Rob Bannochie “ A History in Post Production”
Post-production has come a long way. I remember the days of cutting 2” Quadruplex tape with the aid of a blade, a microscope and fine iron filings! And if film was the originating format, having to telecine using a photoconductive machine with very little color correction capabilities – and this was state of the art back then!
The big changes came with Flying Spot telecine’s with color correction and non-linear off line editing. Who remembers endless EDL’s and hoping and praying that the EDL would match the on-line edit? Nowadays of course most of this has changed and with the phenomenal technology spurt into the digital domain, film cameras are virtually a thing of the past and 4K origination with its infinite range of adjustments and imaging is the norm.
So too with post-production. Large facilities opened. They had the ability to transfer negative and grade it. They could also provide all the required off line and on line editing, digital effects and sound post-production facilities, to provide deliverables under one roof. The capital outlay was huge. Many items of equipment cost several millions and thereby precluding small time competition. This has also changed over time and currently for commercial post-production in the main, these large all-in-one post-production facilities are almost a thing of the past.
“Career Path” ONE PASS FILM & VIDEO :
For many, One Pass Film & Video in the China Basin was San Francisco’s finest graduate school. One Pass was created in 1975 by Michelson and Buck Lindsay. They were soon joined by Michelson’s brother-in-law, Taylor Phelps, as well as engineer Tom Werner (who helped develop the CMX-50 editor and Intelligent Interfaces). Scott Ross became president of OPV, then moved on to ILM – later co-founding Digital Domain.
One Pass introduced many new technologies to Bay Area clients, including two early non-linear random-access edit systems. The CMX-600 stored b & w video on disc arrays the size of washing machines, while the Montage Picture Processor previewed edits with 18 chasing Betamax machines. Graduates from One Pass include feature film editors Jim Haygood, Rob Bannochie and Glen Scantlebury.
Interview with Rob Bannochie
Hi Rob, Could you describe your company and what position you currently hold?
Leapfrog was established in 2005 and I’m Rob Bannochie the CEO of Leapfrog, I have a partner called Ingi Youssef and she runs Dubai & the Gulf operation which we began in 2010. We started as 4 people and now we are 35 people in Cairo and there’s another 7 people in Dubai and then we have a number of scattered individuals who assist us with our working on The Gulf areas, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon and various bits and pieces up to Algeria and Morocco. We have individuals who assist us with our working in African countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, WHY? Because we have a lot of clients that want to work into Africa.
In 2018 we partnered with a company called “Jiuzhou” in China for event management that’s for inbound work into Egypt from China and obviously it works vice versa to going to China they have nine offices, the project is in its infancy but we are beginning to bear fruit of various people coming looking for opportunities in Egypt, That also opens us up to a bigger network of companies because they have an international network. So again that’s also very in fruitful because we are able to cross pollinate and co-operate with other countries, for example we had an event in Austria we were able to contact their representative and we were able to do the event as Leapfrog through the representative company. So from being local, we are now part of a large network of individuals that can communicate with each other and work on ideas.
We have 9 main areas of operation Advertising and Marketing/Activations /Event Management/ Internal Branding, Digital/ Fabrication/ Content Production/ Promotional Products Art & Graphic Design.
Our Clients trust us and we have clients who have been with us for a number of years.
We specialize in Event Management & Activations we have done events for 50 people to 15,000 people so we do the whole range. Sixty Percent of our work is Event Management. We also have invested in a 1,000 square meter Fabrication factory in Cairo for Fabrication & Construction. We also do Content Development (Tv Commercials/Documentaries/Radio) so we have the ability to go out and generate content. We have just started a Digital Arm, so we now do websites and we have the ability create applications. We manage campaigns and content creation for social media. We also do a lot of internal branding which falls into the fabrication, art & graphic design & advertising areas.
