On the MZed Sound Advice tour I used to demonstrate the Sony UWP wireless systems and how you can use them to set your camera op free of damning audio connections. I usually had the audience of filmmakers and camera ops cheer when they realized the fantasy of audio-cable-free operation was a reality. For good reason.
Well, here’s how we do it:
The issue is cables. And if you have watched any portion of the Pro Members education Volume on Recording, you know that “Cables are your ENEMY!” Tweet: If we can remove cables from any situation, it’s usually a good thing. [click to tweet] Having good wireless transmitter/receiver situations are critical. BUT, since the audio which goes to camera is typically a sync reference, you can use any old cheap wireless system – doesn’t even have to sound good – and it’ll work. We just need a sync reference from the recordist’s mixer and we’re good. A Sony UWP system, or a Sennheiser system or a Rode Filmmaker Kit/NewsShooter kit is crazy overkill. But since you have several of these systems already (right?), you might as well use one in the way described below.
Wireless to the Rescue
Take a mono output from your mixer and feed that XLR output into the wireless transmitter. You’ll need a few adapters to make that happen since most transmitters are solely 3.5mm affairs. Getting XLR to 3.5mm TRS is easy
to find at Radio Shack and Rode sells those adapters outright. If you’re using the Rode FMK you’ll absolutely need to use the Rode adapters, because anything else will not work. Fortunately, the NSK is XLR in only.
This transmitter is now getting the full mix from the recordist’s mixer. There’s no difference between the transmitter getting a microphone signal or a recordist’s mix except for what’s called “impedance.” The output of the mixer is going to be much “louder” than a microphone’s. You’ll likely need to change the input gain of the transmitter to insure that it’s not overloaded by the output of the mixer. Although the reference audio doesn’t have to be super good, it shouldn’t be distorted either.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Mark, dude, I’ve got four wireless receivers in my bag for the four lavs I’ve got on actors. You’re saying I also need to have a transmitter in the bag for the output of my mixer?” Yes! Exactly. Tweet: The output of the mixer gets transmitted to the receiver on the camera! It’s totally dope. [click to tweet]
Once the gain structure between mixer and transmitter is balanced, the receiver shoots the signal out into the universe for the transmitter to pick up just like nothing was any different. Plug the transmitter into a camera input and adjust the input trim on the camera so that an average -12/-10dB signal is showing up, and you’re golden. Physically attach the transmitter to the camera in however the operator allows – ideally with a cold shoe attachment. Eureka! Now the camera op has all the freedom she needs to move around without pesky audio cables inhibiting movement.
Also note that the Sony UWP system has a hot-shoe mount which, when connected to certain Sony cameras, actually feeds the audio directly into the camera without cables of any kind. Dope. Other manufacturers are jumping on board this kind of situation as well.
As I mention in the Pro Member education, everybody hates the audio guy on set. Anything we can do which assists in someone’s freedom of creativity and makes them happy is something we must do. You’re also removing cables in general – which is also always a good thing. Your camera operators will probably buy you a beer.