Jump to content


Photo

How do you afford equipment?


  • Please log in to reply
12 replies to this topic

#1 Dan Collins

Dan Collins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 33 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 18 January 2009 - 01:46 AM

I am considering investing in some grip gear. Starting off with a 1 ton and slowly adding lights and more gear, maybe even cameras down the road if things work out. My concern is that a 1-ton won't get much work because I won't have enough gear or lighting to go with it. (Sub-renting is an option, but not ideal)

I am curious how so many seemingly really young people seem to be able to buy thousands and thousands of dollars worth of gear. An HVX200 I can see how so many can afford to pay for outright, but the Red with all the accessories, steadicams and large amounts of G&E gear, seems impossible. Do you just have a lot of money or do most get loans? I know it is often harder for freelancers to get typical loans such as home loans.
  • 0

#2 Paul Bruening

Paul Bruening

    (deceased)

  • Sustaining Members
  • 2858 posts
  • Producer
  • Oxford, Mississippi

Posted 18 January 2009 - 01:54 AM

I am considering investing in some grip gear. Starting off with a 1 ton and slowly adding lights and more gear, maybe even cameras down the road if things work out. My concern is that a 1-ton won't get much work because I won't have enough gear or lighting to go with it. (Sub-renting is an option, but not ideal)

I am curious how so many seemingly really young people seem to be able to buy thousands and thousands of dollars worth of gear. An HVX200 I can see how so many can afford to pay for outright, but the Red with all the accessories, steadicams and large amounts of G&E gear, seems impossible. Do you just have a lot of money or do most get loans? I know it is often harder for freelancers to get typical loans such as home loans.


What are your goals? Where are you located? Most folks here will advise against buying gear unless you have to. Some of us have bought gear and are happy with the decision. Some of us are not so happy with purchasing. It's cheaper to let the productions supply the equipment.
  • 0

#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

Jonathan Bowerbank
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2815 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 18 January 2009 - 02:19 AM

I am curious how so many seemingly really young people seem to be able to buy thousands and thousands of dollars worth of gear. Do you just have a lot of money or do most get loans? I know it is often harder for freelancers to get typical loans such as home loans.


I see most people taking out business loans when it's a lot of gear they hope to start a rental company with. Some of the youngsters, I've heard, do get either their parents to co-sign on the loan or they get enough business partners to co-sign in order to get themselves started.
  • 0

#4 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 18 January 2009 - 03:58 AM

I've got 2 words for you...........Armed Robbery!! :D KIDDING, I'm JUST KIDDING.

I WILL tell you a little story though, My brother when we were kids wanted a '69 Camero Indy pace car. He was working at a grocery store, called Gibson's (like a Safeway's) making like just over minimum wage and had to mop the floors which he hated, but he used to say everytime they asked him to mop, while he was swinging the mop to the right he would think "right front tire", to the left, "left fender" up, "valve covers" and so on and so on for MONTHS. Well it took him awhile but he got his Pace car. How do you get the money to buy equipment? No big secret, work hard and save. Dreamin's free, making that dream a reality costs ya.

Posted Image

B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 18 January 2009 - 03:59 AM.

  • 0

#5 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11937 posts
  • Other

Posted 18 January 2009 - 05:36 AM

I own a modest DVCAM ENG outfit. It's long made its money back and has been fine, but barring very specific circumstances I've sworn off owning camera gear again. I think you're better off with grip and electric because it's universally applicable, to film, video, whatever, and it doesn't go out of date nearly as fast. Things like mattebox, filters, batteries etc. also tend to be of general application.

As to affording it - I took out a loan, but I suspect it'd cost more to outfit a decent grip truck than it would to set up for ENG. I don't know what "one ton" looks like, either - vehicle sizes are different here. Visual aids, anyone?

