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SeanMAC   

I've been working as a production mixer for a couple years and am starting to work with bigger companies and more established productions. I'm looking to my fellow, more experienced mixers to help me with building a sort of formula for what I should be charging for gear (for true productions with an actual budget backed by a network). Wireless systems, camera hops, lockits and the like. What do y'all use as sort of a baseline? Is it a percentage of the actual value of the item? What items do you sort of bundle together? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this. Any input is greatly appreciated.

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While there is a rule of thumb for pricing rentals it is often ignored and the situation in the field is akin to the Wild Wild West.

Companies renting technical equipment (as distinguished from car rentals or vacation homes and the like) will often figure on charging 1% of replacement value per day. So, a $10,000 recorder might be expected to rent for $100 per day.

There are several exceptions to this expectation:

1. Anything that is particularly rugged and/or exempt from rapid obsolescence would be rented at considerably less, perhaps only 0.5% daily or even less. A C-stand would be an example of this sort of pricing.

2. Anything either fragile or needing frequent tuning or subject to rapid obsolescence would be rented for more, perhaps 2% of replacement value or even more. Examples would include radio mikes (subject both to tuning needs and to obsolescence forced by transmitting frequencies lost to cell phones) and electronic cameras. The cameras are often hot items for a year or two and are then supplanted by a new model.

3. Anything that is a specialty item rented only occasionally will be priced higher. For example, a production has only occasional use of a 500mm lens or an ultrafast lens, say, f1.1 and those articles go for a premium price. In sound, an earwig rig, while not especially expensive to purchase, might rent for more because there is only occasional call for it.

Equipment is usually supplied with the necessary accessories like cables and batteries at no extra charge although rental houses would certainly charge for extras beyond the minimum need. So a recorder would probably be provided with one, maybe two, rechargeable batteries but extras would cost more.

Most independent operators provide a fairly extensive inventory of back-up gear at no extra charge although that doesn't necessarily extend to significant pieces of gear. A collection of cable adapters and things of that sort are not usually inventoried and invoiced but a spare recorder or mixing panel might be.

And, of course, everything is subject to some negotiation. A TV series, booking personnel for twelve weeks of continuous work, might negotiate a package price for gear a bit less than a commercial with only a one or two-day booking.

David

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TV networks and shows vary. Rental is $1750-2500/wk, depending on the show. You're expected to have a "full" package to do the job. So the same package, whether they're paying $1750 or $2500. That's a minimum of 8 recording tracks and that many mics to feed them. 2 slates. A dozen Comteks. They don't really care what brands you own, as long as you deliver the goods. 

If a show has special requirements, you can negotiate up. If there are 12 main characters and they want them wired all the time, you could charge the higher end. That kind of thing.

Lockits might be extra rental, but most camera houses include them in the package and won't credit back production if they choose to rent from you. You can't compete with free. But $50-75/wk each is about right. 

I've never run sound to camera on a union project. People do on commercials, but rarely if ever on narrative film and TV. 

For most extras, I just charge the rental rate on the LSC website. It's easy to tell production that Location Sound charges 'x' and l carry it so I'll supply it as needed for that rate. It's always available and they don't have to send a driver to pick up and return. I've never had them deny a rental rate that is the book rate. 

Generally they'll tell you what the eeekly rental is. If it's low, I'll tack on extras and include the minimum expected equipment. If it's a good rate, I'll not nickel and dime them every time for small add-ons. 

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SeanMAC   

I really appreciate the feedback! Wasn't expecting this great of information. Another note, would you think it appropriate to charge a premium if the location is several hundred miles from any rental house that would have anything like it? And I mean the closest place that rents any sort of pro audio gear (SDevices, smart slates, lectro/zax) is well over 500 miles away. Any special treatment with this situation or just go about it as you said, value it according to time of shoot and budget, referenced against the rental houses etc? Again, thank you so much for your replies. 

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It depends on how you present it. Typically in a "smaller" market, they expect things to be cheaper not more expensive, even though they may have fewer options. They think, "Lower cost of living means cheaper labor and lower rental." It's never inappropriate to ask for what you think is fair. You don't want to price yourself above market unless you are presenting yourself as an above market "premium" option, and you'd need the skills and experience to back that up.

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In response to Graham Timmer's post that has since been deleted...!!  A proponent of "ALL IN" billing..LOL

 

I SHOULD probably simply delete my response as well... but, that damn phrase "ALL IN"  needs to be stomped out, like it or not.. 

 

I say this smiling, please don't take this as coming at you with any evil intention...  only advice, asked for or not. But, for all of us in this industry.... read on.

If I ever hear the phrase "ALL IN" again, I may have actually have a nervous breakdown. I hate it that much.  

