Pre-Production: How To Buy Film Equipment

Film equipment can be expensive to buy and there are a lot of times when it might seem like it makes more sense to rent it for your shoot. Here's a brief guide to help you decide if you should buy or if you should rent.

How Often Will You Use it?

As a producer this is the biggest factor in deciding to buy or rent. If you know that you're going to use the gear a lot, such as lights, then it might make more sense to just buy it. But new gear is very expensive. If you're buying lights then you should look in the used market. That technology hasn't changed much and you'll save a lot. One place to look for gear is at auctions for studios and rental houses that are going out of business. Make sure you go to these auctions in person and not online. That way you know what the condition of the gear is.

Now, another thing to keep in mind is that rental houses offer deals when you rent a lot of gear for a long period of time. If you're shooting a movie for four weeks then you can get your lights at a three day week. That means you have the gear all week but only pay for three days. On top of that the rental company will probably give you a discount on the stuff too because it's in bulk.

Becoming Outdated

Cameras are expensive to buy and the technology is always rapidly changing. Today's great camera will be a rental house discount in five years. Unless you plan on being a vendor or working camera man don't invest in the gear.

Liability

Producing a movie is an expensive task. Another reason to rent your camera instead of buying one is what if it breaks. If you own the camera and it breaks then you now have to rent another one or delay production until it is fixed. But if the camera was rented then all you need to do is call the rental house and they'll send you a replacement. Your shoot is still delayed, but it's not ruined.

Lenses are expensive to buy so you should also rent them. It takes about 75 rental days to equal the cost of buying a new lens.

Overall

It's OK to buy some gear if you know you shoot a lot and will use it. But most things are better renting than buying.

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