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Old November 3rd, 2008, 08:35 PM   #1
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Which Camera to buy to rent out under 25k?

I'm planning on upgrading my Canon XH to something tha I'd have more luck renting out.

I guess my choices in Panasonic would be the hpx-170, the hpx-500, perhaps the hvx-200a, the ikonoscop, maybe some film cam?

Maybe the Sony Ex1?

I wonder what input people could offer as far as the return on investment, and the reliability of being able to actually rent it out reliably, for these various choices.

I have already looked into insuring the items and so forth, so I'm more interested in what will people pay money for, and the ratio to the price of the items.

Thanks!
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 09:28 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Lumina View Post
I'm planning on upgrading my Canon XH to something tha I'd have more luck renting out.

I guess my choices in Panasonic would be the hpx-170, the hpx-500, perhaps the hvx-200a, the ikonoscop, maybe some film cam?

Maybe the Sony Ex1?

I wonder what input people could offer as far as the return on investment, and the reliability of being able to actually rent it out reliably, for these various choices.

I have already looked into insuring the items and so forth, so I'm more interested in what will people pay money for, and the ratio to the price of the items.

Thanks!
Alain:

IMHO, in LA, which is a media driven town with a lot of shooters, most people who need to rent prosumer camcorders just own them most of the time. It seems like most shooters I know own either an EX1, 170 or 200 these days so I am not so sure that you would get many rentals of a little prosumer camera.

The 500 is nice but is really at the lowest end of broadcast cameras from a rental perspective. Would I rather pay $500.00 a day for your HPX500 (the lowest end) or $750 for an HPX2700? See what I mean? Most clients who can rent, only rent the best usually. I rarely rent other prosumer camcorders, I rent REDs and Varicams, that sort of gear that I cannot afford to own.

The Ikonoscop might be an interesting alternative since I doubt if very many rental houses will have them as they are rare, and kind of unusual. The other factor is that you would have to become an evangelist to rent it because most people have never heard of it. I would be concerned about the Ikonoscop's ability to handle rental abuse. It probably can but since it is a brand new and unproven technology (where would you get warranty service on it in LA?), I am not sure if it would be a wise decision. The strongest rental packages, IMHO would the HPX3000, 2700 and 3700 but all would be way out of your budget.

If you had to pick from your list, I personally would probably get an EX1, it does seem to be the hot camera at the moment as far as prosumer. Keep in mind how many rental companies there are in LA though. Why rent from you, a guy, when I can rent from Bexel, Wexler, Panavision, Abel, Birns, Alan Gordon, etc. and be sure that the maintenance and support are there, whereas with you, you are a guy with a camera. Just speaking from a producers perspective here. Your only chance is price, you would have to be lower than all of these other guys probably to get any rentals, plus insurance, damage, you would need lots of SxS cards, tripod, monitor, batteries, bag, etc.

Not sure why you would want to go into the rental business in the most over saturated rental market in the world for pro video gear? Makes no sense to me. Put the money into real estate, Gold or T-Bills. Most of the successful rental companies tend to have inventories in the tens of millions of dollars, even the smaller places like Wooden Nickel.

Dan
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 10:54 PM   #3
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If I wanted to get into the rental business in LA, and I had a 25k budget, I would rent out complete packages. That is to say, something like the EX1 or EX3, a Letus35 extreme package, support, monitor, mics and lighting. You cater more to the guy with a lower budget who can't afford the 2700 and all the extras, which is the guy who's most likely to rent from an individual rather than a rental house anyway, IMHO.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 11:02 PM   #4
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Phew- in L.A. renting out just an EX1 is a long way to go to ever make any dough much less cover the nut. That's a highly competitive market. Maybe as an owner operator, gear alone is a tough call.

Noah
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Old November 4th, 2008, 02:20 PM   #5
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Thx for thoughtful responses. Maybe Sound?

Really appreciate the input--saving me years, and tens of thousands probably.

I can see real true competitive cam rentals may be over my capital limit, I understand the advice to invest in T-Bills etc, but I want to work!

Sorry to change tack so completely, but let me postulate plan B--

If I understand correctly, the setup for a pro location sound guy would be significantly less than for a 60-100k rentable cam

I actually have more experience as a semi-pro (part time) sound recording engineer than as a DP/Cam guy anyway (Two years of music school too) .

With a 10-20k investment in boom, some wireless mics, Sound Devices mixer or the like, Medium-High end Sennheiser and maybe a standalone digital recorder, and myself ready to run the kit, does that sound like the kind of setup that might bring in some work?

