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"Standard" Gear Packages

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GF: " accepted the putrid $1750.00/wk. "

are you saying, after 7 seasons, you have not made any (plenty?) $$ on your gear ??

 

hmmm:

$1750 x 22 episodes* x 7 seasons =  $269,500.00

*with (only) 5 day episodes

 

Have been waiting for the right moment to chime in here.

 

Those calculations make no difference to the weekly kit rental, Mike. Surprised you would take that position.

 

Our kit rates should be going up all the time. Gear's less expensive but we're required to own more of it to do the job as it's evolved. The longer we own it, the more is invested in maintenance and accoutrements.

 

At the moment, I'm getting $600/day or $3K/week for a cable show.

 

Plus, $2 over scale, auto fuel and parking reimbursement.

 

Plus kit for boom (and new third once he earns it).

 

I charge an additional full kit when the bag rig comes out.

 

Charge $75 per when we go out with just the TRX SD's as main recording media, and bump the boom to mixer rate.

 

All this after five seasons and some recognition, but...in my head first decided I wanted to be the highest paid in my market. Both goal and attitude.

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I wouldn't say the thread's 'devolved,' LOL.

 

Included are six TRX (not counting wireless boom unless we use it as a sole recording device), 2 slates, one recorder. Specifically excluded are items related to "playback, VOG, earwigs, etc.". It should be added that this is for narrative TV.

 

Have been reluctant to share details for such reasons as you outline, RVD and your own above characterization of this evolution as devolution, which I'm sure you did not mean to stifle the direction it's taken but nonetheless paints it as undesirable.

 

On some level in our hearts we believe this kind of discussion to be unsavory.

 

Toward getting over that early cultural lesson that discussing money is vulgar, I have shared.

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RVD: " The number varies from mixer to mixer, "

sure it does, as I suspect Jan includes more at six + booms, than George probably does (4 ?) for the putrid rates he gets.

 

Jan: " Our kit rates should be going up all the time. Gear's less expensive but we're required to own more of it to do the job as it's evolved. The longer we own it, the more is invested in maintenance and accoutrements. "

of course, but it is a competitive world out there, and the studios are especially greedy (thus WB has its own sound equipment)...

 

" getting $600/day " that isn't unreasonable, and you are doing well at not taking a 'hit' on the weekly.

" Plus, $2 over scale, auto fuel and parking reimbursement. " a bump which you have earned the right to ask for, and deserve to be paid (IOW, you are worth it, and your show is glad to have you and willing to pay for the quality you bring!)

 

" On some level in our hearts we believe this kind of discussion to be unsavory. "

I'm sure there is a bit of that, but it is personal, and, as I've said several times, the world is a competitive place.  Thanks, once again, for your candor.

 

I think my point with GF was more about our sometimes not realizing how good we have it.

Edited by studiomprd

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Senator,

 

You are correct, and we in this business have much reason to be grateful.  Often we forget that the "median" individual income in the US is about $30,000 a year.  While there might be a few "new folks" on this site that are only bringing in that amount, most of us are doing quite a bit better.

 

Now, of course, as good business men and women we should negotiate the best rate we can possibly achieve.  But we are in a free market with all the benefits and competition, and competition is usually a good thing, provided it doesn't turn into "war".  I have never understood people/companies who want to "crush" their competition.  Why?  The competition are people too with families to feed just like you and me.  I think we should focus on doing the best we can for ourselves and our families, but never with the "intent" of making the others suffer.   I certainly would like to get a higher rate for my sound package, and this sort of discussion may actually promote such (unless someone here uses it to undercut everyone else).  With so many cable channels and an increasing number of our society receiving their entertainment via so many diverse internet channels, we will likely continue to see an increase of work, but at a lower rate.  Sadly, the "golden" age of film production (and the rates we used to get) is over, however, comparatively speaking, we all can still do quite well. 

 

I find this fascinating.  Studies have shown that there is no difference in a person's "happiness" who has only a "moderate" income,  to that of a billionaire!  Many of us (including myself) often think we would be happier with more money. But it is not so!

