Category Archives: Video Artisan

Welcome

Video Artisan pride themselves on producing cost-effective video communication tools for business clients.  They understand their clients’ needs – and how to achieve their video production goals. This is why more and more businesses are using them for their video production needs.

These articles will keep you up to date with what’s been happening at Video Artisan.  Short stories, news updates and comments are published by the company’s founder, Kevin Cook.  Kevin has been in the professional video industry since 1985 and always aims to provide his clients with exceptional levels of customer satisfaction.  The company motto is, “Under promise and over deliver”.   At Video Artisan they always go that extra mile to provide an excellent product at a competitive price.

For further details

In conclusion, the areas of expertise include corporate video, company films and all professional video services.  Please contact Kevin Cook for further advice on this website – kevin@video-artisan.com or call 020 83602 3356

 

High-level video communications

Dorchester Abseil
Taking video communications to a new level

Filming internal video communications can often be dull and uninteresting – especially when you are not directly involved in the activity. However, every now and then a video communications job comes in which is rewarding, challenging, exciting and pushes us beyond our usual comfort zone. This job was an excellent example and not only put my filming skills and kit to the test but also tested my nerves and ability to rise (or should I say “descent”) to the challenge.

When Video Communications becomes great PR!

As part of their corporate social responsibility programme, on 20th August The Dorchester Hotel organised a sponsored abseil down the front of their iconic building in London’s Mayfair in aid of Cancer Research. With over 60 members of staff taking part, and under the guidance of abseiling specialists, Eiger Safety, the event was filmed by Video Artisan as a memento for those involved and to provide the hotel with some excellent PR opportunities.

It is not uncommon for an event such as this to pass by unnoticed, but by commissioning a video communications film you get two stabs at gaining as much publicity as possible. This was not only important for the hotel but also for Cancer Research and those members of staff who showed great spirit in making the descent, many of which were taking part in their own time. However, there wasn’t much chance of this event going unnoticed as the abseil was set up on the front of The Dorchester in full view of passers by, guests coming and going from the hotel as well as members of the press who had gathered below.

The right kit for the job

Unlike other video communications jobs this one required some specialist kit to give the viewer a much better view of the action and a sense drama. Apart from the obligatory safety kit (climbing hats, harnesses and other abseiling paraphernalia), Video Artisan had the opportunity to put their latest acquisition to good use – namely a JVC Adixxion Action Camera (GC-XA2BE) which was attached to the climbing hat of the main abseil instructor who was accompanying the volunteers as they descended down the building. The main action filming was carried out using our JVC GY-HM650.

JVC Adixxion
Setting up the JVC Adixxion to film

Having looked at the features and benefits of all the alternative action cameras, Video Artisan chose the JVC Action Camera for a number of reasons. We regularly use the GY-HM650 camera on video communications projects and were looking to add a small POV camera to capture shots that are otherwise impossible. The Dorchester Hotel abseil gave us an excellent opportunity to put the camera to the test and provided us with an abseiler’s view of the activity. Apart from matching nicely with our GY-HM650, one of the main reasons for buying the Adixxion was its robustness. There were lots of opportunities for the camera to get knocked whist the abseilers made the descent down the hotel facia – and the last thing you need to worry about is the camera being damaged or, worst still, being knocked off its mounting and causing a hazard to the crowd below.

We’ve also used the Adixxion on another corporate shoot for a golf tutoring product which required a shot from the golf ball’s perspective (blog coming soon) and it would have been impossible to use anything other than a small POV to achieve this. In the next couple of weeks we’ll also be using the camera’s 5m depth waterproof feature (without the need for any additional housing) on a shoot in the Dominican Republic. With a whole host of mounting options and accessories I can see the Adixxion being used time and time again. The other features that really sold it to me are that it uses a full-sized SD card, has a preview screen built in, can shoot up to 50/60fps in 1920×1080 resolution and has both side and bottom mounting positions.