P
  • 0

#6 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 18 January 2009 - 07:09 AM

As to affording it - I took out a loan, but I suspect it'd cost more to outfit a decent grip truck than it would to set up for ENG. I don't know what "one ton" looks like, either - vehicle sizes are different here. Visual aids, anyone?



http://www.bcbudgett...ental_Truck.htm

Looks larger than a Transit. Certainly it's larger than the first truck that one light/grip company I know started out with about 12 years ago.

Given that banks etc are being more conservative at the moment obtaining a loan is more difficult. Although that's not say you couldn't get a deal on the truck, the grip equipment could be more of a problem. There are specialist finance companies who will do what is termed in the UK as hire purchase, basically a form of leasing in which you own the kit after the last payment.

Unless you're actually a grip, when you could supply the truck as part of your rate to producers, (I know electricians do this, even if they only own a basic documentary lighting kit and hire in lights for larger jobs) I'm not quite sure what your business plan is.
  • 0

#7 Greg Gross

Greg Gross
  • Sustaining Members
  • 869 posts
  • Harrisburg,PA

Posted 22 January 2009 - 12:59 AM

Rent equipment until you know what direction you are going. Am I making sense? Its late and I'm tired.

Greg Gross
  • 0

#8 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 22 January 2009 - 02:38 AM

Most people who I know who have bought equipment have done it when they know they have a project that will help pay for it. For instance, the Steadicam Owner/Operator who borrowed some money from his parents to buy his first rig, but had a nine month TV job that paid for it with room to spare. Another guy I work with bought a Sony F900R, a bit on faith that work would continue, but he has enough clients that he not only is paying it off, but he makes MORE money now that people know he has it. Equipment has a way of attracting work.

Some people borrow money from parents. Some take out a small business loan. Some put it on a credit card (I did that for my Steadicam, but I had a job that was guaranteed to pay it off).

Usually, people start out with one or two pieces of gear that they can rent out...and then they have an agreement with the production to rent out everything else too... but the production doesn't know what you own and what you don't... so you subrent what you don't have and charge more than you pay for it... over time, you have enough to buy another thing or two or three. The package builds. You slowly pay it off and use the "profits" to maintain what you have and buy more. Your tax preparer will take your expenses (purchases and maintenance) into account.

Most of us are just freelancers, so we're being paid for our labor. Owning and renting equipment is and should be dealt with as a separate business enterprise.
  • 0

#9 Bruce Greene

Bruce Greene
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 489 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 22 January 2009 - 02:45 AM

I am considering investing in some grip gear. Starting off with a 1 ton and slowly adding lights and more gear, maybe even cameras down the road if things work out. My concern is that a 1-ton won't get much work because I won't have enough gear or lighting to go with it. (Sub-renting is an option, but not ideal)

I am curious how so many seemingly really young people seem to be able to buy thousands and thousands of dollars worth of gear. An HVX200 I can see how so many can afford to pay for outright, but the Red with all the accessories, steadicams and large amounts of G&E gear, seems impossible. Do you just have a lot of money or do most get loans? I know it is often harder for freelancers to get typical loans such as home loans.


Dan,

Here's my story: When I started in the Steadicam business, I bought a used rig with another aspiring operator. We each put in $6000 and while we did not have all the extras, it was enough to learn how to operate it. With the 2 of us renting it out, it was much less risk. As the business took off, we needed to buy another rig and accessories. At that point I went to many banks searching for a loan. All turned me down because they didn't understand the machine (it's not a forklift or tractor). I finally found a small commercial bank where I was able to speak to someone who had the authority to approve the loan (he didn't need to pitch it to a committee). He said yes to something like $60,000 with the equipment as collateral. He never saw the machine. A few years later we bought a couple 35mm cameras and they approved the loan without hesitation as we had repaid the 1st loan quickly.

My last purchase (I'm a bit older now:) ), was a Varicam camera package which I was able to buy with my gains from the stock market. It isn't making money because it is depreciating rapidly. However, had I kept the money in the stock market, (as it turns out) it would also have depreciated rapidly! So at least I have a camera now and a big education in digital cinematography.

