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Should You Give the Client a Wireless Video Monitor?

Caleb Pike released a string of interesting and fresh camera hacks over the past year. This time, he's tackling wireless monitoring; a problem that we all know can be expensive and time consuming. Does this leave you open to criticism before you've even finished the shot? Is it the equivalent to handing over raw images? Let's talk about how to do it, and why you should do it.

Wireless transmitters can be the holy grail on set from time to time. When a camera is mounted high above, or is on a moving rig, you end up with little choice. I don't know about everybody else though, but I've always been worried that a client will see a bad shot and lose their confidence. Or worse, they'll see a shot that will need serious post-work, and assume that it's the finished product. Let's not put the cart before the horse though; how are these rigs made?

Making a Cheap Wireless Monitor

There are huge swathes of complete systems available, with all sorts of uses. However for the most part, it's expensive to be able to hand a client a wireless monitor – at least one that doesn't have a string of wires and batteries connected to it. Pike may have hit upon a decent guideline for us all to learn from, especially if we already own a monitor.

Getting over the biggest hurdle involves acquiring the wireless transmitter itself. The options range from IDX's $670 dongle, all the way up to the more powerful, $12,000 Paralinx systems. What we're going for here though, is something cheaper. Pike is using a Nyrius transmitter, which is intended for home entertainment systems. It will have some delay, more than the competition, but Pike figures his clients won't notice or care about the slight delay. He's not using it as his primary monitor so there's room to lower the budget here.

Other items for the rig that Pike is using can be found on this list:

That adds up to a cool $117 for the rig, $250 for the wireless transmitter, and whatever monitor you prefer to mount onto the rig. If you'd be willing to sacrifice latency, I'm sure this is a viable approach for a lot of photographers and videographers.

In saying that though, I'm not a huge fan of using a rubber band to hold part of the rig together, nor can I vouch for using a a smaller battery on the camera. It's also worth noting that some cameras come with wireless capabilities built in, like Panasonic's G7 and GH4. If you have an iPad at the ready, you'll be good to go! Watch out for that latency though.

Should You Hand It over to a Client?

It's not that you mean wrong, or that you don't trust the client. There's simply a worry that the person you're handing this monitor to might not understand the process involved in the shoot. Do you need to stabilize in post? Are you shooting in a flat picture profile? I'm certainly not saying that you should be hiding the quality of your work of course. While I've never had a bad experience myself, and I usually let the client see the footage if they ask, there has got to be times when avoiding this practice is key. 

One way to keep it for yourself (that I've seen), is to walk into the next room. This is where an iPad may fall apart, but a proper system will allow it. Leave the client where the action is, keep an eye on the footage coming through without interruption, and then make sure the person shooting knows you may return with remarks. Not ideal, but if your objective is to double check focus and the like, you stand a better chance of getting away with it without a pixel peeping client.

On the other hand, it's obviously beneficial to the shoot if your client understands the process. If they want something changed, and know how to get it, then where's the harm?

I'm wondering how other people feel about this. What's the worst case scenario? Has anybody had to explain that post-work will fix their gripes, and ask for the clients trust? Let us know!

[Via DSLR Video Shooter]

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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Agreed. video village/ directors monitor is a common and well established thing in the film production world. the client is often not even the problem....it's the 20 guys in expensive suites from the 5 different advertising agencies involved who stand around talking silly things just to look busy and to justify their existence (and pay grade)....the funniest thing I heard on set was one of aforementioned professionals walk up to the video village, look over the directors and producers shoulder and say "I think it needs to have more blue, the whole scene needs to have more blue". Will never forget the look on the director's and production designers face.

The best strategy:
"This is the point where trusting the director is key to a good on-set relationship."

The backup strategy:
"I've been known to set up a monitor on a loooong cable, next to a comfy couch and a plate of food, just to keep the client out of our hair."

