Selecting, Buying and Selling Equipment
In some opinions, some video equipment,
especially lower end camcorders, very quickly become obsolete and are worth
very little used. If you wait for the next version of equipment before you sell
your old stuff, your old stuff is already worth a lot less than when it was
still the hot ticket.
Motion picture equipment holds its
value much better. Prices for older stuff like Mitchells and Arri IIs fluctuate
with demand. After the Government dumped a bunch on the market in the 70's they
bottomed out. Then the effects business boosted the price of 1940's vintage
Mitchells up to about $7,000. For stop motion and effects these cameras are
still hard to beat.
I have been generally very unhappy
selling equipment on consignment, even through reputable dealers. They have
more motivation to sell stuff that they own outright. They will pay less to
buy your stuff, but you are done with it. I have had my consignment stuff disappear
and sit in basements. I am still waiting for receipts for consigned stuff when
I closed the studio years ago. THe best way is to find a buyer and come up with
a mutually fair price. I know, that always happens just after you dumped that
great old camera. I have also had problems collecting for equipment sold by
Selecting the right equipment:
There is a lot of hoopla about the
latest lenses and cameras. Some shooters think that having the latest equipment
will cause them to shoot better images. Yes, their own image may be increased
by using the latest equipment of the day, but I strongly believe that knowledge
of cameras, basic photography and the realities of production will facilitate
the best images on film. Good ENOUGH equipment is necessary, but there is a
lot of fine equipment out there sitting on the shelf that people fought to get
only a few years ago.
To shoot sound you need a quiet enough
camera for the conditions you are shooting in. Outside is a lot different than
on a sound stage. Time lost hanging blankets around a noisy camera is poor economy,
but demanding the latest camera for a low budget show is a misuse of the low
budget that might have allowed other more important equipment.
I have to laugh at people who think
that they need pin registration for hand held shots and non locked-off underwater
shots. Pins are needed for title, matte and effects shots but few others. If
the camera isn't stable, registration isn't necessary. Projectors are not pin
registered and their registration is not very good, so if a shot has no overlaid
elements, it will look sharp even if the camera's registration isn't perfect.
Today's sharpest lenses are slightly
sharper than that last versions of the "sharpest lenses". Once you put any filters
in front of the sharpest lens, you will no longer get the sharpest image. There
are a lot of other factors that determine getting the sharpest image on the
screen. (See Image
Super speed lenses can save money
in lighting if the cameraperson knows their lighting well. It puts more pressure
on the focus puller in low light situations where the operator can't see focus
as easily. Under normal conditions, super speeds may just be a strain on the
budget. Getting one more shot at sunset may offset the extra cost.
Many of the best films ever made
were shot with rack-over non-reflex cameras with f 3.5 lenses, slow films and
Don't get me wrong. I think today's
films are generally very well photographed. I believe that it is mostly the
D.P's photographic knowledge and not as much the fantastic equipment available
today. Today's equipment makes it easier, but basic knowledge is the key. Don't
get sucked into "needing" equipment better than required for the job.
There is less liability using industry-accepted
standards of equipment. A Mitchell or Arriflex can scratch film and you won't
be held responsible, bring in an old Eclair or Russian camera and the scratches
are your fault. I bought Arris and Mitchells instead of Eclairs just for that
reason. I was using Carroll Ballard's Eclair CM3s and loved them. The Arris
and Mitchells also served me well. A few years ago I shot in Paris and you could
still rent a BNCR mount Eclair body for $15 a day.
Extra equipment ordered for a special
shot often stays on a shoot long after it was needed. This creates a strain
on the budget that might reflect badly on the DP or assistant when the equipment
bills come in.
Creating the perception that you
order only what is necessary for the job can make it easier when you find that
you really need some additional stuff. Demanding too much can make it difficult
getting crucial needs filled. Producer's jobs are to save money and often don't
understand what actually saves money. Camera people can get a reputation as
spoiled if they appear to act unreasonable. For example; I have heard of crews
letting a show stop because some requested piece of equipment was denied. They
could have gone on with some other solution but chose to make a point. I would
suggest that "the show must go on" and after the pressure of the moment is off,
it is pointed out that the requested equipment would have saved a lot of money
or made a shot possible. Trying to make a point when the pressure is on might
be a mistake.
See Owning Equipment in "Set Etiquette."
© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.