As filmmakers, photographers, and videographers, most of us dream of the day when we will own all the gear we need to make our projects. In reality, however, film equipment is too expensive and productions are too varied to make owning is all feasible—or smart. Even if we own a camera, lens, and a few accessories, most of us still need to rent gear for every shoot.
While renting is definitely less expensive than buying, the costs can still add up. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to make a budget go further and the rental experience a bit more enjoyable.
1. Opt for a kit.
Many times rental houses and freelance filmmakers who rent their gear will have kits available, often with a job-specific name (handheld kit, sports kit, etc.), that will include the relevant accessories you need to do the job. Kits are wonderful since the person assembling it has generally taken the time to ensure all the parts you need are there and that they all work together.
It can be tempting to try and piece together a package with exactly what you need and nothing else but since kits are often offered at a discount, this strategy rarely saves you money. (Not to mention the time and headaches.) Even if you do manage to slightly lower your price by picking out gear a la carte, it’s up to you to determine compatibility for all the parts; sometimes, a small savings won’t be worth the hassle of getting to set and realizing all the pieces don’t play together.
2. Look for older gear that does the job.
It can be tempting to focus on getting the latest and greatest gear but sometimes, you can find an amazing deal by renting slightly older gear that more than covers your needs for a particular task. “Hot” new gear notoriously loses it’s rental value quickly but cameras that are three-to-four years old sometimes rent for a fraction of what a modern camera rents for.
It’s also widely accepted that cameras from a couple of years ago are still, in fact, pretty darn good. An Arri Alexa, RED Epic, Sony FS7 Mark I, or Panasonic Varicam from a few years ago can create stunning images. At the lower prices points, the 5D Mark III rents for much less than the Mark IV, but still offers the same great low light image reproduction, albeit at a lower resolution.
Especially with multi-camera jobs, gear from only a few years ago can be surprisingly affordable and a huge way to manage your budget.
3. Consider location and multiple pickups.
On bigger shoots, there is generally someone on the call sheet worrying about pickups and returns. This can result in productions spreading out their gear sourcing from wherever they can get what they need for the best deal.
However, if you’re a smaller shoot, it’s well worth it to take the time to evaluate not just how much something will cost, but how long it will take you to get there. Getting gear nearby is especially important since a good working relationship with whoever you rent from is vital. If something goes wrong with a piece of gear on the shoot, you want someone physically nearby who can support you through the process of troubleshooting, and repairing or replacing to keep the project going without losing a beat.
4. Tell the rental house/person you’re renting from what you’re doing.
It’s always worth the time to explain your shoot plans to all those involved, including anyone you are getting gear from. Why? Because chances are the person you’re renting from has dealt with productions doing similar things before and can either save you money or catch important issues you might have missed.
Questions always come up and it’s far better to ask them two days before the shoot when you have time to fix them, not on set with the playback person desperately sending a PA to pick up new accessories.
People and companies who own gear spend a lot of time talking about and working with it. They’ll have insight into saving money and making your production as painless as possible and giving them more perspective on your shoot helps them do that.
When you’re ready to start renting your gear, consider doing so from KitSplit to save time and money. KitSplit has been called “The Airbnb of Cameras” by Forbes and No Film School—it’s a community that allows independent companies, individuals, and rental houses to rent gear to and from one another and get instant, affordable insurance.
KitSplit is offering Backstage readers $20 off your first rental. Click here to sign up and redeem.
This post comes from our partner Kitsplit.