CMU School of Drama

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wireless for AV and IT:  Can They Play Nice? It’s a networked world out there. If you’ve spent much time in the AVL production world, or just recently returned from NAB, you’ve probably noticed that wired or wireless networking is now a feature on just about every piece of gear you can imagine. We’ve seen serial control on pro-level gear for a long time, but network-based control has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, and along with it, a whole new world of challenges.


Alex Talbot said...

Wireless, especially for lighting, is always a touchy and risky move. I've used City Theatrical's basic WDMX gear in the past, and while it is inexpensive and very convenient, it can run into major issues. I've noticed, working with it in the past, that the gear, especially the cheap stuff, can run into major issues in rooms with major cell phone use and interference, especially if the transmitters are on the 2.4gHz band. This is a minor issue for theatrical events, where people are supposed to have their phones and devices off, but for concert-style events, where everyone is recording and using wifi and wireless networks on their phone, the wireless units can't keep up. So while gear like this is a convenient option, I wouldn't ever run a full rig off of it, and if I had to, I'd spend the money to get the high quality gear. It's a great invention, but not one without risks and problems. The continued prevalence of networking and wireless gear is why I think that for most AV technicians today, a working knowledge of networking is incredibly important.

Julien Sat-Vollhardt said...

During my gap year I worked several times with wireless microphone and lavaliers when I was working as a sound technician, and honestly, I'm just glad I don't have to deal with them ever again. Using wireless, for sound at least, is extremely extremely useful because who doesn't want to be able to mic their actors and singers on stage without dragging cables behind them. And they are a manageable resource when you have an audio staff who is prepared to deal with them, troubleshoot them, and inevitably replace them when they just fail. The problem arises when you are the only one dealing with them, when they are not calibrated for the radio interference of the building they have been brought into, and you have no equipment to test for interference. In that situation in particular, wireless mics are finicky and have to be used in conjunction with a great deal of trial and error, which doesn't work very well when thy fail in the middle of the show.

William N. Lowe said...

This article just makes the world make more sense. I now realize that I need to start looking for a network class somewhere because this is clearly a deep issue which is important in our world. Beyond just understanding how to find channels for wireless microphones, I always find it useful to understand what the other departments – media, lighting, IT – are doing and how they are thinking about networking to ensure you understand how issues with network might arise. I also think it is interesting of how much cheaper systems mess with things and it explains a lot of not only why they are cheaper, but why people get annoyed at the cheaper gear. Coming from Washington, DC, I know how hard it is to find free frequencies because, beyond all of the usual TV and Radio stations, there are many, many private communication frequencies who do not like anything around them and will begin searching surrounding frequencies and cause interference on them.