6 Things to Consider Before Finalizing Your Rental
Part of my job here at Lensrentals is reviewing and building large video-centric orders before they’re shipped. To understand why this is important, it’s important to first understand a little bit about how our equipment inspection process works. Upon receiving an order back from a rental customer, each individual item is placed on a shelf with other like items. All of our Canon 5Ds, for instance, are stored and inspected together, same with all of our lenses, cables, lights, etc. Everything is checked on an individual basis to ensure that it’s performing up to our expectations. Once these items are inspected, they’re moved to a shelf location in our warehouse, where they wait to be rented, cleaned, and shipped.
This is the most efficient way to test all of our equipment quickly and thoroughly, but it does leave open the possibility for compatibility issues to be present in orders. A monitor, for instance, might work just fine under our testing conditions but, for whatever reason, end up not working well with a specific camera or cable. It’s also possible for orders, especially the large video ones that I work with, to be placed without an essential item like recording media. That’s where my spot in our assembly line becomes important. Orders with certain camera bodies, an especially high number of items, or pieces of equipment that need hands-on setup before they can ship come to me. I build everything in the order as if I were going to shoot with it, and then call the customer if there are any compatibility problems or possible missing items. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I’ve noticed a pattern in the kinds of problems I tend to catch, so here are 6 things I think you should consider before placing your rental.
Media and Readers
Since so many of our customers prefer to purchase their own recording media, it’s not included with any of our cameras in order to keep rental costs down. So it’s pretty easy, especially if you’re a first-time customer, to put together an order, forget to include a CF card or SSD, and then find yourself with a very expensive camera that you can’t actually record any video with. Same goes for card readers. We have available at least one type of reader for every card we carry but, in most cases, they’re not included with camera rentals because we don’t want to have to build in the cost for people who have their own. While many of our video cameras include USB cables and are able to transfer footage to a computer, I’d always recommend a standalone reader because they’re generally faster and more reliable.
Batteries and Chargers
With very few exceptions, every device we carry that uses a battery will include one battery and one charger. If you’re unsure whether the item you’re renting includes a battery, check under the “Includes” tab of the product page. Under the “Specifications” tab, we also list typical battery life for each product. While this can vary based on usage factors, it’s generally a good tool to estimate how many batteries you’ll need for your shoot. My advice is to play it safe and always order more batteries than you think you’ll need. They’re generally pretty affordable, and it’s always better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them. A significant exception to the “one battery, one charger” rule of thumb is anything that takes disposable batteries: AA, AAA, 9-volt batteries, basically anything you would throw away when it’s dead. Make sure you have some of your own on hand, and if you’re confused about whether a certain item will require disposable batteries feel free to contact us.
If you feel like you’re sensing a pattern here, you’re right. It’s easy to put an order together and have small but essential accessories slip your mind. Cables are no exception. None of our monitors or recorders include HDMI or SDI cables. In this case not only because it would be an unnecessary cost for people who own them, but we also have no way of knowing what kind of cables you need. We stock a ton of different sizes, lengths, and brands of HDMI and SDI cables for various uses. If you have questions about what type of cable will work best with your camera, or what cable length you’ll need for your support setup, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.
Now we’re branching out a bit from things people typically forget to the inherent limitations of renting equipment without having used or set it up yourself. If you’re, say, renting a shoulder mount kit and have concerns about ergonomics, let us know and we’ll do everything we can to give you a better idea of whether or not a certain product will work for you. We do our best to take informative and accurate product pictures, but there’s only so much you can tell about a product from a couple still photos, especially if you’re combining multiple accessories. Not sure about whether a shoulder mount will allow you to see the camera monitor? Whether the included rods are long enough to mount a matte box? Whether or not you’ll need a VCT plate? Let us know, and we’ll gladly set everything up and answer any questions you have.
Gimbal Weight Distribution
I know this sounds like a pretty specific compatibility issue for a list of the most frequent problems we catch, but it’s surprisingly common. We end up calling at least one customer per day about weight distribution on handheld gimbals. The DJI Ronin specs, for example, list a weight capacity of 15 pounds, so people who haven’t worked with that product before tend to think that anything weighing 15 pounds or less will fit. The problem is, depending on your lens choices, accessories, camera body length, and battery weight, your setup may be so front heavy that you can’t move the camera body back far enough in the camera cage to compensate. We carry the extended-arm DJI Ronin specifically to combat this issue. If you’re not sure whether your setup will work with the gimbal on your order, just give us a call, or request a check in the “Special Instructions” section of your rental form.
This last one is pretty general, I guess, but it’s probably the most important. One of the advantages of renting equipment rather than purchasing it is that it can broaden your horizon. You have the ability to try things you wouldn’t have without access to more than just a camera and a couple lenses. The disadvantage, of course, is that every piece of equipment you add to your setup increases the chances of something going wrong or being forgotten. We include as much information as possible on our product pages, but if you’re trying something you’ve never done before, there’s really no way to know it’ll work without setting it up. People call us all the time with dreams of building Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions of switchers, HDMI to SDI adapters, recorders, wireless transmitters, batteries, extension cables, streaming boxes, all of which can either work flawlessly or halt a whole production depending on what else they’re working with. We’re always happy (honestly, it’s fun) to set up whatever we can in the office and let you know whether or not it works.
The common thread through all of these recommendations is to contact us if you have any concerns at all about whether you’re missing any important equipment or whether the equipment you do have will perform the way you need it to when it arrives. You can call, email, or add notes to the “Special Instructions” box when placing your order. Either way, a video or photo tech will gladly answer your questions or just review your order for missing items.
Lensrentals.com Video Tech
Author: Ryan Hill
My name is Ryan and I am a video tech here at Lensrentals.com. In my free time, I mostly shoot documentary stuff, about food a lot of the time, as an excuse to go eat free food. If you need my qualifications, I have a B.A. in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University in beautiful downtown Carbondale, Illinois.