 

So go ahead.  Be shrewd, cleaver, and conduct you business wisely, but with honesty and integrity.  Remember however, while you may end up with more stuff, your happiness with not likely improve.  That comes from somewhere else!

 

Tom
 

RVD: " The number varies from mixer to mixer, "

sure it does, as I suspect Jan includes more at six + booms, than George probably does (4 ?) for the putrid rates he gets.

 

Jan: " Our kit rates should be going up all the time. Gear's less expensive but we're required to own more of it to do the job as it's evolved. The longer we own it, the more is invested in maintenance and accoutrements. "

of course, but it is a competitive world out there, and the studios are especially greedy (thus WB has its own sound equipment)...

 

" getting $600/day " that isn't unreasonable, and you are doing well at not taking a 'hit' on the weekly.

" Plus, $2 over scale, auto fuel and parking reimbursement. " a bump which you have earned the right to ask for, and deserve to be paid (IOW, you are worth it, and your show is glad to have you and willing to pay for the quality you bring!)

 

" On some level in our hearts we believe this kind of discussion to be unsavory. "

I'm sure there is a bit of that, but it is personal, and, as I've said several times, the world is a competitive place.  Thanks, once again, for your candor.

 

I think my point with GF was more about our sometimes not realizing how good we have it.

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I believe it is VERY important to talk about what we charge for our packages and individual items of gear.  How else are we to know what we should charge? If we charge too little, that price becomes the norm as on the FOX lot.

 

I believe no one is bragging here. 

 

In order to not undermine ourselves we MUST discuss our box rentals.

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Kevin Tsujihara (CEO WB) " . In fact, we’re investing more than ever in our film and television productions. "

 

...while laying off lots of full-time studio employees. Funny how that works.

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I think Los Angeles mixers have allowed themselves to be undercut by the studios, knowing "someone will take this rate if I don't". It should stop. I'm certainly guilty of accepting what I've been given. It's especially tough now in LA now, given the work being taken elsewhere. Keeping a show in Los Angeles might be a delicate budget balance, and mixers sensitive to that fact.

There's a ton of discussion on FB in the UK about the erosion of labor and equipment rates in the TV market due to undercutting. The "bag" mixers have all banded together, and are demanding a fair rate they were all told was impossible to achieve. They are getting the rate regularly now, as UPMs are discovering a lack of willingness for good mixers to work below the rate.

We ought to learn from that. Social media has allowed us a way to learn what others charge. I have learned that mixers in Atlanta are earning $3k/week for gear. I learned

video guys are paid more for gear than we are, for a similar investment and no actual physical or creative contribution to the final product. Jan has shared her "base" rate, although perhaps it not typical. She has earned the increase.

But it's clear from this thread that rates ARE negotiable and higher rates ARE being paid.

When I was booking "Horrible Bosses 2", I was told by other mixers that I'd never get more than $2500/wk from WB for a comedy in that budget range. Yet I had day-played twice for the same people at $550/day, so they came to me saying that they'd pay me $2750/wk. I didn't argue. Seemed fair. But I became friends with someone "in the know" who shared that the video guy was getting more, and that my work was good and my equipment rate was "reasonable", so he was sure they'd hire me again. Perhaps I could have gone to $3k/week.

Anyway, I'm glad this thread has evolved.

Regarding the OP... If you're able to negotiate a fair rate based on the gear you own, and choose to include it all, then that's reasonable. If you're forced to take a rate which is lower, then be VERY clear about what YOU decide is included in that rate. Then charge for additional gear as required. Camera sends out for "extra" gear all the time. There are no standards. It's all in the negotiation.

Let's not forget that equipment is a source of revenue, not a means by which to get employed. Paying for the gear is not enough. I applaud mixers who do well to get gear paid for quickly, and with minimal additional investment and maintenance turn their rental into a solid source if income. I too am surprised Senator "did the math" as a way of showing George he ought to be happy. The goal is making money. How would an extra $750/wk add up? My math shows over $100k of lost revenue.

