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Ilari Sivil

DIY camera snake?

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I'm starting to think I should make a multi-cable camera snake for convenience's sake. I'm running a 633, occasionally people will want double-system or even single-system on camera, and I might have to go wired. Currently, I've been using separate 10m XLRs and checking the return on headphones before we roll, but I'm thinking things could be easier. I'd like to make a camera snake with 2 XLRs, a 3.5mm TRS return cable and perhaps time code on BNC. What would be an appropriate length and how could I manage to bundle the cables? I'm probably looking at cables of different diameters. I'm thinking I'd like to have access to the individual cables as well if necessary for maintenance. Zipties could be good, maybe, if I cut the ends flush?

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Usually camera snakes are about 25 feet long with an 18 inch break away at the camera end with a 9 inch fan out. Your best choice would be a 4 pair cable as it's easier to handle and an overall smaller diameter than 4 separate cables bound with zip ties. Mogami has the most flexible multi pair cables. I'm not sure that running TC in the snake is the best choice as cross talk or TC bleeding into the audio lines is always an accident looking for a place to happen.   

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Yeah, I should probably get a NanoLockit or a Tentacle at some point anyway, not to mention having to carry the extra weight of a length of BNC when I don't think I would need it that often. Thus far a lot of the stuff I've been doing has been low-ish budget stuff with a clap slate if I'm lucky. The people who shoot often edit and they're pretty sure they'll manage with PluralEyes.

As far as I know it's OK for two balanced signals to share a shield, but would it work for the unbalanced stereo RET as well?

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3 hours ago, Ilari Sivil said:

Yeah, I should probably get a NanoLockit or a Tentacle at some point anyway, not to mention having to carry the extra weight of a length of BNC when I don't think I would need it that often. Thus far a lot of the stuff I've been doing has been low-ish budget stuff with a clap slate if I'm lucky. The people who shoot often edit and they're pretty sure they'll manage with PluralEyes.

As far as I know it's OK for two balanced signals to share a shield, but would it work for the unbalanced stereo RET as well?

No problem with tying all the shields together, I do it all the time.

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Yep tying the the shields together perfectly OK

Also running an unbalanced return(s) no problem.

 

Ravenscourt UK make a single cable that does all this plus a coax for analogue video in the old days.

 

I used to run this out of my SQN mixer into a Ravenscourt BetaBox all the time

 

Cheers

 

mike

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Canare MR202-4AT 4-pair multicore cable. If you want breakaways, the easiest is to use Neutrik 7-pin XLRs (meaning you'd only use 3 of the four cores in the cable - balanced Left and Right plus unbalanced monitor return). I have a short adapter to convert from the 12-pin Hirose connector that Sound Devices use on some of their mixers to the Neutrik, and my little SD302 bag has a small box under the mixer with a panel mount 7-pin on it with short tails coming out to the individual connectors on the mixer. Rugged, inexpensive, and even camera operators know how to unplug an XLR without damaging it. You can then make different camera-end tails (fan-outs) to suit the cameras you work with (ie: 5-pin or mini-trs returns, 5-pin in for Arris, whatever stupid connector Red or Blackmagic are using this year).

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Great idea with the 7-pin for the switchable camera tail! Adds weight and more points of failure, though, probably solvable with a bongo tie or a velcro strap, though. The mixer end might as well be hardwired to the connectors I want there, since I only have the 633 and if I need it for some other device, I'll just make the adapters. I'm thinking I might go with Sommer multicore, since it's AES compliant and easily available in the EU.

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Am I the only one who has short breakaways at both ends? I find being able to leave my cable where I'm standing makes my day easier since I don't have to wind everything back to camera. Also adding cable can be done from both sides.

 

Scott

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20 minutes ago, jason porter said:


OK, I'm probably going to be stealing the idea for having a female AND a male 3,5mm TRS on the same cable at the camera end. In general, the ready made prices feel pretty ridiculous for someone with a soldering iron and basic skills, but those Lemos and those BNCs are a bit tougher, to be honest.

