A welcome return


The South African film and television industry was pleasantly surprised late last
year by the news that Frank Meyburgh, a well-known name in the gear sale, rental
and servicing sector, had returned to the country from the United Kingdom and set
up shop once again in Johannesburg.

Meyburgh, the man behind gear rental houses Magus Visual and Digitalfilm, is a
respected industry figure, who established a formidable reputation when he first
began trading in 1990, upon his return from a 11-year exile in the UK during the
apartheid era.

There are few people working in the industry, particularly in the camera and
equipment rental fields, who don’t know his name. In 2013, after selling Digitalfilm,
he bid farewell to South Africa for what many assumed would be the last time,
heading off to resettle in the UK. Barely a year and a half later, the word spread
that he was back, with a new business, called the Magic Lightbox Company,
operating in Bryanston.

The reason for Meyburgh’s return is quite simple and pragmatic. “I found myself
travelling back and forth between the UK and South Africa because I was doing a lot
of consulting work here. In the end it just made sense for me to come back
permanently,’ he explains.

The Magic Lightbox Company continues in the equipment rental vein but on a
smaller scale than that of Meyburgh’s previous enterprises. He describes it as a
boutique operation focused on personalised service and with the needs of the ever-
growing number of camera owner-operators in mind. Meyburgh accepts that more
and more camera operators are acquiring their own cameras but does not see this
as a threat to the rental business. An owner-operator may have his or her own
camera, but still requires an assortment of accessories.

Purchasing these “knickknacks’, as Meyburgh calls them, doesn’t always make
sense, making rental a necessity. Rental houses can thus benefit from stocking
these odds and ends, even if they don’t hold the cameras for which they are
designed. It is this portion of the market that Meyburgh is particularly set on
targeting with his new set-up.

That is not to say that Magic Lightbox doesn’t stock an impressive array of cameras
– both for rental and sale. Its inventories include a comprehensive set of Sony
cameras such as the PXW-X160 and 180, the AS7 and the new FS7. The ever
popular Canon 5D MkIII can also be obtained from Meyburgh’s stocks. Alongside the
cameras, a large selection of LED lighting and all manner of accessories are

One of Meyburgh’s abiding interests is archive footage. All over the country, in old
warehouses, garages and storerooms, both privately and publicly owned, are hours
upon hours of archive material wasting away on a variety of obsolete formats from
16mm film to U-matic tapes, to VHS. Meyburgh believes strongly in the
preservation of these resources and has also noticed a demand for the means of
playing back and preserving archive material. Accordingly he holds a selection of
legacy playback equipment, including Beta machines, projectors and U-matic decks,
that can be used for digitising these materials for further use or simply for
posterity. This is another of the Magic Lightbox Company’s focuses.

Central to the Magic Lightbox Company’s work are an emphasis on personalised
service and a strong community spirit. Meyburgh understands that in an industry
like this, no individual or company is an island and a synergistic, reciprocal network
of relationships among all participants is essential to growth and prosperity. The
equipment rental world, with its web of cross-rentals, loans and other
collaborations, is a perfect example of this.

Meyburgh says that he has been overwhelmed by the welcoming and generally
positive response he has received since his return. “To be given a second chance is
a privilege and I don’t take that for granted,’ he concludes.


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