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"Standard" Gear Packages

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I just turned down a shoot for this weekend that had their own gear.  Their offered rate was only a tad below my labor rate, but I wouldn't be making any rental along with it, so it was "no thank you."

 
A while back I blew one producer's mind when -- after he insisted I'd be using their gear -- I quoted a rate higher than I had quoted total for both me and my gear.  When he asked, "why?" I told him it was to compensate for the increased stress.  I think he almost understood.

 

 

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I can't recall ever being asked to use someone else's gear, but I'd reply like afmy posted. The big ticket items are one thing but the little shit we bring, use, and rely on is what makes us successful. 

CrewC

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In my 46 years of sound mixing, I have only done one job with equipment that I didn't supply. It was a one day job at SONY, screentests for the movie "Get Shorty". The production manager had not yet gotten into the inevitable discussions with the studio about their policy of mandatory studio equipment package and she asked me if I would do it with a studio supplied package. The equipment supplied was okay, Cooper board (one channel strip had a really noisy fader), funky sound cart that could barely roll across the stage floor, Lectro wireless that had obviously been in service a really long time (and was showing a lot of serious abuse), a DAT machine (I don't even remember what brand) that I couldn't trust, etc., etc.

 

We got through the day (really easy, one mic job) but I remember thinking about the sound mixers who are forced to use studio equipment and often on very tough and challenging jobs where you have to have total confidence in the gear (and also have all the little things we have built or modified over the years that we rely on to be able to do the professional work we do).

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I have encountered the VER spectre the same way, and asked to see the quote. Unfortunately, that number does not surprise me.

I like to emphasize that there is value added when hiring an owner-operator. We know the gear config inside-out, maintain it, and have the best.

I've mostly encountered VER on reality. The quality standards are so low that they are often 'fine' with not hiring owner-ops.

There is a market where owner-ops are valued, and I'd say that we should keep selling the real value that we deliver.

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JB: " after he insisted I'd be using their gear -- I quoted a rate higher than I had quoted total for both me and my gear. "

I'm close to that: my labor rate definitely goes up for using other gear, though maybe not so much as JB's...

 

JW: " thinking about the sound mixers who are forced to use studio equipment and often on very tough and challenging jobs where you have to have total confidence in the gear "

not really forced to use it, but certainly coerced by the policy;  I've worked a number of times this way, and my experiences are that the gear was the same stuff I would have supplied, and in great shape, and with backup readily available (right there on the lot) there were no confidence issues (actually even when on location!)...  sometimes I brought a few special items, as I was getting the full union day rates (Y-1 Daily) and had a good working relationship with the shows, UPM's etc. so sometimes I brought what I wanted/needed for my personal "comfort zone" bits and bob's, not "gear"...

I do, of course know many folks who decline shows if they cannot bring their own gear, which is a persons decision to make...

 

BTW, the studio sound shops actuall "charge" the productions more than the market prices, as it is part of: having a deal at the studio.

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The expectation of a producer that they ought to be able to supply equipment chosen from whatever source they prefer is not inherently unreasonable. After all, that's usually how they acquire the camera equipment. But the disquiet of a sound engineer forced to work with gear he's not seen until the day of the shoot is also understandable.

 

Maybe the solution is to insist that sound be treated in all respects just as they do camera.

 

It's customary for the camera assistant to spend a day, on the clock, checking out the camera package. He (or she, of course) will check for the presence of needed accessories, like a tilt plate, and add it to the equipment list if necessary. Every lens will be checked for focus at infinity and nearer distances with confirmation that ten feet measured = the ten foot witness mark. At the conclusion of this check-out procedure, the DP can confidently use the gear with the assurance that everything is as it should be. (Or, at least, that any deficiencies are well hidden.)

 

How about giving the sound recordist the same opportunity? Ask for a paid day for yourself, or your designated assistant, to make a thorough check of the gear? I'm guessing that any cost differential would be substantially reduced by that practice.

