Rob Sim, Sim’s modest namesake and co-founder, doesn’t think of himself as a visionary.
He doesn’t wax poetic about his role in the transformation of Canada’s film and television industry, but his diligence and values propelled the camera shop he started in his basement with his partner Peggy nearly 40 years ago into the Sim of today, a name synonymous with camera rentals across the country.
“We just tried to react to the market, and I guess our timing was good.” says Rob, who credits Peggy for sharing the hard work of growing a business and raising a family.
“But we never envisioned this”.
Rob purchased Sim’s first analogue camera in 1982 and he and Peggy rented cameras from their basement over the next six years. He remembers buying Sim’s first Digital Beta Camera in 1993 and in 1998 he purchased his first HD Camera, with a 30-frame rate, which was used to shoot Lex, one of Canada’s first co-productions with Germany.
“In 2000, the first 24-frame rate digital camera came out, the Sony HDW F900, and that changed everything,” Rob says. “We drove to Montreal on a Sunday in December with our first two to start shooting the series The Tales from Never-Ending Story. We were supposed to go to camera the next day and we had no idea if they would work, especially in the cold”.
He chuckles. “They did work. The cameras worked extremely well”.
Although Rob remembers some film people being concerned about the look achieved by shooting on digital cameras, success on that 26-episode series lead him to purchase 40 additional 24-frame-rate digital cameras.
“We were off to the races,” he says. “We were able to grab market share early and then we were able to retain it by keeping everything in good repair and being reliable and responsive to our customers.”
Rob says although some auteurs like Quentin Tarantino and Chris Nolan continue to shoot on film, he describes the entry of camera manufacturer ARRI into the digital space as “the final nail in the coffin for film.”
“It’s been quite a journey”, he says. “I’ve never been one to micro-manage things too much; I just trusted people do their jobs and grow with the company and it’s been very rewarding to watch. I am so thankful for all the wonderful people who have helped build this company over the years,” says Rob.
“Sim started as a small, unsophisticated company and I think we’ve been successful because we’ve kept that small-company feel. So many people have been with us for 20, 25 years. I care for those employees. I feel very lucky.”