Wireless Microphones In Today’s Crowded RF Spectrum

The radio spectrum for wireless microphones is getting really crowded. Really, really crowded. And if you’re a producer you should be concerned.

Wireless microphones for work on feature film.
Wireless audio equipment.

So why should you be concerned? Well because your production is likely a source of a lot of wireless pollution and potentially a could be compromised by technicians who are not familiar with how the RF spectrum is changing and adapting their use of wireless microphones and other equipment appropriately.

First, let’s talk about all the different devices now on set that are reliant on good RF communication.

  • Wireless microphones
  • Wireless focus control for cameras
  • Wireless video monitors
  • IFB for talent
  • IFB for producers
  • Wireless hops for camera
  • Drones
  • Walkies for the production crew
  • Coms for the camera team
  • Coms for the audio team
  • Everyone’s cell phone
  • Wireless computer networks
  • Computer hot spot

I think you’re starting to get the picture. Now imagine you’re on a big studio lot and begin to think about how much radio waves might be bouncing around between different sets. Now add all the television stations, radio stations, emergency broadcasters, corporate communications, hobby broadcasters out there.

It’s starting to sound like a mess out there. And frankly, it is. Especially in more urban areas. But it gets worse.

About 10 years ago the FCC sold parts of the wireless spectrum to cellphone operators that we in the film and television business have been using for decades. This meant manufacturers had to redesign all of their equipment and over time we in the audio department had to buy new equipment.

It also means right about now, TV stations are moving around the spectrum and making our jobs a lot harder. And some days we see lots of open spectrum but more often we see a lot less available to work with. It’s a moving target.

As a producer, 10 years ago you had a pretty good chance of not having any RF issues on set. Today in urban areas it may be problematic to even get an open frequency to run on mic much less 20 different channels for talent, cameras, and producers. This makes it essential for you to employee technicians on your set who have a strong understanding of the RF landscape. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss RF issues on your next production.

Posted on: December 16, 2019, by :