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Clearcom Alternative

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by lightsandsoundSHS, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. lightsandsoundSHS

    lightsandsoundSHS New Member

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    We do quite a few plays and musicals at our HS, and it would be fantastic to have a clearcom system. But- it isn't happening. No budget. Is there an alternative to this? I suggested at first some sort of closed telephone system with wired phones and all connected together. I have no idea if this is possible, and if it is, I don't know how it would be done....

    Any suggestions?
  2. cpf

    cpf Well-Known Member

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  3. lightsandsoundSHS

    lightsandsoundSHS New Member

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    Thanks, I was looking for something cheaper. don't know if there is such a thing...
  4. urban79

    urban79 Member

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    YMMV, but in one of the spaces when I was in college we used a phone system in order to have wireless com. We used for wireless phone belt packs (like would be used for telemarketers before bluetooth). Using a phone jack splitter, four phones were plugged into the same jack, and a line was opened.

    Did it work? Yes. Was it cheap? I would say so. Are there serious disadvantages? Yes. First, there is no allowance for push-to-talk - it is simply an open party line. The quality was not close to as good as a Clear-com/PI/Telex system. (Nothing will ever sound as good as a good wired system).

    But it can work, particularly on a budget, and particularly when you have nothing in place already. What you might have to check on is whether there are actually any real phone jacks left? Ours have all been replaced with IP phones...

    Chris
  5. lightsandsoundSHS

    lightsandsoundSHS New Member

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    I just thought.... Our theater has a few wifi-enabled PCs laying around.... Would it be a bad thing to use an IM chat to do the same thing a clear com would? Then you wouldn't even have to say anything. With a service such as Google chat there is no wait for the message to go through, so you could do the usual "LX1 Go", etc.
  6. cpf

    cpf Well-Known Member

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    I'd warn you about using an internet service like that: while 90% of the time the messages will go through with 0 delay, if the WiFi connection hiccups or Google's/whoever's servers glitch the message might be delayed without warning. If I were to do this with PCs, I would use NetMeeting (WinXP & below), which offers direct, LAN based (no net connection) video, audio, and text messaging. It IS the least flashy app around, but it gets the job done and it'll never surprise you.
  7. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    I think this same topic has been discussed at least once before, http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/stage-management-facility-operations/12188-wireless-intercom-skype.html.

    I personally can't see having to type each direction and response or having to constantly be watching a computer for an IM as being that effective, they would seem to require taking attention away from the primary task. However, I was in high school when a 'chat' meant verbal communications and texting did not exist, so they may not be as second nature to me as they are to many here.
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team

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    Last time I checked Production Intercom products ran about 10%-15% less than Clear Com brand products. It's fully compatible with Clear Com equipment. In my opinion they are better built as well.

    However you are talking about doing it on a shoe string budget and that won't make it. Texting, IM, and other internet based options are too unreliable. The chances are far too great that a message will be delayed a few seconds, if not a few minutes. The most reliable option would be FRS radios and head sets. They have their drawbacks and may or may not technically be legal to use... I've heard both opinions here. But they are cheap and reliable and work just fine for a high school crew.
  9. JohnD

    JohnD Active Member Premium Member

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  10. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    FRS radios would be almost the opposite of a party line. Instead of everyone talking and listening all the time, with FRS radios the same frequency is used to transmit and receive (simplex operation) so you cannot listen while talking. That often works fine in a production communication application, at least until someone leaves their radio triggered and you can't communicate with that person.

    Related to that, because just about anyone can use FRS radios, many FRS radios offer some form of time coded or digital coded squelch, in fact they often use the potential combinations of the actual 7 to 14 operating channels and squelch codes to advertise the radio having hundreds or even thousands of 'channels'. The coded squelch allows only those using the same frequency channel and squelch code to communicate. That is great in terms of hearing only those you want, however with coded squelch enabled you may not hear others using the same channel, thus you may think no one is talking on that channel but it is really just that no one is talking on that specific channel and code combination. That seems relevant in a production communications setting as to avoid trying to transmit when a channel is already in use you pretty much have to disable tone coding and listen to anyone on that channel.
  11. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    You're in HS, surly one of you has access to a Vent or Teamspeak server...
  12. Tex

    Tex Active Member

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    Which one's the surly one? ;)
  13. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    My old high school operated with an arsenal of two-way radios for many years, which was highly unsuccessful and had lots of problems. Buying clear-coms was out of the question, so they ended up just renting a package for every show that needed it. We were able to get a simple two-channel system with a half-dozen beltpacks and all the cable we needed for $50-100/wk, which worked really well for us. I'd look into getting a quote from your local rental house to see if that's a better alternative.
  14. kiwitechgirl

    kiwitechgirl Active Member

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    If you don't need comms all the time (just for a couple of shows a year), talk to the sports department. We used to borrow radio comms from the rowing teams - they had them so the coaches could talk to the cox on the water - and provided they didn't need them, were happy for us to use them. They may have something which could work for you.
  15. bishopthomas

    bishopthomas Well-Known Member

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    How about string and soup cans? Shouting from FOH to the stage during a performance could work, depending on how loud that ****ed orchestra is. Morse code. Telegraph. There are lots of cheap/free options out there...
  16. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Follow spots used as a signal lamps? Semaphore? Signing for the deaf and tech crew? The possibilities are almost endless.
  17. BGW

    BGW Member

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    Yeah, if you can run some wires, check out the bottom "article" at this link: Use old telephones as an intercom
  18. lightsandsoundSHS

    lightsandsoundSHS New Member

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    Thanks for your help. I'm looking into modifying walkie talkies for our purposes. No party line, but at least it'll work. I'll probably purchase some headsets.
  19. eddybennet

    eddybennet New Member

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  20. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Too bad the sprint/nextel direct connect never caught on, although there was still lag time with that if the network was busy.

    Even tho I don't do theater, or use skype, it seems the risks outweigh any cost savings. I'd suggest looking for some used wireless coms. They're probably out there, you just have to be patient and be ready to buy when they become available.

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