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Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Player - Diversity Fin from RF Venue


Typical Bag Setup
I'm in the business of capturing sound on location.  I have no interest in breaking my back or straining my neck.  I'm a work smart, not hard kind of guy.  With the introduction of the Diversity Fin Antenna from RF Venue, my wireless world has been forever simplified.  I have a relatively familiar setup for most mixers; a Sound Devices 788T with CL-8 and CL-WiFi, a Lectrosonics T4 IFB transmitter, Zaxcom TRX900 stereo camera hop, and a boat-load of talent wireless.  I no longer carry around 8 Lectrosonics 411s to receive my wireless talent audio.  I instead use four SR receivers, two receivers in a single, compact and lightweight unit.  Each unit weighs less than a single 411, and with twice the outputs, it was a no brainer for me.

I could never squeeze behind this bed with a cart
I started out with this setup on Big Rich Texas, Season 1 as the Sound Supervisor, and quickly realized that something was just a little bit off.  My RF reception seemed to have taken a hit when all these stuff was combined into one little bag.  I ended up building an antenna distribution system and originally went with two dipole antennae mounted, first, on my bag, and then ultimately on my headphones.  Throughout the season my setup eventually came to be a hybrid of mobile cart.  We don't use booms often because it's a very controlled environment and production doesn't like the "invasiveness".  At the same time, we also need to be ready to pick up and go at a moment's notice in case talent storms off set.  I finished that out and when we got picked up for a second season, I was on the prowl for something even better.  My dipoles had served me well, but something directional would really be better for 95% of what we were shooting.  I dreaded transporting,setting up, and collapsing two shark fins everywhere we went.  We're a one-man sound department on most occasions, shooting in upscale and accommodating venues, so it was important to keep a small footprint.  It's not a huge deal, but I really wanted to find the perfect setup.  When I stumbled upon the Diversity Fin Antenna, it seemed like just the thing I needed.

I was able to obtain a demo unit from my local distributor and put it through a week of tests before our show started.  In principle, the shark fin takes advantage of the diversity feature found in today's wireless.  Diversity in a receiver is important because at its most basic level, you have two antennae and the receiver is able to choose the strongest signal. The Diversity Fin is designed to be part directional, part omni.  There are two BNC connections on the fin, one for the LPDA (directional) antenna and one for the dipole (omni).  I have greater agility wherever I setup with this, so I don't have to worry about talent walking behind video village if we're at a party or if they're sitting, standing, jumping, or whatever.  I don't worry about phasing as much anymore either.  Some wardrobe simply doesn't even allow for a waist strap, so I can slip the transmitter in sideways without concerning myself with the orientation of the antenna.  I'm covered from all angles with this antenna.  The range of the DFA is as you would expect, excellent.  What I'm even more impressed with, though, is its ability to cut through the congestion and retain optimal reception.  There have been a couple of times that the reception appeared to be getting low because of range, as in only about 10%, but talent's audio was coming in crystal clear.  It was absolutely amazing.

Performance has been outstanding. I could never
get this far away with just my whips.
I was initially concerned with the durability of the unit.  It's made of a semi-flexible computer circuit board-like material that looked like it might snap with a bit of misuse.  My other main concern was the folding dipole array.  Obviously, they need to be parallel with the ground when in operation, so I suppose folding them for transportation makes the most sense.  It sits awkwardly in my duffel bag, and with other objects sitting on top of it, I feel like it's most at risk of snapping.  The antennae themselves are removable BNC connections, so perhaps it's safest to remove them completely, but I keep them connected and folded; one month of transport under my belt, they've yet to show any signs of give.  The water-resistant canvas cover with velcro stays on the antenna while in operation and travel.  The mounting hardware pre-installed is nearly perfect.  It has all three common threaded sizes, so you can easily mount it to nearly any kind of stand without any adapters, other than a C-stand.  The only issue I had was the plastic wing nut that it comes with.  It was easily stripped on day one, so I just replaced it with an aluminum one.  I use a mount by Stage Ninja that uses #2 pony clamps for mounting, which allows me to clamp it almost anywhere, including on my bag if needed.  A traditional PSC Flexi-mount would also suffice.

Goes anywhere, does anything.
Overall, the performance of the Diversity Fin Antenna has made me a believer.  The compact and agile design has made me a fan.  Needless to say, the DFA is my most powerful tool in my mobile wireless package.  When you're expected to capture perfect wireless audio and are limited by weight and mobility, the Diversity Fin Antenna should be the tool of choice.

Trew has a good article on the facts of the performance of this antenna and two others here.

Being behind the camera isn't always so glamourous.
Find Tyler Faison on Google+

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