With Christmas just around the corner, and Easter really not that long after, plans for special productions and presentations are in full swing. A big part of planning is theatrical lighting, and for many houses of worship determining where to sink limited budgets for new gear can be fraught – which makes it the perfect time to look at different solutions, like renting
For this roundtable, we invited Jim Ripp, the Manager of Technical Training, Sales Development and Rentals for Full Compass Systems, Randy Mullican, the CEO of Main Light and Robby Kurtz, the VP of Business Development of 4Wall Entertainment, to discuss why renting is a potentially viable option.
TFWM: Tell us a little bit about your company
Randy: Main Light was founded in 1981 and has established itself as a preeminent lighting rental dry-hire partner within the United States. We offer reliable, well-maintained equipment from the leading live entertainment manufacturers to clients across the United States. Our
extensive inventory is continually being balanced to ensure it meets the demand of our clients.
Jim: Full Compass is the premier supplier of professional Audio, Video and Lighting equipment. For 45 years, we’ve been a one-stop resource
delivering an unsurpassed assortment of top-quality products and solutions to many industries, including worship, education, corporate and contractor customers.
Robby: 4Wall Entertainment is a full-production lighting, video, and rigging company servicing all facets of the entertainment industry – from
houses of worship and theatre to concert touring and television. Our offerings include equipment rentals, production services, new & used sales, and permanent installations. We pride ourselves on providing the feel of a local company with the backing and support of a national entity. Our motto ‘Large Enough to Service, Small Enough to Care’ speaks to our dedication in providing the utmost quality and service for every order, no matter the size or scope.
Do you do a lot of rentals to houses of worship?
Jim: Yes, our Rentals department is very experienced in working with Houses of Worship with their gear needs and anticipating what their
equipment needs may be, including wireless systems, streaming gear, projectors, and portable battery-operated PA’s. Houses of Worship can feel confident that we can answer their questions.
Robby: 4Wall rents a lot of equipment to houses of worship. We could be providing anything from a low fog machine for Christmas, to a 53’
semi worth of lighting and video gear for a large holiday production or conference. Churches call 4Wall for many reasons, but there are a few that really stand out. They call us because of our equipment variety, quality, and dependability. All our equipment goes through a thorough quality control process every time it comes back to the shop. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t go out. Additionally, all our inventory is practically brand new. 4Wall is also UsedLighting.com, where we sell and rotate our equipment every 2-3 years. It allows us to provide reliable & state-of-the-art equipment that our customers can count on to perform as they expect it to.
Randy: We have a long-standing relationship with the House of Worship market served out of our East Coast location in Wilmington, DE.
We recently opened a new location in Nashville, TN to more effective serve our customers in the south. We also hired a dedicated National House of Worship Account Manager to better attend to our clients within the house of worship market.
What makes rental a viable option for houses of worship?
Robby: Lighting and Video rentals for houses of worship are a great way to add a creative visual impact to the church equipment that is already in place. It also gives the techs a chance to try out some new gear in their space before they make a purchase commitment that is permanent. When I worked at a church, I loved designing for our conferences or productions because it allowed me to spread my creative “wings” now and then. With rentals, I was able to grow in my craft, and stay up to date with how the technology was progressing.
Randy: To put it simply, these lights are not cheap. We have built an extensive inventory of all the newest technologies within the space of
entertainment lighting. We aim to be a rental partner churches can trust to provide high quality lighting rentals at an exceptional value.
Jim: Rental allows houses of worship to expand and upgrade their production possibilities for specialized events. And rentals allow for experimentation with a product before making a purchase.
What are the most important questions a house of worship should ask before signing a rental agreement?
Randy: What is the average age of the equipment? Does the contract have all the items I will need for using the fixtures? We go to great length
to ensure there is a clear line of communication open between us and our rental partners.
Jim: What are the cancellation policies? What are the policies and late fees if gear is not returned on time?
What financial responsibility do I have if the gear gets damaged or destroyed?
Will the rental staff offer some guidance or basic training on the gear if needed?
How well is the gear maintained in between rentals?
Robby: I would say it is important to know what is being provided and what you are paying for. It’s always important to read the fine print. Does this include sales tax, and will sales tax be added in my state if we are not tax-exempt? Are there any costs that will be added above this rental price as quoted? I also think it is important to confirm there will be spare lighting fixtures/video tiles, etc. Even if all the gear arrives in perfect condition, things could happen, like a volunteer dropping a moving light, or some other type of mistake. We always create our rental quotes with roughly 10% spares over the quantity requested. In most cases, they will not be cracked open, but it is always nice to know you have them in your back pocket.
What should a house of worship be looking for in a rental partner?