Keeping video communications safe

There were of course many safety issues to keep in mind throughout the day. The real action was at the top of the climb as the abseilers were prepared to go over the edge, so not only did we have to make sure that I was properly secured but also the main camera and anything attached to it. Filming the climbers’ reactions as they went over was very important, meaning that for much of the time we had to lean right over the edge to catch the action as they made their initial descent.

Keeping it safe
Keeping it safe

 

We also had to film some of the action as they reached the ground (which had its own risks) and meant that we were constantly having to rig and de-rig as we made our way from ground to roof and back again. In these situations it would be very easy to lose sight of your own safety and that of those around you but thankfully the guys at Eiger Safety were keeping a constant eye on all activities whilst making sure it was a great experience for those taking part whilst ensuring that we always had the best shots.

The final challenge

Having witnessed close-up the buzz and excitement throughout the day I simply couldn’t refuse the offer of having a go down the ropes myself. I have worked with Eiger Safety on their promotional video and have filmed in some amazing situations as they carried out their various height-safety services but never actually managed to do any abseiling myself. I can’t honestly say I’m fearful of heights but don’t mind admitting this was outside of my comfort zone. But, having watched so many people who were truly nervous going down for the benefit of others, I couldn’t resist their offer.

Your next video communications project

I like to think I have proved my dedication to helping organisations create excellent video communications – so next time you are doing something which is worth telling others about then I am your man. Any challenge accepted – as long as it is safe!

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Videotape to DVD for converting VHS, VHS-C, DV, Video8 and many other videotape formats

Videotape to DVD conversions Title
Videotape to DVD conversions by Video Artisan

Videotape to DVD – and every other combination

Video Artisan has been converting videotape to DVD for many years now and specialise in providing our clients with a fast, efficient and discreet service. Primarily aimed at customers who are looking for a local company to carry out their videotape to DVD conversions who prefer not to trust their precious memories to a postal service, we take great pride in helping our clients preserve and archive them on a more convenient and up-to-date format.

With day and evening time drop-off facilities in Loughton, Essex – we regularly carry out videotape to DVD conversion services to clients throughout Essex, London, Hertfordshire and beyond.

What is the benefit of videotape to DVD conversion?

The most common reason for our customers wanting to convert their videotape to DVD is that they no longer have a working machine to play them back on. However, there are a number of other benefits to having your videotape converted to DVD.

  • Whilst there are no advantages in terms of picture and sound quality (the quality of the original recording governs this), some modern DVD playback machines will up-scale the image when played back on a high definition screen giving the impression of a better quality image.
  • DVDs offer a much more sophisticated and quicker playback function – allowing you to quickly search through the content of the DVD. If you opt for our premium videotape to DVD service we can also add chapter points throughout the DVD enabling you to skip to designated parts of the recording.
  • DVDs also require much less storage or shelf space and, depending on the videotapes being converted, can hold the contents of a number of tapes on a single disk. (See sections below on tape capacities)
  • DVDs, if converted properly, can be played back on a variety of machines. These include standard DVD players, Sony PlayStation, Blu-ray players, Computers with DVD drives and portable all-in-one DVD player/screens. Whilst no format is guaranteed to last forever, DVDs are still widely manufactured and supported in new optical disk technologies.
  • Once converted to DVD it is very easy to make further copies – without losing any further quality in the recording. Video Artisan can provide these additional copies for a few pounds at the time of converting the videotape to DVD and recommend this for archiving purposes. Whilst the lifespan of a DVD, if stored correctly, will last for many years the memories they hold are very precious so it is always advisable to back them up.
  • Converting videotape to DVD involves digitising the pictures and sound and storing them in a digital format on the disk. Our standard service results in a disk which can be played back in a range of devices (see above) – but these files can also be imported into a video editing program for further copying and editing on a computer. Exploring the disk on a computer will reveal folders that contain files with a ‘.VOB’ suffice. By copying these to your computer and renaming them with a ‘.MPG’ suffice you can carry out more refinement yourself – although it might result in degradation if further compression is added. Alternatively, Video Artisan can convert the videotape into a range of edit-ready file formats for you to use directly that will help you retain as much quality as possible (available by separate quotation).

