Wireless Intercom/Skype

wfor

Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Location
Columbus, GA
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...

Maybe there should be a "Show Calling" thread on CB!
 

Raktor

Active Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2007
Location
Melbourne, Australia
I'm still curious as to why wireless comms are needed as opposed to wanted. I can think of some applications where it would be helpful, but we've always coped in the past...
 

NickJones

Active Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2008
Location
Somewhere far far away, Vic, Aus
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.
Have to disagree there, lets face it, you aren't going to be watching intently to find out what happens to Mr Mistoffelees and the rest of the cats. There was a post quite a while back, asking people what they did during the "boring" bits of shows. One guy said he stuck on a pair of headphones, opened up his portable DVD player, and watched movies. I can see the problem there.
I see your point about fly ops ect, not mucking around, but when we do it the following people join:
  • LD
  • Assistant LD (If we have one)
  • Follow Spot Ops
  • Stage Audio Guys
So with these people playing, the danger is, they are going to miss a cue. Unlike the guy who said he watches DVD's, we still have Coms headsets on. And you have 7 other people in a game with Text chat, so if one knows its about time I got ready to hit "Go" then they tell you, so you have 7 other people there to remind you. I see this as a lot safer than than sitting there having a little nap, listening to your iPod, watching DVDs, reading a book (without headset, its hard to read when you are hearing Coms chatter), as you are still wide awake when you game. Lets face it, you aren't going to be watching the long drawn out 1/2 hour long scenes you have seen hundreds of times before. I used to play a game with the Spot Ops, where you both tried to talk in time with the actors. You see the show so many times in rehearsals. Chances are this may be your second show for the day, so the chances of you putting your full attention to the long bits is minimal. I'm not saying you drift off, but you loose a bit of focus. So when you do Halo, you are concentrating on something, not dozing off, and have all the people in the game, telling you when your next cue is coming up, as well as the Coms.
I do like a good argument!
Nick
 

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
Joined
Jan 11, 2007
Location
Lititz, PA
Have to disagree there, lets face it, you aren't going to be watching intently to find out what happens to Mr Mistoffelees and the rest of the cats. There was a post quite a while back, asking people what they did during the "boring" bits of shows. One guy said he stuck on a pair of headphones, opened up his portable DVD player, and watched movies. I can see the problem there. ....
IMHO there are major differences between tuning out completely with a movie or music, playing a computer game, and playing cards or trivia. Tuning out completely is right out, just bad. However, playing computer games can be nearly as bad as it demands a lot of focus. When you just have to get that last bad guy or you don't want to miss the dialog in the cut scene.

On the other hand, I have much less of an issue with say, the deck crew sitting around playing card games or Scrabble or Sorry. Last season we did a show with a 50 minute long scene with something like two cues, and i sat in the booth and played Scrabble with the SM, but that is a game that you can play AND watch what is going on on stage. Same thing with say playing Trivial Pursuit over headset, it is simple enough to not be distracting so you can watch the action on stage and keep yourself occupied at the same time. It is much easier to tune out the rest of the world when you are fixated on a computer game compared to playing table game. It is going to be easier for the SM or ASM to get the attention of a deck crew playing Monopoly compared to a deck crew playing networked computer games. This I believe is even more true when you have longer periods of time to get into the game.

Ultimately, the point is, if you are running a show critical position (LX, sound, spots, SM, etc) then your primary focus should be the show. It doesn't matter if you have seen/run the show 5 times or 50, it is your job to make sure that things are running as they should. It is especially important that followspots not be distracted because everyone will know when they miss a pickup, if the LX op is late on a 10 count cue, no one will notice.

I ran automation for 81 performances of the regional theatre premier of Les Mis. It can be a long boring show sometimes, but every performance I was watching that stage. We had subs and swings changing roles every few shows, power failures, and many other goofs, accidents, and what have you. I ran over 1000 revolve cues over the run of the show, and I never let it get to be "old-hat."

With all that in mind, I am not saying that you should change what you are doing. If it works for you, fine. However, if you come work for us you will be saving the LAN parties for after the show.

