I’m pairing up the Zoom F8 recorder with my size-modified Lectrosonics Venue Field receiver. See txsound’s Venue mod for details on how I trimmed about 1″ of thickness off that box for potential bag use.
The actual bag is a Canon 1EG camera gadget bag, about $64. (Don’t hate on me, K-Tek)
I created a little “front box” for easy access to transmitters and other stuff. Before it gets used for anything serious, I want to run it through its paces as a backup to my Fusion rig. There’s always a lot to learn about the peculiarities of a new recorder.\
We’ve had many Schoeps CMC4 owners use our 48 volt phantom upgrade service to free themselves from cumbersome T-Power barrels and power supplies. This led to inquiries as to the possibility of upgrading the venerable Sennheiser 416T shotgun to 48V phantom power. After a more than a few willing 416T owners subjected their mics to our electronic musings, we’ve worked out a solid process for converting 416, 415, 815 and 816 T powered Sennheisers to 48 volt phantom. There’s business/website/details to be worked out, and we are looking to get things up and running by September’s end. As seen in the photo above, the 416T will be branded with a thick aluminum, weather resistant PH48 label to remind users of the 48V phantom upgrade. The cost of the 416T upgrade is still being examined. As with the Schoeps upgrade, the 416T will perform exactly as it did prior to the upgrade. Sennheiser’s proven RF design- providing immunity from RF or humidity- will remain intact.
Obviously, there will be additional circuitry added to the 416T interior that is not a part of a factory-issued 416.
An important consideration is servicing after the upgrade. Service issues that arise on upgraded mics must be handled through us. If the issue does not rest with the phantom upgrade, further service may be required by Sennheiser, which we are prepared to facilitate.
Like the Schoeps upgrade, each 416T will be tested prior to, and after upgrading, with before/after test recordings, serial numbers and condition photos kept on file.
If you are reading this, you already know about hassle of using T-Power barrels in location sound work. They are cumbersome and ill-fitting on the cart or in the bag. Those additional XLRs between mixer, jumpers, boompole and mic invite connection trouble and grounding issues. Accidentally connecting other mics to T-Power inputs invites disaster.
Consider retiring your T-power barrel adaptors and power supplies. We are looking at offering a tag-along service to convert those old T-power adaptors into attenuators…. perhaps very useful when interfacing with the Arri Amira, which has non-standard line level inputs. ( Gawd- not more barrels!)
If you don’t own a 416, now may be the time to scan ebay or your favorite vendors used equipment listings, as 416T’s can be found for very good prices.
By Pete Verrando
I was, admittedly, suckered in. After 26 years of production mixing, I thought I’d learned to spot the occasional con-artist. I’ve also learned to be wary of last minute, day-before production calls. But somehow, as I was in the midst of a separate, 70-day job that kept pushing its start date, I failed to spot these beggars among thieves: A con-artist, represented by a bench-warmer producer, supposedly referred to me by a friend, for a last-minute, day-before call, who BEGGED me to take the job, calling me back even after I first turned it down. The producer was Franklin Delano Bryant.
Bryant seems to be perpetually pitching low-budget projects, or shooting wedding video, or real estate video listings on a Canon 5D. Virtually everybody I’ve asked in the DFW film production crew base has never heard of him, or his internet placeholder Gibraltar Pacific Productions.
Well, as most normal folks tend to chalk these things up to bad Karma or whatever, I pursued the pair in court, if nothing else, just to see what would happen next. As a sole-provider of a family of 4, I admittedly get a little hot-under-the-collar when I’m not paid for a completed gig.
True story: about 20 years ago, a producer was about a year late in paying our crew. On an impulse, I took a mechanics lien of sorts, using his camera as collateral. This produced terrific results. I was immediately escorted by his accountant to the nearest ATM. At the time, little did I (or he) know, that I was committing a felony. Ah, the impertinence of youth!
