There are a few reasons that you may be looking into video equipment rental — maybe you have a big job coming up and you need more equipment to complement your current gear, or maybe you are looking for specialized video equipment for a specific shoot (probably something that your uses wouldn’t justify the cost of buying outright). Whatever the reason, we have the answers to help you navigate the world of video equipment rental.
Renting video equipment can be great for many reasons — most of those reasons revolve around cost efficiency. For example, buying an expensive piece of gear that you’ll only use for one project isn’t going to be a great investment. However, you can probably rent it for a fraction of the cost (and you won’t have to worry about storage which is a win-win). Another reason could be that you’re traveling for a shoot and it isn’t cost-effective to lug around all your expensive equipment when you can rent it locally and include the rental costs in your budget.
Take it from Nicole Loeb:
We rent gear for three reasons: specialty items only needed for a particular client, renting to try out gear prior to purchasing, and if my team and I are shooting multiple shoots on a specific date, and we need duplicates of the gear we already know and love.
Since it’s paramount that you know your gear well, and can count on it to be sturdy and reliable, renting can help bolster your existing equipment list or fill in the gaps by allowing you to test it out before taking it out for a project. On the other hand, if you plan to take on a large number of motion projects, you’ll definitely want to build a kit of video equipment that you use most often and can’t film without. Nicole suggests the following:
I tend to purchase and own equipment that I use often that directly makes me money. This kit includes cameras, several lenses, both constant and strobe lighting, modifiers, audio, and stabilizers.
And if you do plan to purchase your equipment, always keep your budget in mind with an eye to the future. Put succinctly, Stewart Cohen had this piece of advice:
Can you charge it back to the job and have it pay for itself? If so, go for it.
The options are endless when it comes to renting video equipment. Some specialized gear could include cameras and lenses by manufacturers like Red Digital Cinema, audio manufacturers like Sweetwater, or perhaps some continuous lighting from ARRI to capture that cinematic feel. Beyond that, most locations will also offer transport, dollies and rigging, drones, and even crew!
Rocco Ceselin recently completed a project in LA with both an outdoor and studio component that required him to source a variety of additional items from local video rental facilities:
I shot a commercial for a wine company where we had a large crew (assistants, producers, talents). The shoot was in two days, one outdoor (in a big garden) and the other day in a studio. We needed to rent powerful HMI Lights and be sure to overpower the sun with those. Plus we needed a heavy duty rail to use it with a big camera, a large 12 feet scrim to filter the sunlight. […] A 1 ton grip truck also was part of the rental and it came with the assistants.
Rental companies are also a great source of advice and knowledge. If you’re shooting in an unfamiliar location, the rental company will be able to provide information on any film-related paraphernalia that they may not have on hand (or even point you to the best local coffee spot). Often, you can build a great relationship with local or national rental companies that you can rely on if something goes awry with equipment during a shoot, point you towards an extra pair of hands, or ship equipment to where you need it. Have a light break and need a replacement ASAP? Are your extension cords just a touch short? Need to find a grip to help strike your lights? A great video equipment rental provider will have your back.
As with most things, word of mouth is often the best way to find good companies to work with. Ask around, and you’ll probably find a couple of top recommendations and learn why those video equipment locations stand out. No matter where you are though, it’s always best to build a relationship with a local rental company based where you are.
Nicole filled us in on her top pick, LensProToGo.
I love LensProToGo. I chose them because they have amazing customer service. When you call them, they pick up a phone and a real human with real knowledge about the equipment will answer your questions. LensProToGo ships all over, but it’s a huge bonus that they’re in the same area as me (Boston, MA), which makes shipping a breeze.
We asked Rocco for one of his top picks and he recommended Samy’s Camera out in California.
[They] give me products I know and can always recommend optional equipment that for some very particular shoots I might need.
But when you’re off in unfamiliar territory or don’t have a personal recommendation to lean on, your next best bet is to search our extensive Crew directory. Our associate producers are constantly evaluating and reaching out to both motion and still rental locations so that our directory is up to date, which comes in especially handy when you’re traveling nationally or internationally for a shoot.
Whichever way you choose to find your rental company, it’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind. Here are some top tips from Stewart: