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Thomas Beach

Camera Hop Hell

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I'm in need of a pair of reliable camera hops for standard fare; documentary, ENG, corporate, commercial. 

I am struggling to justify the huge layout for two SRc RX's and a pair of LT/LMb TX's.  I always buy the best when I've determined I need something. And I know Lectro's are the best camera hops I can get (Okay, Zaxcom is great too). So naturally I am predisposed to buying Lectro's. But... everything I do keeps me within 10-15 ft. of cameras and is always a simple request for scratch track audio (almost always a single mono sum mix)  for Plural Eyes, and not primary audio as that is always delivered via 664/668.

So I'm actually considering the new generation of Senny G3 with: 

  • 1 EK 100 G3 diversity receiver
  • 1 SK 100 G3 bodypack transmitter

This new generation seems much improved at least on the features front over the last ten years. And if they can accomplish the task, given my needs, I don't see why I should shell out for Lectro's.

So knowing all of the step-downs in qualities and features of the G3's, my question, for those who have ACTUALLY used these as I've described, is whether these can be reliably counted on to give me quality scratch tracks at the camera or not?

I would also entertain any alternate suggestions or impassioned entreaties for spending so much more on Lectro's.

Thanks much for reading, guys, and taking time to weigh in. It is appreciated!

Tom

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Where do you do most of your work? Outside of major cities I've had good luck with G2/G3. In NYC where I do most of my work it's a crap shoot and I've long ago sold mine. 

Maybe I'm misreading your wording but you'd only need one SR receiver for your two TX. The SR series receives two channels. 

If you only need the one channel, you could try LMb/LR, or even any newer transmitter and an IFB receiver. 

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There's nothing wrong with G2/3s as a hop if you are feeding a line-ish level signal to them.  No, not the same sound, range and relative freedom from drops that the Lectro gear you mention can provide, but they got me through a lot of jobs.  When I used them I always recorded backup tracks on my rig and made sure the producers took them at the end of the job.  That said, when I could I got the Lectro SR stuff for hops, and am glad I did even if I don't use them that much anymore (mostly double system these days).  The G2/3s are very handy things to have no matter what's in the rest of your kit, very versatile: can be an extra talent wireless, can be a camera hop as you say, can also be a "ref track" hop for double system and DSLR since the RX are small enough to mount even on tiny cams like A7s.  So if you get the G2/3s you'll probably end up keeping them when you upgrade your main hop anyhow.

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Thanks, Abe. Smattering... big city, rural, countryside. 

I was speaking of 2x SRc's for two-cam shoots. Good deal of what I shoot is two-cam, hence two SRc's. That more than anything else is what gives me pause on price-to-need. 

 

Wow. I completely overlooked the LR. That would be a nice compromise perhaps. Thanks.

Thanks, Philip, for the very objective assessment and the real-world experiences. Yes, I do nothing with a camera hop that isn't backed up by my own audio. And again, every client I deal with wants it that way. 

You touch upon my real dilema; I never do high-end ENG-style work where the client demands they be able to use the camera audio. Which is why I struggle to justify SR's.

Indeed. The added last-minute additional wireless channel for talent etc. is definitely an added bonus.

Plus I see that the new G3's have IR tuning and (I think) scanning as well as the benefit of the display panel. 

Thanks again.

I'd add, its not that I can't afford SR's, which probably also contributes to my dilemma. It's the other thing you talked about, that being how much they will get used. Yes, I need hops all the time it seems now. But to a client its always scratch for post-synching speed. And therein lies the rub on price-to-need for me.

Perhaps the reality is, I WANT Lectro's but I only NEED G3's. 

But you have both given me much new insights to consider and I am most grateful

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Ah yes re:SRs. Makes sense. 

Another path is a Zaxcom IFB transmitter and ERX receivers. I assume you don't have a Nomad/Maxx, otherwise you'd just need the ERXs. That's not going to be that expensive, and it's the cheapest setup to expand. Plus, timecode. I love my ERXs for hops. 

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Really looked hard and long at Zaxcom, Abe. For the life of me I can never seem to make sense of what appears to be their revolving door of products. They change and discontinue so quickly it makes me nervous. Plus they haven't stepped up to wideband either yet, I see. Another limitation compared to Lectros. Also, w/o the Nomad I wouldn't be able to benefit from the ZaxNet feature, although TC is a huge shiny object in their favor. I will look at the config you've recommended. Thanks.

Abe,

The Zaxcom IFB route is interesting. So you use the ERX3TCD as a single channel camera hop? This would appear to be like using Comtek PR-72b's or PR-75/216's, yes? Higher quality I suppose? 

