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Izen Ears

“Normal wear and tear” - what is it?

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Let’s assume a brand new Lectro SMQV + COS11D start working in ideal conditions (indoors, temp / humidity humane levels, walking around rather than running and jumping) - what is the expected lifespan?  When is a “reasonable” time before it should have to get serviced?  

 

I realize the warrantee is only what, a year?  But to me that is not at all an indicator of how long these units should function in ideal conditions.

 

So, what’s the average life of a transmitter, a COS11, or a Comtek PR216?

 

Sound dept. L & Ds are pretty much *never* caused by sound dept.; it’s who actually uses the gear.  Actors, village idiots, PAs, ACs, it’s everyone but us.  So it really chafes when a production wants to deny an L&D on the basis of “normal wear and tear.”

 

In my opinion, the moment these pieces are handed off, normal wear and tear goes out the window.  The sound dept rarely drops things, and never yanks a mic cable.  Sigh.  You see the position I’m in.

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I would explain that you have a large collection of items taken out of normal use because of normal wear and tear and these items do not fit into that category because they have not reached the end of their warranty or expected use ( 1,000+ HRs) ( arbitrary number really). 

 

You are aware of normal wear and tear and that does not apply to this situation because you would not use those items on a professional job in any circumstances because of the unreliability of the out of service items. Express how you only use new, recently serviced, professionally maintained, top of the line equipment. Any thing different would be very obvious to you and not be used. 

 

This situation specifically calls for replacement because the said items were functioning at the time of delivery to rental client. While in possession of the production team, something cause the item to fail. This is in no way covered by normal wear and tear use clause, as I would not put items close to being worn out into use under any circumstances. 

 

 

Basically you can go on with this as long as needed. 

 

Don't be afraid to call insurance. 

45 minutes ago, Izen Ears said:

In my opinion, the moment these pieces are handed off, normal wear and tear goes out the window.

Facts. 

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Well said, and quite similar to what I said to them.  I did not think to add the part about “nothing is wear and tear, these are new and properly maintained gear” angle.  I’m on season 5 of a 24 hour-long season shows and these items have felt that!  But I agree it’s truly never normal wear and tear.

 

I’m curious about that arbitrary 1000 hours number you guessed at.  What are the real numbers?

 

Lectros

Devas

Comteks

Slates

 

I do know that of the 7x UCR411s that have been in my run bag, only a couple have only ever needed a power switch fix, and I’ve had some of those for ten years.

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Let's see them try that argument out on a rental house.  Camera equipment gets somewhat abused, gets visible wear etc, but if you seriously damage it there will be a claim.  Normal wear and tear with a wireless TX or a Comtek/IFB RX is gradual loss of finish through wear, connectors wearing, maybe even a little sweat damage to the finish.  Dropping (or throwing) one, even if by accident, is NOT normal wear and tear.  That is carelessness or hubris, and they get charged for it.  Ditto the classic "client drops Comtek where they are and departs" syndrome or my personal fave: "left in the limo": full price, no BS.  Lav mics take a beating it is true, but again there is wear that happens over time, esp if used outside and with a lot of tape, and what can happen when an impatient talent quickly un-wires themselves.  That too, my friends, is carelessness and hubris, and gets charged for appropriately.  Oh, and if you do a "drop-the-mic" with my handheld that mic is now YOUR handheld.

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Actually the PC told me they have gotten the camera house to pay for stuff!  I was surprised to hear that.

 

it’s season 5 of a 24-hour-long episode show, and lots of this gear has been used for the whole run.  But I do have receipts to show how during the 10 week hiatus between seasons, I spend $ to maintain this gear.

 

But my question is more arbitrary - how long until stuff “naturally” fails in ideal conditions.

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4 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Let's see them try that argument out on a rental house.  Camera equipment gets somewhat abused, gets visible wear etc, but if you seriously damage it there will be a claim.  Normal wear and tear with a wireless TX or a Comtek/IFB RX is gradual loss of finish through wear, connectors wearing, maybe even a little sweat damage to the finish.  Dropping (or throwing) one, even if by accident, is NOT normal wear and tear.  That is carelessness or hubris, and they get charged for it.  Ditto the classic "client drops Comtek where they are and departs" syndrome or my personal fave: "left in the limo": full price, no BS.  Lav mics take a beating it is true, but again there is wear that happens over time, esp if used outside and with a lot of tape, and what can happen when an impatient talent quickly un-wires themselves.  That too, my friends, is carelessness and hubris, and gets charged for appropriately.  Oh, and if you do a "drop-the-mic" with my handheld that mic is now YOUR handheld.

This....  

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All the major makers of equipment we use did some sort of testing before they released a given device, maybe ask them in person or on the phone what their expectations were (I doubt they will put them in writing).  Are you talking about non-hubristic sorts of use, just lots and lots of operating hours under varying (but not bad all the time) conditions?  I'm sure that the sound gear on "The Deadliest Catch" mostly got pitched at the end of each season, while many of us who do less-intense sorts of work have things last for a very long time.  I guess this last sort of wear is what the rental fee is supposedly paying for, as opposed to loss+damage where a piece of gear becomes instantly unusable, possibly unfixably?

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The gear I used to use on reality shows back in the day needed service quite often. Since I’ve graduated to better work, my gear almost never needs any sort of service. But just about everything I own has seen service in some way, except my 788T, which still works flawlessly. I would wager that unless you are working on the Deadliest Catch as @Philip Perkins mentioned, and your equipment isn’t 10+ years old, wear and tear is probably not in the equation, if you are using standard high end equipment and none of this budget gear that we do a lot of these days. 

 

Since you are well known to be a working professional, I’d take your word over some paper pusher back in the office whose motives are clearly to save a buck. 

