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Scott Anderson

Looking Into Buying Zaxcom IFB

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I have been interested in the ERX feature set but have concerns about short range as well as the go/no-go nature of real time digital transmissions.

 

I have become especially curious about the Lectrosonics VHF IFB gear. I used a network supplied Block 25 Lectro IFB UHF package this past week and it sounded good. I want to buy a IFB rig for my own kit but am reluctant to add any supplementary gear that works in the shrinking portion of the TV UHF bands. The restricted TV VHF band III seems like a good place to operate. The 50mW limit seems like a small number, but I understand that long wavelengths can be propagated with much lower power. I look forward to experiencing how transmissions with 50mW at 174mHz compares to 250mW at 500MHz wavelength or 2000mW at 2.4GHz. I hope to someday find a way to demo the Lectrosonics VHF gear before buying an IFB package.

 

 

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When I used the ERX system, I actually got ok range, just by using a better antenna. However, frequency coordination can be tricky. I have on occasion inadvertently disabled the camera‘s remote focus systems, because my IFB200 would flatten that signal - despite a scan beforehand. Apparently they don’t switch channel ls when there is a problem, like consumer wifi router do

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14 hours ago, Wandering Ear said:

Larry, while your post may have been pointing at the wrong frequency band, the underlying point you were making is a very real consideration in the 2.4ghz band as well, not just 900mhz.  While Wifi is channelized, not everything that operates in 2.4ghz is, and the wide band spread spectrum technology you referenced in your original post is exactly why the Cintenna RatPac dimmers make an ERX unusable, no matter what frequency is chosen.  The RatPac dimmers broadcast in short bursts changing frequencies across the 2.4ghz spectrum multiple times per second.  This seems to keep it clear of interfering with technologies like wifi and bluetooth, however real time audio requires an uninterrupted signal.  The end result being an ERX will still have audio, but that audio will contain glitches a couple times a second, everytime the ratpac broadcasts on the same frequency.  No amount of amplification or moving closer to the transmitter seems to help.  The timecode and remote control functions of Zaxnet still continue to work without issue with a ratpac dimmer running, just the audio stream is wrecked.

I think the power limit set by the FCC in 2.4ghz is 3 or 4 watts assuming no gain at the antenna.  Since Cintenna claims a range of 1/4 mile, I'm sure they are running as much power as they are allowed.

 

Thanks for the update on frequency hopping in the 2.4 GHz band. I certainly don't understand why the FCC allows frequency hopping in the entire 100 MHz band (2.4 to 2.5 GHz). That makes audio use very difficult.

Best Regards,

Larry Fisher

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5 hours ago, LarryF said:

 

Thanks for the update on frequency hopping in the 2.4 GHz band. I certainly don't understand why the FCC allows frequency hopping in the entire 100 MHz band (2.4 to 2.5 GHz). That makes audio use very difficult.

Best Regards,

Larry Fisher

I honestly don't know the rules as they apply to frequency hopping and 2.4ghz.  The behavior I described is what I can see on my RF explorer.

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Do not use zaxcom for ifb unless the  signal is amplified by a lot.

Zaxnet range is not very good and IFB reliability  is a number one priority. Clients hate drop outs and can care less how food it sounds. 

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I have used ERXs for timecode + scratch track and IFB for a few years and have recently sold them all. I believe it was a really good idea unfortunately poorly executed.

 

Only my humble opinion but simply put, don't buy them unless you mainly do cart work. The range out of the stock nomad antenna is nothing short of unacceptable with dropouts from 5 meters in some cases. Amplifying the signal is an option and many here have done it successfully but be ready to dive into a world of prosumer/dodgy ebay seller products/custom cabling to make your IFB range acceptable. On the cart it's doable as a fixed setup. In the bag it's just a nightmare.

 

I have swapped to lectro IFBs and after years of sweaty palms everytime I handed a client an ERX, I love them. Range is rock solid just out of a cheap old Lma transmitter I had lying around, unit is built like a tank. Just set and forget. I have 2x RX200 that I use for camera track+timecode and everyone is happy.

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Hi all, I think it really depends on how much range and what all you need in the product. I use the ERX system and it is great. Outside in the open, I usually get about 50 or 60 feet. I recently had to do the "bag in the trunk", and after that was over I asked them how they heard it, they said it was fine. That was with the stock setup. I have had an occasion where I can put the bag on a table, and then I put that big 2-foot antenna on there, percentage-wise that makes a big difference. If you were wearing the bag it would poke you in the eye. I know this because I tried it just for fun. If you didn't have to wear the bag and you put a very small amp and that big antenna on there you would have great range. I know when production is getting out of range because they say "hey I'm getting this weird wobbly sound". And that's the sound you get from 2.4 gigahertz running out of range. I just move a little closer to them and show them that it's just the signal from me to them and  not from the talent to me. I like the Zaxnet system. I've had camera operators tell me "no no we don't need scratch audio this camera" , because they don't want a big timecode box and a big audio box mounted on their camera. And as soon as they see the little zaxcom box come out they go "okay yea, scratch audio would be good". Because they have to have the box anyway on there for time code. 

Thanks, Martin

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8 minutes ago, MartinTheMixer said:

Hi all, I think it really depends on how much range and what all you need in the product. I use the ERX system and it is great. Outside in the open, I usually get about 50 or 60 feet. I recently had to do the "bag in the trunk", and after that was over I asked them how they heard it, they said it was fine. That was with the stock setup. I have had an occasion where I can put the bag on a table, and then I put that big 2-foot antenna on there, percentage-wise that makes a big difference. If you were wearing the bag it would poke you in the eye. I know this because I tried it just for fun. If you didn't have to wear the bag and you put a very small amp and that big antenna on there you would have great range. I know when production is getting out of range because they say "hey I'm getting this weird wobbly sound". And that's the sound you get from 2.4 gigahertz running out of range. I just move a little closer to them and show them that it's just the signal from me to them and  not from the talent to me. I like the Zaxnet system. I've had camera operators tell me "no no we don't need scratch audio this camera" , because they don't want a big timecode box and a big audio box mounted on their camera. And as soon as they see the little zaxcom box come out they go "okay yea, scratch audio would be good". Because they have to have the box anyway on there for time code. 

