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ASK THE EXPERTS Life behind the rate card Choosing a rental company... with Mike Ransome, Presteigne F rom time to time, most people in broadcast and production need to rent in some equipment. It might be to extend capabilities – an extra camera channel, for example – or it might be to bring in something you do not normally use, like an EVS server, for instance. Now picking a dry hire company sounds awfully simple. There are several in the business: surely all you do is fi nd one that keeps the kit you want at a price you like? Well, I suggest that it is not quite a simple as that. At Presteigne we now have 23 years of experience in providing rental services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So forgive me if I offer a few thoughts about what goes on behind the rate card. Technology It is a pretty obvious thing to say that we are working in an industry where the technology changes every day. And many people will choose to rent equipment because they expect to get the latest available from the rental house. So the fi rst question you have to ask is whether your supplier is up to date. Do they spend time, as we do, tramping the halls at NAB and IBC, and many long hours in meetings with our key suppliers? Are they infl uencing the future development of products, or are they just buying kit as required? 50 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 88 APRIL 2014 What about software releases? Is the equipment running the latest versions? Has it been checked for bugs? Where equipment has to interwork, are the releases compatible? With today’s complex equipment, what about set-up. An EVS server in its raw state may well not do what you want it to do, and if it is delivered just a couple of hours before the production starts that could be a real problem – a potential disaster. If it looks grubby on the outside, does that mean that no-one has checked the important parts. Dirt, dust and smudges on sensors, back lenses and media slots can be the difference between success and failure, or at least irritating delays cutting into the production budget. So expecting the kit to arrive in a good protective case, with no dirt or marks, is not superfi cial. It gives you some reassurance that it is well looked after. So you need to be able to tell the rental house not just what you want but what you want it to do. Indeed, for complex pieces of kit like servers it is better for you to tell us what you want to achieve and we will do all the set-up for you. To really fi nd out, though, ask your renter about their quality assurance plan. Is every single piece of equipment assessed carefully through a comprehensive checklist when it comes into the building, and checked again before it goes out? That means the phone has to be answered by people who know what they are talking about. And specialists in diffi cult areas should be on hand to pick up the call if you really want to get into detail. And no, I am not claiming that in our company nothing ever goes wrong. So if something should develop a problem, how quickly can your renter get you a replacement? That support has to be readily available. If you need something tomorrow – or even today – you really do not want to be waiting for a call back. QA Servers are not the only things that need setting up before going out on a production. Cameras and lenses, for instance, also need careful checking. Is it correctly calibrated? Are the focus and zoom motors working smoothly? It may seem like an obvious point, but is the equipment clean? A bit of sticky tape residue on a camera body will not affect the functionality, but it does suggest that no-one has looked at it recently. Speed of service is probably the most pressing issue we hear about from our customers. A lot of people will want something right away – often the same day. That means we have to have kit on the shelves that is clean, checked and ready to be loaded into a van within minutes of the order arriving. Wireless Productions are increasingly looking for more and more wireless cameras. They give a real freedom to the operator, whether it is running up and down a touchline or getting in among the crowds at a music event. Some sports absolutely depend upon wireless cameras. We have a regular relationship with the University Boat