EDIT:
Icewolf is a graduate of Ithaca College, and Master Electrician for a LORT professional theatre. What are your qualifications, again, NickJones?
Thanks for standing up for me, but we don't need to pick fights. I don't care who has what qualifications, we all do what we think is reasonable. I know of many professional organizations that allow crew members to do such things as read books or the newspaper, or use their computer. I often sit with my computer during tech and program lights for the show while working on my budget numbers or prepping paperwork for the next show. However, I don't choose to do anything that takes my focus away from the job at hand, the current show. In this business, if you aren't there 100% you don't last too long. Have I missed cues before? Yup. I have had some pretty bad mistakes in my time, but no one is perfect. Here is one other way to look at it: when someone is paying you to run/work a show, they aren't paying you to play WoW or Halo, or whatever. You are expected to be focused on the job at hand, and making sure that your area operates accurately and safely.
 
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NickJones

Active Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2008
Location
Somewhere far far away, Vic, Aus
Haha, I wasn't picking fights, just being the devils advocate, and in this case, it was me.
Also like to point out, that I draw the line at WoW, I try not to pass that line of nerdness! As for playing scrabble/cards, that means the participants have to leave there position, I couldn't be at the console, playing cards/scrabble with a spot op, unless the spot op wasn't at the spot. I know Halo sounds bad, but it can be fun!
Nick
 

Spiceboy

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2009
Location
SF Bay Area
Clearcom have an IP based product as well, called Concert. However it requires a server, Isnt currently supported on mobile devices and is probably too expensive anyway.

Another possible solution would be to use a Clearcom AC10H to link the Clearcom in to a phone line then you could dial in with Cell Phones.

Cell phone quality isnt that great but it is technically feasible.
 

Chris15

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Premium Member
Departed Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2005
Location
Sydney, Australia
This item may or may not be required to interface a Telex BTR200 RadioCom with an existing wired Clear-Com system. The rental vendor would know for sure.
Allow me to cite the manual for the BTR200 (which one will note is discontinued)
The RADIOCOM wireless system can be integrated into Telex intercom systems and most existing wired intercom systems including RTS
and Clearcom.
Connect the intercom cable to the back of the BTR-200. There are two intercom connections on the back of the unit, one being a male connector, the other a female connector, connected in parallel with each other. Either works as an input or output.
I believe that the HME wireless setup comes in at a more favourable price point than the traditional setups as another alternative. The 2.4 Gig operation also means that you can use stock WiFi antennas for extra gain....
 

boyziggy

Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
San Francisco, CA
The first person who designs a client app and sells it on the apple app store that uses an iphone/itouch to create a wireless intercom over a locally served VOIP network will be a very rich person. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has bothered to write software that does this.

I work at the San Francisco Opera sound department, and i manage 4 HME 800 series wireless coms (4 drops each), 1 telex BRT-800 wireless com (4 drops 2 channel), plus two home-built full-duplex two-way radio to intercom interfaces.

I have a great deal of experience using a variety of wireless intercom systems; both professional systems and ad-hoc systems using cordless telephones, or two-way radios.

The iphone/itouch is a great piece of hardware. From a technology standpoint, it is easily capable of performing all the functions necessary for wireless intercom. The only limitation is that nobody has written a software app that's specifically designed for creating a locally serviced VOIP intercom setup for production use. I can't think of any reason why someone couldn't write an app that will allow a several itouch phones to use a closed wireless network for wireless intercom. It would probably be more reliable then a lot of the junk that's currently out on the market.

If you need wireless com but can't afford it, i recommend using good licensed two-way radios (motorola CP200s or HT750s are our favorites) with surveillance headsets. Stay away from FRS radios.

