Buying Preloved Broadcast Kit

Buying Preloved Broadcast Kit

How to survive and thrive in the used-equipment jungle

By David Gill, Broadcast Sales Manager, Finepoint Broadcast

 

Anyone investing in broadcast equipment faces four obvious options:

1.    Take a deep breath and buy the best kit available to match specific or anticipated requirements.

2.    Compromise on cheaper, maybe even prosumer, products and hope they will meet expectations.

3.    Avoid the capital outlay entirely by leasing from a reputable hire company.

4.    Buy equipment which, for one reason or another, a previous owner has decided to ditch.

Most of my day-to-day activity at Finepoint Broadcast involves working with customers who are buying new, which is certainly the optimal way forward in any well-financed business. There are occasions when buying preloved kit makes very good sense, particularly during periods of rapid business expansion, to get a no-compromise product one has maybe worked with successfully on an earlier project, or to get ahead of competitors in terms of brand image.

A product which has been properly serviced at manufacturer-recommended intervals will have a much longer working life than one which is neglected. But how to check? In broadcast terms, one solution is to buy from industry-recognised specialist dealers such those advertising in Kitplus Magazine, all of whom have reputations to maintain as reliable and trustworthy suppliers.

The safest approach

The safest approach, I would argue, is to buy equipment from reputable companies. Finepoint Broadcast is one of Europe's largest buyers and sellers of video and audio production equipment. We have very long experience in providing a wide range of kit covering almost every aspect of television production, from complete OB vehicles down to individual elements such as audio processors, cable, cameras, fibre-to-triax converters, lenses, lighting, mobile power supplies, picture monitors, production servers, routers, slow-motion systems, test equipment, tripods, video processors, video tape recorders, viewfinders and vision mixers.

Our hire team, led by Clive Northen, is influenced both by customer demand and by the need to invest in equipment which will perform to a high specification for many years. Our hire stock is replaced long before it reaches the end of its service life, in part because rental customers expect relatively new equipment and also to meet the demand for evolving technologies such as HDR, 4K UHD and IP.

Regular maintenance

All our rental kit is carefully checked after each hire to ensure it is in full working condition for the next customer. Between projects, this equipment is stored in a dust-free temperature-controlled environment. Good operational performance is ensured both by our very experienced in-house technicians comprising Michael Bullions, Lanzel  Dyke and Richard Morey, led by Chief Engineer Andrew Mckenzie. I asked Andy  what were the key maintenance issues the team faced:

"There is a definite pattern. Firstly we check for transit damage, signs of operational abuse, bits broken off, that kind of thing. All fortunately rare which speaks well of our clientele! We also check for dust ingress which can happen with equipment used outdoors though it is much less of an issue with equipment such as servers which are normally housed in air-conditioned control rooms or apparatus rooms."

"Technical maintenance is a lot easier with high-end equipment than the lower-cost stuff. The high-end kit is generally more robust and designed to allow efficient and effective maintenance. Mechanical components are stronger and longer lasting than in products built down to a lower price and smaller size. Mechanically-intensive devices such as VTRs need special attention to ensure they stay up to spec, particularly regular drum and tape path inspection, cleaning and alignment."

"We routinely reset software to its factory defaults rather than subject the next customer to settings created for earlier projects. Where specific bits commonly get broken off, we alert the manufacturer in the hope that this will be addressed in the design. We also keep a good stock of spares where we see significant demand. Electronic repairs are much easier now than in the days of discrete components which needed extremely careful positioning and soldering. Board replacement is much easier on the rare occasion that is necessary. Our workshop technicians are skilled at the component level repair which is practically unique in our industry and has saved us and our clients' many thousands of pounds over the years."

"It goes without saying that one type of equipment definitely not recommended for 'preloved' purchase is rechargeable batteries. Lithium-ion batteries, like the cells from which they are assembled, have a decently long but finite lifetime before they need recycling. We return ours to the manufacturers who are able to re-use some of the materials."

Finepoint Broadcast Engineering Team

Summary

To summarise, one can buy pre-used major-brand equipment at very attractive prices but come severely unstuck if the previous owner was too casual about routine servicing. Best then to buy from a reputable dealer, especially ex-rental stock from a reputable hire company as you can then be confident that the product has been well maintained.