PLEASE DISCARD THIS FUC*&N TERM FROM YOUR VOCABULARIES!!!

Please... "ALL IN"   is NOT in any way a term that should EVER be used with production sound gear rental... Come on guys (and Gals)... really...

 

That term has BEEN and IS a death blow to equipment rental and should never be uttered by US, working sound mixers. The very mixers who stand to gain by NOT USING THAT F'ing phrase... EVER.

I hear it more and more, normally from people that are fresh in the industry and somehow now in a chair at the other end of my phone calls..

  Bad enough when I hear production use it...  When I do hear it, I want to kill someone...So what, I'm supposed to now provide EVERYTHING IN MY VAN for one low price with a catchy name?... Really...?  Playback?  Earwigs?  Extra slates?  8 Radios?   20 Comteks? Bag rigs... VOG systems...   ALL IN?  Fu%K that... Don't ever say it... You are killing the rental market for us by doing so.

  Those before you have worked hard to get the rates what they are. Me being one of so many. PLEASE DO NOT take those rates further backwards. Times are challenging enough.

 

By the way, Production thinks that also means expendables!!!  "ALL IN.." Jesus...

I always wondered where that came from, that stupid phrase, now I know...FROM US!!

Graham,  read your last 3 sentences....  over and over again....   OVER AND OVER!!  Good advice.

Well, since the post is now gone, it said something about never giving anything away for free...  And that production has money to pay for it... Something like that..

 

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SeanMAC   

Great stuff you guys (and gals)! Thank you again for the feedback, although I'm sad that I didn't check back in time to get the chance to read the deleted post? Not sure what happened there. I absolutely agree though, we should all push against that "day rate and done" type of deal. Not good for anyone. 

I have another inquiry for you fine folks. For long term rentals when production will end up paying the price of the unit and then some in rental fees, has anyone ever heard of them just buying the unit outright? I ask because of this. Show is coming up, will shoot for 6-7 months. Even renting 1 wireless system at $25/day (which I think we would agree for the most part is on the mid-low end, over 7 months it would have been cheaper for them to just buy it. So, to get to my point. Say I wanted to upgrade my wireless systems. What say you all on the proposition of "Production buys the units outright and then I rent/buy them back from them? Has anything close to this scenario ever happened? I know some people just buy units on credit pretending they owned them already and use the rental fee to pay the purchase fee, but I'm curious to hear your guys thoughts on this. I've mostly convinced myself that it's wishful thinking, but then again I know producers and if I could guarantee I would save them a few thousand out the gate guaranteed AND I get new gear, what would stop that? Please, relent all insight/wisdom/tough love upon me. I am prepared for it all. Again, I'm so appreciative of all your responses, it is incredibly helpful to have such a cool and knowledgeable community to draw upon when I have questions such as this.

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I agree that All In shouldn't happen. I get asked for it all the time though. So my compromise is: "all in" means what I can easily carry. Boom, mixer, shotgun + hyper and three lavs. Anything more than that I can bring but I will charge rental for it. Sometimes clients think it's too expensive, but I haven't usually missed their business much. :/

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Bash   

Although a canny line producer might manage to work out that the cost of a radio mic may be more than recouped over the entirety of a long production shoot, they will not be taking into account stuff like the risk, the maintenance, the love and care, the cables, the flight cases, the spares that you keep etc..... All of these add up, and in truth, they may well add 50-100% more to the apparent purchase price of the transmitter and receiver.

Can you imagine saying to your line producer that although you 'require' only 6 radio mics, can you have two spare tx packs, and youd like lavs in black, white, and flesh colours, and you'd like 8 of each please, plus a spare OP loom, adaptor p[lates for when you go bag kit and pull the receivers from the rack, and spare aerials and aerial cables, blah blah.....

If the production company 'own' the radio mics, then who will pay you to prep them, build them into your rig, clean them, care for them on the days off, guard them, etc.... Who will ensure that at the end of the shoot the tx packs are not put into storage with batteries left in them (cue next series, leaky batts in the packs). There is no incentive for you to 'love' the kit that is not yours.

A more likely scenario, which I have seen happen (not to me - Iam not this lucky) is that a production might buy some specialist piece of kit (maybe comms kit) and at the end of the shoot the mixer 'buys' the kit from the show at a massively knocked down rate, like 25%. This has often been agreed before the kit is bought for the show.

Also - would you want to be the guy that 'lumbers' the next mixer with not being able to charge for their own radio mics on the subsequent series.

For all or any of the above reasons, and also that as you stated the kit is going to be paid for within the 6-7 months of the show, why would you NOT buy the kit, bank loan, credit card, borrow from your parents/children/boomswinger/whoever, and simply own the kit from the off.

