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Rental Houses

Equipment rental houses coast to coast talk what’s hot, what’s next and their best-kept secrets.

By Christine Bunish

Equipment rental houses coast to coast talk what’s hot, what’s next and their best-kept secrets.

ARRI CSC

www.arricsc.com
ARRI CSC headquarters in suburban New York City.
ARRI CSC headquarters in suburban New York City.

New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C. and LA as Illumination Dynamics 954-322-4545
Contact: Ed Stamm, vice president and general manager, ARRI CSC Florida
Inventory: Full-service camera, lighting and grip rentals; lighting and grip only in LA.

Hottest rental gear: “Our ARRI ALEXA digital camera and the new M Series ARRI lighting range – we can’t keep them in the buildings,” says ARRI CSC president and CEO Simon Broad. “ALEXA has impacted every single area of the market: feature films, TV series, commercials. The new M Series lights were introduced at the end of 2012. They’re well built and extremely attractive to crew – their usability is already making a mark. These lights are tremendously popular across the board.”

ARRI Daylight M18 fixture is a hot rental item at ARRI CSC.
ARRI Daylight M18 fixture is a hot rental item at ARRI CSC.

On your wish list: “More vintage-look lenses, like Cooke and Kowa. There’s a tremendous renaissance in old glass, and anybody who has it has a gold mine. We kept a lot of it and would love to have more. ALEXA has such phenomenal quality that sometimes cinematographers want to bring a little atmosphere back with old glass from the era of the original Godfather film.”

The rental item customers should know more about: “16mm is an overlooked format. Our Arriflex 416 cameras were used on Black Swan and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Everyone is rushing to exciting new technology, but there’s still a huge potential in 16mm film.”

At NAB: “We’re relying on our parent company, ARRI, to make the news at NAB. That’s when great products get launched.”

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “I don’t see one ‘Next Big Thing.’ The business is an amazing fusion right now – an enormous cross section of formats and styles. The majority of big features we’ve serviced lately have all been shot with our film cameras with ALEXA for 2nd unit and effects. We’re continuing to provide film cameras this year.”

Business outlook for 2013: “We’ve been incredibly fortunate with tax incentives and vibrant markets that make the East Coast a healthy place for the industry. We’re a good example of a company that’s reinvested as a consequence of incentive programs; we’ve been able to expand and add employees due to strong and well-supported tax incentives.”

The secret to your success: “Customer service drives us as a business – it’s deep in our DNA. Everybody made sure our 30 Rock truck rolled out of the workshop despite [Superstorm] Sandy debris and five feet of salt water. They made a huge effort to get that truck back on location.”

Birns & Sawyer

www.birnsandsawyer.com

A fully-loaded compact new Birns & Sawyer Sprinter packs a punch in a small footprint.
A fully-loaded compact new Birns & Sawyer Sprinter packs a punch in a small footprint.

North Hollywood, Calif.
323-466-8211
Contact: Ramzi Abed, director of marketing & sales
Inventory: Birns & Sawyer offers a full range of digital cinema products, including cameras,
lighting and grip, and transportation.

Hottest rental gear: “A few things are hot right now,” says Ramzi Abed. “The new Sony F55 camera has just taken off, especially among independent filmmakers who have been using RED and ALEXA. The Canon C300 is still very popular for commercials, music videos and supplementing other cameras. And in lighting, everything is shifting to LEDs with their lower power consumption. We have a Sprinter van package that’s fully rigged with LEDs. People are using LEDs, whether Litepanels or Film Gear fixtures, as the primary source to light entire shoots.”

On your wish list: “We want to offer complete production bundles, including transportation, for speed and efficiency of booking. The bundles would be based on the type of shoot and budget range and would be customizable. We aspire to be a one-stop shop.”

The rental item customers should know more about: “Fastec’s TS3Cine handheld, high-speed camera. Not many rental houses have it – we just picked it up. It’s a compact camera with variable frame rates for shooting time lapse or slo mo; it’s simple to set up and great if you don’t have the budget or space for a Phantom. We’ve already had customers use it for sports, 2nd unit and music videos, and we expect that indie filmmakers will be a big part of the market for it.”

At NAB: “We’ll have a booth at NAB and will announce some technology applications. Birns & Sawyer is under new management, and we plan to create more products, including technology applications.”

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “Production bundles will be our ‘Next Big Thing.’ We also plan to streamline the rental process to make it easier to rent from us and will announce new pricing and products from our manufactured goods sector.”

Business outlook for 2013: “We’re optimistic about business this year. The turn to digital has happened; we jumped in early and hope to reap the benefits. We’re looking to build new relationships by reaching out and creating more interaction between us and the filmmaking community.”