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They actually beat Lectro to wideband. The QRX200 /TRXLA2 on do about 100 MHz each. Great system. They have been coming out with a lot of stuff lately, but it's almost all backward compatible. 

The IFB100/200 would give you Zaxnet, which is what would get you to the ERXs. 2.4G system - not perfect but it's been great for me. There are almost always holes and you can scan with any android phone. 

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My oversight in the wideband must be a result of not digging deep enough on their gear. To reiterate, you use the IFB TX and the ERX3TCD as single channel camera hop and with good results?

A quick review of Zaxnet reveals I don't have a handle on that system yet either. More digging to do.

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I have a Nomad so it's integrated, but yeah, it's been great for me. The range isn't amazing in a bag, but for doc stuff like you're describing, same room type of gig, it's been very reliable. I have erx2s but I think the fancy new screen is the only difference from 2 to 3.

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I use Lectro UM100/UCR100 for scratch mono hops. I've picked them up on eBay (for very good deals) one by one and now have three of the rx. UM100 is not a current product, but pop up occasionally on eBay.

The UCR100's 1/8" output is not locking, so make sure to use RA connector and bongo to prevent accidental unplugging.

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I always use Sennheiser to make camera hop I take SK2000 because they goes at 100mw and I use G3 receiver on camera this allows me to keep my Lectrosonics as microphone

every time i used my Lectrosonics for camera hop this always caused me problem with my SR in the bag even if I was using different block

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I'm sort of in the same boat w/ Thomas...i'm in need a single Ch scratch for 2 cam shoots... I was looking hard at the G3's, I have a G2 and it has served me well..I've been looking for a 2nd in the same block "B" but now I'm leaning towards a set of UCR100's paired with a SMQV. Really wish they had a AA battery version of the UCR100's..I hate 9v's. Can anyone give their opinion on the UCR's sound quality vs a G3/2 setup? My thoughts were to get the UCR's in a BLK I already have that way I can at least scan and coordinate easier. 

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To me, sound quality is comparable, as long as you don't hit the limiters. It's the frequency scanning and RFI protection that you lose out on. (Although I believe Larry Sanders can be found here saying that the UCR100 is about on par with a G2/G3, rejection-wise.)

9Vs are great. Don't hate. 

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I also use a mixture of sennheiser 2000 /g3..... The rx footprint on a arri mini makes the camera dept happy..... On doco shoots i use um400 and SRB

The sennheiser 2000 also gets used with a sennheiser iem rx for boom
Or directors feed ..... Multi uses

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and is always a simple request for scratch track audio (almost always a single mono sum mix)  for Plural Eyes, and not primary audio as that is always delivered via 664/668.

So the scratch is only for PluralEyes?
I have recently stopped providing a scratch altogether, unless very specifically asked for one. What's the need? For instant playback? That seems to happen so rarely. On docos never - in my experience. For dailies? They can sync up my audio. Can be done so quickly nowadays.

So if it really is for PluralEyes only, I would highly recommend using TC instead. It's much more reliable and a smaller package all around. And they won't "inadvertantly" use the scratch track as main audio.
the UCR100 is about on par with a G2/G3, rejection-wise.)

Although there is a big difference between G2 and G3...

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Box to box, scratch track and TC for $1000/£1000 is like asking for the moon on a stick. Yet I could do tentacle and rode for c.600 and half the bulk would be 2 sets of internal batteries and the separate cases. For scripted and corporate playback a scratch track is convenient and often expected, for docos it adds a level of redundancy for sync purposes in a context where I'm unlikely to use a slate and things can be a bit of a scramble at times.

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Hello Thomas,

Here is the Zaxcom system I would recommend.

1 or 2 RX200 Stereo link receivers with time code, internal battery and external power

TRX900CL UHF Stereo link transmitter with time code, backup recording, and IFB transmission

This system will give you compander free digital transmission, line level balanced or AES I/O, backup recording, LED audio receiver meters

Time code transmission, Stereo backup recording with time code to name a few benefits.

If you get 2 receivers the package currently includes a ERX3TCD with the package for the month of August.

 

Please have a look. This is the only radio system designed to specficly be a camera link. Since it uses a low cost receiver and only 1 transmitter for the 2 channels of audio and time code I think it will be very competitive with other professional solutions. 

Glenn

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A dedicated Zaxcom digital stereo hop is a very nice system and is probably the best option for pure audio quality. Backup recording in the transmitter is great (though not as important as it used to be to be). Only one transmitter in the bag and you can dial down the RF power to minimize spray on your other receivers. This is one of the biggest benefits of you ask me especially since they fixed all the RF spray issues the older transmitters had.

 

The downside to the dedicated Zax system is they can't really be used as talent bodypack transmitters without buying separate, dedicated, transmitters.