 

9 minutes ago, carbonhobbit said:

Am I the only one who has short breakaways at both ends? I find being able to leave my cable where I'm standing makes my day easier since I don't have to wind everything back to camera. Also adding cable can be done from both sides.


I almost feel dumb for not thinking about this possibility. I could make multiple lengths! Easier replacement if something gets messed up mid-cable! Quicker and easier assembly/disassembly! You guys rock!

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2 hours ago, Ilari Sivil said:


OK, I'm probably going to be stealing the idea for having a female AND a male 3,5mm TRS on the same cable at the camera end. In general, the ready made prices feel pretty ridiculous for someone with a soldering iron and basic skills, but those Lemos and those BNCs are a bit tougher, to be honest.

 


I almost feel dumb for not thinking about this possibility. I could make multiple lengths! Easier replacement if something gets messed up mid-cable! Quicker and easier assembly/disassembly! You guys rock!

In my opinion you would need more than just a soldering iron and some basic skills to execute this cable properly! 

First of all you have about $120-$150 in parts, depending on where you get them. Time needed to source the parts, minimum 2 hours if you know where to go.  Second, there are number of tools you will need to pull this off.  Some you might have, some you probably will not. There are also various supplies you will need, such as different sizes heat shrink, cables sleeving etc.  Now!  You have 13 connectors (if you want a quick connect on both sides) 4 of those are multi pin (7 contacts, possibly B). You have at least an hour or two of cable preparation, measuring, cutting, stripping and tinning.  Once that's completed, all that is left to do is solder the connectors, another hour or two, depending on your level of expertise.  When you add it all up it turns out to be something like 6 hours of work + $150 in parts, that is best case scenario, IF everything goes as planned.  You would have to be a very good cable maker to pull it off for the same price that you can get it at Trew, unless you are making a batch of 100.  All I'm saying is that even though the price feels "pretty ridiculous" to you, it's actually pretty fair.

Now!  I am all for sound guys making our own cables, repairing our gear and developing our skills.  Great amounts of pleasure and pride comes from that, we all love doing it for those reasons, however, the above statement sounds a lot like something I would hear from a producer or a director who says:

We don't need a sound guy, we have an onboard mic!  With a furry!

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OK, I have to admit that I did come across as a bit cocky. Sorry about that! In my defense, I won't be selling these and I don't place a price on my time right now, as I enjoy soldering as a hobby as well. Also, I might still be riding the DIY high for making the (much easier) TA3 to XLRf cables necessary for the line ins on the 633.

I also admit that I tend to buy Lemo and Hirose cables readymade, since I haven't learned to make them and the materials for practicing would be costly. I definitely would not even dream of selling my soldering work, as I mentioned, my skills are pretty basic. Kudos to those who make quality products, I'm just a beginner hacking stuff together in an attempt to save money, making something that definitely would not be worth the prices asked. I'm fortunate to be in a position to benefit from my hobby professionally.

 

2 hours ago, berniebeaudry said:

Just to give you some ideas.  I use this with my rig.  

 

Thanks!

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I looked at sourcing the parts, I'm thinking I might have to abandon the Sommer cable and AES-compatibility, as cool as it would be. The outer diameter of the Sommer cable I was thinking of is 10mm and the Neutrik NC7-XX connectors can only take 8mm outer diameters, and I don't think the strain relief would work properly with such an oversized cable for the connector. I'm now looking for an European source for Mogami W2931-cable, which would have an outer diameter of 8.9mm, pushing it a little, but not as ridiculously as the Sommer cable. Thus far it looks like the parts alone would be in the neighbourhood of 100€, so the readymade prices do make sense when one considers the time and effort it will take to assemble everything. This is going to be fun. :D

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If you cut back the outer jacket enough to fit the Neutrik connector and cover the exposed wires with shrink tubing you should be fine with the Sommer cable.