The secret to your success: “Exceptional customer service that goes above and beyond the needs of our clientele. We also try to make Birns & Sawyer a fun place to be – we have a big projector here and show movies every day.”

The Camera Department

www.thecameradept.com

Cincinnati, Ohio
513-723-1742
Contact: Mal Connett, Ben Yee, partners
Inventory: Motion picture cameras – digital cinema (ARRI, RED, Sony, Canon and more), broadcast, 35mm and 16mm, DSLRs; lenses (Angenieux, Cooke, Zeiss, Canon and others); support and accessories.

RED Epic with Cooke S4 lens from The Camera Department rigged on an auto rickshaw in Mumbai, India for a major corporate shoot worldwide.
RED Epic with Cooke S4 lens from The Camera Department rigged
on an auto rickshaw in Mumbai, India for a major corporate shoot worldwide.

Hottest rental gear: “ARRI ALEXA and all glass,” says Mal Connett, who’s partnered with Ben Yee. “Everybody would like to use ALEXA; most commercials and a lot of indy filmmakers use it when they can. It has taken over a lot of 35mm and 16mm jobs and high-end digital projects. Our Optimo zooms have been incredibly busy, too – they’re the zoom lens of choice these days.”

On your wish list: “All of the primes and zoom lenses we’ve ordered, but which are backordered now. That’s a big problem: There’s a long waiting list for high-end lenses. People are still waiting for delivery on POs they placed a year or two ago.”

The rental item customers should know more about: “The Phantom Flex high-speed digital camera, which goes to 2500 fps in full res. We have a Phantom tech on staff, and the camera has been all over the country on automotive and sports spots, military jobs and industrial projects. Anybody who’s had a chance to use it once falls in love with it. Its super slo mo footage is so cool!”

At NAB: “We attend NAB to get face time with the vendors we deal with all year and to see what’s coming up next – we know about most major things, but we’re looking for the surprises.”

RED Epic with Cooke S4 lens from The Camera Department rigged on an auto rickshaw in Mumbai, India for a major corporate shoot worldwide.
RED Epic with Cooke S4 lens from The Camera Department rigged on an auto rickshaw
in Mumbai, India for a major corporate shoot worldwide.

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “Sony’s new F5 and F55 and the ALEXA XT that’s coming out soon. I think the F5 and F55 will fill a big gap; they’ll cover a really broad spectrum of users. We just got an F55 the other day and we’re playing with it, getting up to speed with it. ALEXA XT will enable shooters to record ARRI RAW on camera without an external recorder, so it provides more options and improved workflow. We also plan to offer more lensing, which has been big for us the last couple of years.”

Business outlook for 2013: “We’re hoping business will remain positive; we’ve increased our business every year even when the economy started to decline. We spread our market a bit, established strong relationships with other rental companies coast to coast to subcontract equipment, and we kept buying.”

The secret to your success: “We’ve been really lucky with our staff. They have a great work ethic, are really knowledgeable, enjoy what they do and are great to be around – people like hanging out with them. As the largest motion picture camera rental house in Ohio we’ve kept growing. We share our facility with Midwest Grip & Lighting, who’s the largest in the state in their field, too. So we have a lot to offer under one roof.”

Cinelease Inc., A Hertz Company

www.cinelease.com

The LA headquarters of Cinelease.
The LA headquarters of Cinelease.

LA headquarters; offices in Santa Fe, N.M.; Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C.; New York City, Chicago, and Honolulu
855-441-5500
Contact: Joe Ball, director of field sales/North America
Inventory: Largest and newest inventory of lighting and grip equipment of any independent rental house in the industry; preloaded 3-, 5- and 10-ton grip trucks; as a unit of Hertz Entertainment Services provides [mobile] aerial equipment, forklifts, generators from 1500 amps to mega watt plants, air conditioning, rental cars and trucks; complete line of expendables from Expendables Plus division.

Hottest rental gear: “All the new variations of HMIs and LEDs in all brands and sizes,” says Joe Ball. “Arriflex has a new line of HMIs that is very popular, and we carry many different brands of LEDs with new ones coming out all the time.”

On your wish list: “We’re very lucky – as a unit of Hertz Entertainment Services we have the wherewithal to purchase any new gear without problems. This ability allows us to remain the largest independent rental house in America while still providing by far the best service in the industry.”

The rental item customers should know more about: “Iride lights from cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s company in Italy. We’re their exclusive rep in the U.S. We have all their current models, and they’re coming out with a whole new line soon. Iride globes are aircraft landing lights: They’re so bright that when you add a blue gel you can use them as an HMI or add an orange gel and use them as a tungsten fixture. You can stick one on a Condor and light up a city block for a hundred yards. We’ve got a 53-foot truck full of Irides on the way to two big pilots in Chicago.”

At NAB: “We’ll be attending the show and expect to see a lot of new LEDs.”