Jim: The Full Compass Rentals department prides itself on the reliability of our gear and the professionalisms of our staff. Plus we offer
rental credit towards new purchases. Rentals and purchasing can both be stressful, as Houses of Worship want to make sure they are spending their money wisely. So look for a company that will take the time to get to know you and understand your audio/video/lighting needs.
Robby: I believe the house of worship should look for a high level of integrity and quality in the rental company they choose. Churches
are responsible to steward their member’s charitable giving with Godly character and integrity. In the same way, I think it is important that they choose a company that aligns with the desire to function with a high level of integrity in business and with their customers. That’s why I think that 4Wall is such a great partner for churches and one of the main reasons I chose to work here. If we promise we are going to provide something to the customer, we will do everything in our power to make sure that happens. When customers rent equipment from us, we can promise it will work as expected.
Randy: A company who recognizes churches stand apart from the other clients within the rental lighting space. A house of worship does not
have the same needs as a theater, touring, or production company. Every client base has individual requirements that are unique to their space. This is something we fully recognize. We went through painstaking lengths to ensure we had the support in place to offer a dedicated service specifically for houses of worship.
Does your company offer training on rental equipment?
Robby: 4Wall does offer training on our rental equipment. We have set up demos for customers many times in our shops so that they can see the equipment, understand how it works, and confirm it will work for their intended purpose. There are times we host console, media server, and other training in our warehouse as well. If a house of worship would feel more comfortable having one of our folks on site, we have 4Wall show staff for this very purpose. We can provide services from prepping and setting up the equipment, to operating the show for the customer, if needed. We can also provide drafting & pre-vis services if they require a deeper level of involvement from 4Wall.
Randy: We take great pride in our client support. We are strictly a “dry hire” rental company, meaning we do not install or operate any rental
equipment on site. However, to help fill any knowledge gap; we are growing an extensive library of training material (in written and video format) that will be free to clients. Our dedicated representative(s) are also very skilled at consulting on what lighting equipment may best be suited for a specific venue.
Jim: Yes, we always work with our customers to give them the knowledge they need so that they can operate any piece of gear with confidence. We work to always go beyond the equipment, to also deliver a level of ease and expertise.
Is it sometimes better for a house of worship to rent versus owning the equipment outright? Can you offer some examples?
Jim: Special events may require specific gear or an expanded production plan. For example, a larger event may call for more channels of wireless than used in the weekly services. Houses of worship can save a lot of money by renting for such limited events as opposed to making a larger investment. Whenever you want to make an event bigger and better without a large investment, consider renting instead.
Randy: There are a lot of variables at play when it comes to weighing the options of buying vs renting. The quantity of fixtures needed, the length of time they will be used, and the type of fixtures necessary to fill a role will all play a role in a renting or buying decision. That being said, we also have an extensive inventory of used equipment for these very scenarios. Whether a house of worship is renting, or buying, we can be their partner in finding a solution.
Robby: I believe there are many times it is better for a church to rent instead of owning outright. When churches have special events, the quantity and type of equipment they rent will be different every time. Every year they may be going for a new Christmas look, or a new conference look, so renting gives them the ability to design a fresh integrity and stage set every time. That also could be said for churches that change their “look” with every sermon series. We have customers that have long-term rental agreements with us so that they can change out their set every quarter, or twice a year. One other major benefit is that if a piece of equipment fails on the long-term rental, we will replace it for them. If they owned the item, they would probably need to ship it off for repair, and they would be down that unit for months quite possibly. With the churches that have long-term rentals with us, we also can work in service plans. If the church knows the gear will be hanging for, say, a year, we can schedule our techs to come to the church to clean and QC all the equipment on site. We know the church techs are usually spread thin trying to manage all they are responsible for, so we are motivated to do anything we can to make the rental process easy and seamless.
What are the most common pieces of equipment churches rent? What gear do you think is often overlooked by churches that they should be renting?
Randy: Currently our most rented equipment in that market is the LightScape® Fiber Optic Curtain.
Jim: Wireless systems, streaming gear, projectors, and portable battery-operated PAs are our most common rentals.
Robby: I would say we most often rent moving lights, and fixed LED pars, floods, or strip lights. We also do a fair bit of LED video tile rentals and projection too. Items that I would say are overlooked or not considered by churches when working with 4Wall would be things like wireless battery-powered LEDs, rigging, media servers, and TVs. Some will ask for these types of items, but many think we may not have ALL they need and look elsewhere for this or that. I would recommend that it is always a good idea to send over the full list of what they need to each vendor, and then let the rental company say yes or no to what they can provide.
Randy: Small LED washes are an often overlooked but extremely versatile fixture.
Jim: Special events often call for special equipment. It’s important for houses of worship to consider renting gear when the volume of attendees and audiences may be much larger. Or when there are key elements of a performance or event that go beyond their standard planning.