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When the technical operations behind a local cable TV show, a school play or a sporting event are executed smoothly, it doesn’t happen by accident. Crews are required to make these productions possible, and the people involved need to be able to communicate with one another while the event is taking place. Some of the best intercom systems available for such situations are made by Anchor Audio, and in this article, I’ll explain the different options available and how they’re used.
When team members need to communicate, it’s common to assume that some basic walkie-talkies are all they need. However, walkie-talkies are handheld devices, so the team members won’t be able to work and communicate hands-free. Walkie-talkies also make lots of noise, so they’re likely to distract the audience. What’s needed is a reliable, head-worn intercom system that operates quietly, which enables the crew members to use both of their hands while still being able to communicate freely. These are the needs that Anchor Audio’s intercom systems confidently fulfill.
When you’re trying to determine what kind of intercom to get, you first must decide if you need a wired or a wireless system. Right off the bat, the wireless system may seem like the superior choice, because of the freedom of mobility it provides. However, if your crew doesn’t need to move around a great deal while they’re working, it may make more sense to use a wired PortaCom system. It’s possible to integrate wireless belt packs into a wired system, so the option exists to have both kinds of systems working together.
PortaCom wired intercoms are refreshingly simple. They consist of a power module, belt packs and headsets. The different components all connect together with standard XLR cables. It’s a two-channel system, which means that you can group together different team members. For example, you can put the lighting people on Channel A, and the sound people on Channel B. This way, the sound and lighting teams can communicate without interfering with one another, and the director can switch between the two groups and communicate with everyone. Every belt pack has an A/B switch on it, so the crew members can easily switch over to the other channel to talk to the other team at any time. Or you can easily have the entire team operate on the same channel.
The PortaCom BP-2000 belt packs get all the power they need from the connected XLR cable. This is one of the great advantages of using a wired system, because you never have to worry about batteries dying while you’re working. Each belt pack also has a Mic Mute button and a Call button. The Mic Mute button turns off the microphone on the headset when it’s engaged. If the team member wants to freely talk as they’re working, they can leave the Mic Mute turned off. When you push the Call button, a light illuminates on all of the belt packs connected to the system—a good way to get the attention of a team member who may have taken off their headset.
It’s possible to put a wired PortaCom system together à la carte, but it may make more sense to purchase a preconfigured kit. The COM-40FC is a basic four-person kit that comes with dual-earpiece headsets, and it’s available with or without XLR cables. The same kit is available with single-sided headsets, with or without XLR cables. Single-sided headsets are more useful in situations where the team members need to be able to hear the environment around them, as well as the intercom. A full range of PortaCom kits is available to accommodate up to six people.
If you want to integrate a wireless belt pack and headset into wired PortaCom system, you’re going to need a BP-500R belt pack, a headset and a PortaCom WingMAN 500 Intercom Interface Station. The WingMAN 500 plugs into the wired PortaCom system with a standard XLR cable, allowing the wireless belt pack to communicate with the wired system. You can also add an unlimited number of “Listen Only” wireless belt packs by adding separately available BP-500L belt packs and headsets.
If you need a completely wireless system intercom system, Anchor Audio offers their ProLink 500 products. These systems function very similarly to the wired PortaCom systems. There are two channels available, you can mute the microphone or talk freely, and they use the same 4-pin XLR headsets. Unlike the wired PortaCom systems, the wireless ProLink systems don’t have a powering base station. Instead there are Master belt packs and Remote belt packs. You can also add an unlimited number of BP-500L Listen Only belt packs.
The ProLink 500 systems are powered by AA batteries and have a range of up to 500’ (152.4 m) in ideal, unobstructed working environments. If a team member wanders out of the range of the system, an LED indicator light will warn them. Like the wired PortaCom systems, you can put together a wireless ProLink piece by piece, or choose one of several complete kits to accommodate from four to seven people.
If you have any questions about Anchor Audio’s intercom systems, you can speak to a B&H Sales Professional by visiting our SuperStore in New York City, giving us a call at 1-800-606-6969 or joining us online for a Live Chat.