The mammoth warehouse at Cinelease’s LA headquarters.
The mammoth warehouse at Cinelease’s LA headquarters.

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “We converted a Mercedes Sprinter van, which we call the CineMini, completely outfitting it with a preloaded grip package with room for lighting. It’s perfect for small commercials and videos or still photography: It’s big enough to hold the equipment they need and small enough to go anywhere. And we’re launching a mobile app available from the Apple Store, which will allow customers to order equipment while they’re on a tech scout.”

Business outlook for 2013: “It’s going to be our best year ever, by far! We’re having a normal, if not better than usual, pilot season. In the past year, we serviced 42 TV scripted dramas and comedies, over 500 commercials and numerous feature films and a reality show. The commercials business in California, especially, has taken a terrific upturn.”

The secret to your success: “We treat every customer from The Dark Knight to an A.F.I. student with professionalism and respect and make sure their Cinelease experience is the best they’ve ever had. That’s been our mantra since we were a mom-and-pop shop 20 years ago. Also, because Hertz Entertainment Services had brick and mortar locations in 50 states, we can meet all requirements necessary for production tax incentives nationwide.”

Cinequipt, Inc.

www.cinequipt.com

Minneapolis production company Twist shoots a spot for Brillo pads in Studio C at Cinequipt
Minneapolis production company Twist shoots a spot for Brillo pads in Studio C at Cinequipt.

Minneapolis, Minn.
612-627-9080
Contact: Greg Meyers, general manager
Inventory: Digital cinema, film, broadcast video and HDSLR cameras; lighting and grip; grip trucks; studios.

Hottest rental gear: “Our customer base is so broad that they all require different types of gear,” explains general manager Greg Meyers. “High-end commercial clients can’t live without ARRI ALEXA, and mid-range clients love the Canon C300 and all of its lenses. It would be great to have more HDSLRs, too. On the lighting side, LEDs have made huge inroads with their increased performance and variety of styles and types.”

On your wish list: “At this time of year my big wish is to have less gear on our shelves – it’s typically the slowest time of year for us. We do have quite a few customers looking for a large sensor, ENG-style camera. The new Sony F5 and F55 seem to be getting close to that in form factor.”

The rental item customers should know more about: “Fastec’s TS3 Cine high-speed video camera. It’s a really interesting piece of equipment – if you want to shoot 700 fps you can do it economically and without a technician operating the camera. We’ve had our TS3 Cine about nine months, and it’s been out on a number of jobs: projects for Kohler and scoreboard content for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the University of Minnesota Gophers. Other customers should think about incorporating the TS3 Cine into their productions as well.”

At NAB: “We’ll attend NAB in search of companies that bring something new and innovative to production – it doesn’t matter if it’s just a widget or an expensive piece of gear as long as it helps our customers. We spend a lot of time in 10×10 booths trying to find these items.”

Camera prep room at Cinequipt, Minneapolis.
Camera prep room at Cinequipt, Minneapolis.

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “More collaborations with service providers that will help our customers manage all the footage/data they’re capturing on shoots. Customers look to us to help them with their workflow; this expands what we can do to make their lives simpler and easier and their footage safer on set.”

Business outlook for 2013: “Rental business last year was down slightly from 2011, and we think 2013 will hold the status quo. In our market, we live and die with advertising production, and it’s been very soft the past few years. We think it will make a small comeback this year, but aren’t sure it will be enough to offset the political work from last year’s election cycle.”

The secret to your success: “Our staff. They’re natural problem solvers who go above and beyond to help customers get their shoots done on time and under budget. When you get your gear from a rental company like Cinequipt, we’re reachable 24/7 and have the inventory and manpower to service multiple shoots. Too many people just look for the cheapest way to get gear and don’t realize what a rental company can provide for their shoot.”

Fletcher Camera & Lenses

www.fletch.com

Steven Quale, director of the film Black Sky (holding camera) testing Fletcher’s ARRI ALEXA M with Alura 15.5-45 lens.
Steven Quale, director of the film Black Sky (holding camera) testing Fletcher’s ARRI ALEXA M with Alura 15.5-45 lens.

Steven Quale, director of the film Black Sky (holding camera) testing Fletcher’s ARRI ALEXA M with Alura 15.5-45 lens.

Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit
312-932-2700
Contact: Tom Fletcher, vice president
Inventory: High-end film and digital camera packages.

Hottest rental gear: “ARRI ALEXA and ARRI Alura and Leica lenses,” reports Tom Fletcher. “We were one of the first to get ALEXA, and it’s been popular with any full-size imager user – for commercials, indy films, TV and features it’s the camera. It’s reliable, with good German engineering, and has more latitude than other digital cameras – DPs like the picture quality and the way it rolls off the highlights extremely gently. ARRI’s new Alura lightweight zoom lenses are very popular; we carry all four: 18-80, 45-250, 15.5-45 and 30-80. We’ve also had a set of Leica lightweight T14 lenses since December – the legendary still photographic lens maker has come to the motion picture world. Multiple productions are asking for them; demand exceeds supply right now.”

