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akscooter
04-27-2010, 11:10 AM
If you are on a tight budget, but still need talent communication, you have to be ingenious with the resources available to you. Never mind asking for $200 xlr headsets, you'll be laughed out of the office. You have to use Walmart specials.

Right now, I use four PC headphone/mic sets that have 1/8" connectors. These headsets won't work on a standard field mixer, even with the 1/4" adapters. What I have to do is split the mic and headphone jacks with a Belkin 5 way stereo headphone splitter. They are bidirectional, so I plug all the mics into one, and all the headphones into the other. Then the splitter is plugged into a PCMCIA Sound Blaster installed on our stats machine. The Talents and camera operator (only one camera for the moment) all stand within five feet of each other, but extenders work just fine. The computer is then set to unmute the mic so you hear what you say. This can be a problem if your running Vista or 7 as they both use ADC/DAC causing a delay.

This solution is perfect for the VERY small team, but I'm about to grow, and will have limited funds. I still want to use the PC headsets for my camera operators as they are excellent headphones even with the noise of a hockey game. So I'd like to convert from my reliance on a laptop and PCMCIA sound card, and use something else. That's where someone out there can come in.

What are some kludge setups you have used? What are some home-brew money savers that work great and cost next to nothing? And can we have some pics of some Radio-Shack built equipment?

Thanks
Jon

Quiet1onTheSet
04-27-2010, 11:48 AM
What are some kludge setups you have used? Thanks
Jon Consider purchasing a Motorola base station 2-way radio used, and some inexpensive, compatible sets of Motorola® FRS (Family Radio Service) 2-Way radios, with inexpensive, 2 way headphones' miniplug adapted for mono sound to appear in both earpieces (I haven't tried this, but I hear Motorola® radios, available at Target, and elsewhere, tend to be more reliable than the Uniden brand for this purpose).

Hope this helps! Now, read on...
:hey:
Q1


If you are on a tight budget...You have to use Walmart specials.

...I use four PC headphone/mic sets that have 1/8" connectors. These headsets won't work on a standard field mixer, even with the 1/4" adapters. What I have to do is split the mic and headphone jacks with a Belkin 5 way stereo headphone splitter. They are bidirectional, so I plug all the mics into one, and all the headphones into the other. Then the splitter is plugged into a PCMCIA Sound Blaster installed on our stats machine.

'Trying to understand what you mean, Akscooter, so here are several questions for you:
1. What make/model of PC headphone/mic sets have you picked up at Walmart, and
2. What's the model number of the Belkin "splitter".
2a. Are you instead referring to the Belkin headphone distribution amplifier that requires a "AA" battery, and has 4 or 5 mini stereophone jacks for simultaneously connecting multiple stereo headphones?
3. If the answer to 2a is "Yes", then, are the boom mic miniplug for each headset then connected to one of the Belkin "splitters", while the earpiece miniplug of each headset is connected to a minijack in yet another Belkin "splitter"?

Photos welcome.

Thanks in advance for your replies.
Q1

akscooter
04-27-2010, 12:22 PM
1. The headphone/mic (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Cyber-Acoustics-Computer-Stereo-Silver-Headset-Microphone/10264009) is very similar to that. Ours have their own headphone volume, and mic mute. Interesting is the old headsets would mute ALL headsets when you muted one. These don't, allowing one commentator to mute for coughing (or yelling at the ref!) while the other continues speaking professionally-ish!

2. It's a non-powered iPhone splitter. (http://store.phonedifferent.com/belkin-5-way-headphone-splitter-35mm/11A75A3925.htm although I didn't pay $19!). The power is provided by the laptop's PCMCIA Sound Blaster.

The best part of setting it up this way is the asynchronous communication that takes place. Everyone can talk at the same time. If I use these with my three camera upgrade, I can simply tell the camera operators to keep their mic muted unless they are having trouble, or need to speak to me.

We've tried the radio approach, but just about every kid up here has them, and once they figure out our freq, they aren't afraid to interrupt. Even the alt freq get's found.

Another interesting method was the use of one of those FM transmitters, and small FM/MP3 players at the camera. But this only works for about 20 feet or so, and the cement columns kill the signal real fast.

The plan is to run permanent cables, mounting them in good looking surface boxes, for the two far cameras. In that box would be the BNC for video, and two 1/8" female jacks, one for mic, the other for headphone. We'll see how it works. I'm just concerned with the length, about 120-150ft as the cable lay. I may need to place a headphone amp at those points.