What is the most popular videotape to DVD conversion service?

Without doubt, the most regular videotape to DVD services we carry out is good old VHS to DVD. With literally millions of feet of VHS tape still in existence, holding many thousands of hours of family memories, these represent over 70% of the conversions carried out here at Video Artisan. Whilst there are a few VHS players available to buy new, the format is obsolete and the vast majority of machines are either defunct or coming to the end of their useful lives. Whilst it is a robust format, playing back your VHS tapes, or any other videotape format come to that, has the potential of damaging the tape beyond repair – especially when the machine has been poorly maintained, stored in damp or dirty conditions or simply not regularly powered up and used.

VHS to DVD
VHS to DVD – our most popular videotape to DVD service

VHS to DVD durations

VHS tapes come in a variety of lengths, ranging from a few minutes to up 4-hours. In addition, many recorders and camcorders offered the ability to record in long-play mode, which doubled the recording length available (at the cost of a lower quality recording). Converting VHS to DVD can therefore result in one tape needing to be spread over a number of DVDs. The capacity of a DVD is also governed by the amount of compression used when carrying out the conversion – but in a similar long-play mode will hold up to 4-hours on a standard single-sided DVD. The amount on compression that is used in the videotape to DVD process will depend on the quality of the original recording and we generally recommend a standard level of compression that will allow for up to 2-hours per DVD.

VHS-C

Videotape to DVD - VHS-C
VHS-C to DVD

To help reduce the size of the camcorder many manufacturers adopted a smaller variant of VHS – called VHS-C (the ‘C’ standing for ‘Compact’). These cassettes are slightly bigger than a cigarette packet in size. The most common running time for these cassettes is just 30-minutes but there were also 45-minute variants and, as with VHS, the machines offered a Long-play mode which doubled the recording time.

As VHS-C tapes recorded in exactly the same format as a normal VHS tape they can be played back in a normal VHS player with the use of an adapter which the tapes slotted into. These are the second most common tapes Video Artisan receives for videotape to DVD conversion.

S-VHS, S-VHSC and Digital S

JVC and other manufacturers further developed the VHS format to increase the picture quality and the most common of these was S-VHS (Super VHS). Identical in appearance and offering the same recording times, these cameras and VCRs were only popular for a short period in time. The Digital S format is comparatively rare and was normally only found on professional equipment.

Video8 or 8mm, Hi8 and Digital 8

Video8 or 8mm to DVD
Video8 or 8mm to DVD

Sony also developed a compact videotape format based on 8mm tape – which are roughly the size of a pack of playing cards and could contain up to 135-minutes of video in standard mode. Further developments in 8mm tape included Hi8 and Digital 8 (90-mins recording) formats – which offered higher quality recordings.

MiniDV, Standard DV, DVCAM and HDV

Further miniaturisation of camcorder cassettes saw the introduction of various DV tape formats based on a tape width of 6.5mm. The most common of these is Mini DV, which uses cassettes roughly the size of a Swan Vesta box of matches – but a little shorter. The most common recording time of these cassettes is 60-minutes.

DV to DVD
DV to DVD

Though less common, and usually only found in high-end or professional cameras and VCRs, Standard DV tapes are larger in size and almost identical to 8mm cassettes mentioned above. Further variations of 6.5mm tapes include DVCAM, DVCPRO and, in it’s high-definition variations, HDV, DVCPRO HD.

