Paralinx Arrow, the quest for a wireless set

Ever since shooting the first season of “Dag” (comedy-drama tv-show, now in its third season) I`ve been looking for a solution to get rid of the BNC cable. Its always getting tangeled and getting stuck somewhere. Its really not that reliable (they easily “break”), and they can even damage the camera, when people trip the cable. I know a AC, whose job it is to often setup the BNC cables to video village, who dreamt of tangeled cables strangeling him. No joke! I got Teradeks Cube a while back, and it was a mixed experience. On paper it had lots of cool functions, but it failed its most important task: It was not an alternative to cables. It introduced lag, and was quite messy to setup properly.

Enter Paralinx Arrow.

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First attempt, a bit akward position for the Arrow, but it worked.

I first heard of Paralinx on Twitter, and was immediately amazed over its claims. Close to zero delay latency, 300 ft range with and uncompressed HD video signal inc. sound! We were shooting season 3 of “Dag” at the time, and I decided it would be a great place for this kind of equipment to get tested. We are shooting two cameras (c300), one camera beeing remotely pulled focus on, while I pull my own focus on the B-cam. I got the kit through Abelcine online, and had it up and running on set in the matter of minutes after recieving the package. And thats one important factor. Easy setup. There is really nothing to setup. HDMI in, and HDMI out. The two issues you have, are 1: How to power your transmitter&receiver and 2: Is HDMI enough for your workflow?

  • Power is taken care of through Paralinx`s multiple power converters which comes included with the kit. You can power it directly from a USB 5v source (check out this great powerplate from Globalmediapro) or use Paralinx own d-tap to USB female, which downconverts basicly anything to 5v.
  • For a mobile directors monitor setup, HDMI might be enough. For a videovillage, whith bigger/better monitor and the need to send a signal to other devices and recorders, it might not be good enough.

During our early tests, we were very impressed with picture quality and latency. Our focus puller, perhaps Norways most experienced, was very surprised, especially since the kit costs 1200$. “I can pull focus on this thing” he said enthusiastically, and our AC got hope of one day, soon, he might be able to get rid of the cables for good.

In january of this year, me and fellow DOP Pål Bugge Haagenrud were gearing up to another major TV-show. This time an episodic tv-crimedrama on Norways biggest commercial channel. Its a behemoth, with around 100 shooting days and a lot of location work. On-set speed was going to be vital, and we wanted to follow up on our Paralinx commitment. They announced an upgrade plan for current owners, allowing us to get up to four recievers pr. transmitter. This was perfect timing, as our director on this new show wanted a handeheld setup he could use behind the camera, away from the village.  We decided on upgrading our entire on-set videovillage setup:

paralinx_2Our brand new video village
  • We got two Flanders Scientific 2140w . A small US based company building amazingly high quality monitors, with low power drag, small footprint and at a great pricepoint. Their customer support is truly personal, they actually steered us away from buying the more expensive 10bit 17″ version. C-log conversion is a winner on set, and the v-lock poweroption is great for shooting in were you cant get power. 
  • Two Paralinx Arrow Plus Transmitters and 4 recievers
  • Two Atomos Connect H2S – Really rugged HDMI to SDI converters, with onboard battery for extreme redundancy. Does not ad any noticable latency to the signal.
  • A Senior Filmtools Magliner cart
  • Two SmallHDAC7 SDI/HDMI . The brand new AC7 OLED  has a truly gorgeous display, with high contrast and huge screen real estate for the size.  Our director has several times said “This is the best monitor I have ever had on set”. Too big for on-camera for this show, but fantastic for anything else.

Range/Latency

Its early days for wireless HD video in this pricerange, and we accept that everything has not been tested fully. We are now in our fourth shooting week, with 9 hour days, and we have experienced very little “downtime” due to the Paralinx Arrows. Still, we are not getting anywhere near 100m (320feet). The most we have had is perhaps 60m, with free line of sight. That being said, we are in close contact with Paralinx on this, and we have had better results already, by spacing the two recievers on the village further apart then the 10 cm we had from the start. Also, Norway has a lot of heavy snow and cold conditions right now, and this might also impact range. Range never decreases latency, which is nice. Range can however impact video quality. If we are getting interference or are pushing the range, you get subtle noise on your video feed. Our focus puller finds that this can make it harder to get the focus right.

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The Paralinx placed safely into the Shield. Note:  Point the tip of the Arrow towards the reciever. Its directional!

Because of the need to use our Panasonic proxy recorders, we had to convert to SDI at some point. The FSI monitors accepts the HDMI with a HDMI-DVI adapter, but it doesnt loop it through. So, the converters output one feed directly to the FSI monitors, and one feed to the recorders. We have checked the latency difference using timecode, and with the converters directly through to the monitors is aprox 2 frames. With the added processing of the Panasonic recorders, its 5-6 frames. So, we always monitor from the converter directly, to minimize lag. It works great

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We have now “spaced” our recievers with two Dedolight stands. The soundguys get our videofeed from our FSI monitors. They are using cables though.. 🙂

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Our handheld directors monitor, built from  a consumer DSLR rig, before we got the second AC7. DP6 on top. Lightwheight, two-camera, wireless monitoring. Amazing.

Pros:

  • Takes away one on-set issue. How to place and handle cables. Theres enough of other places to focus your energy. It enables long tracking shots, crane shot, handheld, without any assistance from a “cableguy”.
  • Price.
  • Quality. Video is as good as HD-SDI in optimal conditions.
  • Ease of use. No setup. Plug&Play
  • Scales beautifully with the Arrow Plus program.

Cons

  • Range performance can be difficult to estimate. Every location has its own limitations. 
  • Needs some restarts during a day, perhaps after its lots connection due to range or other issues. Estimate 5 minutes of troubleshooing on a 9 hour day, if you are on a challenging location.
  • HDMI only. You need converters of youre going the SDI path.

 

4 Responses to “Paralinx Arrow, the quest for a wireless set”

  1. Digger reviewen! har vurdert disse lenge. Prøvde meg med Swedish Chameleon sitt opsett, men mottageren er så mye større.
    Du sier altså at du ikke mister noen informasjon, sender c300 422 ut gjennom hdmi-kan du ta det opp gjennom PL opsettet?

  2. hkarlsen says:

    Du kan i teorien ta opp Paralinx signalet, da det er er 10 bit 422 ukomprimert. Men C300 sender jo som kjent 8 bit over HDMI. I tillegg er signalet såpass sårbart, at det skal lite til for å få artifakter. Men det er godt nok for å vurdere fokus, eksponering og komposisjon. Dvs bra nok til alt bortsett fra master opptak

  3. Borden says:

    Nice article, thanks for sharing. Would you please let us know how did you power Paralinx receivers? Did you use the same Globalmediapro power plate with V battery to power transmitter? We have also bought a set of Paralinx and we are really keen to find a good power source for this cool kit. Thanks in advance, I am looking forward to hear back from you. Borden.

  4. hkarlsen says:

    Hi! The Paralinxes can be powered in many ways, but we have found the most stable way is by using the d-tap to USB female plug that ships with the units. It downconverts any battery option you use with it. So all you need is one free d-tap port on your battery or plate. We use a new gm plate (reviewed on my site) that also features a USB power out. But we still use the d-tap directly out from the battey, as we feel it is more reliable.

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