Thanks, Martin

I Agree with everything you said, and I have had a great many days when the ERX system has performed just fine. However, my overall feeling is that the ERX system was a lot of:

"I hope this is going to work" instead of

"I know this is going to work" that the lectro IFB is giving me.

 

I use a all-zaxcom system for everything else and am very happy with it overall.

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David, I think others must be trying to get something out of Zaxnet and Zaxcom that I don't. I don't hope that it works, not any more than I hope that I don't have a flat tire on the way to the set, I don't think much about flat tires and I don't think about whether my Zaxnet is going to work that day. I've taken  a few minutes to ponder this and I'm just wondering if mixers are trying to stay near the talent, which is not where the producers are listening, and that is what I do. The reason I'm not concerned with talent getting too far away is because I use the Micplexer 2, and I've gotten hundreds of yards of range thanks to that unit. So I don't try to stay near the talent, I try to stay near the producer and that's the only thing that I can think of that I'm doing different than others who are not getting the results that they deem satisfactory. I sometimes send a PA way off into the distance to check to see just how far I can get away with being away from talent. To me that information is practical and it's also entertaining to see how far away it will work. I have had experienced Pa's doubt that I could actually hear them thru the transmitter, and I have had to tell them either via walkie or yelling out that yes I hear what they're saying. And that's because they are not believing the distance that I'm getting. Maybe that or they just don't feel like walking very far. 

Sincerely, Martin

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1 hour ago, afewmoreyears said:

15-25-30-50-60 feet is to me totally unacceptable for any IFB,  "what"-net or  any other wireless system... enough said...  Every time I read this stuff I cringe..

 

Hi, And this is a fine demonstration of my point. For what I do, 60 feet is extremely acceptable. You have to define what is acceptable to you, the reader of these entries. Now you know the distances you can make your decision. I don't know why my lack of a need for more range would make anyone cringe. Anyone who needs these devices has to know what is acceptable to them for their needs. I could hook my Zaxnet up to amplification and larger antennas if I needed it, I just don't often need that. 

Thank you, Martin

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12 hours ago, MartinTheMixer said:

 

Hi, And this is a fine demonstration of my point. For what I do, 60 feet is extremely acceptable. You have to define what is acceptable to you, the reader of these entries. Now you know the distances you can make your decision. I don't know why my lack of a need for more range would make anyone cringe. Anyone who needs these devices has to know what is acceptable to them for their needs. I could hook my Zaxnet up to amplification and larger antennas if I needed it, I just don't often need that. 

Thank you, Martin

Good point..if all your jobs you Stand on set .. feet from everyone this may in fact work for you..in my workflow this rarely happens and we must always have gear that works at the other end of the "operational feet" distances..

Like the other side of a home, or inside the home while we're outside.. or 100 other situations... If you can get away with a few feet, constantly, then by all means buy that gear...why not though buy the gear that covers BOTH bases.. is solid...and just plain works at 15' or 400' or more!!!

15 to 60' still makes me cringe though..lol

     On one of the many  large sound stages we work on, people that need to hear are maybe 100 ft away.. and this is indoors...through ten tons of crap... I would rather not have to move around just because of my IFB feed...  

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3 minutes ago, afewmoreyears said:

Good point..if all your jobs you Stand on set .. feet from everyone this may in fact work for you..in my workflow this rarely happens and we must always have gear that works at the other end of the "operational feet" distances..

Like the other side of a home, or inside the home while we're outside.. or 100 other situations... If you can get away with a few feet, constantly, then by all means buy that gear...why not though buy the gear that covers BOTH bases.. is solid...and just plain works at 15' or 400' or more!!!

15 to 60' still makes me cringe though..lol

Hello, Well I just think of it this way. I only need 50 feet and if I got the other stuff and it would work 400 feet, that's just an extra 350 feet I have to haul around in the truck, and it's packed pretty tight already. 

Sincerely, Martin

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I am almost always working alone these days, although the job might be decently large and have a fair-sized crew, and a fair sized village.  It is very possible that this village might not be all that close to the set all the time (ie we move setups but they stay put, even to some distance thru walls, say of a large house etc).  I need wireless gear, esp. monitoring, that is as stable and dropout free as possible and can run all day on 1 battery w/o my intervention, even though I'm working out of a bag with a small 9v type TX.   I stay fairly close to the camera usually, so big range isn't needed for the hop, and I'm from the school of thought that holds that jam-synced TC boxes are a way better camera TC solution than any form of transmitted code.  But the Headset-Wearers can end up kind of where ever on, near, not so near etc the set and everywhere in between....

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5 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

I'm from the school of thought that holds that jam-synced TC boxes are a way better camera TC solution than any form of transmitted code.

 

I hear you on that, but my understanding of the ERX receivers is that they have built-in TC generators and that the TC that they send to the camera isn't transmitted, but generated by the ERX. They are, however, continuously re-jammed over their wireless connection. So if there's a dropout or whatever, the ERX TC output just keeps rolling along on its own. At least, that's what I gather.

https://zaxcom.com/products/erx3tcd/

 

I could have this wrong, and I could also misunderstand your concern at least in terms of ERX TC for a hop (as opposed to IFB range). Am I totally missing something?

 

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