 

David

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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...

 

Bingo. I have to say no sometimes, but whenever I do show up on set, it's with my gear that I've prepped myself.

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"I've worked a number of times this way, and my experiences are that the gear was the same stuff I would have supplied, and in great shape, and with backup readily available (right there on the lot) there were no confidence issues (actually even when on location!)"

 

Two things I have to say about this: I think you have been very lucky (and I know it was probably a long time ago, maybe even in the Nagra days) and the fact that the gear was the same that you would supply says more about you than it does the studio. The fact that the equipment was in "great shape" is also quite remarkable (and I'm sure that there are many of us who would not be so lucky these days). Regarding studio equipment, you have to remember that in the heyday of the studio sound departments (even up through the 1980s) they had very specific "choices" for many of the items where there were choices (typically, microphones). I remember when John Schuyler, a boom operator I had worked with for a few years, got his first Union job at Universal, he found out the hard way about the studio's sound department policies. He called the sound shop to request a Sennheiser 815 which he and the mixer had determined was the microphone they wanted to use for the shot. The reply from the sound shop (after they looked at the call sheet) was: "you're interior today, we'll send you a 415". The call sheet did not describe that this "interior" was a 3 wall set built in an aircraft hanger in Van Nuys and the sound mixer probably made the right choice.

 

The other thing, which David Waelder points out, is the lack of prep for the sound gear that is usually a feature of having to use studio equipment or rental house equipment. The assumption is that the studio sound shop or rental facility has already checked out everything and prepped the equipment for you --- and you know what we say about assumptions.

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The producers that have told me that I had to either use a sound package they owned or gear that they had rented from a rental house etc have also always been unwilling to pay me to prep that stuff (as I am told used to be the case @ Warner's).   I was told the gear would be arriving at the set with the camera and I could check it out as we set up.  This was how the prod co I worked for in the 1970s rolled, and the scars I bear from dealing with issues  with unfamiliar and non- or improperly-prepped gear have never gone away.  The people who brought me into location sound mixing at the beginning told me in no-uncertain terms that I would not be able to make a living as a soundie without working gear as well, at least on the sorts of shoots most of us do.  That has turned out to be very good advice, so in general my labor is not available without my gear, period.

 

philp

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JW: " and the fact that the gear was the same that you would supply says more about you than it does the studio. "

huh?

I asked for what I wanted, (got the prep time, BTW to check it out), like Cooper CS-208's Tascam DA-98's, Lectro Wireless mic's and IC,

Senn and Schoeps mic's, Rycotes, etc. etc. the WB sound shop under Mike (and Scott) were great, including their prep, and the gear was always clean, and working... also not as weird as under Landecker!!

" I think you have been very lucky "

probably,

and I do remember some Lemon Nagra's under Hal & family...

My experience with Sony have also been positive, especially on some multi-cam sitcom's

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On 9/1/2014 at 4:05 PM, Philip Perkins said:

An aside--don't give away batteries and other expendables.  They are a hard cost and should be compensated for, if only @ your cost plus shipping (if you buy online), in the numbers actually used.  I also think that every mile I drive my gear in my truck should be paid for, just like they pay for the grip/electric/art/camera trucks--no diff.  It's hard to justify charging for expendables like neopax, stickies, overcovers, surgical tape etc on short jobs, but on longer gigs they should be billed too.  If you use rechargable batteries there should be a charge for those too--they aren't free to you and don't last forever.

 

 

What is a reasonable rate to charge for rechargeables? As they are cheaper in the long run than single user batteries, however they are also providing the same services, so arguably should be paid the same??? (but you've taken on the large up front investment of getting into rechargeables)

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On 9/18/2014 at 10:36 AM, David Waelder said:

The expectation of a producer that they ought to be able to supply equipment chosen from whatever source they prefer is not inherently unreasonable. After all, that's usually how they acquire the camera equipment. But the disquiet of a sound engineer forced to work with gear he's not seen until the day of the shoot is also understandable.

