What to Consider When Organizing Your Production Equipment Room
More than ever before, media organizations and production entities are investing in their own gear and operating equipment rooms, thanks to the affordability of high performance cameras, lenses and lighting. So, for those building an equipment room for the first time, here are a few tips that we’ve picked up from our years of experience.
The most important component to keep in mind? It’s all about flow.
If you have the opportunity to design your space from the ground up, the first thing to consider is the flow of your equipment and personnel. You should plan your layout for optimum efficiency, based on the location of entrances, exits, hallways and elevators, as well as the location of people within your organization that will access this area.
It’s also critical to consider the process through the equipment room itself and to create separate zones for Returning Gear, Bench Prep, and Ready-to-Go Gear, plus ample floor space for Gear Prep or Checkout. This separation of function is especially important for equipment rooms that have a large amount of gear. We recommend clearly labeling these areas to make things clear for the staff and prevent gear mix-ups.
The Returning Gear zone should be organized with designated areas for cameras, lenses, monitors, tripods, batteries and accessories. This will make it easy to identify gear for quick processing and progression to the Bench Prep stage.
This is a crucial stage of your gear processing. The more intuitive the organization, the faster it will be to identify a particular piece of gear when it is needed. As this area is only a temporary landing spot for the gear, it doesn’t require as large a footprint as the Ready-to-Go Gear.
One of the most challenging issues in turning around gear that has just returned is getting it into a technician’s hands so they can ensure quality and proper functioning. If this stage is skipped, any damage or missing parts may be overlooked and could potentially affect the performance of the gear on future jobs.
The Bench Prep is where equipment functions are checked and any light repairs or adjustments are made. Consider separating your benches into two main areas: one for computer screens and office functions, and the other for technical functions. We’ve found that a bench height of 34-35”, outfitted with a stool, allows techs to quickly move between operations, and sit or stand, depending on the job.
For the most frequently used tools, consider shelves rather than drawers, so that they are in clear view and quicker to access. Make sure to label or color code all tools designated for this area.
The Ready-to-Go Gear zone should be organized based on the weight of the gear and frequency of use. Heavier, everyday gear should be kept towards the front of the room by the entrance to the prep area, especially tripods, which are the first building block needed for a prep. This layout ensures that your team won’t need to take multiple trips deep into the equipment room to grab the most frequently used or core items for the Gear Prep process. Once these items have been organized closest to the entrance, the next step is to lay out the more frequently accessed areas.
Take note of the gear the staff needs to access most, such as lens rods and bracketry, and make sure these are organized with a clear path from the door to the room. This also helps eliminate the possibility of gear being absent-mindedly left on the wrong shelf. Once the gear shelves have been organized into areas of which gear is used the most, these shelves can be further subdivided. For example, keeping heavy cameras on the bottom shelf of the camera section, with related support pieces like cables and card readers on the shelves above them. This will make pulling and building the camera packages must faster.
The Gear Prep/Checkout Floor
The Gear Prep zone, or in the case of larger organizations and rental houses, the Checkout Floor, should be a clear work space with close access to tools, cables, spare screws and any other small items that might be needed during a build. Keeping these items close at hand within the prep area will help speed up the building process. It’s important to make sure to keep these areas organized during a build, so instruct your staff not to leave cases in the middle of the floor or in the wrong build area.
The final step is making sure all employees understand the flow and structure of the equipment room, as well as limiting access to only those staffers who really need to be there.
Once your equipment room is up and running, it’s important to remember that the space can be modified to adjust to the changing needs of the equipment room staff or the company. So pay close attention to what works and what doesn’t, and don’t hesitate to tweak and adjust your space, as well as your processes to work the way your people are most comfortable and productive.
Matt Giblin and David Knappenberger are the equipment managers at AbelCine’s LA and NY rental locations. For more information about AbelCine, visit www.abelcine.com