As entry barriers to business get lower and competition rises, rental equipment companies are going all out to ensure that they are top of their game
Moviemaking is big business – everyone knows that. The larger-than-life sets, the grand settings; this calls for some heavy-duty investment into equipment, and prudent producers prefer to rent them.
There are several known rental companies that provide cameras, along with various lenses, tripods, sliders, gliders, lights, audio mics, etc, for shooting. Additionally, they also offer Helicam (drone) for aerial shots, which are also a major trend in weddings and commercial shoots. These companies offer a wide range of production equipment required to suit broadcasting and filmmaking needs.
Shahul Hameed, director, Delta4cast said that it usually starts with camera and goes up to the encoder. These include Ikegami studio cameras, Canon lenses, Kula video switcher, AirServer Playout or Ingest Master-Ingest application from Deyan Automation, Signum-Playout with Built in graphics, post-production edit suites, SAM and Nevion Glues, a range of encoders and decoders, offline graphics designer application, Viprinet bonding solutions for field live transmission, media asset management solutions, online graphics solutions – the list is virtually endless.
There are companies that constantly work on introducing the latest brands as well as products in their portfolio. Kishor Kumar, founder and director, Classic Shadow stated, “Our company is equipped with modern equipment that includes the latest cameras like Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Sony Alpha 7S2, and also has the latest products from Nikon and other brands, along with their tripod, monopod, Gimble, Osmo, LED’s, flashlight, cranes and Go Pros.”
Prime Focus India is one of the largest camera equipment rental companies in the country and has over 40 high end feature film cameras including ARRI – SXT -W, SXT, XT, MINI, Red- Dragon, Epic, Weapon, Helium, Lenses- Master Anamorphic, Coke S5i, S44i, Master Prime, Ultra Prime Zoom- Optimo, Alura , short and HR.
“We also provide technical support along with on-set assistance through our company employees. Our senior technicians are constantly in touch with cinematographers to ensure that they do not face any issues with equipment and are always at hand to assist them with its functionality. We provide complete film and broadcasting solutions for camera rentals right from cameras to accessories all of which is owned by Prime Focus India,” said Eklavya Jain, AVP, films and equipment rental, Prime Focus India.
Likewise, SRSG offers rental solutions for post production, PCR/MCR and backpack solutions for live coverage of events/matches etc.
New-Age Business Needs
India is poised to be among the top five economies in the world by 2020. “Home to over a billion mobile subscribers and the second largest Internet user base in the world, it will become a key force to reckon when it comes to global business, policy, and technology advancement. Due to the proliferation of smart devices and reasonable broadband speed at competitive prices, the Indian consumer is now hooked to virtual applications from digital payments to over-the-top (OTT) video, from social networking to personal wellbeing. Mobile devices are gaining currency, literally and figuratively. To drive this further, the Indian government has embarked upon a journey of establishing a connected ecosystem for its people and industries,” said Vidya Nath, research director, digital media practice, Frost & Sullivan.
What this means is that YouTube channels and other social media platforms are providing a major platform for wedding shoots, commercial shoots, social filmmaking and documentary making for professionals and amateur enthusiasts. They, as well as broadcasters want to go with OPEX model where they can concentrate on content production.
“We take care of the complete set of equipment as well as provide the technical manpower on a 24/7 basis. Thus, content creators do not need to invest on the equipment and can easily get the latest equipment according to the market standard. Also system integration is the heart of the workflow, by adapting to this model broadcasters do not need to think about system integration as we will do create the entire workflow according to their requirements and complete the system integration,” said Hameed.
Delta4Cast is planning to bring 4K production equipment as well as offer complete in-house facility for channels that will help to the broadcasters start the channel overnight. “We attend seminars, training sessions and convocations every year across the world on film and broadcasting equipment. “We, too, directly liaise with the products manufacturer to keep pace with the latest developments and enhancements,” added Jain.
The show must go on
Smaller cameras with higher resolutions and high frame rate with inbuilt teradecks, aerial shooting (via drones), Virtual reality videos, 4K videos (Ultra high definition or UHD which has standard resolution of 4000 pixels results in greater pixels density, better color depth and reduction in grains), Go Pro cameras are good to capture action (traveling shots, underwater shots, trek shots, etc) as well as 360-degree videos, hyper-lapse videos, time-lapse videos and slow-motion videos are also trending.
There are several situations, where despite the conditions, the shoot cannot be stopped. This calls for the deployment of advanced equipment that can shoot under water and if there is no electricity, then the crew needs to shoot the entire day using batteries.
“There is lot of conceptual work going on, like miniature photography, creative shots and low-shoot mode lighting, which is possible now because of the modern technologies,” said Dheeraj Malawliya, co-founder, Classic Shadow.
Sanjeeb Mekap, MD, SRSG Broadcast India added, “We provide the latest technology and have a complete range of Apple Mac Book Pro/ Cylinder Mac Pro with storage, broadcast monitors and AJA I/O for post production, Grass Valley/ FORA video switcher for production and Dejero for streaming live events for sports and news channels. A new trend we see is that OB vans are being replaced by back pack solutions, which are cheaper and easy to manage.”
