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Old September 18th, 2003, 07:35 PM   #1
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Personal Radios & Headsets

This probably belongs here rather than in the Audio forum since it does not deal with the acquistion of audio for a production but rather is a posting about a coordinating radio system.

There are quite expensive (and good) crew radio systems for the high-priced productions. But little is offered for we small organizations that need to talk during the taping of a production.

Many's the time I wish I could have told another camera operator to cover something while I swapped tapes, stumbled over my 3 left feet, etc.

I have a couple of the little Radio Shack personal or family radios (I know there is a proper term but I'm too lazy to find it) that are sold for $50 to $100 each. Motorola also builds a lot of these. No license, short range (maybe a mile, best case) and no privacy.

But, RS also offers a boom microphone/headset that allows you to use the radios hands-free if you wish. And the control box into which the headset and microphone are wired and which plugs into the radio also has an headset-level audio-in jack so you can plug in your camera headphone output too. Not a substitute for really good headphones but it will allow you to hear if the wireless is having problems or the audio is really too faint or too loud.

Not bad for $30.

One does not have to actually speak over these setups as the 'Puff" code approach works well in many cases.

Is this a perfect solution? No. Keep the radio away from your camera as it may interfere with certain features (Sony steadyshot comes to mind). Hand the radio itself on your belt and you will probably be OK.
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Old September 18th, 2003, 07:58 PM   #2
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I use these also, FRS radios, and they work real well. You can get the newer versions with a 5 mile range. However, if you use the channels with the longer range, you need an FCC license.
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Old September 18th, 2003, 08:32 PM   #3
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We use quite a lot of these for our crews backstage at the opera. They can be problematic sometimes in an urban setting with others sharing the same frequencies, but we make the best of it. We don't like to actually run cues with them unless necessary, we use hard wired headsets for that.

But the FRS radios are a great bargain, all things considered. We like the Motorola Talkabouts. They're a little more expensive, but Radio Shack is... well, it's Radio Shack ;-) I also have a little radio made by Cobra which is very nice.

Before these were available we only had 2 or 3 walkie talkies. Now we use maybe 10 or 12, very handy for staying in touch backstage. The other day we did a video shoot by the ocean. These radios were invaluable for that. It was very windy, and combined with the ocean roar you could only hear someone within 10 feet or so. I was running the camera, often at a distance. The FRS radios saved us a lot of running around, also great for calling 1/4 mile up the trail to the van in the parking lot, etc.
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Old September 18th, 2003, 09:50 PM   #4
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I bet my radiotelephone operators license I had to get before I could take flight lessons will work for the longer range radios. I think it is a 3rd class FCC License.

The RS stuff (in this case) works well, it just is not very rugged nor is it repairable.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 08:13 AM   #5
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If you need a little better quality and possibly less cluttered frequencies, you might consider the Kenwood ProTalk XLS. I think I paid $139/each at B&H. These units do require a permit as they use frequencies in the commercial band, but include scramble/descramble circuits to give you a little more privacy, if that is something you need. They also are capable of VOX (hands free) operation with the proper headset.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 08:38 AM   #6
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The longer range ones that require a license are GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) which is really nothing more than fee. Neither FRS or GMRS are IFBs but then they are far cheaper than an IFB.

The biggest problem FRS and GMRS are that they are cheap...meaning everone has them. Worse still you sometimes get a homebody who likes nothing more than to listen these frequencies and occassionally but in.

Still since the range is somewhat limited, a move of a mile or two can fix these usually rare problems. Further be sure to get units with privacy tones (coded squelch) as these will reduce hearing traffic you do not want.

By the way on single operator shoots, I hook the audio out of the cam to the radio so I can hear what the cam is recording. Its not good enough to make judgements, but it does tell if everything is working.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 10:02 AM   #7
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The FCC does require a GMRS-specific license to legally operate on GMRS frequencies.

I own and maintain a GMRS repeater in Cleareater--a nice perk of GMRS is that if you own, or know someone who owns a repeater, you can get upwards of 20-mile range depending on the height of the repeater's antenna above average terrain.

This does require slightly more expensive radios, as they have to transmit on one frequency and receive on another.

Here's the link for licensing information at the FCC:

http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/per...generalmobile/

And a link for GMRS radio in general:

http://www.gmrsweb.com/gmrs.html

Hope this info helps!

-Phil
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Old September 19th, 2003, 12:50 PM   #8
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Phil,

Thanks for the link, encouraged me to register for my GMRS radios.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 04:34 PM   #9
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I've found that those cheap VOX headsets do not block enough noise to be useful for use during live-to-tape productions.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 03:47 PM   #10
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Another alternative to the low power FRS radios is to buy radios in the MURS band. The Multi-Use Radio Service is a low power, short range VHF Citizens Band service in the 150 MHz band. As a VHF Citizens Band service, you do not need an FCC license to operate a MURS station.

You get 2 watts with a MURS radio versus the .5 watt FRS radio. GMRS uses the same 2 watt limit for a handheld. MURS channels are not as busy as the FRS or GMRS either.

Forget using VOX, it's a pain in the wazoo. Get some speaker/mics that clip on your shirt like the cops wear and you'll be styling.

More info at

http://www.jesseshunting.com/radios.html#murs
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Old September 21st, 2003, 04:02 PM   #11
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I have a set of Motorola XU-2100 UHF 2-watt radios with headsets. They've worked flawlessly in dense urban environments. They're not cheap but they're built to take heavy use. The call alert and "roger beep" features are often handy for voicelessly cueing "action" from a long distance.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 01:35 AM   #12
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As Ken pointed out, the commercial/GMRS radios cost a bit more but they are made to take the rough and tumble of everyday use. You're pouring money down the drain with the FRS radios if you plan on using them much. FRS are the low end consumer priced radios. You can get a commercial/business low end radio for a bit more and they will take the wear and tear better.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 12:04 PM   #13
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Understand. But I already own these. So into service they will go until the inevitable RS breakdown. At which time I will find a set of the recommended radios.

Thanks for your inputs.
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Old January 18th, 2004, 05:48 PM   #14
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Walkie Talkies for on-set communications - recommendations?

Hi all,

I'm looking to get some walkie talkies for on-set communications. I have about $150 max. for 2-4 pair - ideally waterproof and able to handle dropping.

Any recommendations?

Thanks!

Murph
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Old January 18th, 2004, 07:38 PM   #15
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Long thread on the topic here.
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