I easily obtained a judgment on both Del and Ross in small claims court, to the tune of about $2500, (including court and process server costs, and a 5% per- year increase). Of course, a judgment doesn’t mean you should expect to be paid. But, there are various remedies to be pursued: writs of execution and garnishment, liberal use of collection agencies, credit reporting on the debtor, and generally being a pain-in-the-ass to the poor fellows, which I like to do between gigs, or whenever I feel like it. Like now, for instance.
He has over 30 dba’s in Dallas county, and even uses his 23 year-old son (facebook link) as a signee on some of them. Since he did this with Mpressive Films, I had to sue his son, as much as I would have liked to leave the poor boy out of the picture.
Delano Bryant was very easy to find, as this man, in his 50’s, still lived at home with his Mom & Dad. I served a writ of execution on him at the house, (which really pissed off his 84 year old Dad- they share the same name. It turned out that Del has no real assets in his own name. Despite the house having 3 or 4 vehicles and a Harley and a pimped-out pickup truck, they were all owned in title by his parents or his siblings. He told the Constable that he was unemployed, and had no personal assets of any kind. But his family is willing to tote-the-note on his shiny truck and motorcycle. Hard times, Del? Not great marriage material.
Anyway the story is not nearly over, as I have several more surprises for this pair of malcontents. My real work as a sound mixer keeps me a little too busy to turn the screws on these two on a regular basis. But, a judgment lasts 10 years in Texas, and is renewable. Maybe I’ll take it up as my hobby when I retire.
We eventually found Ross living with his son and a momfriend (as opposed to a girlfriend) in a hovel, nestled in a sketchy south Dallas neighborhood. It’s actually not his Official Address; for that, he uses his real Mom’s house. Notice a pattern?
This was kind of funny, since he is fond of telling folks he lives in affluent Highland Park, Texas. Like he does here on the Stage 32 website:
Anyway, as Ross is now easily found, It’s hard not to pay the guy a visit now and then. David calls the police pretty quickly when confronted. He also tends to spin some tall tales when backed into a corner. So after my visit a couple of months ago, and David’s inevitable 911 call, I couldn’t help but create a little mash-up video of my visit and the 911 call. So here it is. Enjoy, and look for the next episode, coming whenever I feel like it! Of course, they could just pay the bill, and I’ll hit the delete key. But I think David and Del must be gluttons for punishment.
Well, I speak for myself, but production can be the most utterly tedious process imaginable. Extreme hours, within a 12 hour day(minimum), one may actually “work” less than half the time, the rest of the time spent waiting to work. Other days are techno-slams. So, one’s engagement often switches away from the actual craft, and more to the social dynamics of a traveling band of heroes and misfits. Of course, these days, crews spend less time being social and more time tapping smartphones. It is often a fireman’s job, going from boring, rudimentary tasks, to suddenly faced with baffling problems involving things like sweaty people, jewelry, paper bags, radio propagation, flaming egos, dirt, animal shit or microelectronics, all while the “grownups” breathe down your neck as you solve them. Set-life can be very much like junior high school- rampant insecurity, arrogance, hierarchal selection, misplaced wealth or privilege, ego, mind games, and an all-time major dedication to Looking Good, Being Right, and Staying In Control. Entertainment industry divorce rate is among the highest of any profession. Many voluntarily leave the film business. Stay too long, and the film business leaves you. What did Hunter S Thompson say about the TV business?
The above being said, as a mixer without anywhere near the credentials of these Hollywood sound giants that lurk here, I do love the job. I embrace the insanity, every day is like visiting a circus/asylum, and I get to go home to my fams at the end of most days.
Many folks are very excited to see the first rechargeable Li-Ion AA battery, made by Kentli.
