Production Essentials: Wireless "Crewmunication" Systems
"Extend the intermission for two more minutes, the lead just had a wardrobe malfunction."
"Check if the groom's wireless transmitter is connected properly, we can no longer hear him on camera A."
It doesn't matter if you're a team of photographers, theater techs or a coaching staff; efficient communication is vital when you work as a crew.
An experienced group of people can usually communicate pretty well without having to say a word, but there are still plenty of occasions when having a dependable wireless intercom is indispensible. These systems will quickly pay for themselves from the time that you save and will help you avoid unnecessary disasters. They're a must-have tool for any serious production with a multi-person crew.
If you've tried using inexpensive intercom systems for professional jobs and found out the hard way that they were completely inadequate, perhaps it's time you stepped things up. Read on for a close look at a system that's earned a reputation for dependability. When the project you're working on doesn't have room for error, you need tools that go above and beyond what's required of them.
You need a system capable of passing its signal through solid walls and across great distances. You need an industrial strength build quality in the beltpacks and headsets. You need beltpacks with a powerful rechargeable battery that can be removed and replaced with disposable batteries in a pinch. You need a system that can be integrated with other wired intercoms that may already be in use.
Porta-Com ProLink systems meet all of these requirements. The beltpacks are very easy to use, and operate on included rechargeable batteries (for up to 15 hours) or they can run on standard AAs. There is no wired base station. All of the members can wander around freely and continue to communicate, with an optimal range of 250 feet (75 meters). The signal can pass through solid walls and glass; however, the fewer obstructions there are between the units, the better they will function.
A basic ProLink kit consists of a Master beltpack and three Remote beltpacks. You can run the system either in a "Push-to-Talk mode" (PTT), where you have to physically push a button on the beltpack to activate your headset mic. Or you can run the system in "Always-On" mode where you can speak openly without having to push a button.
There are two sets of frequencies available to the ProLink system, which are designated as A and B. The frequencies are in the 900 mHz range, which tends to have less traffic and is completely in line with FCC regulations. The two frequency groups makes it possible for the Master headset to communicate with two separate groups independently. For example, if you have a lighting crew and a sound crew, a director could flip the A/B switch on their Master beltpack to toggle between the two groups. This way, the sound crew doesn't have to hear the communication of the lighting crew, and vice versa.