To hire or to buy? The decision is different for specialist cameras

Would you hire or buy a camera for a six week shoot?  David Bradley explains why your decision may be different for specialist cameras

The market for broadcast cameras can be complex and incestuous as cameras are sold to end-customers and to the rental market.  At BR Remote, we manufacture cameras for a specialist niche, and our customers also have the choice of hiring or buying their cameras, but the decision to hire or buy is not the same as it is with more ordinary, standard broadcast cameras.

Generally the rent or buy decision will hinge around how long you will need the camera and some simple maths. With a classic shoulder-carried broadcast camera such as a Sony…… or a Panasonic……. there is well-known rule of thumb – the camera is generally available to hire at around 1% of its capital cost per day, with 5days hire for 4days cost and 7 for 5 etc. Considering too, that camera technology changes very fast and that these cameras are updated every year, often the most sensible business decision is to hire cameras on a project by project basis.

However the decision can be very different for specialist cameras. We operate in the niche market of miniature, remote-controlled CamBall cameras and programmable, intelligent camera heads. Our customers still have the same two choices – to rent or buy, but certain aspects of specialist cameras mean that the customer’s decision may be different.

The first difference is that specialist cameras don’t become obsolete as fast as ordinary cameras – upgrades are introduced more gently.  Also, in the case of our own cameras at BR Remote, we ensure that every camera we sell can be upgraded.  We do this for the benefit of our customers, a typical upgrade costs perhaps a third of the price of a replacement camera, so it is in their interests, but now that sustainability has come to matter so much, we are proud to be selling cameras that will last longer and give more service.

However, in business decisions, it is numbers that matter, and the key difference between specialist cameras and the others is the daily rental rate. For speciality cameras, the daily rate tends to be a much higher percentage of the purchase price – it will be 3% – 5% of the original cost of the equipment. This changes the picture completely, and makes the answer to the buy-or-hire question very different.

David says: “If you need a specialist camera for a six week shoot, and you are paying a daily hire rate of say between 3% and 5%, that’s around 20% of the value of the camera each week.”.  So if you rent the camera for six weeks, you would have been better off buying it. In fact, for any project that lasts for more than a month, it is probably worth buying the camera. Then your costs won’t increase if your dates are flexible or shoot is delayed.  On the other hand, one of the advantages of hiring is that hire companies generally supply a whole bunch of cables, accessories and flight cases.  If you purchase the cameras you would need to source these yourself, but at the end you own the camera, and all its accessories and cables.

Of course, many people need cameras for shorter periods and they will hire them, which means that hire companies are very important to us – they look after numerous customers, and provide a great package of advice, equipment and support. For this reason, at BR Remote, we took the decision that we would never rent our cameras directly, we are committed to supporting the hire companies who do offer this service.

As with other broadcast cameras, our equipment is taken from one shoot to the next.  We sell cameras to end customers and hire companies for their rental fleets, and in many cases our equipment is permanently installed in studios or stadiums, even on top of tall buildings for live panoramic view inserts 24/7.

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Introducing CamBall Lite – our most competitive camera yet

Once again, BR Remote responds to customer demand with a brand new camera. CamBall Lite is an indoors-only model in the CamBall PTZ camera range, at a tempting new price.

CamBall ‘Lite’ – Big on features, smaller price

The new CamBall Lite camera offers the feature set of the CamBall4. It uses the same camera, the same electronics and the same software. It provides exactly the same picture quality and smoothness of movement as the latest CamBall camera, CamBall4. The only differences are: this camera is not weatherproof – and the price. This budget-friendly camera is our most competitive model so far. If you like the CamBall camera range, but thought they were a little expensive, please contact us now for a pleasant surprise.

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Proteân Demo

The Proteân XMi is out with David and Nick for a demo in London today. Here are a few snaps from the studio.

If you would like to book in a demo for any of our products, email


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Engineering to film creatures in the wild

In situations where the “talent” is terrified of a human camera crew, a remote rig with the cameras in one location and the crew several hundred meters away is the best way to get intimate, close-up pictures. We believe the secret of success lies in the engineering, preparation and testing and behind the scenes work before you even set off for the airport.

In a typical scenario, our customers outline what they need and, working with the DOP we can suggest the easiest and most reliable way to achieve what the producer wants. We’ve just put a system together to use in a forest with a group of CamBall4 cameras linked with a single cable connection of armoured fibre to send the signals back. This was chosen to resist nibbles by hungry rodents. As the location is well off the electricity grid, David specified car batteries and a remote control relay to operate the lights. BR Remote built the system, tested it to be sure it was fully working, and after one day’s training the crew set off, and filming is going well!

The CamBall cameras were designed for this kind of work and remain a great choice for it, especially the latest model with its broadcast quality pictures, smooth movement, DMX and live action camera control. They are also entirely weatherproof, rated to IP67. But the success of a project like this depends on more than just the right choice of camera. The art of remote filming lies in the engineering the rig so that it will work correctly on location when the crew are a long way from home without the usual options for technical support.

Chatting to David, we realise how much of this Systems Engineering work BR-Remote is doing for clients and what a difference it makes when our engineers have already taken care of the integration and made the kit work together to achieve what the customer wants. We can use our own parts and other parts from other manufacturers. We build the system and make it do what you want, which is the whole ethos of BR Remote: “Your vision - Our focus”.

As you may not get this level of expert help from other places, this could be the overwhelming reason for choosing BR Remote and the CamBall4 camera range for your next project. Do contact us if you need an interesting remote camera rig.

Amazon Yasuni, Ecuador

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IABM Conference

Both David Bradley and Anna Wood have been working hard today at the IABM Conference. David took part in the rigging process early this morning with the AV team, demonstrating how to set-up and use our equipment correctly, whilst, Anna has been busy networking with broadcast industry companies.

The production team are using 4 of our CamBall4 PTZ Cameras, a Multi-Function Controller and a Remote Camera Panel- We are looking forward to hearing their feedback on the equipment.


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Atlantic Production Team Training

Atlantic Production visited BR Remote on Wednesday to pick up their new complete rig of kit. The day consisted of training the Atlantic Prod team on how to assemble and use each product, different configuration options and, hints and tips on best practice.

As part of this project BR Remote, designed and built specified systems to fit the production budget. This included added features such as; specified fibre systems and commissioned BlueBell to manufacture these, built-in interface units to enable remote control of lighting rigs, software functions in controllers and manufactured all cabling required.

The team is now off to the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest for a month filming the wildlife. We wish the team luck and excellent wildlife shots on their adventure to the most bio-diverse place on the planet.

Will Benson Producer/ Director,  Mary Melville Assistant Producer/ Director,  Sam Meyrick Cameraman,  Robin Cox Cameraman.
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Mark and TV Tools in Helsinki

Mark, our Operations Manager visited TV Tools in Helsinki, Finland this week. To fit modifications requested by the customer onto all their Proteân XMi's. These remote camera heads are being used in a mixture of theatres and studios.

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