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Long-distance wireless audio options

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Alana Curtis
Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:50:23 am

As a video production manager for college athletics, I use a Panasonic AJ-HPX3100 to shoot road football and basketball games. For football, we only have one camera that shoots highlights from the sidelines. The problem is that we need to record the radio call, too, which has generally meant setting up a smaller camera in the radio booth and plugging it into the mixer. It works, but it's not worth the time spent in post production to sync the audio when we're on a short turnaround time for a weekly coaches show.

So now I'm in the market for a wireless transmitter and/or receiver system (~ $1300 - $1500 budget) that is capable of capturing wireless audio from a long distance - from the radio booth on the upper floors of a college football stadium all the way down to the field. We have a set of Sennheiser wireless mic sets that have ALMOST worked in some cases, but for the most part it's totally useless.

I've been looking into something like the Lectrosonics UCR401 (I've used a similar receiver in the past that works well in basketball arenas) to mount on the camera, but I'm a little nervous to invest in something that may not work. I've also been looking into some Sennheiser directional antennas, but I'm unfamiliar with the "workflow," so to speak.

Any product recommendations or suggestions for alternative solutions?


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Craig Alan
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 4:59:24 pm

syncing audio in post has come a long way. What NLE do you use? You could use an audio recorder rather than a camcorder to record the audio.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Alana Curtis
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 6:45:01 pm

We use the Adobe Production Suite (CS6). Syncing wouldn't be such a huge problem if we weren't pulling shooting and pulling individual clips, whereas the audio recorder would be rolling the entire time. I looked into recorders that can generate timecode, which would help, but those are incredibly pricey.


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Matt Townley
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:20:00 pm

If you can get your budget up a bit, a Lectrosonics SMQV transmitter can be set to 150 mw output, which with a 411a RX will give you tremendous range. Search around for used gear in the block you need for your area.


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Alana Curtis
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 6:52:05 pm

We will be shooting in a variety of locations around the country, so I'm not sure which block to look for. In fact I'm not sure what that means! What does the block mean, and how do I go about finding out which one I require?


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Matt Townley
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 6:58:37 pm

"Block" refers to the block of frequencies the device can operate in. The frequency spectrum is broken up into "blocks." The blocks available for wireless mic usage varies region by region. For instance, blocks that are open and work well in City A might be restricted in City B. Fortunately, this information is pretty well documented for most major markets so it makes planning and coordinating pretty straight forward.

Something new on the market is called "wideband" wireless, where one device can operate in a significantly larger range of the frequency spectrum. These have been out for a while on lower end gear, but higher end gear is just starting to merge in the wideband space. Wisycom is one brand that just came into North America from Europe. Gotham Sound is their N.A. dealer. Their TX have only been approved by the FCC up to 100 mw, so not quite as much output power as the Lectro SMQV, but they are wideband, which is nice if you are traveling a lot. Give Gotham a call and they will be able to help you with a lot more specifics.


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Alana Curtis
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:47:51 am

Awesome, thanks for the great info!


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Richard Crowley
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:36:17 pm

Distance coverage is affected by signal strength. One way to boost the signal strength is to simply use a more powerful transmitter. But there are often laws against that.

Another way of boosting signal strength is to use better antennas. Those little pieces of wire hanging out of the transmitter and receiver are convenient for short distances, but they are the WORST possible solution for long distances.

I use a 400-1000 MHz Log-Periodic antenna to boost range. Some wireless gear manufacturers sell them with their logo emblazoned on the side and charge you $100s for the privilege of flying their flag. But I use the PC-board antennas from this guy....

http://www.wa5vjb.com/products1.html $28, but you have to solder on your own cable


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Alana Curtis
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 7:13:20 pm

Well I am no engineer, so soldering my own cables is probably not a good option for me! But these antennas seem to work well, are relatively inexpensive and I see them on the field all the time.

If I get something that already has all the necessary cables and whatnot, how would I go about configuring the antenna and getting sound to my camera?


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Richard Crowley
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 22, 2014 at 8:23:17 pm

If you are at a university, surely there are several electronics or physics or media (or even maintenance) benches around the campus where somebody could solder that together in a few minutes.