We work with a lot of multinational clients as ExxonMobil, Vmware, Novartis, Bioderma, Sap, Roche, 1xBet, P&G, NMDC, Carrier, HP enterprise, Apache, Abbott, GE and Schlindler.
We have just launched a new brand of Olive Oil called “Zitouna” which went to the Market in November 2019 that went down with a full media campaign which was television, radio, billboards and social media. This was followed by a Pasta Launch in Ramadan.
That’s basically the nature of what we do.
Please tell us your story, how did you end up as the CEO of Leapfrog?
My Story is very long; I’ve got 60 years of things to tell you. I started off doing electronic engineering. I was apparently very good at it. We’re talking best part of 40 odd years ago. So this is when there were cathodes and diodes and lots of different technology, it was not as it is today way simpler yet much more difficult and a lot of electronics and things were not like today. So I started off doing that and I was very lucky to get a break because I enjoyed doing editing and I became an editor in the United Kingdom for several years working on a number of high profile television commercials and a long form of what they call a video clips and music videos and various bits and pieces. At that point I started to dabble in working in documentary films and I got a lot of corporate clients based in the Middle East. And from that I was asked to come and work a lot more in the Middle East and I married my wife who is Egyptian and we decided to settle in Cairo and I started doing film production and television commercials which was part of my world and then we moved on to the next thing, it was to start some form of production house which we did and that went from a production house, to what it is today. “Ingi” became my business partner in the project. At the time she was working with a multinational company …we said well why don’t we get together and we can make an agency and we have lots of knowledge in the technology sector so we started Leapfrog and moved on from there.
That’s how we got here today. So I’ve been in Egypt for the last 30 years but I’ve been coming here since late 70s and we do a lot of television commercials for clients in the Gulf and I’ve been doing that for these recurring clients for a very long time. The thing about what we do is a lot of our clients come back, so we have a lot of people that have been with us for a very long time and that’s how it is, we like longevity in a business partnership.
What is one of the latest awards Leapfrog won?
The latest one was from “Design Rush”, for us it’s a very simple thing and it just is more of a symbolic of what we’ve done. We have awards for television commercials and as you can see there are lots of bits and pieces on the walls. I’ve got awards going back to the mid 80s.
But we are a company that don’t look for awards I’m not interested in doing things for awards.
I know a lot of agencies do things for awards, this is a de facto. Well we tend to look at it more in a different way, we are interested in making the client happy and getting him to sell his product. People have forgotten how to sell in Egypt so it’s very difficult you know, we’re trying to reboot the concept of selling, it’s very nice to have a fantastic television commercial or beautiful billboard that nobody understands! Who’s going to win an award and it doesn’t sell anything, you know it’s a trade off now. We have a number of awards; we’ve been recognized by clients for doing specific things which is good for getting their business on track. That’s more of an award to me.
What is the Advertising situation in Egypt compared to the GULF/MENA region countries?
Well there are two very distinct areas of operation and that is something that’s grown up out of a language and the social aspect. GULF/MENA region is split into a bunch of areas, it is geared towards the market of Saudi Arabia because that’s where the vast number of people are and that up until recently has been very prohibitive to work in, because of the religious and cultural differences in respect of the place in terms of women and how life is lived. Egypt a totally separate market, purely because of the language. People understand the language in both areas but they want to have their own identity. In terms of advertising I believe the market has a massive opportunity and it’s not being exploited properly.
In all of the Middle East whether it’s MENA or it’s Egypt or whatever you want to call it, there’s not a real grounding for the local grassroots talent. There’s no real serious schooling or any way to learn properly apart from people that have been in the business for a bunch of time and probably are not doing things properly. They can go to America they can go to the UK they can go to France or Germany or wherever and other countries and learn the basics. But when it comes down to it people don’t open their eyes when they walk around. My concept is I have two eyes and I can see and that’s not being implemented here. We’re trying to take ideas that are placed on commercials or any advertising strategy that’s done outside. We’re not looking to the local flavor in the local field and the whatever. They have been doing lots and lots of funny commercials and things that everybody laughs at but it doesn’t really do anything nicely. Plus there is a problem with people in this part of the world whether it’s MENA or it’s Egypt, have forgotten how to use their language properly, there’s very very poor knowledge of the Arabic language. Now I have a way out because I’m English and my knowledge is what I’ve made it. People who are here automatically go for English and that’s a very bad thing. It’s when I tell anybody you know when you’ve gotten the Arabic language you have an asset you can read, you can write, you can type, you can do anything in Arabic. You have a massive asset to people outside. Use it. But the problem is that people don’t use the Arabic language properly here.