On your wish list: “Items that are technology-proof! Everything moves at such a fast rate, and you have to figure out which way technology is going. We could use more Leica lenses and Hawk anamorphic lenses. The Hawk lenses have taken off and will increase dramatically with the use of more digital 4×3 cameras. Technology now allows anamorphic to be done more efficiently from acquisition through post and VFX, especially with lens metadata. Two years ago, only Panavision and Hawk made high-end anamorphic lenses; now three more players are making or announcing anamorphic lenses.”

Steven Quale, director of the film Black Sky (holding camera) testing Fletcher’s ARRI ALEXA M with Alura 15.5-45 lens.
Steven Quale, director of the film Black Sky (holding camera) testing Fletcher’s ARRI ALEXA M with Alura 15.5-45 lens.

The rental item customers should know more about: “Our COSMoS (Convenient On Set Mobile Solutions) laboratory for managing data, creating dailies and LTOs, and making the production workflow more efficient. We’ve been offering COSMoS for four or five years; people think of us as a camera house, but we deal with so much data that we built a scaleable data management tool for dailies, archiving and critical analysis. It’s been used on the new feature Love and Honor, which shot in Detroit, portions of other films in Detroit and TV series.”

At NAB: “We’ll be walking the halls at NAB looking at technology and trying to understand where it’s going. You can’t afford to guess wrong in this industry right now.”

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “Our Hawk V-Lite anamorphic lenses – we’ve just taken delivery of them.”

Business outlook for 2013: “We expect to continue to be very busy. A lot of production is happening in New Orleans, where we have an office, and business is steady up here [in Chicago and Detroit].”

The secret to your success: “Relationships, service and listening to where technology is moving. We take care of cinematographers and camera crews; we have local staff in each of our offices to service projects. One cinematographer told us that when there was a problem on his shoot in New Orleans, our guy showed up at 10 pm, fixed it overnight and they were back at work the next morning. That saved the production a lot of downtime.”

Midtown Video

www.midtownvideo.com

Midtown Video rental tech Katty Espinoza readies a Canon C500 package.
Midtown Video rental tech Katty Espinoza readies a Canon C500 package.

Miami
305-669-1117; 800-232-4564
Contact: Scot Lenter, rental and service manager
Inventory: HD and digital cinema cameras a specialty, with all their accessories, including matteboxes, follow focuses, lenses, tripods; audio equipment; digital recorders; monitors; AV projectors and screens; interview-style lighting and light kits.

Hottest rental gear: “Two cameras are really hot: the Canon C300 and ARRI ALEXA,” reports rental and service manager Scot Lenter. “The Canon C300 is our most popular rental item – all of them are rented out most of the time for music videos, independent films and commercials. We picked up ARRI ALEXA recently and are very excited about it. It’s the most popular cinema camera in the world – great quality, workflow, viewfinder and intuitive menus. Customers are high-end feature and commercial shooters.”

On your wish list: “We expect to get 4K AV projectors for film screenings and corporate events where higher resolution is preferred. We carry 4K [digital cinema] cameras, and we want to support them with the best 4K products on the AV side. We also want to keep building our digital cinema accessories.”

The rental item customers should know more about: “The Australia-made Wally Dolly – once you try it you never want to use another. It’s unbelievably smooth, it’s like the camera is floating so you get very good tracking shots. We’ve tried them all, and this one’s amazing! Some people don’t know that we carry [Newtek’s] TriCaster 855 and 8000, which is a switcher, character generator/title generator and which live streams to the Internet.”

At NAB: “We attend NAB to check out what’s next. We visit vendors to learn about what’s coming.”

Your Next Big Thing for customers: “We’re very excited about our new Sony F5 and F55 cameras – they’re supposed to be everything everybody’s been asking for: small camera body, affordable, 4K, high speed. Sony has listened to what people are asking for and filled a void with these cameras.”

Business outlook for 2013: “It’s been improving year to year since the recession hit. We’ve been very busy with all cameras flying off the shelves. We’ve increased our inventory to make sure we can keep up with demand. We expect that trend to continue as products get more affordable while remaining high quality.”

The secret to your success: “The people who work at Midtown. We’re not a box house where you rent gear and that’s the end of the transaction. We provide 24/7 engineering, service and back-up equipment; we’re on call all the time. We spend a lot of time with our customers and try to fulfill their needs and their wish lists. We want to be their go-to company on everything that is digital video.”


January 17, 2013