Not sure what you are asking about "configuring the antenna"? Not knowing exactly what kind of transmitter and receiver you have limits our ability to advise on how to connect the antenna. But for positioning, you simply aim them at each other.

And as far as "getting sound to my camera", how does improving the antenna(s) change anything in the audio path?


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Alana Curtis
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:47:23 am

I'd have to check to see the exact model, but we have a Sennheiser kit that includes two mic/transmitters and receivers, along with a plug-on transmitter (I think it's probably the ew 100 G3 combo). Basically all I'm asking is how/where (in relation to the location of the booth and camera, generally speaking) do I set up the antenna; and whether I need to do anything with the antenna to make sure it's picking up the appropriate channel, etc. Or do, I just set up the transmitter and receiver as usual? Like I said, I've never worked with an antenna before so I honestly have no idea what I need to do with it.


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Eric Toline
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:17:58 am

The Sennheiser G series have non removable built in antennas for the *TX & RX. Getting the RX antenna in a clear line of sight to the TX antenna is most important. 90-120 yards is about maximum useable range for the G series under the best conditions.

*TX=Transmitter. RX=Receiver.

Eric

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"


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Ty Ford
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:05:46 pm

Hello Alana and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

More powerful transmitters like the 250 milliwatt Lectro SMQ (Q stands for one quarter watt, or 250 milliwatts) may or may not get the job done. A five fold increase of power from 50 mW to 250 mW doesn't increase your range by a factor of 5 or even 2.

I'm pretty sure the directional Shark Fin-style antennae are for receivers, but if you didn't need to move the camera on the field much, you might be able to get someone like Lectrosonics to help you rig a pair of shark fins or something else to get more range. Reach out to Karl Winkler or Gordon Jones at Lectrosonics and see what they can come up with. http://www.lectrosonics.com/US/Contact-Info.html

The longest range of any wireless I've tested has been an Audio Ltd. 2040. I got over 1000 feet with one set and the 2040 TX is only a 50 mW transmitter. When I asked about the greater range, I was told some of the secret is in the receiver. More about the 2040 (which is soon to be retired, from what I hear) here. https://www.dropbox.com/s/9xwdranr5l2j8oh/AudioLtd.2040.pdf

For home games, maybe run a cable from the booth to someplace near the edge of the field to your transmitter and fly the audio in from there to the camera with wireless. Before doing that, I'd work out whomever is doing the mix so levels remain proper.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Alana Curtis
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 29, 2014 at 9:11:33 pm

Thanks so much for your response! It looks like we're going to save up for a solution when the next budget rolls around. I will be holding on this forum for safe keeping!


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Bruce Watson
Re: Long-distance wireless audio options
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:50:08 pm

So now I'm in the market for a wireless transmitter and/or receiver system (~ $1300 - $1500 budget) that is capable of capturing wireless audio from a long distance - from the radio booth on the upper floors of a college football stadium all the way down to the field. We have a set of Sennheiser wireless mic sets that have ALMOST worked in some cases, but for the most part it's totally useless.

They aren't totally useless; far from it. It's just that you are trying to use them for a task outside their design. Wrong tool for the job.

There are basically two companies, Lectrosonics and Zaxcom, who have equipment that will do what you require. These are the two (in the US anyway) that are really into getting the signal from point A to point B without interference. Neither offers a low end product that competes with the Sennheiser evolution g3 100 series, because their normal customers can't tolerate the compromises that price range requires. So their bottom end equipment is considerably more expensive than the bottom end sennheiser gear.

Something else to think about: When the stadium is full, how many cell phones do you think are present and active? Think anyone is live tweeting the game? Facebooking pix? I'm just saying that a modern football stadium is a huge bowl full of RF interference. You're going to need a Lectro or Zaxcom to cut through all that and give you a clear signal that you can use, especially at 100 meters.

If you decide to buy new Lectro or Zaxcom units, my advice is to stay with frequencies in the lower than 600MHz band (block 22 and lower). Why? FCC is in the process of taking away spectrum above 600MHz. If you buy in the 600s, you can only use it for the next few years. You've been warned.


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