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The best professional equipment can easily have a service life measured in decades although the preferred formats can obviously evolve. 

 

But there is another measure that ought to be widely recognized. Equipment is normally depreciated on income taxes on either a five year or a seven year schedule. So the service life is at least five years and anything that abbreviates that performance falls outside normal wear and tear. 

 

David

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Hey thanks Mista David that is not something I’d considered.  I suppose if insurance companies can declare an expensive item as valueless after seven years, that would make sense that normal wear and tear would not be expected before that time. 

 

Could that mean that since production companies are not insurance companies, say, a freshly repaired Lectro gets another seven years?

 

I liked what you said first a lot more haha!

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It seems a bit of a strange question to me, since equipment failure could probably best estimated through statistics, which means you get a fairly spread out range with a certain probability range. problem is you need a lot of data to make estimates and it will unlikely be a nice bell curve, but something strange.

for example, magnetic harddisk are either likely to break in the first couple of months, then they are fairly stable and then their failure rate starts to increase again after some years of use. but each model (not even brand) will have a different curve, depending on the manufacturing process. if you're interested in this kind of thing, backblaze publishes some amazing yearly stats:

https://www.backblaze.com/b2/hard-drive-test-data.html

 

let's say I bought a MKH 50 - what is the expected life before it needs service or breaks if used gently in a studio environment?

my wild estimate is probably 20+ years, but that doesn't mean I could be unlucky and next week it could start to make buzzing noises. I could also be lucky and it could work flawlessly in 40 years time.

 

Now let's say I bought a Zoom H5. again it might well be that it still works fine in 20 years time, but it's pretty much impossible to tell unless we wait a few years and get access to manufacturers repair data. And even then, it might turn out that failures are pretty evenly spread out from 1-30 years time (rather unlikely that they all fail after 5 years).

 

In short, buy quality gear, have things looked at if you suspect something's fishy, and charge production for stuff they damaged ; )

chris

 

 

 

 

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Hi Izen (Dan?)

 

i’m glad I could contribute a new perspective. I’m a little uncertain where you want to go. 

 

At the risk of stating the obvious, liability for damage turns on functionality. An item in active use may suffer blemishes and damage to finish that do not harm performance. That kind of damage would usually (there are exceptions) be considered “wear and tear.”

 

Any damage that degrades performance - preventing a transmitter from sending a stable signal or a lavalier from reproducing sound - is operational damage and requires repair or replacement. 

 

The rental client is not normally involved in the issue of how far along the gear may be in its depreciation; if it’s not functional they have a responsibility to repair or replace to restore complete functionality. (And, by the way, your rental agreement should explicitly specify that.)

 

There can be some odd circumstances that require flexibility. It’s not reasonable to demand that the old Bell & Howell camera stuffed into a crash box be replaced with an Arriflex as its nearest modern equivalent. But, in general, rented gear must be restored to full functionality. 

 

David

 

 

 

 

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You know what David, that is a perfect capper to that thought.  It was all working when the job started, and overwhelmingly these pieces of gear don’t stop working with normal wear and tear.  (Yes it’s me!)

 

Those Lectro tx jacks have that TA5 “tab hook” ledge that wears out with heavy use after about 4 or 5 years.  That’s kind of what got me started, since those breaking means a costly trip home, and is 100% not the fault of whatever production it’s currently working on.

 

Chris Medr also brings up a great point: the specific data I’m interested in doesn’t exist!

 

If folks who have civilized jobs (indoors / idea conditions like a talk show) could share their experiences with how often their transmitters, slates, and Comtek receivers break “on their own.”

 

In my life, few conditions are ideal.  The humidity is so high I can barely take it, and the gear doesn’t really like it.  Here are my best recollections:

 

Devas- lots at first, like every few months. But that was years ago, and I think it’s been like 6 or 8 years and four are running flawlessly.  (The fifth one I got used and it never worked well.  After about four trips home, it seems to not be fixable.)

 

Deneck TS3 Slates - these go back and forth all the time.  Average would like one every 3 - 5 months.  Water & hall sensor are usually the culprits.  I do not think this is the slate’s fault at all, because I see how the ACs treat them.

 

Denecke SB3 sync boxes - never once, and they ride on FS7 cameras for driving and action stuff.

 

Comtek PR216 - About one every 5 - 7 months.  Usually it’s a crackle at the jack, sometimes it stops seeing the tx but that’s pretty rare.

 

Lectro tx - about one per 5 months

Lectro 411 - about one every 2 - 3 years

 

Solice - once a year for one, almost never for the other one.

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I'd take your data over what any manufacturer might present, you have a lot of real-world info there.  Since your gear works many hours a day day in and out in a somewhat hostile environment, is your question whether the production owes you something for the maintenance of your gear in addition to the rental fees?  In a fair world that would be true, but I've never been compensated for that, only for actual damage.

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To me the biggest aspect of any argument of gear L&D has always revolved around the fact that we hand out our gear to other constantly. Be it Comteks, Wireless mics (that get pulled off by the head), Slates, TC boxes, or the like. These are the items that tend to get trashed oddly enough. These items are patently out of your control.

The UPM would surely not be OK with you using their laptop for a season and hoping that it came back in perfect order. There's a line that gets crossed wherein you have to fix or buy a replacement. It's part of business and they have a line in their Excel for this. It's how the pros do it. Otherwise you will be driven to put crappy gear out.  

Part of this equation is your integrity and how you treat the show and the like.  Calling out "Village Idiots" and the like may point to how you are on set btw. that may not help.

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Good thoughts.  I never used to “call out” anyone, never a single person.  Now I must, per production.

 

And yes Safe Harbor (or whatever it is!) that is exactly my platform: we have never once been responsible for a single L & D, it’s others.

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