Wireless transmeters for sound, are they a good idea?


#1

Hi everyone,

My name is Albert Guimerà Montserrat and I am a Spanish film school student.

Recently, I was watching some behind the scenes footage for a short film and I notices that the boom had no cable running down it and that the mixer had no cables plugged into it. After some more careful viewing, I notices that both the boom’s shotgun mic and the mixer had a wireless transmeter/receiver plueged in and I bean to wonder if I should use these because, apparently, they look like the stuff of dreams (no cables get tangled, nobody trips over anything, your boom operator and sound recordist can be separate from one another…)

I have several questions which I hope you can help me answer since I haven’t really been able to find a reliable source of information on the internet.

Do wireless transmeters amplify the signal from mic level to line level? If they do, shouldn’t this eliminate/reduce the effect of having a good mixer with nice pre-amps? Do wireless transmeters add noise to your signal? Are all/most transmeters okay or do you have to buy high end ones? Why do people keep using XLR cables when this option is available to them?

I hope my questions didn’t sound too stupid.

Looking forward to your answers and helpful advice,

Albert


#2

I can’t answer all these questions, @Kevin_Senzaki would be the best person to cover this but here are the answers I can give.

Do wireless transmitters add noise to your signal?

They can … depending on interference, the type of technology used, how cheaply they are made. But in good conditions with good transmitters there is no extra noise added.

Are all/most transmitters okay or do you have to buy high end ones?

Depends what you mean by high end. Saramonic has a low cost kit that is apparently pretty awesome, the next up is R0De and then you get into what I consider completely un-adffordable. Below the Saramonic kit is pretty much all garbage.

Saramonic SR-WM4C - 100$

Rode RodeLink - 400$

The two above systems are considered good “low cost” woireless systems.

Here is an example of a REALLY cheap wireless kit … TL:DR … its crap.

Pyle-Pro PDWM96

I did a terribly awkward review of it here … don’t judge me, I’m usually behind the camera for a reason … I feel I should redo that review. Stop watching 6:36 … I’m actually embarrased by the rest of the review … so bad.

Like I said, there is a reason I’m normally behind the camera. :stuck_out_tongue:

Even compared to my crappy Audio Technica shotgun, it sounds like crap. Like I said, I think I should re test the mic system but I don;t expect it to be much better the second time around.

Why do people keep using XLR cables when this option is available to them?

LOTS OF REASONS!

COST
400$ and up per person you need to mic.

SOUND QUALITY
It’s not that lavaliere mics sound bad but each type of microphone (long shotgun, short shotgun, large condenser, dynamic …) have unique sound properties and uses and a lav mic, with it’s tiny capture area won;t sound as rich and full a a large condenser for example.

INTERFERENCE
Wireless mics are prone to interference.

Government Regulation
Government regulation can also suddenly make your kits “illegal” to use. This happened recently in the US when the government decided to attribute certain bands to emergency rescue. It made older wireless kits illegal to use since the frequencies they operated on were now in the spectrum reserved for emergency services.

Actually, Amazon has THIS at the bottom of every wireless mic listing.

Consumer Alert: Most users do not need a license to operate this wireless microphone system. Nevertheless, operating this microphone system without a license is subject to certain restrictions: the system may not cause harmful interference; it must operate at a low power level (not in excess of 50 milliwatts); and it has no protection from interference received from any other device. Purchasers should also be aware that the FCC is currently evaluating use of wireless microphone systems, and these rules are subject to change. For more information, call the FCC at 1-888- CALL-FCC (TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC) or visit the FCC’s wireless microphone website at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones.

Multiple kits == multiple frequencies
If you need to mic up more than one person, you need a system that can deal with multiple packs and multiple frequencies without interfering with each other. That can get expensive and complicated pretty quick.


#3

I don’t know much about the other ones but I can vouch for the rode link if you have the budget for it, it is a decent reliable set that allows you to connect multiple transmitters together and has good quality. I used it for a couple gigs on a lav and a microphone worked really well.


#4

Hi Albert! So I personally don’t have much experience with wireless booms, but to answer the main point of your question broadly, wireless can be a great option, but wireless is inherently a little inconsistent - basically, it adds another complication that could malfunction, and it can potentially be affected by the shooting location, either from interference from other signals, or from obstructions blocking the signal between the boom op and the mixer. While XLR cables can be a bit of a hassle, it’s a pretty simple piece of technology, and not really prone to any significant “fail situations” aside from the cable itself dying. While I wasn’t on-set for that much of Dimension 404’s shooting, they were using wireless booms for some of our interiors, because it was a controlled location - not sure how often they used it elsewhere, though.

Here’s a few articles from Mr. Google that cover the general price ranges and options for how you can do a wireless setup:

This article covers professional-grade equipment, with a good list of pros and cons for each setup.

This article lists a few products that are even more compact; it’s from a website geared more towards documentary filmmakers. The quality should still probably hold up under most reasonable circumstances, though:

And then here’s the super cheap way to do it - while this is probably fine in some situations, I’d certainly keep a cable for backup (they’re also not using an XLR mic in this example):


#5

People use cables because it means better sound quality (and is lower cost too! Is the main reason why I use cables at the moment).

However… practically speaking going wireless is “better”, thus if I have a boom op working under me (as the mixer, the HoD of the Sound Department) I will use wireless for my boom ops.

But as this is a compromise solution, so you do want to get the best quality wireless you can afford

Thus I use Lectrosonics. But Zaxcom, Wisycom, and Audio Ltd are a few of the other good brands to go with.

As “Boom is King” I would not settle for anything less, your boom is your most important tool to use on set! Don’t compromise it with cheap wireless.

Yes, anything VHF is next to useless. Avoid!

Also avoid! They’re just too much a flawed/restricted system to invest in as wireless for talent (for instance the uselessly big bodypacks), but a Sony UWP-D11 is not much more at all and the Sonys are the best “no budget” wireless there is.

Anyway… this is a side discussion about talent wireless, which is quite different to boom wireless (although has some overlap) that the OP asked about.