Using a wireless video system on a film set is rapidly becoming the norm, especially as the technology becomes increasingly more reliable and as other camera tools such as the Freefly Systems MōVI that require wireless video become more widely used. While you will often see a video assist person running around stabbing monitors with SDI connectors and uncoiling sometimes hundreds of feet of BNC cable to get picture back to the video village, you are also likely to see a guy like me hand a Teradek Bolt 2000 receiver to the video assist person, flip the switch on, and immediately deliver a solid image from my camera from hundreds of feet away to the wall of monitors surrounded by people that rely on that picture to get through their day. It’s also one less BNC cable tripping accident waiting to happen.
In a perfect world, every camera on set would have a wireless video system that delivered latency-free HD picture to every monitor on the set that needed it; people could tap into the picture wirelessly on their smart phones and tablets; executive producers sitting in their offices across the globe could get the image in real time on their computers. And nothing would ever go wrong with the system. Ever. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite a reality yet, but we’re getting closer all the time.
Let me start off by making something perfectly clear – I do not work for, nor am I paid by Teradek for making any claims about their product. I am a full time camera operator / DP that specializes in using the Freefly Systems MōVI, so I must use a wireless video system in my daily workflow – hardlining the MōVI with a BNC cable is just not an option for me. I have used many different wireless video systems in the past and through my experiences using them, I have found the Teradek system to be the most robust, reliable system out there. Many of these systems do share the same chip set internally, but they all use their own unique interfaces to control these chip sets and the Teradek system seems to work the best for me. Regardless of which system you choose, I believe the workflow will stay the same on set and that is the much more important topic of this article.
Getting Ready To Shoot
The Most Important Range Work-Around You Need To Know
1:1, 2:1, 4:1… How Many Receivers Do I Really Need?
At around $4,000 per additional receiver for the Teradek Bolt 2000 system, you probably won’t want to buy any more receivers than you need to. Also, the more receivers you have floating around on set, the more issues you will have with people losing signal because for example, the director really wants to sit behind that 5 foot solid bank vault door and can’t understand why he keeps losing picture. So I keep my receivers to a minimum and ask video village to provide additional monitors and possibly daisy-chained wireless systems for key people who insist on having their own wireless monitor rigs. That being said, there are always two people that will absolutely need a receiver on set: the video assist person in order to provide a picture for their playback machine and video village, and my 1st AC who will be pulling focus wirelessly for me. Even though hypothetically your 1st AC could split the video signal out of video assist’s receiver, this is often not practical when that rx is far away from where you’re shooting and is probably already split to ten other monitors which means it will take forever to get picture to your 1st AC’s monitor every time video assist moves. So while you can sort of manage to get by with one receiver on set, your 1st AC will suffer a bit. It is very likely your Director will ask for their own wireless monitor rig and while I personally don’t believe it is my responsibility to provide this for them, I do like to accommodate as many people’s needs on set as possible, as a rule. Is it worth $4,000 for another receiver to please the big boss? That’s for you to decide. However, there is one other option that will cut that cost in half – enter the Teradek Sidekick.
The Teradek Sidekick – Expand Your Wireless Video System For Less Money
It sounds like a sales pitch, but that’s actually what the Sidekick does, so at least it’s an honest pitch. For around $2,000 you can connect a Sidekick receiver to any of the Bolt systems quickly and easily. It took me less than five minutes to add a Sidekick to my Bolt 2000 system, despite my skepticism and my allotted one hour of time I thought it would take to set it up. The important thing to note about the Sidekick is that it contains the shorter range 300 foot chipset similar to the Bolt 300 system, so you must manage it accordingly. If your focus puller is always a few feet away from you while they work, they are a perfect candidate for the Sidekick. If they prefer to camp out with a large monitor further away, maybe they get the Bolt 2000 receiver and you can have the Sidekick ready to go on a small monitor rig for your Director. There’s a lot of things you can do with an extra wireless video receiver on set and at $2,000 I consider it a small price to pay for a very convenient option.
Get the Picture and Shoot
If you’re a MōVI Operator like me, you’ve got a lot to manage during your shoot. Wireless video, wireless lens control, wireless gimbal controls, balancing and tuning your gimbal, the list goes on. The last thing you want to be worrying about all day long is whether video village is getting a signal from your camera. If you can’t afford to buy a Teradek Bolt 2000 system, consider renting one or perhaps the shorter range Teradek systems will get the job done for you. Just remember that the quality of your service as a camera operator will not only be judged by how great your shots are, but by how easy you are to work with and this means having the right tools for the job every time.
~ Sam Nuttmann, MoVI Operator / Cinematographer