There's a few factors which would determine if I'd give a client a wireless monitor system:

-Budget (I only have two receivers from my transmitter so one would go to my 1AC/focus puller, and the 2nd to video village where the client typically stands) so would I have to rent another receiver to accommodate them???
-Liability: they'd be responsible if they drop/damage//loose it
-Location: Is it really necessary if there's a video village for everyone? If there isn't then typically I'd give them one.
-Length of the shoot: I power everything exclusively with Anton Bauer batteries-including my wireless video systems-so if I'm shooting a 14hr+ day I'd be really close to using all my batteries for a day like that depending on how many cameras, wireless focus/monitoring, etc. I'd be powering.

Usually everyone these days has a tablet/smart phone of some sort, so in the rare event they request a wireless video system I just include a Teradek Cube to my setup which can wirelessly stream to devices.

Cheers for the input! Food is a wonderful idea too.

Ugh...just keep the client as far away from the set as possible. I never understood this practice. I take my car to the shop, I am not hovering over the Mechanic's shoulder to see what he's doing, and since I no fuck all about fixing cars, there's really nothing of value i'd add anyway.

The same thing with clients on a video/ photo shoot. since most know nothing about production, It's a bad idea to let them get ideas before the final product is rendered.

In most cases there's only a few ways to fix a car, it's not full of creative choices. If the client has good input it's better to have those on the set rather than they ask if you shot another angle with their need in mind...a brake job is a brake job, moving the camera 6 inches to the left might make the shot more to the clients liking. Sometimes anoter set of eyes are worthwhile.

And most times there are just too many cooks in the kitchen. The client rarely has good input, and you waste time explaining why their idea is either stupid or unrealistic or not within the scope of their shitty budget.

To be honest i dont even think the clients are the issue most of the time, as mentioned above it's the 20 guys in expensive suites from the 5 different advertising agencies involved who stand around talking silly things just to look busy and to justify their existence (and pay grade).

I believe its up to us professionals to explain (at least parts) of the process to the client beforehand so they get an idea of what's happening on the day and how....after all, a lot of them want to know where and how their money is spent, which is perfectly acceptable. at the end of the day its their product, not ours, thats why we get paid.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't a $30 Chromecast achieve the same thing?

Actually, I assumed that the camera was tethered when I made that comment. A Chromecast attached to a monitor could possibly work with a camera that is linked wirelessly to a mobile device, but I suspect the technology (especially the software) is not quite up to achieving this reliably yet.

You know there's a decent DIY project in this..

Caleb is using a cheaper version of the transmitter / receiver kit not the pro version. You can tell because the standard version is square while the PRO version is rectangular.

Since I wouldn;t be pulling focus from it, I'd probably be happy with the regular version.

Look at the image at 0:34 in the video and then compare it to the image on amazon for the pro.

The pro has essentially zero latency (or so I have heard) and is only a bit more expensive. Ryan Conolly (Film riot / Triune films) used it to pull focus remotely on the short film "Portal Combat" he did for HitFilm.

You can see it in this video at 6:17 ...

Ryan is using a SmallHD monitor with the PRO version of the Nyrius with a a wireless follow focus so this was good enough to pull focus from while his DP was running around like a mad man.

He also briefly talks about this wireless system in this series but I don't remember which video in the series.

In terms of "should the client get a monitor" ... as long as they understand the process ... it's a tough call sometimes for me since my clients are small business owners / owner operator one man outfits. I had one guy who needed a talking head video for his handyman business ... he thought I was just going to show up with a camcorder handheld. I showed up with some lighting, 2 cameras, microphones ... He also thought he was going to just spew out a text in one take and that would be it. :)

You're right there's only a $50 difference on Amazon.. Don't see why you'd opt for the smaller version unless you needed a compact rig. Nice to see it worked out for Film Riot!

AHA! Ryan talks about this system here!

Head to 3:45

Thanks for finding that man, funny that he wouldn't use it to expose. I wonder how he paid $500 for it - I guess prices have dropped since!