 

Maybe the solution is to insist that sound be treated in all respects just as they do camera.

 

It's customary for the camera assistant to spend a day, on the clock, checking out the camera package. He (or she, of course) will check for the presence of needed accessories, like a tilt plate, and add it to the equipment list if necessary. Every lens will be checked for focus at infinity and nearer distances with confirmation that ten feet measured = the ten foot witness mark. At the conclusion of this check-out procedure, the DP can confidently use the gear with the assurance that everything is as it should be. (Or, at least, that any deficiencies are well hidden.)

 

How about giving the sound recordist the same opportunity? Ask for a paid day for yourself, or your designated assistant, to make a thorough check of the gear? I'm guessing that any cost differential would be substantially reduced by that practice.

 

David


Genius! Thanks David. I'm going to use this line of thinking in an email I'm in the midst of writing right now, as the producer of this web series doesn't wish to pay rental fees for my gear  but instead use their (certainly deficient!) borrowed gear instead. 

On 9/18/2014 at 3:18 PM, Jeff Wexler said:

The other thing, which David Waelder points out, is the lack of prep for the sound gear that is usually a feature of having to use studio equipment or rental house equipment. The assumption is that the studio sound shop or rental facility has already checked out everything and prepped the equipment for you --- and you know what we say about assumptions.


Which is silly, because even though camera gear gets checked over and prepped by the rental facility beforehand, the camera department still will get a prep day for themselves to also check the gear too to their satisfaction.

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As I mentioned in 2014, if a producer is not willing to extend the same prep-time payment to me for prepping their gear or stuff from a rental house, as happens with Assistant Camera folks, then no deal.  I also point out that the customization of gear and working methodology that all location sound people end up doing with their gear--including practicing with it and rehearsing setups, is what makes us as fast as what the producer is used to.  VER was mentioned above, but they are far from the first rental house to heavily discount sound equipment rentals in order to get the full package rental.   This kind of thing was going on at both a rental house and a personal level (ie camera people who owned sound gear they wanted me to use instead of mine) when I started in the biz 40+ years ago, and my advice to newbs is that you have to make using your OWN gear a cornerstone of your business if you plan to have a real business doing this work....  Unions may not like this stance very much, but it is the reality of being a location movie soundie for sure.

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On 2017-09-18 at 4:40 AM, IronFilm said:

 

What is a reasonable rate to charge for rechargeables? As they are cheaper in the long run than single user batteries, however they are also providing the same services, so arguably should be paid the same??? (but you've taken on the large up front investment of getting into rechargeables)

I typically charge $20/day for rechargeable batteries and $5/day for media if I am providing. It's cheaper for production compared to purchasing alkalines, and typically cheaper than production buying a comparable number of rechargeables and chargers. The fee allows me to keep a generous supply of batteries and purchase new chargers as needed. It's a win-win  arrangement, and drastically reduces the amount of batteries going into landfill.

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14 minutes ago, Herwig said:

I typically charge $20/day for rechargeable batteries and $5/day for media if I am providing. It's cheaper for production compared to purchasing alkalines, and typically cheaper than production buying a comparable number of rechargeables and chargers. The fee allows me to keep a generous supply of batteries and purchase new chargers as needed. It's a win-win  arrangement, and drastically reduces the amount of batteries going into landfill.

$3.00 ea as used.... for  Re Chargables... AAs/AAAs I charge them after the first load on day one...    If Lithiums are needed, I charge those @$3.00 ea for AAs/AAAs....and Lith 9 volts at @ $8.00 ea...

 

This is fair for all...and allows me to renew my stock once a year and replace chargers if needed...  Even a bit of profit... remember, it's a business not a charity..

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Pay as used, pass the cost thru w/o markup, I only use batts that I bring (and know how old they are and how they've been stored) with few exceptions.  Ditto rechargeables.  Batteries are like sound-cards: you only want to deploy ones for which you know their total history.

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