To Buy, or Not to Buy?

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

That is the question! It’s very easy to get yourself in way over your head with loans. Salesmen will tell you “all you need to get is one job a month to pay for the rig.” Of course this isn’t exactly true. They aren’t taking into account the additional cost for accessories, maintenance, and of course the fact that you (as a new or upcoming operator) aren’t getting full rate on your rentals yet.

The problem is if you don’t have access to a rig you can’t practice. No practice, and you don’t improve. No improvement means you can’t raise rates. If you can’t raise rates you cant afford to buy a that top-of-the-line rig.

So what do you do?

The way I started was by purchasing a $4000 rig to start (a CP Steadicam SK). As I improved, I invested in upgrades that would allow me to do more and more with this rig (second articulating section, stiffened the arm, LCD monitor, etc). I of course practiced like crazy with this rig. By the time I was done I had probably invested another $6000 into the rig. Fortunately, when I was ready to upgrade (or at least when I thought I was ready) I found a buyer for the rig and actualy made a profit.

My next rig was a Tiffen Steadicam Ultra… And the price tag was big. Fortunately I bought it used, in great shape, for a great price (which took some of the sting out of the purchase). However, in retrospect, I don’t think i was quite ready for it. Today I certainly operate at a level justifying the rig and the rental rates I get are consistent with the value of my package, but when I bought the rig this wasn’t the case.

So when should you buy?

I think it’s important to have something to practice with… Anything! But it doesn’t require a small fortune. Perhaps a used flyer or similar. It should be something you think you can actually get a reasonable rate with. More importantly, find local, established operators and get to know them. You might click with one that is willing to mentor you, and perhaps even lend you his rig from time-to-time.

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