Thread: Should Cinematographers buy/own gear?

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  1. #1 Should Cinematographers buy/own gear? 
    I'm trying to convince myself to buy Hive's new 575-c LED for £4000 but I keep coming back to the age old question as to whether cinematographers should own their own gear?

    The light would probably only get used for tests, personal projects and low budget work. Is it worth the investment? Will technology change and make the light redundant?

    Would be interested to hear everyones opinion on whether cinematographers should own/buy kit?
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  2. #2  
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    I own a metric shit ton of gear, which has worked out well for me. The catch is I never bought anything that didn't have a job that would pay for it right away.

    A friend of mine sold his G&E rental business after LEDS basically put him out of business. they keep coming out so fast and everyone wants the latest and greatest, so there is no time to make your money back on LEDs.

    As far as hive is concerned, I had a client who bought a bunch of their plasma lights, and holy hell did they suck. They sucked in every way something could suck. Based on their astoundingly bad design, I would stay away from them. But that's just my opinion.

    If you are not trying to rent it to other people, there are some very good, cheep LEDS coming out of china. I have about 6 18x24" Falcon eyes matts and they have been bullet proof and overall fantastic. Falcon eyes makes a bowens style openface 300w bi color led that looks pretty promising for about $800. It gets full output at daylight color temp so you get the full 300w. Next time I have a project where I need something like that I'll probably pick a couple up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDj1eovjg1U

    Nick
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  3. #3  
    Hi Nick

    Interesting opinion on Hive, I have a similar attitude with Aputure, I used a 120d once and was amazed at how bad the quality of light was, I've heard good things about Hives LED's as far as colour goes but build quality is an area I haven't really thought about.

    Would you say its better to spend less on incandescent than risk spending more on the ever changing market of LED's?

    The falcon looks interesting but I'd be nervous about buying from an unheard Chinese brand like Falcon eyes.

    In an ideal world Arri would bring out a compact RGB LED Par with equivalent output of a 2k fresnel for £2000 or less. One can dream
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  4. #4  
    I guess it all depends on the market segment you serve most. If you’re mainly just operating on movies, commercials, etc., buying probably doesn’t make much sense. I’ve always been an “owner/operator” serving mostly the network/broadcast world where I provide all of the gear(cam’s, audio, lighting & grip) and service and the bulk of the rate(~2/3) comes from the gear. Conservatively, 75%-80% of my work is with my gear, which is down from 100% five years ago. But a lot of times when I’m not shooting with one of my cams, I’m still getting my lights out and audio with an op, too.

    I have four Hive LED’s. Two of the 100’s and two of the 200’s. They improved a lot with the last firmware update, color wise(white light), but I mostly use them for their color ability as I have Gemini’s and Astra’s for keying people.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Blair S. Paulsen's Avatar
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    If you have good rental options nearby, I suggest owning very little gear. If your location is bereft of proper rental shops, then owning may be worth the investment/upkeep. Shipping based rental options like LensRentals, etc are starting to change that equation, so I'd research what it would cost you to rent everything via online order/direct shipping.

    The other key factor is how many days per year you can invoice for your gear and if you have local production pros you'd be comfortable renting your gear to. What about a safe and convenient place to keep your gear? Don't forget insurance.

    FWIW, if I was located in LA, NY, ATL, etc I would happily own nothing but my Monstro, sticks, batts, cards and a couple of lenses. That way I could shoot personal projects and interesting low budget stuff out of personal kit and rent everything else. YMMV.

    Cheers - #19
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  6. #6  
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    I can only say good things about Hive LEDS the 100c are limited in power but they are on every shoot, having access to unlimited gels at a switch of a button is so valuable. They are never keylights but a colored fill perfectly dimmable and light enough to rig them on a an arm of a CStand as a boom.
    How did you use the Aputure when you disliked them. Looking at getting a couple of 300ii when they are out. Won't use them with bare reflectors but inside a chimera or briese style parabolic or with fresnel and leko attachment they are incredibly versatile. But I am here to learn if you tried them and it did not work out
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  7. #7  
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    Tough question, but I think it depends at least partially on what niche you're working in-- or want to work in.

    For me, owning my own camera and certain workhorse lights has allowed me to take on smaller recurring jobs that make money over time, but that wouldn't be worth it if I had to factor in rentals each time (against a low total budget). These sustain my business in between larger gigs. Most of that business is corporate/educational. It also has sometimes let me do personal work or more creatively exciting gigs.
    I also know DPs-- and gaffers, since we're talking lights-- who own very little. On higher budget commercial and narrative stuff, it doesn't necessarily make a difference to own your own gear. It's possible that you increase your margin or are able to be more competitive on a bid if you have the right camera or lens set-- but that's a bit risky. As Nick said, lots of times a client wants the latest and greatest-- it's gotta be a Skypanel, even in a situation where a pair of Astras would give the same results.

    A Hive 575 or an Aputure C300D or a Litepanels Astra will give the same great results three years from now as they do today. And you're only limited by your skill and vision--we've all seen amazing work that was lit with a $500 Lowel Rifa (see: the work of Robert Elswit), and only equipment nerds are gonna care which unit lit a given shot. Whether or not you can rent out those specific lights in three years, and whether or not they do what you need for a specific job is another question.
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  8. #8  
    Thanks everyone for your input, I've decided to go for it under the condition that it has to pay itself back within the year or I'm selling it.

    Really difficult decision as I totally agree that expensive kit doesn't equate to good images. Some of the best images I've created have been from using daylight and negative fill.

    I also agree that it depends what area of work you're in or going into. I myself wish to go into low budget indie features, music videos and commercials where most if not all the kit would be from a rental house. However, currently I'm a freelancer where the kit I have is whats getting me work.

    Would still like to keep the discussion open, interested to hear more opinions!
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Timur Civan's Avatar
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    I wouldnt buy an expesnsive light.

    if you need a good light for everyday testing and low budget, get the Rayzr7's in Daylight. super powerful and only about 1300$

    If youre using the Hive on low budget stuff they arent paying for the light properly, so basically you blew up 4000GBP on somethign that wont make its money back. plus its weird to bring one light on a big job...
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  10. #10  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
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    Owning gear can be helpful, as it gives you more control over your creative, your workflow, and yes - your budget.

    As to Hive, we work a lot with their Plasmas and LED lights and we're big fans.

    The Plasma lights are VERY punchy (think Joker 400), but yes can be a little finicky. However they draw very little power, give off very little heat, and have their place.

    Their LED's however are really winners. The Hive 100 is a great accent light. Basically replaces Arri 300/600's. And because it's RGB, it can play as a colorful accent light in a 5600 daylight environment. The only issue we have with them is the accessory attachment's aren't as robust as the lights themselves, however because the lights were smartly designed to work with Profoto attachments, it easy to find other accessories from other third pary brands. Being able to control the lights via DMX (and now wireless DMX) is also a massive bonus.

    The Hive 200 is AMAZING. Almost as bright as a Joker 400 (we've keyed with the Hive 200 in a Octaplus).

    And I have no doubt the 575 will be a winner too.

    LED is where HIVE have really started to shine (pun intended).
    Nick Morrison
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