Here’s a cut-away view of their exciting new AA cell:
The Kentli AA Lithium-Ion cell was perceived as an exciting development, because all Lithium Ion cells are normally 3.7 volts. So even if the cell could fit into the AA form, the voltage was too high for 1.5 volt applications. What Kentli did was cram a 3.7 volt Lipo cell into an AA enclosure, and also stick a 3.7volt-to-1.5volt regulator inside there as well. The charging groove (see diagram) allowed the cell to be charged directly by the charger at 3.7 volts, bypassing the “motherboard” (regulator).
Why would we want a Li-on AA cell, anyway? The perceived advantages:
1. Ni-mH cells, the current rechargeable of choice, provide only 1.2 volts per cell. That missing 3/10ths of a volt can really add up when using multiple cells in series (battery)! The lower voltage also increases current draw, shortening the power-up time of the cell.
2. Lithium Ion cells maintain almost their rated voltage right up till they die Other cells, the voltage slowly drops as the cell discharges. Many digital devices will shut-off when the supply voltage falls to a certain level, leaving much potentially live-giving energy in the cell.
3. For their weight, Lithium-Ion cells currently provide the most deliverable power than any other type of cell. They charge fast, are very reliable, and last for many charge cycles. They are also tolerant to recharging at various states of discharge.
4. Rechargeable batteries create less land-fill waste.
5. Rechargeable batteries create income, as you can bill the client for these batteries like disposables. So, they can routinely add about $20 or more to your daily rental income, without buying disposable batteries. Over a year, that can add up (conservatively) to about US$3000. (that’s if you work only about 14 days a month as a professional location sound mixer)
So how well do Kentli Li-ion AA cells work?
As Chinese Industry is prone to do, Kentli did some slight-of-hand marketing with these products. They listed the capacity in milli-watt-hours, so they could print that big 2800 mWh on the side of the cell. For people who don’t pay attention, this rating gives the mistaken impression that they are more powerful than 2700 mAh (milli-amp-hour) Ni-MH rechargeables. 2700 is a common value when looking for a high quality Ni-MH rechargeable. At 1.5 volts, 2800 mWh translates to about 1867 mAh, so the Kentli cell technically has less power. But Kentli claims their cell lasts as long as the Ni-MH, because the regulator allows the 1.5 volts to be maintained till the cell is completely exhausted.
The street price for these Kentli AA cells is about US$11 per cell, and the charger about US$20. More expensive than Ni-MH rechargeable. They are shipped directly from China through a few distributors, including sellers on ebay.
We bought 12 AA cells and 2 chargers to give these units a workout in our Lectrosonics SMV transmitters. The SMV uses only one AA cell. A disposable Energizer Lithium AA will power it for 5 hours (the longest). The best NiMH rechargeable will power it for about 3.5 hours.
And the result? A fresh Kentli AA, right out of the box ,will power the SMV for 3.5 hours. Same as a high quality, 2700 mAh Ni-MH rechargeable.
But here’s the rub, in a few easy steps.
1. In my application, Kentli AA’s take their internal cell from a full charge to near-exhaustion in every cycle. Over the long term, I think Li-Po rechargeables prefer a lighter charge-discharge cycle. so with this workout, these Kentli cells won’t last for very many cycles. A Lectro SMQV would treat the cells more gently, distributing the current draw between two cells, and possibly resulting in better performance.
2. Kentli AA’s use a 3.7v Li-Po cell and convert it to 1.5 volts. There is inherent inefficiency in this conversion process. The Lectro SMV then takes the 1.5 volts and inverts it up to 5 volts, and 3.3 volts, to serve the various internal functions. Every time you convert a voltage, you lose some efficiency and power, in the form of heat. The Kentli is already stretching the capacity to the max of its tiny 3.7 volt, 760 mAh cell, every time it is charged and used. With the SMV, there are multiple conversions, and those power losses add up.
3. These days, the “power down” mode of many devices is not a true power-down. Even after its turned-off, the SMV draws a tiny “quiescent current.” This is simply power to enable the SMV to power back up with a momentary button-push. The Kentli sees this quiescent current, and therefore keeps its motherboard alive, affecting a continuous drain on its cell. So leave a freshly charged Kentli in the SMV overnight, and it will be dead in the morning.