Mini DVD camcorders

In more recent years manufacturers developed cameras which recorded to a mini-DVD disk. The disks are 8cm in diameter and offered the benefit of being playable in a normal DVD player once they were ‘Finalised’. Basically, the process of finalisation was carried out once you filled the disks up or did not want to add any more video to them. Without finalisation the disks could not be played in anything other than the camcorder itself – so it is quite common for clients to have these disks in un-finalised state and unable to play them back if they no longer have the camcorder. However, Video Artisan have specialist software applications which enable us to extract the un-finalised files and convert them to DVD. Please note, this isn’t always possible and can result in part of the recordings being unrecoverable.

HDD (Hard Disk Drive) Camcorders

Camcorder HDD to DVD
Camcorder HDD to DVD

Further miniaturisation was achieved by the introduction of camcorders with internal HDD recorders negating the need for tapes. The main drawback of these camcorders was that once the HHD were full you had to transfer the video off to another device or media. Whilst it is rare for Video Artisan to provide a conversion service for these cameras we can do as long as your camcorder is still working.

Solid State or Memory Card Cameras

The most common current camcorder recording system uses solid state technology which records to a memory card. These are usually SD cards but can include CF Cards (Compact Flash), MicroSD, MiniSD, SDHC, XD, MS Duo, MMCmicro and MMCPlus. These can all be easily converted to DVD for easy playback.

Other video formats

Whilst Video Artisan can provide all of the above videotape to DVD services in-house, we can also arrange conversion of pretty much any one of the more specialist or rare video tape and digital formats – including Micro MV, Betamax, Betamax ED, Video 2000, U-Matic, 1”, 2”, Digi-Beta, M2 and more. These conversions are carried out by separate quotation and usually take longer to complete.

Not just videotape to DVD

Audio Cassette to Audio CD
Audio Cassette to Audio CD

Whilst DVD is by far the most common format we convert to, we are also able to deliver the conversion on a number of different storage media. This includes Blu-ray, Memory Cards, USB sticks, portable HDD and data DVDs. We can also convert Cine Film to DVD too – in various gauges (8mm, Super8, 16mm and 35mm).

We can also convert audio cassettes to Audio CD. Please ask for details.

Cost of converting to DVD

The vast majority of our videotape to DVD conversions come under our standard rates as detailed here.  However, we also offer discounts on orders involving 10 or more tapes (of varying formats) – and can provide various bespoke packages including editing, captioning, duplication and specialist disk packaging. Please call for more details or visit our studio in Loughton, Essex to discuss the options.

Call: 020 3602 3356
Mobile: 0777 153 5692

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Video Production in Essex

Video Production for Business

Video production in Essex definitely seems to be on the up, with a surge in activity amongst on-line marketeers, businesses and government institutions looking to exploit the power of video on their website, within their social networking platforms and in direct video marketing activities.

Video is no longer just for larger corporations and businesses, but has fast become the marketing tool for organisations of all sizes.  It’s not just about driving direct sales either, but is fast becoming the preferred method of delivering all kinds of information – be that news bulletins, instruction manuals, internal communications and any story which can be shared through this very engaging and highly effective medium.

What’s all the interest in video production in Essex?

Video production in Essex is proving so popular for a number of reasons.  Firstly, Essex is booming – especially in areas surrounding Video Artisan’s studios in Loughton, Essex.  Situated just inside the M25, we’re well within the London catchment area and are well positioned to serve businesses and organisations in Central London and beyond.  With the UK’s motorway network on our doorstep we can be anywhere in the UK with ease whilst at the same time connected to Central London via Loughton Station which is on the London Underground Central Line.

Video production is, and always has been, a very competitive service industry.  Modern high definition cameras and technology are becoming ever more affordable – making it more and more accessible to everyone with a story to tell.  Stepping just outside of the Central London video production industry our clients can save many thousands of pounds in production costs without losing any of the benefits of having a highly targeted and professionally produced film. At Video Artisan you get London agency productions at out-of-town rates.

Video production in Essex is therefore not about making compromises – but rather about making huge savings and yet still being able to tap into all the advantages that commissioning a video production can offer.

