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Wireless Intercom/Skype

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by JackMVHS, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. JackMVHS

    JackMVHS Member

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    I know that there have been plenty of threads on CB about wireless intercoms, but I think I have a new idea. Our school has a decent clear com wired system with plenty of 1 channel belt packs and amazing headsets, all with crystal clear sound. The problem is that several crew members MUST be wireless. In the past we rented high end walkies, but I found these to be very frustrating to get on the same channel, deal with interference and static, and try to hear people who are whispering quieter than the static. So I started looking at Clear Com and Production Intercom's wireless options and realized we can't afford that. I came across an idea on a thread here about using phone lines with wireless phones, but I came up with a new, digital, idea.

    iPod Touches/iPhones and Skype. I'm thinking about borrowing a couple iPod Touches to install skype on, add a headset with mic, and start a conference "call". Then put a laptop with skype on it in the booth and hook it into the intercom system. What do you think of this idea? How would I wire the laptop into the intercom system, obviously without the call function?

    If I can get this to work it would be a very practical and low cost alternative to a wireless intercom system, provided I can find several iPods.

    If clarification is needed just ask!

    Thanks
    ~JackMVHS

    EDIT: Now that I think about it, a fleet of laptops and iPods could create a cheap and high quality wireless intercom system...
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2009
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    First, skype is a bandwidth hog. Even if all of your computers are on the same network, all communication will have to go through skypes central servers. There is no way that you can have a connection that is good enough to really pull this off. You would be better off saving your money up and just purchasing a wireless system. Those systems are designed to be bullet proof for a reason, it has to be.
     
  3. zuixro

    zuixro Active Member

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    I can't remember the name of it, but I remember hearing about a peer to peer VOIP program. It establishes a connection between the two computers directly instead of routing it through a server. You might not be able to find an iPod touch app for it. That would eliminate some of the bandwidth problems though.
     
  4. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I think you will find that you will very quickly run out of battery and bandwidth if you went this route. The way that iPod touch and iPhone are designed, they would have to be on constantly and with Wifi engaged for this to work, which would suck battery life like it was it's job. Besides the cost of the devices is not cheap. Also consider that you are suggesting giving these devices to students in a situation where they would have internet access. Odds are you will find most of them surfing the net, playing games, and missing cues. With iPod Touch, if you were to ever close skype or any other VOIP app, you would immediately terminate the connection as programs cannot run in the background.

    Again, laptops, headsets and ipods is not going to come out cheaper than buying a real wireless coms system. If you have been renting walkie talkies and have not been happy with them, try renting a real clear-com setup. When all is said and done, I doubt that you would save much money, and is the money that you might save worth the headache of making a setup like what you propose worth it?
     
  5. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    Unfortunately iPhones/iPods don't have peer to peer. Yet. It's coming in the next iPhone update, 3.0. Then it could be feesable.
    We use Coms for Cues, but also a chat client like NetMeeting, and just bring our own wireless gear. Its good, because you can do all your chatting, you still have the Coms to hear your Go's. And in the boring bits Halo can be played :)
    Nick
     
  6. JackMVHS

    JackMVHS Member

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    The reason it would be cheaper is because all the hardware would be borrowed and brought in from home. I understand what you mean about the Internet thing, but all of these students are very responsible, plus all the social networking and innapropriete sites are blocked. My only concerns are bandwidth and accidently closing skype.
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    This is a particularly bad idea. Sure, it seams great to have a channel of communication to goof around on, but really everyone should be focused on the show. Your ASMs, deck hands, fly ops, etc., should be watching what is going on to make sure that nothing is going wrong. They should not be chatting on a computer. Just because you aren't running a cue doesn't mean that a piece of scenery isn't going to start moving on its own. And playing computer games is even worse. All the more reason not to allow your crew to use computers or handhelds during a show. It is a safety hazard.

    This has got bad idea written all over it. You cannot require people to use their own hardware for this unless you have the insurance to cover it when it gets broken during use. What happens when your fly op drops his iPhone off the fly rail and it smashes to bits on stage or when a deck hand runs over an iPod Touch while pushing scenery? Your facility had better be able to cover these situations or you will have unhappy students and unhappy parents. Most of the time, a schools insurance will cover what the school owns, but not personal property. Ultimately, it could actually cost you more than buying a real system if you have to replace people's personal equipment.

    It doesn't matter how responsible people are or anything, it is an inevitability that people will do what you tell them not to, especially if it is easy to. This is even more true if you are telling people that you want them to use their own hardware. So now your crew has their own iPods with their games and music. Not a good combination.

    As has been said, save your money and get a system that is designed to do what you need it to do. Sure, you can build a system that works, but when it doesn't work, you are hosed. If you buy a real coms system, at least you have someone to call when it stops working.
     
  8. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    I would be more worried about people walking off with the hardware if it's school-owned. I use Skype frequently, and I gotta say, it would not be my first choice (or any for that matter) for a comms system. I've had far too many dropped calls, and I just use it to call home every couple of weeks. I echo the above sentiments and say save up for a real comms system. Something that critical to a show, both safety wise in an emergency and potential headaches in a high stress environment, shouldn't be jerry-rigged.
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Am I missing something here, or does the iPod touch not have (live) audio input capability?
     
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    You can pair it with a bluetooth headset.
     
  11. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Ah yes, thanks. So now we're talking about using two wireless technologies, neither of which is intended or suitable for real-time, mission critical applications. Doesn't seem like a prudent idea to me.:(
     
  12. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Na... heres how a show shoulded be called in the 21st century....

    SM signs on to twitter "standby LX1"
    The tweet updates his/her facebook feed.
    The Light op receives a text from twitter with standby LX1
    Light op updates facebook with "standing by"
    Facebook updates the light ops twitter feed
    SM sees the update on twitter
    SM then Re-tweets the standby
    SM then tweets "LX1 go"

    Everyone sees this...

    [​IMG]
     
    Mark Harris likes this.
  13. JackMVHS

    JackMVHS Member

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    I am quickly seeing the limitations of the system, but it was just an idea. I like footers post though :). Does anyone have cheap suggestions to adding 2 wireless intercoms to our wired clear com system?
     
  14. Clifford

    Clifford Active Member

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    Cheap, not really. To add wireless beltpacks you need a wireless base station, like the ClearCom WBS series. The base station alone is about $4000, with wireless beltbacks running $1000 each. If you do get that though, you simply connect the two through the 'Intercom' port on the back of both base stations.
     
  15. cprted

    cprted Active Member

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    If your need (as opposed to want) for wireless is specific to this one show, why not rent a pair of wireless comms for the run?
     
  16. JackMVHS

    JackMVHS Member

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    Does anyone know where I could rent a wireless system with 2 beltpacks in the Twin Cities, MN? How much would it be for 2-3 weeks?
     
  17. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    No need to restrict oneself geographically when dealing with easily Next-Day-Air shippable items. Rent Com, near Chicago, lists Telex systems: Main Station - $180/wk, Drops - $135/wk. They may have a Telex-to-ClearCom interface also.

    Masque Sound, PRG-Audio, and most A/V companies would be good sources as well.
     
  18. cprted

    cprted Active Member

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    Telex-to-CC interface??? Which Telex system are you looking at?
     
  19. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  20. cprted

    cprted Active Member

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    Our BTR800 doesn't require any adaptors or interfaces to tie into the CC main station. Hence my confusion.
     

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