Hanging on a Wire-Less

In my first television job, we had one wireless mic to be shared among all the photographers. It had a huge receiver that was probably meant to be rack-mounted… thus it had to be carried in a backpack. It was cumbersome and heavy and not the slightest bit convenient — and, in the end, the audio sounded awful and was never reliable. But it was a wireless mic, dag gone it, and we used it!

Over the years, I’ve become very spoiled by the new wireless audio products on the market. (We field tested some of the latest from Lectrosonic last year at NAB.) I sometimes feel I am incapable of shooting a story if my wireless doesn’t work. A mic cable coming out of my camera seems so archaic.

As much as I love my wireless mic, and no matter how good the quality gets, there are still limitations. Range and interference will always be an issue, and with the FCC selling off our radio spectrum, there is even less chance for more “elbow room.”

Enter Zaxcom

Zaxcom, the New Jersey based audio company, is working to build a better mouse trap. They’ve designed a true digital wireless microphone system — with a twist. At a recent ITVA-DC meeting, I was able to give it a look and listen.

The standard system looks like any other belt pack and camera-mounted receiver. I don’t have the purest ears when it comes to monitoring sound quality, but the audio was very clean and sounded natural. The advantage of digital transmission is no static or buzzes in your audio. The sound quality doesn’t decline as you reach the end of your range — it just stops at the end of your range. That’s the problem with digital wireless — you get perfect audio or you get NOTHING.

The engineers at Zaxcom thought about this, and having no way to change the laws of physics (is RF considered physics?), they found a different solution.

Back-up Recording

I preface this by saying that this will not help you on a live broadcast — but any pre-taped segment will aways have perfect audio.

Here’s the best explanation my feeble mind can come up with…

The receiver mounted on your camera connects to the time code output of your camera. It transmits this to the receiver attached to your “talent.” As the belt pack transmits audio to the camera, it actually records it digitally on the belt pack itself. Because it’s time-code synced to your camera, if you ever lose your wireless signal, simply import the audio into your Non-Linear Editor, and you have perfect audio again.

The way I think of it, the audio recorded in the camera is only a “reference” track; the audio recorded on the mic itself is pure, clean, digital goodness.

Sound Possibilities

The possibilities of this technology are extensive. The standard reality show can put a mic on every cast member and does not have to monitor or mix the audio “live.” Extra mics that don’t even need to be monitored can be placed to get true surround sound. Your reporter does a stand-up in a car and drives away, and you can have audio no matter how far away they go.

For more information, contact:
Zaxcom at: http://zaxcom.com or their dealer ATS Communications at http://www.atscomms.com

One comment

  1. Lorne Golman says:


    Just saw your add. How much are you looking to sell? Would you be interested in selling parts (i.e. Camera, Tripod, and Case Only)? or does it all have to be sold in a package deal.

    Thank you,

    Lorne Golman


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