It is the producer’s decision to sign off on all rental spending. So, it is their responsibility to have an understanding of gear and how it works. Without that knowledge, producers will waste money on gear they DO NOT need or not renting what they DO need.
Producers MUST understand and accept the restrictions of their budget before renting gear. The equipment rented will affect the total and distribution of the production budget.
There is plenty of information online that explains what kind of gear is available and how it works. Unfortunately, few producers use these resources and get educated. That leads to many productions using expensive cameras they cannot afford. Producers must consider how a camera will affect their post-production and workflow. Is the production shooting ProRes, ArriRaw, REDRAW, 35mm film, Super 16mm Film, etc.? These different formats have different post production workflow. Some are more expensive to process than others.
So, producer, if the TOTAL budget for your short film is $1,000.00, then do not shoot on the Arri Alexa or Red Dragon. You can not afford the rental. Someone will rent you the RED Dragon for $50/day, but, please, do not rent from that person. If you do, you are killing the independent rental market. You will also not be able to afford the hard drives, workflow, and post-production required for that camera. You are better off shooting on a DSLR; and that is perfectly okay for your budget. If you want to shoot on the Arri Alexa, then get more money for your project.
Producers should have an open dialogue with their DP and AC’s. Producers should trust their crew’s opinions about the gear they will need, but also have an understanding of gear they will not need.
For instance, the DP and AC’s may want to have a full wireless video package, wireless follow focus, and multiple monitors. While that may be completely necessary in their eyes, that may not be possible with the budget. If the producer has an understanding of all the gear that they are requesting, they will be able to make an educated compromise.
As far as grip & electric is concerned, it is not necessary to understand every single piece of lighting and grip gear. Producers should have a general understanding of the major differences between certain lights and grip set ups.
Understanding the difference between an 18k HMI and a 1.2k HMI is very important. There is not only a major price rental difference, but one requires a generator and one does not.
Understanding the difference between setting up a 20×20 solid and a 4×4 solid is also crucial. Aside from the obvious size difference, one is a more expensive rental and takes longer to set up.
Trust in the Gaffer, Key Grip, and Best Boy’s to order the proper gear for the shoot. But have an understanding of the equipment that they are renting.
Money saved on rentals could be spent as extra crew pay ;).