You can see Egypt is a slew of jingles and funny songs and in the Gulf area or the MENA region it’s a lot of guttural gobbledygook in Arabic, you know. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s very difficult to understand. So there has to be a marriage.
It’s about the language, advertising is about understanding it’s about opening our eyes and in the GULF/MENA region it’s all let’s try and do it, the biggest the best the most wonderful the amazing and that’s what’s being transformed into what’s happening here. That’s not really the way to go because people need to sell recently.
What changes are happening soon in the advertising field?
Biggest change is the fact that everybody jumped on the digital bandwagon and thinking that the digital bandwagon is going to make things a lot cheaper. And as the technology will evolve, we will find that it will in essence just reallocate budgets from television to online social media platforms and various things. So that just be there will be a major change away from television. I mean a lot of the younger generation now doesn’t watch television anymore and they’re more glued to their mobile telephones and their laptops.
I’m very old school I like to watch a big screen and I like to be able to see an image rather than getting up close and personal with it.
The technology will ultimately take over advertising we’ve seen it in the billboards..
There are great moves in the Advertising now, you will be able to rather like the Cambridge Analytic scenario that happened with the British election. You’ll be able to really seriously target the group of people you want to access. And I think that information hasn’t always been there. It’s been there since the day of IVR but nobody really managed to get to grips with it. Now there are programs and applications or whatever you want to do technological things that are able to actually access the right people to see things, so I can put a billboard in “Al Haram” and access the right people I can put an ad on “DMC” that will access the right people at the right time. So we’re going to see a lot more of that. Is that going to take the fun out of advertising is that going to make advertising better. I don’t know. If the imagery and if the content is there it allow you to sell. There are still a lot of the older generations that like to sit and read a newspaper. I like to sit and read a newspaper. It’s quite an interesting thing to do. Newspapers will be there whether they’ll be there in abundance. I don’t know. When it goes down to advertising in a newspaper is it still a good thing to do? Yes there are some people that you will you reach because it’s a de facto whether it’s enough people to maintain or to warrant that particular effort. I don’t know, I would suspect it is at this moment in time.
Egypt itself is not a country that will fully embrace the technology immediately so there are still a good few years left in the traditional advertising vehicles. So you know as we’ve seen with the real estate companies billboards are the king. Yet, they’re moving now into a lot of online content. Is that the right way for them to go? I don’t know. But it is a step in another direction for them.
Generally I would hope that there will be some form of regulation in the way that people are bought into the advertising market. There are lots and lots of startup companies people that have gone to college and whatever who perhaps are moving the advertising market forward and in a certain way maybe it’s not particularly the right way at this moment in time. The market is flooded with new companies and new options. Is that good for the business of the client? I don’t think it is, because the younger generations need to learn from people who are in the knowledge because that’s the best we’ve got at the moment.
What is Leapfrog best at?
Leapfrog is best at delivering a professional product that will fulfill the needs of the client in every aspect. We can say we are probably best at doing events, we are very schooled in doing events we have done a large number of events but we can’t do that without having the rest of the functions around us, because we believe that we are best at doing everything in-house. We don’t like to subcontract. We like to have everything at our fingertips so it’s easy to move with the needs of the client. It’s not about I’ll go and bring X Y Z and put it all together, No it’s about having everybody there that knows what they’re doing whether it’s the registration in the event whether it’s the branding whether it’s the stage construction whether it’s the construction of the rolled up banners the lanyard whatever, we want to have our control over it. That’s why we need all of the different elements to work together. We can say we’re very good. We have a team of designers that are very good in terms of following corporate guidelines because that’s what we’ve grown up with; they understand how to follow a guideline which is very important in the corporate world.