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mirror: " I believe it is VERY important to talk about what we charge for our packages and individual items of gear.  How else are we to know what we should charge? "

of course to make that work best we have to know who is charging what, and on which shows.... that is a big part of the equation, as naturally the heavy hitters like JW's, RL's,  and JM's, who always have the best, top gear, in top condition (regardless of cost), backups, and have earned the respect and confidence the higher rates acknowledge,  are pretty consistently able to charge more than many of the other mixers. (and NB: even those have had occasional difficulties)

 

marc: " Funny how that works. "

he got it!

 

RPS: " I think Los Angeles mixers have allowed themselves to be undercut by the studios, knowing "someone will take this rate if I don't". "

well, yes, but as you noted, you took the rates ?

" video guys are paid more for gear than we are, for a similar investment and no actual physical or creative contribution "

careful, gear is separate from the work.

 

is it irony..? I notice that some of those complaining about the studios & producers insisting on paying lower package rates are the same folks who are always trying to find cheaper media, cheaper batteries, and cheaper gear, browbeating our usual suspects over prices and "MAP" & "MSP" pricing policies, and are even failing to support our usual suspects by buying from box houses...oh, that is supposed to be good business...

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In the interest of sharing, here's my rate card. I'm based out of Portland, Oregon. I have 3 gear packages, and any a la cart items are listed after. I have a potential client agree to a package and the rest of the terms on the card in writing,  and away we go. Since the most common additional items are listed already, there's no surprises at invoice time.

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4YnFWCYisiGZHlOZlc4dmZaXzQ/edit?usp=sharing

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Nice rate card. Thanks for sharing that. I should build a rate card. I lost a client this year due to what they considered "surprise" extra charges on the invoice for a bunch of requested extra pieces of gear.

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Rates for kit, and expectations for kit, vary from job to job and producer to producer.

I'll use the same basic gear for a Tier 2 movie as I will for a network TV show, but common sense dictates that the rates won't match. The main difference in rate has usually been my relationship to the producers and the size of the job.

 

My basic kit consists of 2 recorders, 6 wires, 2 slates. I carry around 15 Comteks.

I also have 2 Lockit boxes, which are subject to addiional negotiations depending on the job. Usually camera provides their own, I just like having everything covered in case of emergency.

 

Playback, earwigs, etc. are a separate rental and are also subject to the utility getting a rate bump if he/she acts as playback operator, even if only for one shot. If the scene is more complicated, we bring in a separate and specific playback operator with their own equipment.

 

I've noticed that NY mixers (i'm one of them) get much better rental rates then LA mixers on average, which makes no sense to me. Maybe we're getting extra due to the hazard of having next to no decent soundstages in this whole damn city.

 

-griffin

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what passes for a "soundstage" in new york these days is a joke.

 

ever since the tax incentive sweepstakes ramped up business in nyc, there have been a bunch of new stages.

 

for the most part, they're not even remotely sound-proofed, the A/C either doesn't work or is ridiculously loud, and overall they're ill-equipped for this kind of work. it's beyond frustrating to try and record sound in a drafty warehouse next to a construction site.

 

apologies for the rant, just needed to vent a little.

 

g

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what passes for a "soundstage" in new york these days is a joke.

 

ever since the tax incentive sweepstakes ramped up business in nyc, there have been a bunch of new stages.

 

for the most part, they're not even remotely sound-proofed, the A/C either doesn't work or is ridiculously loud, and overall they're ill-equipped for this kind of work. it's beyond frustrating to try and record sound in a drafty warehouse next to a construction site.

 

apologies for the rant, just needed to vent a little.

 

g

Correct. I'm non-union so I don't make my living on true sound stages for narrative work, but I can tell you that of the many sound stages I have shot on in the city for commercials or other work, not one of them has been a real sound stage. It's a total joke, and inevitably a day full of, "Can you hear that AC? The guy at the front desk said they can't turn it off, so... like, if there's anything you can do about it that'd be great. Thanks."

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LAX area has plenty of these, too...

A lot of shows are shot on/in tilt up warehouses here in SoCal. It's a tribute to our sound crews that they get useable sound wherever they work IMO.

CrewC

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In SF there is a wide assortment of warehouses, lofts, still photog studios, garages etc etc that call themselves stages.  I tell producers that they should just consider that in spite of what the owner calls the place we are working "on location".  Planes, trucks, construction, no or noisy HVAC etc; do yourself a favor and don't schedule the day like you would if we were on a real stage with silent air, soundproofing, separate dressing rooms and offices etc..

