For video production professionals, used broadcast gear can provide an affordable way to get quality equipment without breaking the bank. However, buying used gear isn’t enough on its own – you also need to properly maintain and repair it for long-term use. With the right maintenance and repair approach, you can keep used broadcast gear running smoothly for years to come. In this post, we’ll explore best practices for keeping your used cameras, switchers, monitors, and other video gear in tip-top shape.

Inspect Used Gear Thoroughly Before Buying

The first step is to thoroughly test and inspect used broadcast gear before purchase. Some key things to look for include:

  • Image quality: View test footage on monitors and look for any issues like pixelation, noise, color accuracy problems, etc.
  • Connections: Test all inputs and outputs to ensure they are functioning properly without any loose connections or damaged ports.
  • Mechanical operation: Try out all buttons, dials, and moving parts to make sure they are working smoothly without sticky or broken components.
  • Hours of use: Ask the seller for total equipment usage hours to understand how much wear and tear it has gone through.
  • Included accessories: Confirm all accessories like batteries, chargers, cables, manuals, etc. are included.

Taking the time to fully evaluate used gear on the front end will help you avoid buying equipment that already has underlying issues. Pay particular attention to any possible sensor or mechanical problems which can be expensive to repair later.

Follow Preventative Maintenance Routines

To keep used broadcast cameras, switchers, monitors and other gear operating well for the long haul, it’s essential to follow consistent preventative maintenance routines. Here are some tips:

  • Clean gear regularly: Use compressed air to blow out any dust, dirt or debris from internal components. Clean off external surfaces with rubbing alcohol and lint-free cloths. This prevents buildup that can lead to overheating.
  • Perform visual inspections: Periodically inspect all physical gear components like screws, cables, lenses, chips, etc. to spot potential problems brewing like cracks or malfunctions. Tighten any loose screws or connections.
  • Run diagnostic tests: Run built-in diagnostics on gear like cameras and switchers to proactively catch errors and issues before they worsen. Test all inputs and outputs regularly.
  • Update firmware/software: Keep all firmware and hardware up-to-date to reduce bugs and take advantage of optimizations. Old, outdated firmware can cause unstable performance.
  • Exercise moving parts: Power on and use movable gear components like pan/tilt heads regularly to prevent seizing from lack of use. Keep lenses and other optics moving smoothly.
  • Check hours of use: Keep track of equipment run hours and watch for any needed servicing based on manufacturer recommendations. Excessive wear can occur over time.
  • Clean connections: Use compressed air and electronic contact cleaner spray to thoroughly clean all connections on cables, battery plates, power inputs, etc. to avoid buildup.
  • Following standardized maintenance procedures will help you spot issues early and prevent bigger problems.

Learn Common Maintenance & Repair Skills

Besides preventative maintenance, it’s a good idea to learn some basic maintenance and repair skills for used broadcast gear. Being able to carry out minor servicing yourself saves downtime and maintenance costs. Some skills worth learning include:

  • Soldering. Learn to solder and desolder broken connections on circuit boards and components.
  • Replacing buttons/knobs. Know how to replace broken or sticking physical buttons, knobs and switches on gear.
  • Reseating chips. Be able to safely remove, clean and reseat any loose chips or cards in equipment like cameras.
  • Adjusting/replacing belts. Check for damaged or worn drive belts in equipment like VTRs and know how to replace them.
  • Cleaning optics. Use proper cleaning techniques and tools to clean any dirty lens, prism or filter optics.
  • Replacing cables. Know how to replace damaged or faulty cables like Triax, SDI, XLR, etc. on gear.
  • Troubleshooting issues. Learn systematic troubleshooting to isolate issues in gear like display problems, overheating, etc.
  • Testing circuits. Use multimeter tools to test voltage and continuity in electronic circuits and identify faults.

Don’t try to take on major repair jobs that you aren’t fully qualified for. But learning basic maintenance skills will allow you to fix minor problems in-house.

Know When To Send Gear For Professional Servicing

While preventative maintenance and minor repairs can be done yourself, there are times when used broadcast gear will need to be sent for professional servicing and repairs, including:

  • Component-level troubleshooting/repair: Diagnosing and fixing issues at the individual component level like circuit boards, sensors and internal parts.
  • Complex disassembly/reassembly: Intensive repairs that require full disassembly and reassembly of equipment.
  • Hardware/software fixes: Updates, reinstalls or reconfigurations of hardware and software.
  • Optical realignment: Re-alignment of optical elements like sensors and lenses for optimal image quality.
  • Broken/damaged gear: Physical damage repairs like cracked lens elements, broken parts or water damage that requires replacement.
  • Advanced imaging diagnostics: In-depth imaging tests using specialized tools to calibrate and optimize image quality.
  • Regulatory maintenance: Any legally required maintenance like re-certification of rigging points or electrical safety.

Seek out experienced repair shops or technicians that specialize in broadcast gear maintenance. Get quotes beforehand so there are no surprises on cost.

Invest In Spare Gear For Critical Needs

When dealing with older used gear, it can be smart to invest in spare backup components for critical needs in case primary gear goes down. Some examples include:

  • Spare lenses to match your camera systems if a lens has problems.
  • Backup camera head in case your main one needs intensive repair.
  • Redundant recording options like additional field recorders or drives.
  • Spare cables, power supplies and batteries.
  • Extra small components like fuses, screws and connectors.

Having applicable spare gear readily available can be a lifesaver if your primary equipment goes down right before a shoot. Just make sure it stays properly maintained as well.

Keep Detailed Maintenance & Repair Logs

The final key practice is to keep detailed logs of all maintenance and repairs performed on your used broadcast gear. Tracking this information is invaluable when trying to diagnose issues or gauge when servicing is needed. Be sure to record:

  • Date of any maintenance or repair work.
  • Specific gear worked on.
  • Maintenance or repair details.
  • Any component replacements or fixes.
  • Total run hours at the time.
  • Who performed the work.

Thorough record keeping gives you a complete history of what’s been done to equipment and can help pinpoint when recurring issues arise.

Get Extended Life from Used Gear

Purchasing quality used broadcast gear can be an affordable way to get professional-level equipment on a budget. But without proper maintenance and repair, used gear is likely to have a short lifespan. By following the tips in this article, you can keep your second-hand cameras, switchers, monitors and other video equipment running smoothly for years of extended use. A little bit of preventative care goes a long way!

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