When we come to do filming or shooting we have a vast experience of shooting things and seeing things in a different way. We might not be the “Taralamlam” things that you see on the television and shooting but we can do something that will sell or will make the image of the client good in front of the customer or the consumer or whoever it is that is viewing it.
We pride ourselves on delivering on time we have a great wealth of ideas that we’re willing to explore and utilize with various clients, and it’s just all about our slogan which is “We Create Ideas That Work” so you know whether it’s a chicken coming out of an egg or it’s a rocket going to the moon. As I said before I have two eyes and I can see you have to look and see what is the best for the client? What is the best way for approaching things? Keep your eyes open and look and understand. I mean Leapfrog is all about understanding the client and that’s why we have so many clients that come back and have worked with us for a long period of time because we deliver and we get them good service. We are good at working within a budget, we will come up with our own budget and then the client will tell us it’s a lot less and we will work within the budget and we will deliver a top notch design or event or marketing process for whatever.
What are the expected changes in the Advertising Field Future?
I’ll go back to tell you a story of something that happened back in 1982 I was interviewed for one of the clients I was working with for writing a book, and they asked me for a quotation for the book and my idea would be that if I had an edit suite I would be able to go into that edit suite and have access to all of the material in a complete random form because previously everything was done in linear editing. So we didn’t have computer, editing was all done on on a machine to machine basis very old fashioned with the old fashioned machines. I said I see that this is coming and I described an editing system and they took this and said thank you very much and it never happened. And then somebody a year later contacted me and asked me to go work on the first random access editing system which was the forerunner of what we see today on your computers which is Final Cut and all of these after effects programs it was the forerunner system back in the 80s, so I worked on the very first system that I know. So if you want my prediction of what is going to happen I’d say,
You’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 in its interactive billboards and things like that.
I believe that perhaps not here immediately but you will have the ability to really interact with products. Everything is going to change it’s going to be a very interactive world. You’ll be able to go into a supermarket and your trolley will probably go down the aisles and it will have some form of interactivity with things, the products you put into the trolley will interact giving feedback to your mobile phone.
You’ll be able to look past billboards; they’ll be able to put your image onto a billboard somehow. I believe this will be some form of personalized interactive advertising.
They already have some very thin interactive screens and you’ll be able to buy something like a very thin interactive screen that will be similar to a newspaper or a tablet, it will be a very thin like a roll up screen, I believe that will be coming in the very near future and that will be take the place of a newspaper for example. So newspaper will have resurgence in the near future, in 10 to 15 years. You will probably be able to get by one of these screens and then you will subscribe to The New York Times or the BBC and you’ll get your news on it. I believe that’s one direction that will happen.
Television is dying; the on demand services I think will eventually die out.
I believe that just generically everything around us will become more interactive or there will be more interactivity that will enable you to get things done.
It’s been proven for example the best place to advertise is in bathroom or elevators, it kills the awkwardness. If you put something in a public bathroom people will read it. It’s whether we want or not to be associated with that culture or whatever, advertising will bombard us.
It will just become a totally interactive experience and probably it won’t know who is who, it won’t understand anything because you’ll just be someone with money. I like to go away and sit in the garden without a mobile phone. But unfortunately the necessity now is you have to have your mobile phone with you and that will be the access for most of the advertising and advertising related things.
If you could change one thing in the Egyptian marketing landscape, what would it be?
To create some form of establishment or some means of knowledgeable people really giving their ideas to create a new level of young advertising people who are well crafted in what they with a lot of practical experience. The problem is that a lot of companies are playing around with the same group of people not they’re not taking in lots and lots of new people and then giving them a process out.
