Hands-on with the Lectrosonics D4 Wireless System
- DTV-free unlicensed ISM band 902-928 MHz ‘ easy to coordinate with existing UHF wireless microphones.
- Digital or analog inputs; digital or analog outputs ‘ perfect for the digital outs in recorder/mixers such as the Zaxcom Fusion, Sound Devices 788T and now 552, as well as digital inputs on the new Sony pro camcorders.
- Two or four channel operation on up to four different channels in four-channel mode and eight different channels in two-channel mode, to conserve bandwidth in the 902 ISM band for interoperability with other wireless equipment (wireless video and DMX for example).
Of course specs are one thing, but real-world operation is another. I asked New York City-based production sound mixer Rafael Sienkiewicz a few questions about his D4, and here’s how he responded:
This review is mainly concentrated on practical in field use.
The show that I’m working on is a two camera reality show. On a normal day the production sound mixers have to wire six to 12 cast members. It’s all based mainly in one location and the shooting happens on two floors of the building, with many field trips out from our main location.
Describe how the D4 provides a unique solution for your production audio.
I was looking for solution that will give me four channels wireless to the camera. As per post production’s request, I had to send four discrete tracks to camera with my wireless. I never had to work this way before this show, so I had some second thoughts about it, although I realize the advantages that post will have. Having all tracks on tape would save a lot of time transferring audio from my 788t. On a normal day we will shoot anywhere between 12-16 (6-8 hr) tapes per crew. I considered systems from Zaxcom or Lectrosonics, but everything had its limitations. I made many calls and had many conversations with my fellow sound mixers who had experience with both. The thing I had to keep in mind was the many factors involved in going wireless to the camera: Signal strength (range), weight, size, power consumption and great audio quality ‘ all mounted on the camera body without interfering with the camera operators workflow. That’s where the D4 comes into play. Reading the specs on the D4 everything looked great on paper. Lectrosonics decided to use a different approach with the D4. Using a different frequency band than traditional UHF wireless mics, I was happy not to use my UM400 and 411A mounted to the camera and the coordination that would be needed with them. Other things like price and weight made easier to make the decision to go with the D4.
The D4 was effortless and easy to set up. Listening to the dailies, I was happy with the audio quality, and we didn’t get any RF hits or interference. I have had some problems with transmitters near my receivers in the past and it looks like the D4 took care of this problem.
How did you use the D4 system?
My D4 system is set in the following way: 788t AES out from 1/2ch and 3/4ch to D4 Tx, digital signal is transmitted to D4 Rx, D4 Rx analog channels 1-2 into channels 1-2 of the camera, and channels 3-4 into the front 5 pin input of the camera.
What about the D4 surprised you when you started using it?
Right from the beginning, I loved the way system displayed each input. Having the D4 Tx sitting in my bag so I could see the display right in front of me makes me smile to see levels of 4 different tracks on the D4 Tx display.
Is there anything you wish it could do better?
- I wish it could monitor 4ch of audio from the included stereo out on D4 Rx, since the camera operator who is trying to follow the scene can only monitor ch 1 and 2 or 3 and 4, due to camera monitoring limitations. I would be a bit worried working that way if I wasn’t recording the tracks to my 788t, since I always like the camera operator to listen to the return. I wish the product came with some sort of bracket, so it could be easy mounted on camera and sound bag.
- I wish the D4 had spectrum analyzer or even better give me a warning of any close frequency being used in the area.
- I wish it had more frequencies to choose from, it might become a problem if there are other mixers using same system close by.
- It will be great to see the display of the levels on the D4 Rx on the side,
- I could give me quick reinsurance that the Rx is receiving the signal, just by looking at it.
- Antennas could be more flexible – I worried they would break (which they did a few days after typing this)
What other ways might you use the D4 on different productions?
I can see using it in a video village set up, instead of and IFB or Comtek.
You can send 4 channels of audio, connecting the Rx to a mixer and have the option of listening to one to four discreet tracks. The same could be applied to a multi-track recording setup, such as recording 4 tracks wirelessly from a 4 separate outputs of a board feed at a concert.