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Old February 24th, 2012, 04:59 PM   #1
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Breakaway cable

After a few days shooting with a homemade 2xXLR+3.5mm snake, I'm looking to get a real breakaway cable, with the multipin connector so the camera can detach at will.

I'm curious what others recommend. This would be for going from my MixPre mixer to whatever camera is on the shoot (e.g. Red, EX-1r, AF100), and I would want the 3.5mm headphone return.

The reviewers on B&H seem to prefer the

Remote Audio Betacam Breakaway Cable CABETACFP33 B&H Photo Video

over the less expensive but not-as-well-made

Canare Breakaway Cable for Portable Mixers 15' CABACX15 B&H

And this post by Guy Cochran:

Poor man's cabling

points to Markertek cables which may be a good value:

TecNec Cables & Connectors TecNec Breakaway Audio Camera To Field Mixer Cables with Headset Monitoring Audio Snake Cables at Markertek.com

and a brand that I hadn't seen before:

http://www.peterengh.com/pdf/m3-18.pdf

If anyone has a used one they want to sell me, please let me know. Otherwise I'm wondering if it's worth springing for the $240 Remote Audio cable or whether the $160-180 Markertek or Canare would work just as well.

One thing I can't tell online is whether the breakaway connections have the correct tension so they will break away if someone trips over the cord, but not otherwise.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 07:32 PM   #2
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Re: Breakaway cable

I've used pretty much all of them and they work just fine. Peter Engh is a full time sound guy and makes some ingenious audio accessories.

The breakaway cables do NOT separate if tripped over. The connector must be manually released. The point of the cable is to allow the shooter to quickly disconnect from the sound guy. A cable that just pulls apart would do just that whenever its tugged on and audio from the mixer would be easily & frequently lost.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 07:52 PM   #3
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Re: Breakaway cable

Rick is right. I built a breakaway cable with the recommended connectors and was surprised that it has to be manually unlocked. (Which can be done quickly and easily, BTW.) The name "breakaway" implies that it breaks away on impact. In practice, it allows the audio person to break away from the camera.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 08:34 PM   #4
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Re: Breakaway cable

I built my own breakaway cable using Canare L-4E3-2P cable and neutriCON quick release connectors. The cable is very rugged and has held up well. It's been pulled through the mud and snow, frozen outside for hours at a time, and just generally used hard. It hold up like a champ, and my audio guys absolutely love it.
The TecNec cable from Markertek and the Canare cable from B&H are the same exact cable, Canare MR202-4AT. The only difference is the brand of the 1/8" connectors, Switchcraft on the B&H cable, Calrad on the TecNec. I have used the MR202-4AT cable in an identical configuration (2x XLR, 1/8" return) and it works well. I fear that it is not as rugged or flexible as the L-4E3-2P cable, and that might cause it to not last as long.
I build custom cables if you're interested. I just wrapped my third film shoot where I exclusively used cables that I built custom, including the breakaway. PM me if you're interested.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 11:09 PM   #5
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Re: Breakaway cable

It is trivial to convert an XLR-type connector to "breakaway".
Either the male connector and/or the female connector can have the latch mechanism easily defeated.
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Old February 25th, 2012, 02:48 PM   #6
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Re: Breakaway cable

Some folks use a 7 pin XLR for the break, slightly easier to solder than the Neutrik, and a captive lock.
TecNec/Markertek uses the Canare. I have a PSC, if I had to buy one again, I'd get RA or TecNec.
The PSC has" molded 1/8" plug and jack.. but nice gold/black XLRs though.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 04:05 PM   #7
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Re: Breakaway cable

I have the Remote Audio breakaway cable. To me, it was money well spent.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 02:42 AM   #8
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Re: Breakaway cable

I think I'm leaning toward the Remote Audio cable. I like that they make the 1/8" cable longer on the camera end than the XLR connection. That way the locking XLRs will provide strain relief so the 1/8" won't fall out.