We like to take in lots of fresh graduates and we have a couple of universities that we were into like MSA and people from the German university.
We like to take people out of college and then tell them let’s forget it, now forget about it! Forget about what we’ve learned, this is now the real world. Now you can have all of the grounding you want but welcome to the real world. And then they begin to see how things really work. So the advertising world needs to have some fully functioning pop up on the ground practical experience. We’re getting interns in various things, we looking for that type of thing. But young people need to spend three or four years in a job before you get a good grounding from professional people.
There needs to be a specialist college or specialist school for people to progressing into advertising. For the main advertising companies or marketing companies they should be taking from these people that come from this environment with very very practical experience because it will lead to a much better level of advertising for the client.
Again we’re not into creating awards. Awards are nice things to have, but if the client doesn’t need awards he needs to be able to sell to be able to promote his product and get people to buy his product or service. And apart from that you know it’s the same in the world allover but in Egypt there isn’t a kick start to get it going but that needs to change dramatically, there needs to be some form of very good practical schooling. What is happening at the moment is all too theoretical and it’s not practical in the market, and again the language. It’s a problem, big big “Moseeba”. People have forgotten the language.
Are fresh grads lacking the needed advertising knowledge?
They have a bunch of things that they’ve been told. They have no practical experience.
You can’t teach somebody about how something is printed without actually going to a print house and experiencing the printing house and experiencing the process.
When people see a billboard they have no concept of how that billboard got there, It’s just a billboard to them. They’re told to do a project like a billboard, so they think they’ll make a design and that’s it, well they have no idea. I mean I’ve got seven seconds to see this.
You have to be able to walk before you can run; I think this is the best analogy for that one. So you have to be able to walk before you can run and everybody wants to run and they’re running in a massive different ways which you can get some creativity out of it, but 99 percent of the time you don’t. The simplest ideas win awards, the people here over think things, there’s a lot of over thinking in this country.
What was the most fun Leapfrog had in creating a marketing campaign?
Everything is fun.
We have a client which has been coming back to us for a number of years and they decided to make a new brand of olive oil. Which is something that is a little bit left of field for our people because we don’t work with many FMCG clients and I took two new people who have been with us for the last four months to six months and we had to come up with a concept for the olive oil was ” Zitouna ” and we came up with a very nice operatic radio jingle which was something new. We came up with a very nice television commercial which is all beauty shots of food, and this is something that they hadn’t experienced previously and they were extremely enthusiastic. This is good for me because it shows that people are very interested in doing things properly. We came up with a marketing strategy. We’ve gone into the packaging and all the truck branding, the in-store promotional material and the billboards.
So for a team of three people two of whom have never worked on an advertising thing we created a whole bunch of stuff that we will see in November whether or not the market believes in it and it will sell for the client. That’s the way it is, Yeah.
The only thing we did not do is the oil itself, because the client trusted us from a management level and I trust the people who have worked on the project with me, they were very young people, they are enthusiasm for me and for us is very good. They have experience in few things and they have taken that forward and the client is more than happy now with the interaction that they’ve given.
For me that’s brilliant.
It’s probably the smallest things that give you the biggest amount of happiness or whatever.
You know we’ve done events up to 15,000 people, but at the end of it you’re so exhausted you don’t really know whether it’s a fun thing to do or a good thing to do.
People get their kicks in different ways. As long as at the end of the day the client is happy and then it gives us a great relief. If we go to present for a project we like to believe that we can win it and we can win that project but we have a lot of competition in every step of the way. So we always have to be on the top of our game and be at our best, and try to create ideas that will work for the client, very simply.
Unearthing the Forgotten Cinematic Potential of Egypt
Since the1970’s I have had a strong connection with Egypt & the Middle East, producing a wide variety of commercials, film’s, program’s, game show’s and documentaries. The country is a land of opportunity for international filmmakers, with a vibrant industry that offers a wide range of equipment, studios, infrastructure and expertise.
