Large (for us) Production coming up, could use some advice!
I work for a small'ish' agency in Scranton PA and we've got a new client that has us going to NYC and DC for two separate days, a Monday, then a Wednesday. We think it will be a 3 camera shoot and they 'must have' 4K. We currently have one camera capable of 4K, the Canon R (which is a tad crippled with the sensor crop I know) and we want to rent everything else.
We have basic lights, basic audio, and don't really have any of the big production essentials like C-Stands, sand bags, flag kits, etc. I'm tasked with finding rental equipment for the week and I'm looking for some advice when it comes to renting gear in New York and DC.
I've never navigated the rental world before, but my boss did say if there are things that would make more sense to buy and have forever I should separate them in to another list.
So I think a more direct question is: What should I be trying to buy vs rent?
and then ANY advice or experience or knowledge you can point me to would be super helpful to me!
"Far better is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with the poor spirits who neither enjoy much, nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows no victory or defeat."
[Charles Ferran] "So I think a more direct question is: What should I be trying to buy vs rent?
and then ANY advice or experience or knowledge you can point me to would be super helpful to me!"
You won't know what you should own vs. what you should be renting, unless you actually use the stuff for projects like you'll be filming. Makes sense, yes? So first thing I'd do, is rent a grip truck on location. A simple google search pulls up a bunch in DC. Whoever you are renting your cameras from can probably point you in the right direction.
A grip truck is just what you'd think -- a truck full of lights, stands, modifiers, sandbags, gaffer tape, cables, basically everything you need to light whatever you're trying to light. Hardly anyone will rent you a grip truck without the owner of the grip truck being part of the package, and this is usually a good thing. The owner knows what's in his truck and where it is, and usually has bunches of experience. And can probably setup his lights way faster than you can.
After you've done this a few times you'll learn what it is that you're always using, which is the stuff you might want to own. Or you might learn that it's easier and more cost effective to just rent a truck when you need a truck. Much depends on how often you do this, and how mobile you have to be.
You don't detail what kind of shoot this will be: sit-down talk show, full-stage TED talk type thing, a speech, a panel discussion, acted-out skits, dance, whatever. That makes a huge difference, so let us know.
I agree renting the grip truck will solve whatever problems might come up, like, backlighting from big windows, or, a need for follow-spots, putting up trees or overhead pipe grids or trusses, etc. Some grip trucks come with dollies or jibs for maybe an extra charge. Does your show need those? What about power? Cables?
If this is something that needs a quick editing turn-around, you might want to consider renting what's called a "Fly-Away" package: That's a portable modular complete TV system of cameras, live switcher and effects/ graphics, plus recorders and all the hardware to support the shoot, just add director and operators... You roll it in, hook everything up, live-switch to a recorder as it happens, ( you also have iso recordings from the most important angles so you have the raw stuff needed to fix any live mistakes), and then your final editing, if any, is reduced to a few small details. This is where your accounting wiz needs to figure, does the cost of the fly-away package outweigh the speed of deliverables and cost of the extended editing time later, if you instead just shoot everything as iso's and do a fake multicam "live" edit in post? Well, you also have to figure if you have someone on the team who can live-direct... that's a singular skill not everyone is good at.
In terms of overall rent vs. buy policy, my opinion has always been that if you're for sure gonna use it more than 5-10 times, it's cheaper to own it than rent it. In that category I put tripods and pan heads, mics, basic lighting gear; the "evergreen" stuff that gets used on every shoot, and holds its resale value well. I have a light kit that's been in use nearly 30 years: divide it's high initial cost into all that time, and it cost pennies. Cameras come and go but a quality tripod and pan head will outlast them all. Trendy stuff like drones, jibs, sliders - I'd rather just rent those specifically as needed; you don't want them sitting on a shelf 90 percent of the time, just depreciating.
The thing about pro video rentals is, the longer the rental, the cheaper the rates. That empty day in-between the two shoot days is a killer. It depends on the particular rental operation, but if you rent for a week they usually give you at least one of those days free. I don't know if they'll discount you a bit for a three- day rental, versus the costs of two, single-day rentals. It's worth it to ask.
If you have a lot of uncertainty about specific models and brands and types, you're doing something new and untried, something like a pilot for a show that might not continue after one or two episodes, and don't have a definitive long-term workflow figured out, then rentals or leases are better than owning stuff that may turn out to be unsuitable, or rapidly obsolete. Switch to a lease, or own it outright, once you've had some experience and really know what you want and how long you'll be using it. Assume the electronic stuff depreciates over 4 years and will need to be replaced at that point. That's why I'm big on renting or leasing the cameras, unless they literally go out working and paying for themselves every day, every week. You can always have the latest and greatest camera when it's a rental. The trade-off is a lack of spontaneity because you have to book ahead. Some would say that's just being disciplined, and that having the camera on-hand 24/7 to be "spontaneous" doesn't pay in the long run. That's a pretty subjective thing, but I personally don't mind having to plan things out in advance a bit. It depends if you clients are the kind that want you ready to go on 30 minutes' notice, or are they more like; "how does June look for you?"
You may consider partnering with a NYC production company in NY that can provide both your cameras and a small lighting and grip package transportable on a Magliner dolly. This works best getting in and out of most building in NYC and bigger venues like Javtis.
Not sure if you need a L&G truck unless you have a budget for a bigger crew.
If you're filming a live event you'll most likely use the event lighting and can supplement with a few battery powered LEDs for interviews.
The production company should own one-two 4K cameras and help you rent the other 2 cameras and would be helpful with obtaining film permits if needed, COI for the buildings etc..
We're pretty booked up already for April but as you know there are tons of production companies in NYC that could film Monday in NY and drive to DC on Tuesday.
Cadge Productions Inc.
Hey Charles, I'm very close to the NY area and have worked there quite a bit (Northern NJ)
If you want to talk I can tell you about rental houses and a few tricks for getting stuff done around here. There's a lot to think about workflow wise when you're shooting using equipment you've never used before.
Things like how is everything going to plug into eachother and whats compatible with what.
I don't know what you are actually shooting so that's the most important thing to know first.