If you think you have the business to make rentals that will be more than the loan payments, don't hesitate to invest in a loan for the equipment. You'll be loosing money as you save up by missing rentals and new business contacts. Don't take out a big loan if you think you'll go bankrupt if business doesn't increase. The stress will kill you. That said, used lighting and grip gears is unlikely to depreciate rapidly, and you can always sell it if it doesn't pay for the loan payments.

Best of luck with you're decision.
  • 0

#10 Saul Rodgar

Saul Rodgar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1682 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 22 January 2009 - 03:06 AM

As one reads the above posts, one thing sticks out: Digital video cameras (and computer technology) depreciate VERY fast. If one can buy a camera and pay for it with a couple of years worth of semi to completely guaranteed jobs, then one should buy it. Otherwise one may be stuck with a large debt and a camera that doesn't rent out.
  • 0

#11 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 22 January 2009 - 04:31 AM

On the camera side of things, I have no interest in owning one, personally. The maintenance is too much and they will eventually go obsolete. I would rather put my money into useful accessories. Matteboxes, filters, lenses, support gear. That stuff is universal and will pretty much never go obsolete. It will also never be sitting at home because you're shooting some other format than you own.

As far as lighting and grip, there are many smart purchases one could make. Staples like basic grip gear, small tungsten fixtures, 1200W HMIs, and kinos would all pay for themselves in pretty short order. I know a DP that worked on a reality show last spring when the WGA strike was raging and he supplied all of the lighting and grip equipment himself. We only carried a 4x4 kino, a 2x4 kino, a 1200 HMI, a couple inkies and a tweenie, a few c-stands and some small rigging gear but all of that stuff adding to his rate for 3 months probably felt OK on the wallet.
  • 0

#12 Dan Salzmann

Dan Salzmann
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1143 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Paris, France

Posted 22 January 2009 - 07:25 AM

You can't go too wrong buying grip and lighting equipment but of course you still should have a very clear idea of what you are going to do with it.
That being said, the increased presence of LED technology may make certain tungsten fixtures unusable when replacement bulbs are no longer manufactured.
This rendered a lot of tungsten fixtures unusable when halogen replaced tungsten.
If you plan on renting equipment out, be aware that it is going to get knocked around, require maintenance (time and money) as well as depreciate in value.
Even "tough" items like C stands can take a beating, tightening knobs can get lost, etc.
Some of my super clamps, magic arms and other basic grip gear is more than 15 years old and still functioning on film and video sets.
My 16mm and 35mm gear has paid for itself already but I got started when music videos were all shot on film so it was a different era.
Of course certain special filters bought for film use are also now applicable in digital formats.
These days because of the economy and technological innovation being what they are, I will not be investing in any serious camera gear.
But that's me in a major metropolitan area. Perhaps if I lived in a smaller town and had an extended contract with local TV station, corporate client, etc. I might think differently.
  • 0

#13 Dan Collins

Dan Collins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 33 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 22 January 2009 - 12:32 PM

thanks for all the advice. For those that wondered whether I'm a grip or gaffer to be renting the gear out, I am. I currently grip and do camera work and am working on becoming a DP as I gain more experience in both. I haven't bought a camera yet because of the rapid depreciation in video cameras, new models coming out all the time and because so many other people have them, it doesn't seem like it would give me enough advantage in getting new/more work. I've been told in the past that it is smarter to invest in G&E instead of video cameras (film cameras are out of my current budget and I don't have any current clients/market for it).
  • 0


Broadcast Solutions Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

Metropolis Post

CineTape

Opal

Visual Products

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

CineLab

Glidecam

FJS International, LLC

Abel Cine

Willys Widgets

Ritter Battery

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Paralinx LLC

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

Aerial Filmworks

Technodolly

Opal

Wooden Camera

The Slider

Ritter Battery

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

Visual Products

CineLab

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Rig Wheels Passport