We programmed our two-way radios to use separate RX an TX frequencies, and have a dedicatd RX and TX radio, both hooked up to our wired intercom using an Clearcom IF4W4 4-wire interface. This setup allows full-duplex communication between two-way radios and wired intercom, and is perfect for critical cueing applications. Using separate RX and TX frequencies, anybody on a wired com is always heard over the two-way radio. There isn't the possiblity of someone missing their cue because they're being stepped on by another two-way radio. Audio from the RX radio is mixed in to the wired com, and all wired com traffic is sent to the TX radio, which is always transmitting. Unfortunately it was an expensive setup and took severeral weeks of time to engineer propperly. The IF4W4 is an awesome device for rigging just about anything into your intercom, but it costs $1200.

Short of this, the next best communication option is to just use half-duplex two-way radios and surveillane headsets for the deck hands, and spend a good deal of time training them in proper two-way radio communications etiquette. Half duplex can work reliably if everyone uses it propperly. It's used to manage air traffic control, and we put a man on the moon using it. But half-duplex can fail catastrophically when it falls into the hands of just one person who doesn't know what how to use it.

-Ziggy
 

eddybennet

Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Location
Cairo, Egypt
Hi everybody. I realise that this is dredging up an old thread but, as a High School teacher who was charged with looking into a comms system with wireless capability for minimum cost, this forum has been really helpful in pointing me in the right direction so I thought I'd write up my experiences on developing a VOIP comms system.

Our music department has a couple of iPod Touches (sp?!) which we planned to use as part of the system since it meant not needing to buy any additional equipment. We also have a reasonably stable WiFi network, and our IT techs were able to set aside a particular part of the network dedicated to the VOIP comms system. I don't know how they've done it, but apparently it's something to do with prioritising the IP addresses of the hardware we use for comms. I then looked at three key options - Skype, Ventrilo and TeamSpeak as all of them have mobile versions that run on an iPod.

Firstly I ruled out Skype because of the necessity to have an internet connection to initiate the call (although once it's established it works on a peer-to-peer basis on a LAN). I'm based in Egypt, and although our LAN is stable the internet isn't completely reliable so I couldn't guarantee to connect every time.

I then ruled out Ventrilo because although it's a great piece of software that runs completely over a LAN, you need to pay for the iPod app.

Consequently I settled on TeamSpeak. We run a TeamSpeak 2 server on one machine on our network and access it using the client software on other laptops and iPods on the same network. TeamSpeak 2 Server rather helpfully tells you what your local IP address is, so it's easy to share with the people who need to log on to the server.

If you plan to use iPods to connect to the server, it's important to run TeamSpeak 2 Server. The free iPod app is called PhoneSpeex but only works with TeamSpeak 2 - NOT the newer TeamSpeak 3. It acts as a conventional TeamSpeak 2 client on your iPod Touch/iPhone, allowing you to use your iPod like a wireless beltpack over WiFi. You just need a standard Apple earphone/mic combo and you're away. PhoneSpeex allows you to use the system either as Push-To-Talk or in sound activated mode, whereby you set a minimum microphone level above which your microphone is transmitted. Below that level it is cut off. This is helpful to avoid constant background noise.

We successfully run 5 clients as standard (Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager on iPods, and then Lights, Sound, and Musical Director on laptops). When we first tested the system we got up to 13 one day without any problems. I'm sure we could push it to even more, but we honestly haven't found the need to (yet!). We haven't needed all our deck hands to have comms yet, but if we do then I'd look into setting a sub-room on the server so that they can communicate between each other and receive instruction from the SM, but not interfere with others.

I'm sure you're interested in the problems we've encountered, so here they are. Firstly the system relies on the integrity of the network. We're lucky to have a (reasonably) stable system, but I realise we're fortunate in that and if the network falls over for any reason we're stuck. Secondly, TeamSpeak has a delay of about 300-500ms, but we haven't found that to be too detrimental to running a show. However, some people may find it a challenge. Thirdly, PhoneSpeex on iPod has occasionally 'lost' the microphone connection which means restarting the software. This has (fortunately) only happened once when running a show, and was sorted in less than 30 seconds, but again it's something to be aware of.

Overall, it's not a 'pretty' solution and I'm sure there are people out there who can't think of anything worse, but for us it's certainly better than not having any comms.
 
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