I'm aware that a lot of prosumer people are just recording boom-mike-into-cam's-xlrs, and that may be a negative market force, but they still could use decent mic and the quality assurance of a good pair of ears.

It still would be great to get pro input here.
I promise to move the thread to Sound but Cam production people may have good ideas about the needs they see.

Thanks again.
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Old November 4th, 2008, 04:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Lumina View Post
Really appreciate the input--saving me years, and tens of thousands probably.

I can see real true competitive cam rentals may be over my capital limit, I understand the advice to invest in T-Bills etc, but I want to work!

Sorry to change tack so completely, but let me postulate plan B--

If I understand correctly, the setup for a pro location sound guy would be significantly less than for a 60-100k rentable cam

I actually have more experience as a semi-pro (part time) sound recording engineer than as a DP/Cam guy anyway (Two years of music school too) .

With a 10-20k investment in boom, some wireless mics, Sound Devices mixer or the like, Medium-High end Sennheiser and maybe a standalone digital recorder, and myself ready to run the kit, does that sound like the kind of setup that might bring in some work?

I'm aware that a lot of prosumer people are just recording boom-mike-into-cam's-xlrs, and that may be a negative market force, but they still could use decent mic and the quality assurance of a good pair of ears.

It still would be great to get pro input here.
I promise to move the thread to Sound but Cam production people may have good ideas about the needs they see.

Thanks again.
Alain:

You sound as if you are searching for a career. If you want to work, location sound is pretty different than studio engineer, two different types of process, different gear and definitely different challenges and stress. It's good if you know about how sound behaves but operationally, things in the studio are a lot more under your control wheras as a location sound mixer, you are at the producer, director and actors mercy in lots of "unique" situations and locations. There are constant battles with producers and directors who will not give you the resources you need (reasonably quiet locations, time to setup, enough crew and hands, budget to do it right by having the right gear) to do the job well, yet will come down all over you when the sound isn't good.

Not to say that you can't do it, I am sure that you could with some experience. To be a good location sound mixer, you have to really know what you are doing as far as how to solve issues instantly. You also need to decide if you are doing a double system sound package. A lot of mixers who I know that own something like a Deva or a 788T and a pack of wireless and a good mixer and a good mic locker have $50 to $80k worth of gear easily. Good wireless are $4,000.00 per channel and ideally, to do Reality TV or something like that, you would need 6-10 channels of wireless. Features are a whole other ball of wax as well, usually better quality mixer needed, a console versus a bag mixer, etc. But who will hire you as a sound mixer without a reel of known work that is high quality? I say this because I hired an audio post guy this year to record a multi camera shoot with eight talent and four cameras. I wanted to use ProTools and hardly and location sound mixers seem to know ProTools, so I hired this audio post guy who had a little experience with location sound but not enough. He screwed up the sample rate for the PT session, didn't bring enough lavs and XLR, etc. The job was salvageable but it was a PITA to put together in post because this guy didn't really understand about the schedule, time and pressure of a shoot, it's different than the studio.

Some indies hire good sound mixers but most don't, try to cheap out and do it themselves or have someone unqualified do it. The number one sign of an indie production is usually substandard sound. There could be a market there, but I doubt if you will make much money with low budget indies.

My advice to you is to hookup with an experienced location sound mixer and offer to run cable and or be a boom op on a few higher budget shoots. Look and learn. Then decide if this is what you want to do. Buying gear and hoping for work from it is self-delusion and naive. In the meantime, 3 month T-bills ;-) Once you have learned a bit at how the audio ropes work for location sound, you will be in a better position to make an evaluation on if this is a viable investment and income stream for you.

Another alternative would be just acquire a low end EFP audio package, you can get a really nice one together for under $7,500.00. Then perhaps you could pickup some lower end indie work and try it out. Indies run the gamut, some shoot on film and need the full setup (double system) but a large majority of them shoot straight to camera and cannot afford to do dual system sound. But trying to hire yourself out even to indies as a location sound mixer with no practical location experience will be uphill climb.

I wouldn't shop for equipment until you determine if...

A. This is truly what you want to do in life. To be a good location sound mixer is an art and a science and is a legitimate career. Are you ready to make this your career?

B. Even if you do decide that this is what you want as your new career, buy slowly and only get what your clients are asking for. At the most, I would spend a few thousand for a mixer, some good mics and the accessories and learn the craft before dropping tens of thousands on gear that may not be a good investment for you.

Even though you are asking gear questions, you are really asking career path questions.

Think hard about what you want to do. There are no casual, successful location sound mixers. The successful ones are pros who put their time, body and soul into learning it and they do it really well.

