One thing most filmmakers are quite uncomfortable on set is without a doubt audio recording. We know that it’s an essential aspect of every professional production. In fact, a decent video with bad audio is much worse than having slightly worse images but with excellent audio.
Hence, having an experienced audio guy in the field with you is generally highly recommended, and even though most of us have developed the basic skill needed to survive, we can always upgrade our solo setup to get a better result or to be less cumbersome to move around.
Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter has recently come up with a full wireless audio recording setup that could be extremely useful and efficient in that regard as it’s aimed exactly at making your life on set much easier.
If you have ever shot a corporate video, interview, or doc, odds are you know pretty well how intricate the wire setup can be and surely you can appreciate the idea of going completely wireless. The cleaner the set is, the better for all people involved. So, let’s break down the whole thing in a few components:
The Orca-28 Audio Bag is designed exclusively for audio professionals, and you can easily tell that from the loops for straps that go around the boom operator’s neck. The bag has a rain cover to save your gear, and most importantly, it hides an aluminum center frame that provides rigidity to the whole bag and surely makes it tougher.
On top of that, it has multiple options to route cables internally, leaving the space inside clean and easy to use when you have to access the controls on your gear. If you have a boom to add in the mix, once you’ve folded it, you can secure it to the side of the bag.
The Wireless Kit
The real heart of this setup is the Deity Connect Wireless Kit. It’s composed of one main receiver and two transmitters. This is probably one of the best kits you can find on the market in the prosumer segment. If you’re approaching the audio-gear world right now, you may have already noticed that sky’s the limit when audio gear prices are involved, but this is a good option for those who want to make a serious investment in gear without going broke at the same time.
Other than that, it has been designed with standard audio bags in mind. You can appreciate the fact that the small LCD monitor and the control dials are all on the front, giving easy access once they’ve been tucked in the bag. The kit also contains plenty of cables and accessories to make do with almost any kind of connection you may need.
Power of the kit comes from the internal battery, but it has a USB input for external charging as well. A simple power bank like those used to charge smartphones can keep the show going for long, long hours. In his setup, Caleb keeps one receiver ready with a lav mic, and the other one on top of the boom with a shotgun, while the main receiver sits inside the bag itself.
The K-TEK Avalon series is the boom of choice in this setup. Being made of aluminum, the unit is lightweight and resistant enough, plus it does not flex too much. Inside the boom pole there is an internal cable running from top to bottom, allowing to connect your mics in a clean and easy way. On top of that goes the Deity D3 Pro Shotgun Microphone that has been hooked to the second wireless transmitter.
The mic itself has a knob for further adjustments on the back, so if you are far away from the bag, you can make small tweaks to the mic as well. Couple it with a quick-release system such as the Gravity Microphone Quick Release Coupler, and you’ll have a system that you can get ready quickly or disassemble when done with just a few clicks.
The signal captured from the mic goes through the Deity and from there it’s routed to the Sound Devices MixPre-3. This mixer is small, and just as the Deity receiver, it has a front panel very comfortable when used inside the bag.
The mixer accepts two separate inputs in two channels, exactly what is needed for this mic setup. The basic requirement for a mixer is to have good preamps, and we can’t complain about that. The cherry on top? The MixPre-3 can even record internally your tracks!
To get fully wireless there’s another cord you need to cut. Yeap, the one of your headphones. Now, what most people would do is to get a pair of Bluetooth headphones and send the audio there somehow. What we have here instead is a set of Rode Wireless Go used to get the input in a pair of standard headphones, in this case, the Sony MDR 7506.
Those are a classic for audio monitoring, as many sound engineers and technicians will tell you. Caleb has modified them to have a 3.5mm jack in order to have the input from the Wireless Go.
He has glued a cold-shoe on the side of the headphones so that the receiver of the Wireless Go easily slides in there. Meanwhile, the transmitter is hooked up in the bag with the MixPre-3. This pairing of the two components is smooth and easy, giving perfect wireless audio monitoring in seconds.
It’s also worth mentioning that every component of this setup features either internal batteries or a port for USB charging. To create a simple and easy way to power everything on, you can hide in the depth of the bag (right under the mixer and the receiver) a USB switch with output coming out from the side.
That way, if you hook every device to the hub routing a cable in the openings of the bag, a single beefy power bank, or even better a wall adapter for more static situations, you will be able to charge the whole setup in one step.
With this completely wireless setup, you’ll have the ability to record audio on the fly while monitoring the sound at the same time. Of course, you’ll have to factor in a low latency that’s not high enough to cause you troubles whatsoever.
Also, keep in mind that this whole kit isn’t very cheap, but well within the range of most professional users willing to improve their gear setup. So, is it worth the jump? Well, think of how many inconveniences you had with cables lying around on set and maybe the decision to drop that cash and go fully wireless won’t be that hard to make.