 

I ended up selling mine for this reason but their newer stuff is even better than my old zax setup and is very tempting.

 

I'd recommend getting one Lectro SR with 2 of the transmitter type you prefer for wiring people with (because inevitably you will want to use them to mic people) AND buy a couple G3 sets. 

 

For me, I have an SR and two SMa with battery eliminators. And three pairs of G3 in an overlapping freq range.

 

This way you're really well covered.. just need a scratch track on cam but could use the extra wires for talent?, covered. Need full quality two channel sound on a primary camera but want to put "something" on B & C came?, covered. DSLR shoot, covered. Need to hop to a speaker in video village, easy.

 

Only other caveat I can think of to putting a G3 on a camera is sometimes their front-end gets swamped by RF emanating from an on-camera video transmitter. In this case there's not much you can do other than stay close to camera and hope for the best. Always take a look at the RF meter if the g3 receiver mounted on camera with the transmitter off.

 

Other good points already made:

Locking connector, good user interface and visual display of important info. G3 is a very compatible system and Sennheiser has many products available from rack mount tx/rx to IFB packs and higher power transmitter (sk2000). You can do a lot with them. The sound quality at line level is good. Makes a great IFB.

 

PS, G3s can receive a Lectro IFB signal no problem (just disable pilot tone) and the new Lectro receivers (SRc and LR) have added a G3 compatibility mode (specific for HDX compandor).

 

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14 hours ago, Johnny Karlsson said:

I use Lectro UM100/UCR100 for scratch mono hops. I've picked them up on eBay (for very good deals) one by one and now have three of the rx. UM100 is not a current product, but pop up occasionally on eBay.

The UCR100's 1/8" output is not locking, so make sure to use RA connector and bongo to prevent accidental unplugging.

Thanks, Johnny. I've been using a pair of 100's (BLK 29) for years in that role but now have severe issues with them. And given the very slow set-up for clear freq's, I'm just going to replace them.

14 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

The locking mini was one of the reasons I went with G2/3 for scratch hops.  The weight (esp with lithium AAs) was another.

Yes, Philip, I made quick note of that benefit as compared to say the Zaxcom ERX3TCD's. But in the role of hops, I'm hoping the camera op isn't going to be putting the connector to the test too often! Seriously though, I know how a quick hand movement might disconnect a simple 3.5mm connector, although I've pressed my old PR-72b's into hop service when needed and have never had a real problem in that way. Still, the locking mini is a good point. Thanks.

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So you think the UCR's are on par w/ G3's in sound quality ? Hmm... I'm cart and bag based  somedays ,  If I go w/ the UCR's I would use a SNA600 on the SMQV to help with the range. I'm a little worried about range on the G3's when I'm on the cart. 

I'm not exactly wanting to drop $6k- ish on a scratch track system. 2 UCR's and 1 SMQV  are around $2600-ish..2 sets of G3's $1300 -ish. 

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13 hours ago, EnotsMedia said:

I'm sort of in the same boat w/ Thomas...i'm in need a single Ch scratch for 2 cam shoots... I was looking hard at the G3's, I have a G2 and it has served me well..I've been looking for a 2nd in the same block "B" but now I'm leaning towards a set of UCR100's paired with a SMQV. Really wish they had a AA battery version of the UCR100's..I hate 9v's. Can anyone give their opinion on the UCR's sound quality vs a G3/2 setup? My thoughts were to get the UCR's in a BLK I already have that way I can at least scan and coordinate easier. 

Jeremy, I just got a call yesterday from a NYC company I worked for telling me my scratch track was only 70% there in post. See my previous post admitting I've been having hints of trouble with my 100's (that's on me). And considering they are BLK 29 (I know my 100's are illegal) combined with the disturbing news from Lectro under Mr. Moore's tenure that they will be simply throwing off doing block conversions for anything 7 years or older (no, I'm not happy about that, as the owner of four BLK 24/25 411A's from 2005) I've pretty much confirmed that my 100's are fast becoming deep-sea fishing sinkers. And as such, I must replace them for both my own and legitimate Lectro reasons.

My points are twofold. I need to replace my 100's with something different, and now, and I am not pleased with Lectro for their current stances as it relates to older product support, not to mention all of the expense-to-need I previously expressed.

So I'm looking both at Lectro as well as Zaxcom/Senny.  Right now I'm leaning towards IFB200/EXR3TCD. BUT... as part of my investigation, I trried downlaoding ZaxConvert and discovered my MacBook Pro blocks it due to unrecognized developer reason. Plus I'm not keen on the idea of having to tote around my computer for file conversions. So any thoughts out there on ZaxConvert issues would also be appreciated.

I apologize in advance for ignorance of Zaxcom software/products as I'm still getting up to speed with them.

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