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In 2003 Takashi Mikami, at the time 40 years old, has established a grip equipment rental company Rocket Ltd. (3 years later transformed into Rocket Inc.) in second smallest town in Japan – Komae, in Tokyo metropolitan area. He started his company together with his wife, and just two of them converted the second floor of their house into an office and launched the company with a capital of bare 900,000 yen.
It was hard at the time to imagine that the company will get involved in international live broadcast. Mr. Mikami started his journey into the world of special camera equipment about 20 years before he decided to establish his own company. At the time he already had some experience working in video production industry, and was invited by one of the leading experts in the field of special camera equipment to join the world of grip.
Mikami worked as a freelance operator of grip equipment for 8 years, and then for 2 years at a grip equipment rental house as a member of the board of directors. During this time period he successfully participated in such notable events as big concert of GLAY dedicated to normalization of diplomatic relationship between Japan and China, and Nagano Winter Olympics (where he was in charge of shooting of super giant slalom and large hill ski jumping), and a number of other events.
Over the years Mikami has won a reputation of an operator with extraordinary sense for creating outstanding imagery and ability to bring out passion and dynamism of artists’ and athletes’ performance with crane moves that some people called “raging wave crane work”.
Among various projects, he also became known as a go-to person for producers and camera operators when they needed to shoot music videos or events with complicated dance compositions, which are known for being particularly difficult to shoot and require high-level skill.
In Europe or Hollywood where video production industry is a well developed and the market is big, grip equipment engineers have annual income of equivalent of hundreds of millions of yen, they receive Academy Awards in Technology category and enjoy highly respected status.
However, in Japan there are no educational facilities (colleges or special university programs) that would provide education on grip equipment operation, no educational framework in place dedicated to the matter, and the only way to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to become a grip operator is to learn as you go, on set.
In other words, from certain point of view Japanese broadcast industry is at developing stage and has a long way to go to catch up with that of Europe and U.S.A. Mikami believed that for progress of broadcast industry in Asia you need to attract more attention to the grip sector of video production, as well as develop engineers who would have enough skill and inspiration to accept the challenge of the global stage.
That belief was deeply implanted in his heart starting from his freelance years in business, and in 2003 he established a company Rocket Ltd., with the main goal of “strengthening the position of grip equipment”.
From the very start Mikami noticed that there was a lot of unrealized potential for females in grip industry (a person who operates special camera equipment is often just called “grip”).
That observation led to the launching of unprecedented project – an all-female grip team called “Rocket girls” – the same year the company was established.
And eventually, as if industry trends decided to catch up with Mikami’s concepts, recently we see more and more compact grip equipment that women can work with, and it is not unusual nowadays to see women among grip teams.
On March 11th, 2011 the North East of Japan was hit by the most disastrous earthquake in history of the region, and as a result all domestic events and music live events were cancelled or shut down for months after. As a direct consequence of that the company faced a danger of bankruptcy.
Half a year later our company got a job in charity live event that was held in disaster-stricken area of Miyagi Prefecture.
Mikami and 7 of his employees loaded equipment into their trucks and set off, driving past debris still scattered here and there along the way, watching deep scars left across the land in the aftermath of the earthquake. And so they rode the bumpy North East roads that will never be the same again, all the way to their destination.
And there the solitary voice of just one singing artist merged with one, two, three… every single person singing together in a crowded hall, growing from faint few to a resounding chorus.
There Mikami witnessed with his own eyes how music encouraged people, helped to heal their broken hearts, gave strength to live on and carried on the immense power of life. At that moment he decided, that no matter what, he had to rebuild the company, and continue delivering hope and courage everyone in Japan through power of videography. Later on he also participated as a broadcast team member in a charity soccer match, where the opponent players and fans united with Japanese in prayer for Japan’s recovery. These events formed a firm worldview that music and sports come across country borders and bring power to keep going to people of all nations and ethnicities. That worldview is expressed in our company’s main creed: “Love & Peace”. Another great impact on Mikami’s values was made by his travels abroad, where he could see that humanity still struggles with poverty, misery and horrible conditions in which street children live.
As 95% of grip equipment in Japan is manufactured abroad, Mikami decided to start product development and globally introduce grip equipment made in Japan. He tried to bring his ideas to different manufacturers but they all shut their door in front of him saying that his unprecedented effort was doomed from the start. It took him 2 years to manufacture of a prototype.
Then another 3 years passed and idea turned from concept into a real product – vibration-absorbing device made in Japan, called “Spring Stabilizer Mount”. The product was shown at NAB show in Las Vegas starting from 2004 for 6 consecutive years.
In 2011 Spring Stabilizer Mount was successfully granted a Japanese domestic patent, and got a nickname “border-crossing product” (no need in manual). About 1000 units were sold out throughout the world.
In 2013 the company acquired a 4 mounting point cable camera system “Robycam” and introduced it for the first time in Asia to be used at major artists live concerts and sports events such as soccer World Cup live broadcast.
One of the reasons why such unique equipment was bought by Rocket is the mission of upbringing talented personnel. Along with “Love & Peace” motto, Rocket would like young stuff to embody Rocket’s “Pushing Frontiers” spirit, representing an image of walking on the wide sands and leaving your footprint where no one set foot before.
We believe that not being afraid to face new challenges or, in other words, pushing forward without fear leads to career development and progress. Mikami has always been striving to deliver this message to the employees not through mere words but through building an organization where employees can learn to be aware and make discoveries for themselves. Our employees receive training from grip equipment manufacturers, then gain experience at real shooting locations and eventually make their way in the unknown wilderness of industry leaving their footprint behind.
Mikami has always believed that tirelessly pushing forward even during hardest times is the key to achieving success and gaining name and reputation as a video production professional.
Due to Takashi Mikami’s masterful marketing and technical skills as well as progression of young stuff as a team, small company with 20 employees whose average age is 27 years old was able to introduce most advanced, high tech equipment into the market and start taking part in international broadcasting.
Rocket is also a company that has been always blessed with time working in its favor.
Every time when there was a critical situation, the wind of change has pushed us in the right direction and company would ride it to overcome the difficulties. One of such blissful winds is Tokyo winning the nomination to host 2020 Summer Olympics.
In anticipation of rising on this world’s big stage, we launched a project to develop a global team and to do so have established a new entity, General Incorporated Association “Robycam Japan” in effort to create a foundation for a new program to develop talent and consolidate the team of professionals.
This initiative is also a first stone laid down to build the fundament of “School of Grip”, first of its kind in Japan.
Our team is making a first step into the new territory, with the words of Mikami in mind that to become “only one and number one” you need to have strong will to keep going and a spirit of adventure to be able to enjoy the work you do. And we are eagerly waiting for young people who will not be afraid to knock at the door of unknown world of grip equipment and take responsibility for the future of Japanese and Asian shooting industry.
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