How can we turn our video cameras into wireless video cameras?
January 4, 2012 6:46 AM   Subscribe

How can we turn our video cameras into wireless video cameras?

Very occasionally we broadcast events online. This involves two (maybe three) camera people, each wandering around trailing 100-foot of cable. This is both heavy, and a pain in the neck to tape the cables down and make sure people didn't trip over it etc.

What's the recommended/best way of making video cameras wireless: i.e. we plug a transmitter into the camera and a receiver into the mixing desk? As there's two of them they obviously need to be able to operate on separate shielded frequencies.

We're sort of semi-pro I guess, so we don't want to spend a $1000 a piece, but neither do I want a $30 piece of junk that will drop out/be lossy/be unreliable over 25-foot etc.

Is this possible?
posted by Hartster to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of cameras are you using and what kind of video are you transmitting?

A wireless link for analog NTSC is a whole lot different from one used to transmit 1080p from an ENG camera. The former you can pick up for about 50 bucks because they're used for security cameras and the like; the latter will probably set you back about $5k (and that's a cheap one).

You said "very occasionally" you would have a need for this -- why even buy it, then? Rather than purchasing a cut-rate piece of gear, I'd rent the real deal (e.g. the Cam-Wave) only on days when you actually need it. Unless you're really going to need it every day I doubt it makes sense to purchase.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:21 AM on January 4, 2012

Somewhere in the middle price range you have consumer HD transmitters like this one. I think you'll probably want to stick with digital transmitters for the best retention of quality, but there's other factors you'll want to consider into your decision like maximum range, mixing desk inputs, camera outputs, etc. To help those responding in this thread, perhaps you could let us know a little more about the equipment you're intending to connect wirelessly?
posted by samsara at 7:43 AM on January 4, 2012

We've own several cameras (for various other everyday purposes), and I'm nowhere near them now (and I'm on the web end not the camera end). I can find out exact makes/models if it's useful however:

Camera outputs/mixing desk. Previously we've used composite cables and/or s-video to run to a Sony Anycast.

I have a feeling we've not used a digital camera because of limitations with the Anycast but I could be wrong. As we now have newer and better digital cameras, if the Anycast does work with digital, we'd rather use that.

Picture quality probably doesn't need to be crystal clear (as it's for a webcast anyway).

Really roughly, ballparkly, what's the price for hiring a Cam-Wave for a few days? I assume it's a couple of hundred dollars a day?

So if it's digital, it's expensive [and we wouldn't want to pay $5k] and if we're using the older analog cameras it's cheaper [and possibly feasible]?
posted by Hartster at 8:20 AM on January 4, 2012

[One of the cameras is a Sony HVR-V1U HDV for example]
posted by Hartster at 8:26 AM on January 4, 2012

Well the Anycast, according to the specs I could find, should accept a digital input over FireWire, and has some sort of optional HD ability although I'm not sure exactly what it accepts.

It sounds like you're only using analog NTSC into it, though (composite or S-Video). Which is ... fine, I guess, if it's delivering the quality you want.

You could, I suppose, use a pretty inexpensive analog UHF transmitter. They're pretty crummy in terms of quality -- maybe 300 TVL or so? -- but they're quite cheap, Radio Shack used to sell them, IIRC. (I'm pretty sure I have one sitting around in a closet somewhere.) They take a composite NTSC input and transmit on UHF 59 or some other one you select, and then you get a matching receiver or can even use an old VCR and a directional antenna to pull it in. That's probably the only sub-$100 option, in terms of actually purchasing equipment. But it's a hell of a kludge.

Then there are more expensive, professional-oriented analog camera transmitters. They're more powerful, and some of them are on different frequency bands than on the UHF-TV one (e.g. 2.4GHz ISM, microwave), so you need a paired transmitter/receiver. Maybe you can find a deal on one of these used somewhere. ('Modulus' is the brand I've seen used.) These are widely available from rental houses and I strongly recommend you rent and test one out before purchasing; it'll be a hundred bucks or whatever well spent.

There are sort of middle-grade digital senders, but you have to be very careful here to see what the latency is like. Many of the inexpensive ones transmit over WiFi, or via their own signal on the 2.4GHz ISM band, and in order to do that they compress the video quite a bit. (Because you are pretty obviously not going to fit a 4Gb/s HDMI stream on a 54Mb/s 802.11n connection any other way.) That introduces quality problems, but even if you're OK with the quality reduction, it can also introduce significant latency in the video stream. Which is fine if you're taping everything for editing later, but for live multi-camera applications -- which is probably where you'd want a wireless link -- it's obviously bad. (Because that camera would be running behind your wired cameras, audio, etc.) I guess you could test one out and see if the latency is unacceptable or not.

AFAICT, the tradeoffs at work are price, quality, and latency -- pick any two.

Price / latency gets you a UHF analog transmitter. Price / quality gets you a digital transmitter that introduces latency (and probably still is $500). Quality / latency gets you into real professional gear but will cost as much as a well-appointed car.

Anyway, there is a pretty good thread here with some product recommendations, but it's worth warning you that comment #1 is "Open up you[r] wallet wide..."

You can buy an awful lot of gaffer tape for the price of any of the good solutions, IMO.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:19 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

What an awesome answer Kadin2048, thanks.
posted by Hartster at 12:47 AM on January 5, 2012

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