Often on production sets you are seeing less and less booms and more wireless lavaliers. Wireless audio is getting cheaper and recorders now have more channels than ever to ISO record all these wires. While with less booms on set, its harder to capture the audio from the 2nd AC when he/she calls the slate at the beginning of each take. Well, that problem is no longer an issue anymore. No longer will the 2nd AC have to call slate right infront of an actresses’ face. I found these cheap Chinese wireless systems on a site called AliExpress but you can find them on Amazon and on the shelves at Fry’s Electronics. Average USA retail price is $11-14 but if you have 30-60 days for free shipping, you can find them for $6-$8 at AliExpress.com
This simple DIY project is less DIY and more thinking outside the box.
Chinese Wireless microphone http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007L8BQW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0007L8BQW&linkCode=as2&tag=hold0a-20&linkId=PPG52PSTDN3ZUULQ
Joe’s Sticky Stuff (Double sided foam tape works also)
I’ve had my dumb slate for a while, and I’ve already modified it to accommodate my old bag setup. I added 5 sections that I found very helpful, especially for corporate video production where you may only slate once or twice a day when media is changed in the camera.
There is no more of the stupid parts of the slate like MOS, EXT IN, DAY or NIGHT. Everything is digital, there is no reason you should shoot MOS anymore. And EXT IN, DAY or NIGHT, who cares! You arent having to do special film baths anymore for tungsten or daylight film; It’s digital, the editor can tell if its outside or inside or if its day or night!
But step one is to prep the transmitter. First you will want to remove the belp clip. Push the belt clip toward the battery door and it will slide down 2-3mm… than you will lift it up and it will come out perfectly.
Cover the FRONT of the transmitter with double sided foam tape or Joe’s Sticky stuff (English Butl / Clear Butl.) The reason you want to cover the front on the unit is to hide whatever branding it on the transmitter. Sometimes you will see them branded as Movo, GFX, Monoprice, Newwer, etc…
Mount the unit on the back on the slate. I have noticed most 2nd AC’s will hold their right hand on the hinge part of the slight, and the left hand on the bottom on the slate. This is why I mounted the unit slightly to the left on the back, away from the hinge. This way it really doesn’t get in the way on the 2nd AC’s normaly flow. I also used Joe’s Sticky Stuff to secure the cable and the lav that cable with the wireless microphone. It the amount of Joe’s sticky that I used, there is no way this unit is falling off anytime soon.
Setup your mixer/recorder to handle this wacky receiver. Luckily for me I rock a F8 in my bag so I didn’t have to come up with any work arounds. I put the RX into my last input and gave it the meta-data tile of “slate” on the sound report. This way the editor knows its just for purposes of the slate and can ignore it during the take.
Overall performance is exactly what you’d expect from a $6 Chinese wireless microphone. Range is 20-30 feet, more than likely the transmitter only 5mw. Which is not good if you were to want to use this as a real microphone for talent, but for purposes of capturing the 2nd AC, it will work great. The slate is never 30ft away from the camera, and I’m never more than a stone’s throw away from the camera.
I did notice some oddities about the receiver. First, there is a small hole where you can insert a small flat head screw driver. You may think this is for gain control but its actually to tune the RX to match the frequency of your TX, even though the TX is not tune-able. Nothing on the unit even tells you what frequencies these units come in but from my research I found that it may be between 210-270Mhz depending on if you have a Green LED or Red LED model. They seem to sell both in the same package, again not marked which is which. The second oddity I noticed is in the instructions it tells you to plug the receiver into the mic input on your mixer, this would make you think its a mic level signal. Its actually a line level signal, this took some trial and error to figure out. When I put it into a XLR adapter and plugged it into a mic input, I heard some hiss/white noise in my mix, not a huge deal for slate purposes, but when I treated it like a line input, all the hiss disappeared.
Andrew Jones is a location sound mixer based in Los Angeles. He started in the TV and Film industry in 2004. You can email him at Andrew@HoldForSound.com