 

philp

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In SF there is a wide assortment of warehouses, lofts, still photog studios, garages etc etc that call themselves stages.  I tell producers that they should just consider that in spite of what the owner calls the place we are working "on location".  Planes, trucks, construction, no or noisy HVAC etc; do yourself a favor and don't schedule the day like you would if we were on a real stage with silent air, soundproofing, separate dressing rooms and offices etc..

 

philp

 

+1

 

It's certainly not an isolated misnomer.  It's prevalent in middle America, too.

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In Griffin’s defense, part of the “stage" space he’s using on his current show was one of the spaces we had on “Smash” - and it sits right on top of a plastic bag factory that operates 24 hours a day. It’s horrendously loud and those rooms can be pretty frustrating to record sound in.

 
As for equipment rates for narrative TV in NY, there are a few of us getting $3k/week. Though a lot of times the standard seems to be $2500. I try to specify in a document or email that that includes: 1 mixer, 2 recorders, 6 wireless, 15 comteks, 2 slates…and then I list a bunch of microphones (the least important bit of info to production as they don’t care if you record the whole show on an SM58 as long as it sounds good). I charge extra for a 3rd or 4th slate, for more comteks, playback equipment, and ear wigs. I feel very strongly about charging extra for the extra slates, because it’s my personal way of making sure there is a financial cost to shooting with more than 2 cameras. Our department shouldn’t be the only one that suffers. 
 
I’d love to be able to charge extra for "extra" wireless, but there are times I might use a wireless mic when production wouldn’t feel it necessary to do so. For example, on a TV show last year, we needed to record a wild track of a surveillance recording. We had the two actors on set one day and planned to boom the wild track. I put the boom as the only mic in the mix, but we also put a sort of horribly buried lav on the character who is supposed to be “wired” in the story and recorded that on a separate track. I made a big note to post and maybe they used it, maybe they didn’t. But it was a sort of fun exercise. Obviously, Post can take the boom track and EQ different levels of muddiness to it, but it was an easy additional track to give them. But I can’t imagine production wanting to pay for that. If it’s 8 people talking on a loud NY street, then maybe I should charge for the extra wireless since it’s usually the only way to get the dialogue. 
 
Even though the stated package is what it is above, like others, I’m carrying more. I only have 8 channels on my mixer, but I can employ 12 channels of wireless. I just don’t want to state that as the standard. I carry extra so I can find good frequencies. And even though there is only 1 mixer listed, I carry 4. I have my main board, a backup 8 channel analog board and then 2 portable 4 channel mixers. I don’t charge them for the backups. If a piece of equipment fails, I should be providing the alternate version of it. If I were a camera rental house, a teamster would have to make a pickup to get it. I just have to get it off of the truck. I think that’s a fair arrangement. 
 
I think the “standard” packages are probably pretty similar from mixer to mixer. The important thing is that it’s stated to production what it is. If I carry 15 comteks and someone else carries 16 comteks, the important part is that production knows that that number is the number of comteks they get before they need to pay for more. 
 
Josh

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Sound stages? Ok, now the thread has devolved :) I always figured there's more competition in LA and more undercutting happens. 

 

Thanks to those who said that  what your package contents and your rental rates are an integrated issue. The thread starter posed another important aspect of the issue: how do you ask? I get to know my clients and work it out over time.

 

Here's what I do:

 

My jobs are mostly bag jobs lasting 1-3 days. Upon request to hold days, get enough details to recommend a kit for the job that will work and give an accurate price quote. Start with a "minimum kit" (I don't say "basic", I think that devalues the kit, rather, this is the minimum I will go out with/ minimum charge.) If they need items over the minimum, give a la carte quotes for each item, and the new total. Indicate that these items can be ordered a la carte but that I need to know in advance. Only agree to hold for a certain rate/rental cost.

 

Minimum: SD 633, 2 wireless lavs, wired boom, wired to camera.

 

Send email confirming hold, with what gear I am bringing and the total charge for the day. Attach rate card with contents of minimum kit written out completely, minimum kit price, and a la carte prices.