The plastic 1/8" connections on the tecnec cable look too cheesy to me, and even the B&H Canare doesn't have the nice angled Canare 1/8" connectior that the Remote Audio (and perhaps Peter Engh) cables have.

It would be nice to have multipin connectors at both the camera and mixer ends, so I could detach myself without having to wrangle a 15-20 foot cable. But I've done enough soldering to know how difficult multipin connectors can be. Last time I tried soldering those Canare angled 1/8" connectors, I decided that next time I would buy premade cables.

I like the idea of defeating the latching mechanism to provide safety breakaway. Another idea I'm considering is velcroing the cable to the camera tripod base, so that a tug on the cable would tend to pull the tripod sideways rather than tipping the camera over.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 05:47 AM   #9
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Re: Breakaway cable

I've got the canare. Had i seen the remote audio when i bought it i probably would have gone for the RA instead. The xlr cables on the canare are SO dainty they make me nervous. That said, i've had no problems with them in 5 years, so its hard to say how valid the perception of fragility is.

Are you really encountering that many occasions where the sound guy and camop are heading opposite directions? I understand the desire to have a safety release, but in practice on set, if people are that clumsy or unaware, there has been a pretty fundamental breakdown of communication or procedure.

That said... more and more soundies are moving to wireless hops to the camera, so i suppose that implies they are unhappy with the risks/limits of tethers. hmm.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 10:55 AM   #10
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Re: Breakaway cable

Quote:
Are you really encountering that many occasions where the sound guy and camop are heading opposite directions?
Not heading in opposite directions while shooting, but definitely while setting up shots. I do a lot of shooting with an indie filmmaking collective, with people of all experience levels, so safety is a concern. I'm of the mind that anyone who lays down a cable on a set should be responsible for making it safe for other people to walk over as much as possible. My cable, my responsibility.

The last few productions I've been involved with have had camera operators doing fancy things with jibs and sliders, and the camera always needs to unplug sound when changing setups.
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Old March 3rd, 2012, 06:25 AM   #11
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Re: Breakaway cable

Oh, i'm with you 100% about breakaways for shot setups. I was more wondering about the "emergency breakaway" concept. I'm thinking if its loose enough to pop apart without giving a hit to the camera or soundie's neck, that it might be loose enough to pull apart on those rare occasions where you are *just* at the end of your cable length.

Come to think of it, i hate most cables that can "unplug themselves". bnc and xlr are dreamy... rca, hdmi, even 1/4"... ack. Especially mini hdmi. I HATE mini hdmi. ack!

Sorry. got a bit lost there.

Cheers!
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Old March 4th, 2012, 02:03 AM   #12
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Re: Breakaway cable

A well designed multipin connector should unplug all the pins simultaneously, so monitoring camera return audio would alert the soundie to accidental disconnection.

The pulling force required to knock a camera over should be significantly more than normal pulling forces encountered while wrangling cable. Otherwise we would knock the camera over while wrangling cable. So the trick is for the connector disconnect to be consistent enough that it only happens with a pulling force halfway between danger and normal. That might require calibrated springs and/or cams, not just normal press-fit.

What I'm now thinking I really want is a snake with two such breakaway connections, one at the camera end and one at the sound bag end. Why doesn't this exist commercially?
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Old March 6th, 2012, 10:57 AM   #13
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Re: Breakaway cable

Hey Tom,
Check out ATS Communications BCS breakaway system. Connector won't disconnect too easily but Marty Atias does design them so you can have a mixer end, a cable and a camera end. I personally just get camera end breakaways. Price is not unreasonable.
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Old March 6th, 2012, 02:32 PM   #14
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Re: Breakaway cable

Yeah, the connector I used has a spring loaded ring that you have to lift to disconnect the cable. You can remove it with one hand in a single motion and it snaps together with simple pressure.

If you were to stress the cable, I'm afraid that the wires would pull out of it (or the camera would get turned over) before the connector would separate.
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