4. Maintaining AA rechargeables for location sound use is a pain in the ass. They get lost easily. I lost one in the snow on the very first shoot! They are difficult to keep separate between used and unused. They require chargers to be travelled and plugged-in. They require extra time to sort and charge and check at call and wrap. They create a level of uncertainty in the production process. Will this be the shot when the battery dies for good?
5. And obviously, in the SMV, a rechargeable will run for only 3 hours, and a AA li-ion disposable will burn for 5 hours. In most cases, 5 hours is enough time to get us to lunch, when the battery can be replaced. The SMV is designed to accept a cell that swings from 1.9 volts to .9 volts, and before it dies, will suck every last ounce of power from the cell!
6. Don’t talk to me about the Lectro SMQV, the double AA version. I know they will run twice as long. I don’t care. I like the smally-small SMV for so many reasons. I use it as a drop-weight when running the lav cable down shirts and blouses and pant-legs. The SMQV is almost as large as a UM400A, Lectros classic 9-volt transmitter, of which I already have a shit-ton. The SMV is great for use on children, with their tiny pockets and elastic waistbands. It also has the lowest profile in a pocket or bra-strap.
Oh, and the Kentli Chargers tend to die.
Of the two Kentli chargers I originally ordered, one died a couple of months in. The dealer asked for photographic proof that the charger was dead. They sent a replacement from China, which never arrived, and then sent me another. Eventually I received both chargers, so now I had four. Then the other 2 chargers immediately died. Taking this opportunity to either throw away the dead chargers, or take them apart, what do you think I did? The charger consists of a very flimsy switching power supply converting your AC house current to 5 volts DC. The voltage is then applied to a smart charging circuit for the AA cells. The flimsy switch-mode supply was the obvious culprit, so it was replaced with an outboard 5 volt phone charger, of much more robust design. So now we have 4 chargers.
Then, the Kentli AA’s start to show signs of age.
This is about the time that the Kentli AA cells stopped delivering 3 hours of power to the SMV’s. This is not the cell you want in a transmitter that goes out on a competition shoot, where you don’t have access to the talent once the action begins. I would guess I got about 100 charges on my Kentli’s before they began to show signs of expiration. The chargers show a full charge even on the cells that have stopped performing. In a less-demanding environment, (like an LED flashlight or an ipod dock) they may give better service.
And Alas! one Kentli drops to the floor and pops open like a Zippo Lighter! (Also the shrink wrap on the cell will begin to tear and peel with daily use. )
UPDATE : Curious about the quiescent current draw of the Kentli Cell, on its own, we hooked up a micro-amp meter between the regulator board and the Li-Po cell. The result:
You guessed it. The Kentli motherboard is drawing 29 microamps from the cell at all times. By comparison, Lectro transmitters, when powered down, draw about 5 microamps from the cell. This is in conflict with the advertising claim made on the Kentli promotional material:
So there’s no doubt the Kentli folks are really pushing the envelope with this initial attempt at a 1.5V Lithium-Ion rechargeable. A little more conservative design paramaters are required for location sound use. But for flashlights and home use, I’m sure theres no telling! And no telling of what’s to become of my little AA canisters for a location sound mixer on the road!
Here’s just a few reasons why I love G2/G3 for IFB/scratch track feeds over Lectro or Zaxcom IFB solutions:
– The mini plug input/output is highly compatible without need for custom cables. You can feed a scratch track to a Red Epic with a standard ipod cable. Transmitter Mic/line input selectable thru tip or ring on the cable. You can hook up to anything with a good set of adaptors. Have you sent audio to a Black Magic camera yet? Non-standard, strangely wired 1/4″ jack inputs, but no problem with a Senn and an ipod cable with a headphone adaptor.
– you can feed hops and Ifb with same transmitter. 1 less frequency to coordinate.