 

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Certainly the Canare MR202-4AT cable fits in a NC7-XX connector without difficulty but it's 7.6mm OD. I run AES through 20m lengths of this cable all the time, although it's not sold as such.

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17 hours ago, Eric Toline said:

If you cut back the outer jacket enough to fit the Neutrik connector and cover the exposed wires with shrink tubing you should be fine with the Sommer cable.

 

I was actually just making some adapter cables for a bandmate of mine and dealt with a similar problem, tried to fit a 6mm mic cable into an RCA-connector which was clearly meant for something smaller. The first one I did ended up pretty gnarly, I'm not going to have my buddy even pay for the parts. :D On the second one, I whittled down the jacket of the mic cable with a knife so I could fit the strain relief assembly on. I'll have to see how it does in field tests at band practice later on tonight... Feels like a bit of a hack and it's a bit ugly, but that's DIY for you at times.

 

5 hours ago, nickreich said:

Certainly the Canare MR202-4AT cable fits in a NC7-XX connector without difficulty but it's 7.6mm OD. I run AES through 20m lengths of this cable all the time, although it's not sold as such.


Thanks for the tip! I'm not sure if I want to deal with foil shields, though. I've never seen one of those on a cable, so I googled the issue and apparently a foil shield can cause cracks and pops if the cable kinks or is stepped on? The application I'm thinking of would have a bunch of movement if anything. The DA-202-4P has spiral shielding and is sold as AES-EBU-compliant and the diameter seems workable at 8.8mm, so I'll give sourcing it a look, thanks for pointing me at Canare!

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17 hours ago, Ilari Sivil said:

Thanks for the tip! I'm not sure if I want to deal with foil shields, though. I've never seen one of those on a cable, so I googled the issue and apparently a foil shield can cause cracks and pops if the cable kinks or is stepped on? The application I'm thinking of would have a bunch of movement if anything. The DA-202-4P has spiral shielding and is sold as AES-EBU-compliant and the diameter seems workable at 8.8mm, so I'll give sourcing it a look, thanks for pointing me at Canare!

 

The current Canare foil shielded material is very good - huge amounts of the MR202 in various channel counts are used in touring sound systems. I've been using it for many years in Theatre and Outside Broadcast and similar fields without issue - the only thing being to make it so thin, the jacket around each core is not really rugged enough to use on it's own as tail-ends or fan-outs. You need to cover them with either Heatshrink, or preferably Techflex if you want to make fan-outs. 

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I have an older piece of cable that I would like to turn into an extension with the neutric sc connectors. It looks like you put them together from different parts. Has any one done this?


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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I rolled my own. I also made it compatible with the Remote Audio wiring scheme. Sometimes on multi-camera shoots you have to switch cameras. No need to switch tails. RA seems to be the most popular. They also make several different kinds of breakouts for the various cameras. My most recent is a breakout for a Arri Mini. I also made a couple of extensions and a 7' extension for the dolly.

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Have you consider the Remote Audio Multipair cable? It's a 3 channels (3 pairs) cable. It's sold by the foot. The channels are readily made for that purpose, color coded (blue, red and black for the stereo return), you just wrap them with techflex after the fan out and there you go. Used Neutricon 8 pins for the breakout part. Cost me about 100$ for a 23' snake. 

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My main cam snake suggestion is to have 2 fans, ie one for each end, instead of just one at the camera end.  That way you can quick-release yourself from the snake if you need to move fast.  I found this extremely helpful when working OMB out of a bag esp on crowded sets with a lot of lighting gear.

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25 minutes ago, Philip Perkins said:

My main cam snake suggestion is to have 2 fans, ie one for each end, instead of just one at the camera end.  That way you can quick-release yourself from the snake if you need to move fast.  I found this extremely helpful when working OMB out of a bag esp on crowded sets with a lot of lighting gear.

I do the same.

Then you can have different lengths of cables to go between the ends.

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+1 for quick connects on both ends, different length extensions, and a couple fan outs so the snake isn't just tied to the mixer but can be used as a microphone snake too with 3 (or 4) channels.

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