Enjoy your new kit ;-) Simon B

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8 hours ago, SeanMAC said:

For long term rentals when production will end up paying the price of the unit and then some in rental fees, has anyone ever heard of them just buying the unit outright? I ask because of this. Show is coming up, will shoot for 6-7 months. Even renting 1 wireless system at $25/day (which I think we would agree for the most part is on the mid-low end, over 7 months it would have been cheaper for them to just buy it. So, to get to my point. Say I wanted to upgrade my wireless systems. What say you all on the proposition of "Production buys the units outright and then I rent/buy them back from them?

 

I think this plan is risky.

 

While it's natural to assume that if you are hired on for a six-month show, you will be with the production until wrap, that's not necessarily the case. Even if you don't have a falling out with production, there are other reasons why you might not see the show through to conclusion. You might have a family emergency that forces you to withdraw or the production might have a funding problem or a key player might have an accident that forces a temporary shut-down. It's an extra complication if you are linked to the show by a not-yet-completed financial transaction. What would happen if you had to withdraw? You would leave the purchased gear behind, of course, but then the production would need to hire someone willing to work with that gear arrangement.

 

I think a savvy Production Manager would be disinclined to become entangled this way and the proposal from you makes you appear weak and needy.

 

David

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alenK   

I have assumed that production companies benefit with simpler accounting while renting by deferring the payment of tangible goods taxes to the owner of the tangible goods.

 

I have thought that is why many lease or rent every thing they can get away with not owning.

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SeanMAC   

Bash and Waelder, thank you for bringing up that thought, I was so wrapped up in this plan I hadn't even considered that something unforeseen could happen (talent getting injured etc). I thought I had a bit more clairvoyance than that, but apparently not at the present moment haha. Thank you!

 

Now, another question for you gents and gals. How have you (or others you know of) faired in taking a loan out for equipment etc? Did you go the small business loan route? Some other way? Borrowing from friends for sure, I'm just curious as to your experiences and thoughts. Also I'm wondering if any local bank/credit union would take into account that I'd be working on a TV show etc. Not a big deal (even an annoyance in LA) but here, it's the coolest thing this side of Christmas. Obviously the institution will have its policies, credit check and so on, just wondering if it holds any weight whatsoever. What say you on the subject? Or on anything related/similar situations? Thanks again y'all.

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4 hours ago, alenK said:

I have assumed that production companies benefit with simpler accounting while renting by deferring the payment of tangible goods taxes to the owner of the tangible goods.

I have thought that is why many lease or rent every thing they can get away with not owning.

 

yeah, over here gear can only be written of in taxes over several years (usually 7 years on most things, 3 years on short lived items like computers). so most companies prefer to rent because they can deduct the full amount, even if it costs them more then buying in the long term.

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JWBaudio   
On 31/07/2017 at 3:57 AM, jhharvest said:

I agree that All In shouldn't happen. I get asked for it all the time though. So my compromise is: "all in" means what I can easily carry. Boom, mixer, shotgun + hyper and three lavs. Anything more than that I can bring but I will charge rental for it. Sometimes clients think it's too expensive, but I haven't usually missed their business much. :/

Glad this is being brought up and I agree with jhharvest and afewmoreyears.  The mixer in us wants to always get the best audio we can, and that sometimes means using our full kit.  And production obviously wants us to get the best possible, which could also mean using our full kit.  But at the end of the day we have to remember that most of us have invested heavily in out own equipment and putting it out on a production for free or at very very low cost means you're constantly eating the expense of your gear. (the initial purchase cost, maintenance, cases, accessories, etc.).  It's like throwing money out the window.

 

As harsh as it sounds, sometimes you just have to draw the line  and compromise with a production and say "I know you'd love 8 wires up, but your budget really only allows for 4, and we can make it work with that many, so thats what we'll use," Now, I may carry everything with me anyway and if it turns out we need something extra thrown onto the rental I'll bring it up with the UPM and/or 1st AD before brining it out. And if they genuinely don't have the extra in the budget I might still consider brining out something like an extra radio or different type of lavalier, but only for 1 shot where I felt there was ABSOLUTELY no other way to get the audio. It's all at the discretion of the mixer, but "All in" is a very dangerous trend.

 

Additionally, here in Chicago, I have heard stories of a few mixers who are renting out brand new top end gear and UNBELIEVABLY low rates like (.01% of the cost of the unit, to use that rental gauge). I know it's a strong pull to charge less and work more, especially for green mixers, but things like that not only hurt the mixer renting at those rates, but also the rest of us who charge normal rates for kit.

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