-Less weight and RF mess in a sound bag. I’d rather carry around a 2 ounce, 30mw G3, than a 1/2 pound, 250mw flamethrower like the Lectro T4.
– I purchased my first set for scratch track hops in 2005. I now have 6 transmitters, 4 plugs, 6 receivers and 15 IFB’s. All purchased on ebay, and on average, less than half of retail. (Many misguided soundies and one-off project users buy these, then dump ’em. )
I’ve yet to have one break. I’ve replaced many antennas at 5 bucks each, if you can solder well, you’re good.
– huge battery life. 3 days with a pair of lithium AA’s
-audio/rf metering on every unit
-Better range than lectro R1a or zax 2.4 gHz IFB units, owing to external whip antennas
-transmitter won’t RF swamp a sound bag
-some venues now restricting 2.4 gHz devices as they compete with wifi (Zaxcom IFB)
-super wide input/output audio level settings. It’s easier to set the level on the Senn than dig around on the cryptic Red Epic’s audio screen. So why bother?
-instinctively intuitive to use. Big, understandable, backlit display
-great for feeding video assist, pa systems, or pulling feeds from PA or press feeds
–velcro them together for 2 channels, and they are still a very small receiver pkg.
-They’re Great crash wireless for talent- (about the only time I’ll put one on a talent).
-30 mw is low for transmitter power, but as an IFB, the pack is not against somebody’s body.
Instead, it is out in free space on your cart or bag. So no RF absorption from a sweaty cast member’s body.
I’ve have found that the Lectro IFBs are better if your crew needs to change receiver channels frequently to listen to different sound units. WIth Lectro R1a’s, They just push the volume button to cycle thru programmed channels, without needing to look at it. (Don’t know if the ERX can do this).
-Senn’s butt-plug transmitters are also cheap and great for a quickn’dirty wireless handheld for PA or voice-of-god mic for AD’s
On a recent commercial, with one Senny transmitter, I fed scratchtrack to two Alexas, video assist, client-lounge PA speaker and 15 IFB’s. Excellent range, kinda nice.
-iem headphone amp VERY loud. Even the regular receivers can drive a headphone at +6
-easy to coordinate freqs with internal pre-selects/rf metering, or use the freq finder app.
IEMs and beltpack receivers will also receive acceptable audio sent from more powerful lectro IFB transmitters.
-I could go on. I’ve got buckets of these things.
But I never will use them as frontline talent wireless. They breakup a little at high audio frequencies (sibilant sounds) unless you stay well within the headroom, like half-level.
How about an ongoing gallery of some of the more outrageous sound recording configurations for run-n-gun use? Such as the above. Is somebody supposed to wear this on their chest? Don’t forget the Ipad (right), which packs, oh, I don’t know. Where do we put the Ipad? Across the top. This rig is also good for lunch break, you can just eat right off the rig, you don’t even have to sit down. Throw a napkin down first, of course.
Imagine yourself listening to your favorite music on an Ipod with some really nice headphones. Maybe those Bose Quiet-Comfort 15’s, my fave on airplanes. They really sound great.
Now imagine you’re at a Skrillex show, 1st row, next to a massive stack of loudspeakers, while still listening to your Ipod with those great Bose headphones. What? Can’t hear your Ipod? You might say you’ve been swamped or more technically, de-sensed. Your headphone audio can’t compete with a Skrillex speaker stack. Bass, highs, no matter. Can’t hear a thing. No matter how great those headphones are, Skrillex’s speakers are overwhelming them.
Skrillex is swamping your headphones. The only remedy is physical distance between you and Skrillex.
The whole hop affair requires robust, expensive wireless audio systems. But, like my Bose headphones, my fine audio receivers had to share 1st row with the blazing Skrillex video flamethrower, and were de-sensing as a result of the powerful RF eminating from said blowtorch. The receivers have a frequency scan function (Lectrosonics UCR411a), and it was showing complete RF obliteration with the video transmitter switched on. A solid black block, floor to ceiling. When a powerful RF transmitter comes shoulder-to-shoulder with an RF receiver, de-sensing happens. The trans RF overwhelms the circuitry in the receiver, regardless of frequency selected. The only cure is distance.