Thanks
Jon

pro---studio
04-27-2010, 01:12 PM
Do yourself a favor and get some XLR5 connectors. They work fine for intercom connections. We use them to feed the symmetric mic of the headset of each camera to our ob-van and feed the headphone signal (mono) back to the camera men.

Trust me - get some symmetric mics for long distances - everything else doesn't work!

And a XLR connection is far more reliable than some tiny 1/8" jacks.

Regards

Pro.

Quiet1onTheSet
04-27-2010, 02:49 PM
And a XLR connection is far more reliable than some tiny 1/8" jacks.

Tiny 1/8" jacks :devil:
Oh, so true.

Q1

akscooter
04-27-2010, 04:01 PM
I'm not arguing which is better! I'm just saying 1/8" is all I have to work with on my operator side (ie camera operators, replay, director). For my talents, I will be getting XLR headsets and a nice field mixer. But at close to $200 a pop for good headsets, my budget would be broke to fast if I have to buy 6 of them! I'd have to give up something else. So until I can afford a future upgrade of the operator comm, I'll be Radio-Shack's best friend.

Thanks for the advice tho!

Jon

pro---studio
04-28-2010, 06:32 PM
Use your cheap headsets but buy a solder iron and some xlr5 plugs and sockets and do it yourself. Cut off the 1/8 " jacks and solder the XLRs. A XLR5 plug costs about 3$ here in Germany.

This should be an investment in the professionalty of your production. You won't be lucky with this sh**tty 1/8" jacks. Trust me - you can do many things with them but right in the moment where you need it they get broken.

You can even get some baluns for the connection at a very low price and use them with your wall-mart headsets and run long distance cables.

Cheers

Pro.

akscooter
04-29-2010, 09:06 AM
The problem with simply chopping the end off and adding an XLR is voltage! A 1/8" computer microphone requires 5-9v on the ring, any less and it won't work. Add phantom and you'll let the smoke out of the wires.

Instead, I might use the back of the box 1/8" jacks which run separate from the Tricaster software to power the mics and headphones. Otherwise I'll have to continue to run a laptop until the organization can afford to buy more XLR headsets. I've got less than 15k to set up a complete three camera system, including new cams and all cabling. Anything I can do now to save will help me buy components in the future.

Thanks for all the advice
Jon

PIZAZZ
04-30-2010, 12:07 AM
We sell the Production Intercom EconoCom 4 beltpack 4 Headset com system for $1045. That gives you a ClearCom compatible true wired com system that is pretty flawless. You just use standard 3pin mic cable to connect it up.

let me know if I can help you secure one.


Complete info available here www.beltpack.com

akscooter
04-30-2010, 08:50 AM
3 pin XLR is the problem! I'm looking for a 1/8" intercom solution. My upgrade budget is nill to null, so spending even 1k on an intercom system means I have to spend over $400 on headsets, turning what could be less than a $100 solution into a $1400 solution. With Newtek, that's the price of LiveText, or DataLink, or Replay.

I found a homebrew power insertion box that I think might do the trick, and the components are less than $25 per inserter. It converts the PC Mic into line level XLR for connecting to a field mixer.

When I get to the next upgrade purchase, yes, I'll be looking into real XLR sets and intercom equipment. I'll bookmark your site.

Thanks
Jon

TakeOneDigital
05-03-2010, 12:16 PM
I've had these same ideas/discussions for years with my team. There HAS to be a cheap and easy way to make a wired party-line. BUT if you want a great solution today, don't waste your money on roll-your-own solutions. I've been burned by each.

FRS radios - They're one-speaker-at-a-time systems and very prone to drop-outs, interference, and battery hogs. Think about it, FRS radios weren't designed to be "on" for 2+ hours continuously. Plus, the inteligibility of these stink. I'd get lots of "huh" or "10-9" from my camera ops.

The cheapest (long run) and easiest solution that I've found has been to piecemeal a system from eBay. Search "clear com" and start picking up old single-channel belt packs and headsets. I've been able to get packs for about $50 each and headsets for $75 (get old RS100 packs for cheap, they're metal housings). Then, keep your eyes open for a power supply built by "intercomdoctor" on eBay. He builds them from laptop power supplies and sells them for less than $75 each and they work! I have 2. Add your own XLR cables, and you're good to go. I've expanded my initial system like this from 3 stations to 6. Plus now you can interconnect with a house Clear-Com system, rent extra staions if needed, run miles on XLR, and REALLY have clear audio. We can whisper and be heard on our system, or hear on top of a cheering crowd.