While investing in any new equipment every rental company always has to keep a close eye on how soon and easily they will be able to recover the investment cost. “We calculate how much time the equipment will take to achieve the breakeven value after which profits start. Brand recognition, market trend, client requirement, experts requirement for particular gear, technical sophistication are some major points to be considered. Also how international cinema is experimenting with creative handling is a factor,” averred Hemu Goel, Director, Hemu G Studioz. Again breakeven point is not hard to achieve if investments are rationalized. It is very important to look into that what is going to be in trend. “Approximately in the season, it is possible to cover your camera cost in a wedding shoot. Unlike wedding, commercial shooting is off road and comes up with particular demands of equipment. Diffusers, mics, trolleys, gimbals, Ronin, jib crane cameras are some equipment which are used in commercial video production,” added Goel.
Again, it is vital to understand the market demand and supply and the positioning of competitors as well. Financial liability against the returns on investment is the key criteria that most organisations take into consideration before investing in various business domains.
With stiff competition and dropping of rentals a minimum of three years is the approximate time that companies consider as the minimum turnaround time to break even. Hameed stated, “Before investing in any new product or technology domain, we do a complete market analysis and we ensure that breakeven ought to happen according to the duration that we have planned.”
In Tune with the Times
A key factor that needs consideration is the need to upskill the existing talent pool to ensure they are in tune with the new technologies being brought on board. It does help that today mostly all equipment brands come with the video training tutorial as well as manuals to ensure that the programmes are user-friendly. Training sessions through workshops are also conducted at various levels to ensure that operators can make the best use of equipment.
“We send our staff to attend seminars and courses conducted by manufacturers to better understand the latest technologies. Also, our senior technicians conduct regular in-house checks to ensure that our existing talent is apprised with the latest technology,” Jain explained.
Delta4Cast has different verticals including system integration, sales, uplinking and rental. “Most of our manpower gets regular trainings from our OEMs. We use the same manpower for our rental division troubleshooting as well. Also, we are resellers for most of the products that are part of our rental portfolio, so this arrangement works well for us. It helps us understand the product from our vendor’s perspective as well as end user’s point of view,” revealed Hameed.
Rapidly changes in technology are the biggest challenge that operators in the rental business regularly face. With evolving customer demands, key technology players competitively work hard to ensure that their equipment is constantly upgraded.
At times, this can make it difficult for the rental companies to stay aligned with a single brand. They have to work with multiple vendors to ensure that they have the latest technologies from different companies, as this is that their customers expect. This calls for more and frequent investment in newer equipment in a market where the entry barriers are constantly dropping.
Earlier, there were few key players, but in recent times many small equipment suppliers have made their presence felt in the industry. Due to these changing market dynamics, the daily rentals have come down drastically.
“Also earlier the cameras were updated at longer intervals. These days, newer versions come into the market sooner, hence no cinematographer wants to use the older version and by the time we could amortize the cost of the camera it has been discarded from market,” opined Jain.
The present challenges stem from rapidly changing technology requiring constant investment. “For broadcasters, the biggest pain point is the humongous distribution cost, which has not come down despite digitisation and projections. For satellite channels, the internet has emerged as a dual-edged sword—they need to invest in it for presence, but at the same time they compete with many smaller, low-cost startups that provide quick and snappy content, free of cost. This reduces the money pipeline left for systems integrators and players like us,” said Mekap.
Recently, competition has started heating up significantly in the broadcast industry as it becomes more IT-oriented. “For the last one year we have started doing IT projects as well. This will help us in the future as once the broadcast industry completely turns to IT, our crew needs to be fully equipped to handle the IT environment that will help to run the broadcast as well. Another challenge that we are face in the rental division is that the market is not highly promising in the domestic area. Hence, we have now started concentrating outside India as well,” said Hameed.
The trend towards renting versus owning is gaining momentum as different lenses and gear is required for different genres. Low maintenance cost and the fact that there is no wear and tear expense in the long run rationalises the amount spent on renting.
“You will need a lot of money to invest in equipment that keeps changing at a faster pace in terms of greater pixels, higher dynamic range, higher frames per second, flexibility with third party lenses and accessories,” Goel pointed out.
Again with rapid changes in technology, as the older equipment becomes redundant, its maintenance costs of equipment become higher, making renting it a much viable option. “By renting it, the customer has zero liabilities as there is no maintenance cost, no insurance cost and will access latest technology all the time,” Mekap stated.
Piling on Value Adds
Asset management, transportation services, post production services are some value-added services that rental companies offer. The key driver in this market is that the rental companies have access to latest techniques and a global platform for everyone. “Additional value-add include an attendant to take care of the products and if it is a daily user company then rental companies will also supply equipment that match the demands. With budgeted bill and market price there are many offers given to the broadcasters and they take full benefit if it,” said Malawliya.
Technical support, assistance, updated and serviced equipment with multiple options to choose from the in-house inventory is some other additional benefits. “The key drives in the news or non-news broadcast market are, and will remain, forever technology, quality content, viewer engagement, distribution costs and competition from the internet content suppliers,” concluded Mekap.
Technically, manpower who are available on a 24/7 basis, standby equipment available at any point of time or the ability to offer an alternative solution at run time is some key benefits of renting equipment. Hameed averred that the market is growing due to drivers like “important changes in the TV system, the increase in the number of channels each day, an increase in live TV productions that is driving traditional viewing, more remote production for live events, over the top and VOD non-linear content delivery and transition to file / it based at broadcaster facilities.”
The Indian broadcasting and content distribution sector is among the fastest growing in the country and is expected to touch Rs 1,098 billion by 2020 from the present Rs 617 billion. By 2019, TV households will surge to 200 million from 175 million in 2016, of which cable and satellite homes are expected to grow from today’s 120 million to 187 million by 2019. Naturally this means that rental companies will certainly be looking for a share of this rather lucrative pie.