Many well known projects have been shot in Egypt over the years, with such notable titles as The Night manager, A Hologram for the King & Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The stream of productions came to an abrupt halt around the time of the well publicized 2011 January Revolution and has remained at a trickle since.
I myself was about to embark on a 15 day commercial photo and video shoot for a well known American brand in January 2011, but we had to shut the production down. Since then, there have been a number of potential clients but no real takers. Safety is definitely a concern that we’re trying to address.
Egypt has been my home since 1990, and during this time I have had witnessed many events but none of them have ever encroached on my well-being. I have travelled all over on productions and am always able to expect a high degree of production value and safety.
Cairo is one of the world’s largest cities – here you will find everything from quaint alleyways to ritzy hotels. The city is divided in two by the River Nile, and contains a wide range of distinct neighbourhood’s: modern, Islamic and the famous alleyways of Old Cairo.
It is also home to the Egyptian Museum and the vast array of mosques that offer magnificent views of the city. The Governorate of Giza located close to Cairo is home to the most famous of Egypt’s sites: the Pyramids.
The Nile Delta extends above Cairo in a maze of canals and vibrant green fields, which are heavily under utilized by production companies. To the west is Alexandria, the country’s second largest city, though it has been the location of many historical events, including the location of one of the world’s greatest libraries and the Pharos Lighthouse. It is also the gateway to the beaches and compounds that stretch to the Libyan border.
The entire western portion of Egypt is a vast desert that stretches to the Libyan border and makes up the most eastern part of the Sahara. Here you can find desert communities such as Siwa, Kharga and Farafra. All these areas require a large number of permissions from various Government and Army related bodie
The Red Sea coast boasts clear waters that are perfect for coral reefs. All along its fringes are white sandy beaches and the further south you go, the more pristine the reefs get, though facilities are sparse and separated by large distances.
Sharm al Sheik and the Sinai Peninsula is the epicentre of the Red Sea diving industry. Amid the five star luxury resorts and hotels that have sprung up, you can board some of the world’s most modern diving boats and access the fabled Ras Mohammad Marine Park and the Straits of Tiran, which offer huge schools of fish and soft corals. The rugged Sinai Peninsula nearby offers fantastic location landscapes stretching all the way to Mount Sinai.
Straddling the Nile, Luxor is often referred to as a living museum. It contains a vast number of ancient Egyptian monuments such as the Karnak, Thebes, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Temple of Luxor and many others.
In the far south of Egypt lies Aswan, Egypt’s most southern city. With its Nubian influence, the town has a strong African feel and is a popular jumping off point for Abu Simbel. This gem in the desert abounds with locations that make it nothing less than spectacular.
There is also a wealth of villas, modern buildings, settlements, new and run down industrial areas and amazing follies that are dotted around that can provide exotic locations to bring productions to life.
All locations require extensive permits for exterior shots, which is why it is important to collaborate with a trustworthy partner who can guide you through any potential pitfalls. It is wise to be totally upfront on requirements and be well prepared. Language can be a problem, English is spoken in production circles yet the comprehension sometimes is lacking. This can lead to frustration so choose wisely.
It saddens me that foreign producers double up or reach for the CGI, to give their audiences a taste of Egypt. Today it is one of the best and most cost effective locations in the world for filming, so instead of recreating Egypt, come and discover the potential of the real thing. Egypt is also great place to relax in when the shoot winds down, with superb accommodation to fit any budget and even and some great coffee shops for the early morning perk-up.
Whether you’re scouting for a multi-million dollar feature film or a commercial, with great lighting, weather, stunning landmarks and a film friendly infrastructure, Egypt is certainly worthy of being on your unique locations list.
Rob Bannochie is the CEO of Leapfrog, a full service advertising, marketing and Event Management Agency with years of experience in the production industry.