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Old March 20th, 2007, 03:10 PM   #1
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Any suggestions for Comm gear?

I hope this is an appropriate place for this post. I'm looking for pointers on some different comm systems to look into for our upcoming productions. In the past we've always used whatever gear the larger production company had on hand.

We're getting close to being able to offer larger productions and I've turned to this forum on most other issues in my journey so here I am again. I'm looking for basic comm gear for the operators to wear and a tech director to use to communicate with them. We work some large and loud festivals so any experience with noise cancellation based systems would be appreciated.

I'm hoping to get a system that's reasonably priced with room for expansion. I'm also wondering if there are any systems that have wireless options that can be added on.

So, anyone out there have some tips to share?

Thanks,
Kevin
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Old March 20th, 2007, 03:39 PM   #2
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Accidental post.
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Old March 20th, 2007, 05:36 PM   #3
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We have a few systems which we recently updated here at the Opera Company. In the theatre we have the house ClearCom headset system, so we bought a 4 station Telex wireless headset system which interfaces with it. We've been really happy with this system and the price seemed reasonable (of course that's relative). You can use any kind of headset you want with the beltpacks. We paid about $2,400 for the base station and $750 each for the beltpacks, plus another $700 for a charger and batteries.

In addition to this we have 9 Motorola 2 watt 15 channel UHF walkie-talkies which cost $240 each. We could also interface these with the clearcom system, but have decided not to, so it's used as a separate system for crew members who need to be mobile.

Now of course we're doing opera and not rock and roll, but it can be a pretty noisy environment backstage. So we have a variety of lightweight, single and double muff headsets depending on user needs.

I'd suggest that you find a local A/V company and let them show you what they've got. You might even consider renting some gear to see if you like it before making a purchase. One factor in our decision was that the Pennsylvania Ballet uses the same Telex system, so buying comparable gear gives us the potential to borrow/loan components when needed. You might want to ask around to see if there might be some comparable synergy in your area.
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Old March 20th, 2007, 06:34 PM   #4
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Kevin,

Say a bit more about your intended use. Is this to communicated with camera ops on a multi-cam shoot or to talk to the PAs holding traffic? What kind of range do you need?
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Old March 21st, 2007, 08:01 AM   #5
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Our intended use is two fold... We do *some* weddings and it would be nice to be able to communicate but that is secondary to the other use.

We run multi camera shoots of live concerts and festivals that are indoors and outdoors. For this we need the technical director to be able to direct the camera ops to "zoom in on the guitar - quick" or "get me a crowd shot". These can be extremely loud and some ops are on stage or in the pit right with the speaker stacks.

Range wise, the largest festival we have done was about 4000 people in an area around a quarter mile square. I don't imagine we'd do much larger than that.

I stumbled onto some packages at B&H by a company called Eartec. They are at the bottom of the sort when you sort by price. I was hoping to stick around the $1000 mark for a 4 headset system with room to grow. Anyone know their products?

Am I doomed to crappy equipment at that price point?

-K
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Old March 21st, 2007, 10:15 AM   #6
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Kevin,

I think you are kinda doomed at that price point.

This is a specialized, tho common need. It's been addressed with professional comm units that were purpose developed to do this job right. As you've discovered, the less costly units are fine when the environment is forgiving - so if you're directing something in a relatively quiet environment where hearing the comm is easy - the lower priced units will probably be fine - but put them in a loud concert venue (or a SILENT ONE for that matter) and having anything less than a quality comm system will be a disaster.

In the loud venue, sealed double muff headsets and properly positioned boom mics will make clear communications possible. On a silent set, low noise electronics and sufficient gain will mean the director can whisper cues and everyone can hear them without disturbing the set.

This is an area where good gear solves problems.

Look for used gear of quality manufacturer. ClearCom, Telex, RTS, etc. And pay what it costs. You'll be forever glad you did.

Plus, if properly maintained, the gear will hold it's value extremely well.

I paid a few thousand dollars for my 8 station Clearcom system eight years ago, not only can I STILL get replacement parts, but I bet I could get most of my investment back if I put it up for sale today.

Excellent investment.
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Old March 21st, 2007, 10:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Kimmell View Post
Am I doomed to crappy equipment at that price point?
That would be my experience unfortunately, although I don't know anything about that company. I don't know what you really expect. You could get 4 motorola professional two-way radios for that price, plus a little more for headsets. That would give you lots of range but they won't be full duplex (can't talk and listen at the same time) like a real headset system would be. Very versatile however as they can be used like walk-talkies or with headsets and they would give you lots of range.

But the real issue is the build quality for the cheaper equipment. We used FRS radios for awhile and they break very easily in a production environment. But if you are only making occasional use then low cost systems like the one you looked at might be fine. But it won't be a bargain if you just have to replace the whole thing a year later...
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Old March 21st, 2007, 10:28 AM   #8
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Bill,

So again coming from the standpoint of someone who knows little to nothing about the equipment could you perhaps recommend models to look at from Telex, RTS, and ClearComm? I need to start in the 4 position range but would like expandability to as many as 8. Do most wired systems have some technique to add wireless later?

Thanks,
K
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Old March 23rd, 2007, 06:19 PM   #9
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Kevin,

Most of these are "building block" systems. You buy a base station that powers the whole shebang. That attaches, typically via standard XLR cables to belt packs on each user. Each user then needs a headset. You can buy single or double muff headsets depending on whether that user will be in a noisy environment.

In the base station area, there's everything from portable simple units, to rack mount multi-channel units.

The "belt pack" units are usually pretty standard. It's a box where you plug the XLR line in, then plug the headset in. The belt pack has a push to talk switch and a volume control. Often it also has a loop-through connector so you can daisy chain units off a long run, rather than making multiple runs from each box back to the base.

The most complex multi-channel units are useful when you want to set up 'sub networks' (ie, director, camera ops, talent, lighting, etc and be able to communicate with one or more sub nets without everyone being always "ON")

If you want wireless, you can offen buy the transmitter/receiver unit, and simply add that as one of the "stations" on the system. That unit then bridges between the wired and wireless systems and everyone can talk to everyone else.

The best process for research is to visit the Clearcom site...www.clearcom.com, and the Telex sight...www.telex.com (Telex now owns and markets the RTS units) and look around.

It's also wise to check ebay, etc. since this is commerical gear and even something made 15 years ago is likely to work just fine today.

Good luck.
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Old March 26th, 2007, 02:39 AM   #10
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Look into Anchor Audio's Porta-Com and Porta-Com pro. They are reasonably priced and the pro version is wireless. They do sell an adapter to use these with other Telex and Clear-Com Systems. They're very professional looking, work very well and will hold up to the demands without being too heavy on your wallet.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 04:00 AM   #11
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Check out Production Intercom Inc at http://www.beltpack.com/
They have great value for money wired intercoms and just introduced a wireless intercom system too..
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