We’re not just local though – and regularly travel throughout the UK and beyond to help our clients create video content which helps them achieve their goals.

Look no further for video production in Essex

To find out how Video Artisan can help you to harness the power of video, and for a no-obligation appraisal and quotation, please contact us today.

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Creating a custom Vine video

Vine Video
Creating a custom vine video for business

What’s this Vine Video all about?

It’s time to admit it… I was one of those who thought Vine video was just another gimmicky social media platform that was going disappear quicker than it appeared. It hadn’t even shown up on my radar until Twitter bought Vine Video out at the end of 2012 for a reported $30 million (source Vine Video Wiki) – but even then I couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. Isn’t it funny, this all changed the moment I had a call from one of my regular clients asking if I could produce a Vine video series for them. Of course I could – and I’m now well and truly hooked!

Vine video website
Vine video website

Vine video was originally an iOS app that enabled you to create short, looping videos with your mobile device and then upload and share them. By the beginning of 2013 it was available on Android too – but it really started coming alive when the web version was released in May this year. The maximum clip length is 6-seconds (just over apparently) and the simple Vine video app enables you to compile your video (with sound) in bursts or as stop-frame animation. Once completed you can then add descriptions and tags and share your Vine video through Facebook and Twitter (and others) – or embed it on your website.

You might be reading this and thinking that Vine is nothing new as you can do pretty much everything here with YouTube. However, the main way that Vine video differs is by it 6-second time limit and looping playback which lends itself to different content to YouTube. The content on Vine video also differs as it has to be created via the Vine app (well not really but I’ll come to that) and the camera within the device. You can of course make things easier for yourself (and make better Vines) by using accessories on your phone such as external microphones, lens adapters, tripods… but you’ll see that much of the content on Vine is basic, low production value content shot by normal people using their basic device and nothing else – other than a creative mind!

You’ll also see some pretty spectacular 6-second films which will have you wondering how they shot them using just a phone or tablet. You’ll also come across more and more Vines which were obviously not shot on a phone. These are what are commonly referred to as ‘Custom Vines’, and are generally pretty highly polished films that have been shot and edited professionally and the user has been able to circumvent Vine’s normal upload process.

Creating a Custom Vine video

Vine’s current inability to upload externally produced videos has been a major frustration for users and had resulted in a few third-party solutions that enable you to fool Vine into thinking the content you’re posting was created within the app. I’ve not used this, but one of the first of these was a free iOS app called ‘Uploader for Vine’. There were also other ways you could manually kid Vine by replacing the temporary video files created prior to publishing with pre-created content. But now there’s a really simple Google Chrome extension that does the job really neatly – namely Vine Client. Using Chrome, simply go to the website and activate the extension, open a free account and link it to your Vine account and you’re off.

Vine Client
Using Vine Client to upload your custom Vine videos

The technical spec for Custom Vine video file is reasonably straight forward and achievable with any half respectable editing system – but must be adhered to for a trouble-free upload. The file needs to be less than 5Mb and between 3 and 6.8 seconds in length. They recommend using MP4 using the H.264 codec (but there are other file formats they’ll accept) – with a square format pixel dimension of 480px by 480px at a maximum bitrate of 1,200Kbps. The audio should be 64 Kpbs bitrate, 44.1 Khz, 2 channels, AAC. An audio stream needs to be present, even if silent.

Once you have your formatted files it’s then simply a case of logging on to Vine Client and uploading it – job done! I suspect that Vine will eventually cave in to users’ demands and build-in the ability to upload Custom Vines directly (or more likely monetize that process) – but until they do this process seems to work quite well.

Start having some fun with Vine Video

Like other users my first attempts were video doodles created within the app itself. I’m a big fan of Instagram for photos and occasionally use its video tools too (apparently there are tools/processes to enable you to create Custom Instagrams as well – see useful reference site here about difference), but I think Vine’s simplicity is what has won favour amongst its rapidly expanding user base. Creating Custom Vines though opens up a whole new world of video fun.