Best,

Dan

Last edited by Dan Brockett; November 5th, 2008 at 08:44 AM.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 03:55 AM   #7
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And once you've made up your mind to buy the equipment, you'll want to keep a close eye on the helping hands section below.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 08:51 AM   #8
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Yeah are you really sure you want to be in the rental or location sound business? 50-100K is a decent amount of capital if that's what you're looking to throw around. You could invest in a post-production house with that dough and become a partner. Tons of good ones in L.A. that would go for that. Bit more certainty and definitely an easier haul than starting from scratch as a sound guy and buying a ton of gear. Just another idea.

-Noah
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Old November 5th, 2008, 08:53 AM   #9
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Alain: in addition to the really good advice you've received here, let me throw in my two cents. Regarding the audio pro route, the previous posts have been mostly about cinematic style productions. I'm not sure what the market in LA is like, but in my market, if you turn out to be any good at location sound, you'd be set up quite well for documentary or corporate style work which of course has it's OWN set of challenges ("get that NOW NOW NOW NOWNOWNOW!").
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Old November 16th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #10
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elaboration and back story

Thanks so much- really wonderful responses helping me form plans. Incisive, insightful, well-informed, as well as creative. In particular the post-house idea sounds intriguing.

I should reciprocate by filling out some backstory.

I have a very well-paid state job in an institution, but it is truly depressing and mind numbing. I know I'm fortunate to have relative financial security, and it's fair to say " Just stay there!"- but there's more to life than just knowing you have a growing pile.

So I am able to save about $3000+ per month, and am trying to figure out some way to be involved in some aspect of creative life before I bail.

As for being a partner in a post house, I am guessing this suggestion entails buying high-end Macs, Monitors, RAIDS, and software licenses, getting some film school grads who know final cut and seeking editing/FX work?

(As well as a former music major, I was a programmer, I'm in health care now. I've partially made up for in curiosity what I've clearly lacked in persistence)

In one way the expiration of Moore's law is favorable to this kind of investment, as CPU speed increases have greatly declined from the 2x every 18 mos. Moore postulated (See interviews with him about this) so computer investments may endure a bit longer than before.

Plus the relative inferiority problem of a 25k cam is not the same as a 25k computer rig, a Mac like this is pretty up to date to my knowledge. Maybe THAT would be rentable?

Thanks again, especially for not being mean to the befuddled.
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Old November 16th, 2008, 02:48 PM   #11
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Mid-range Canadian location sound market

Re: Corporate location sound work:
Thanks for the idea about corporate location sound.

May I ask what equipment besides basic boom, mixers, mics would be required for that market? are you expected to have your own, say, Sound Devices digital recorder?

Real life war stories are ALWAYS super-entertaining ( Like worst time you went through NOW NOW NOW)

Thanks!
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Old November 16th, 2008, 05:01 PM   #12
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Alain, keep in mind I'm a videographer. Mostly camera, lighting and edit. Every so often I'll help out in the audio "department" and routinely end up doing all my own audio.

To answer your question as best as I can:
What you would need is the right tools for the job and the ability to suggest the appropriate tool and knowledge and practical ability to use them. For doc/corporate work, a LOT of audio is going to be recorded in camera. A clean means of capturing audio and delivering it to the camera in this case would be of utmost importance. Being able to record audio independent of camera audio, especially iso audio for multiple mics as well as wild sound would certainly put you in a position higher than "that guy that holds the boom for me". Having said that, is it worth the "hassle" to the producer to sync sound later? Maybe. If budget and time permits and your workflow "works" with that of the producer and the post team, you may find that you are in high demand.

In terms of actual gear:
If I were "hiring" you as a freelance audio tech for a doc or corporate gig, I'd expect to see a quality boom with quality mic(s) that sound good in post, windstoppers as required, lav's in sufficient numbers to catch any and all speakers based on our pre-shoot discussion, a quality audio mixer with hard wire and wireless audio to get the mix to my camera position and good QUALITY headphones so that I can be assured that you are hearing EVERYTHING.

In terms of interaction:
If I trust you (and if you're working with me, I do!), I'll expect you to make recommendations about how best to capture audio. I will also expect you to make the most of executive decisions I make, based on information you may not have. I know you want me to go wired to you but in this case, I need to be untethered for maximum maneuverability. I expect you to make mental notes of drop outs that you hear and do the best you can to minimize the effect of my "bad" decision.

Help me look (and sound good) and I'll make sure you get as much work as I can funnel your way.

Hope this helps.
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