the most basic level, if you have a real problem with your gear that you are trying to solve you might actually get a solution (and this can be more important than you think for some professional users).
From a broader perspective, creating a community of industry professionals who love solving problems and have a relatively fast way of turning their ideas into actual products is priceless, both for the camera industry and of course for SmallRig itself as it infuses even more ideas into its design teams and keeps them in touch with the needs of the community. We would love to see more companies take this approach but this probably needs to come from within the company and not be forced from the outside.
There are of course limitations to this approach. At the moment Dreamrig is mostly focusing on developing mechanical products (mostly made from aluminum). This is possible because SmallRig already has the infrastructure required to quickly make these parts for its own products. Creating more complex designs which require molds (for plastic and other materials) not to mention designs with electrical and electronics inside might be more than what the Dreamrig can do at the moment (although if the idea is attractive enough there is always an option that SmallRig itself will take over but this might take more time and be a much more complex project).
In the interview above we talked to Simon who is an independent filmmaker from Germany who started working with the Dreamrig team a few years back and since then designed several products (including the Mini Top Handle, Mini V-Lock, iPad Tablet Cage, and “Z-Back” for Z Cameras and Flux upcoming camera vest system). During IBC Simon was actually helping the on-booth SmallRig team and this is how we ended up interviewing him.
Full disclosure: we have been working with the DreamRig team ourselves for quite some time now on a large number of product designs that we hope we can bring to the market soon. With that said, we would not be as excited about this initiative if we hadn’t worked with the team and designed our own projects, and seen how the process actually works from the inside, starting with just an idea to holding the finished product in your hands and having other professional users really appreciate it.
For more of our coverage on LensVid from IBC 2022 – please visit the following link.