Move the transmitter 3 or 4 feet away, and everything’s OK! But the only place for the video transmitter and my receivers to live were on the side of the camera. So who’s problem is this? Why mine, of course! Camera and director could not work without the little wireless video system.
No problem, the director says! We’ll just go “hard wire” from sound to camera for the entire week. Dark storm clouds formed over my head, images of water skiing behind camera, with an audio-cable tow rope, inside a wrecked-out house. Outside of interviews and other “tame” shoots, the last time I went hard-wire to camera was probably sometime in 1998.
Cameraman: Works great at home, he says. You can take the camera home tonight and “work it out.”
So, my 1st day goes down with the cable tether, as the production was in 1st day freight-train mode, and no down time for a little audio troubleshooting. I trudge the camera home that evening to perform the “prep” that should have happened the day before the shoot. On the bench, I learn that the transmitter is tunable from 512 thru 800 mHz. From the internet I learn about the transmitter, specs & how to set the frequency, as camera dept. hadn’t a clue about their little black box. I try different combinations of transmitter and hop frequencies, looking for those that play well together. No go. The video transmitter swamps everything from Lectro Block 21 thru 26 and beyond, regardless of frequency setting.
I try some surgery on the video transmitter’s antenna, running a tightly looped wire around the antenna and soldering it to the BNC shell. This detuned the antenna to the point where it became a less effective radiator. However, this may make matters worse by raising the vSWR of the antenna, which may cause the transmitter case radiate RF, or even burn out the transmitter.
I finally mount the transmitter way forward on the camera, tucking the antenna under the viewfinder, and set it to 800 mHz (channel 69). I mount the audio receivers at the extreme rear of the camera, using Lectro block 21 (520 mHz). Doing a scan, this gets the swamping down to the 50% point on the scan display.
Using 100mw transmitter hops, I send audio to the camera and walk test it in the backyard. Amazingly, no dropouts or hits! The Lectro wireless are robust enough to deliver clean audio despite 50% RF interference levels on the receivers. This is using UCR411a Receivers. I’m not sure I could have accomplished the same feat with the less-robust Lectro UCR401 receivers, or SRa’s, which are the equivalent of 401’s. Looks like camera’s gonna have to lug around a little extra weight on the side!
Regardless, I keep a minimum distance from the camera throughout the week, to make sure those hops were solid. I also ran 24 bit backup audio files on everything. Camera dept. refused to do a free-run sync of timecode with my recorder, something to do with the antiquated notion that sequentially coded files digitize faster. No argument from me. If they need the backup, hello Plural Eyes.
Lessons learned! Good times! by Pete Verrando www.txsound.com
Bill Daly, a veteran N.Y. sound mixer filled in for Tod Maitland on the first 2.5 weeks of JFK in Dallas, doing all the motorcade scenes. I was the 2nd mixer and sfx recordist with my Nagra 4L and one of the early portable DAT machines, 5 years into my career. Bill was pretty gruff and would occasionally tear me a new arsehole by day, but always followed up by buying me a drink after wrap and regaling me with war stories. I’ll never forget one day, while sitting in the window sills of the 6th floor Book Depository, seeing Bill’s massive cart on the street below, with his huge Sela mixer and umbrella anchored to his cart, but no immediate sign of Bill. A gust of wind hooked the umbrella and pulled the cart over on its back, his stereo Nagra flipped lid-down and skidded on the pavement. Boom op T.J. O’Mara dashes over to the pile and slaps his hands to his head, and frantically he goes about righting the whole mess. I think they were back up and running in 15 minutes. It was surreal. He was just as encouraging and kind to me as he was a ball-buster. Cheers Bill! by Pete Verrando, www.txsound.com