 

A la carte items: Additional wireless lavs, wireless hops to camera, time code slate, lock boxes, IFB transmitter and receivers for headsets.

 

Bring extra items on the job that I suspect they might possibly need. This applies only if they aren't rented on other jobs. If they are called for, or if I think the production would benefit from them, offer them for a rental. If anyone from the AC to the EIC says "we should really have...", say, "I would love to provide you with that, the rental is X." Team up with them to try to add it for a rental- send them to the PM. On the first job with the client, maybe let them have an item for free if they can't approve new budget on the spot. I'm more likely to do this for time code device rather than other items, which are widely understood to be a la carte add-ons (see time code slate thread.)  Itemize all a la carte items on invoice, with item I didn't charge for indicated with it's price and a 100% discount.                                        

 

Next time the client calls, mention what we needed last time, and the rental rates. Indicate that I would really like to provide them with what they need. Mention what I provided last time, and that I am renting them all items only at full price this time. Go back to step 1 and hold for certain gear at a certain rate/rental and repeat.

 

I have at least one client who says "this is the budget." I ask for shoot details, and say, "then this is your kit," (never below the minimum) and recommend what they can and can't get away with for gear, and let them know the limitations very clearly. I may recommend strongly that they have other items that are not budgeted for, and ask if they are sure that they can't budget for those items.  Don't bring too many extra items, why carry them, why be tempted to pull them out, when it's highly unlikely I can charge for them? I know I can't add rental day-of, so I am firm with people on set, and say "we don't have that item, it's not in the budget." Happily refer them to the PM to insist on the item for the rental as above.

 

I have other clients for whom I know I can bill for any a la carte item I feel I need to pull out of my kit to get the job done. Good times.

 

This system works well for my business, I think one would need to adopt a different strategy if they are on jobs lasting much longer.

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Trying to compete with rental houses in some cases has become an impossibility. Recent scenario for a reality show:

 

Line Producer:

 

"So we have rented all our camera gear from VER, and they are going to offer us $1000/ week for the sound package, (788T with CL8, Boom mic pole and Rycote, 7 Wireless SMQV mic kits, 2 Lectrosonic SRB stereo camera hops, Smart slate, 2 sync boxes, 8 IFBs), If you can give us a better rental than that then we'll go with your package, if not then you can use the package we can get from VER."

 

How are we supposed to compete with that?

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MK: " How are we supposed to compete with that? "

I know I am the broken record....

that is competition... VER is just being competitive, and trust me, they are not losing money.

Sometimes we buy used equipment from Bexel, like stuff they buy, rent to the networks for a single, but huge event like the Olympics, and then liquidate... we love to get those deals, and trust me again, BEXEL is making money...

 

a good business Senatorium: you do not make money by owning equipment, you make money by using equipment.

so one more time:  we tend to be in two different businesses:  sound technicians, and sound equipment rental; both competitive.

Companies like VER, Bexel, and Wexler (no relation!) make some incremental $$ by adding on audio gear at a very competitive rate (the economies of scale work for them) and offering not only the lower prices, but one-stop shopping convenience.

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I'll tell you what I would say.....

"Sorry...I am not working with someone else's gear.....I don't own it...service it....I don't know where it has been or how many times it has been dropped... It will not come with the 500 other pieces of gear and cables and accessories we use daily.....and if it fails...or I don't have exactly what I need to do my job...and we hit a wall and have to say " sound has an issue"...the people on the set including the director have no idea it is NOT my gear package...I look the fool...( more than normal)...That I do not like.... In fact, I don't like any of it and would decline the show...

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Trying to compete with rental houses in some cases has become an impossibility. Recent scenario for a reality show:

 

Line Producer:

 

"So we have rented all our camera gear from VER, and they are going to offer us $1000/ week for the sound package, (788T with CL8, Boom mic pole and Rycote, 7 Wireless SMQV mic kits, 2 Lectrosonic SRB stereo camera hops, Smart slate, 2 sync boxes, 8 IFBs), If you can give us a better rental than that then we'll go with your package, if not then you can use the package we can get from VER."

 

How are we supposed to compete with that?

Ask to see the quote. 

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