Nipper Clipper Vines

Getting back to where this all started, my client Stylfile (one of Lord Sugar’s enterprises headed up by Apprentice winner and inventor, Tom Pellereau) wanted to create a collection of Vine videos to celebrate the first anniversary of their Nipper Clipper baby and toddler nail clipping product (see blog here). Having produced a number of films for them about Nipper Clipper and other products in the Stylfile range, the thought was to produce a series of Vines based on existing footage which had the potential to generate viral interest.

The first Nipper Clipper Vine appeared on 17th June to coincide with the product’s launch in 2013. Happy Birthday Nipper Clipper! More will follow in the series – so keep an eye on Vine.

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UWP-D11 Review

UWP-D11 Review Title
A user review of the UWP-D11

My route to the UWP-D11

Ever since the new regulations on radio microphone frequencies were introduced in the UK at the end of 2012, the days were numbered for my trusty old Sony UWP series radio mic system (consisting of the URX-P1 UHF dual-diversity receiver and UTX-B1 transmitter).  Whilst super-reliable and excellent quality, this combo is limited to channels 67-69 which the government sold off to expand the frequencies available for mobile phones (cheers!).

After the new regulations came into place radio mics had to switch over to channel 38 if they were capable of doing so – and the old UWP series were not.  Apparently there are ways to upgrade this receiver/transmitter system but it entails changing the main board in each unit (way beyond my technical skills) – but I’d already made up my mind that it was time to move on to something new with some additional features that would make wireless microphone use even more adaptable and reliable.

There have been many new and compliant radio mic solutions on the market since these changes were announced but I’d resisted them all for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I’d managed to carry on using my old UWP series without interference or conflict with the authorities.  Naughty I know but when needs must the devil drives!  Secondly, I was so pleased with their performance that I was reluctant to change to anything new and untested.  To me, Sony have always represented belt and braces technology so any move away from this brand was a turnoff.  Any replacement would also have to have the same dual-diversity capability, be robust, compact, easy to use and within the same kind of budget as the original UWP series (sub £500).

Introducing the UWP-D11

I first set eyes on the new UWP-D11 at BVE 2014 where I was filming interviews with various exhibitors about their new products aimed squarely at professional videographers.  This included filming an interview with Álvaro Ortiz at Sony about the various bits of technology they were showing for the first time in the UK – which included the UWP-D series (http://vimeo.com/87877656).  I knew there and then that I’d found my replacement so it was only a matter of time before I got one.

The complete UWP-D series includes:

  • UWP-D11: Belt-pack transmitter, portable receiver
  • UWP-D12: Handheld microphone, portable receiver
  • UWP-D16: Plug-on transmitter, belt-pack transmitter, portable receiver
The UWP-D Series
The UWP-D Series

The D11 package is a direct replacement for my old system, though I have to admit that a UTX-P03 Plug-on transmitter (part of the D16 package) is still on my wish list.  Whilst the vast majority of my work is adequately covered by the D11 package (which includes an omni-directional lavalier microphone, windshield, belt clips and cold-shoe mount) there are occasions where I use a wired handheld reporter-type microphone and it would be great to go completely wire-free between mic and receiver.  Having said that, the D11’s portable transmitter (URX-B03) has a mini-jack input, with adjustable attenuation, allowing you to connect other microphones with differing sound pressure levels.  The input can also be switched between mic and line level so I could, for instance, feed the transmitter with an output from my Tascam DR-60D mixer-recorder enabling me to feed up to three microphone inputs into the URX-B03 and transmit that back to the receiver (URX-P03).

The UWP-D11 difference

The true Dual Diversity UWP-D11
The true Dual Diversity UWP-D11

The UWP-D features Sony’s Hybrid Digital Processing which combines the sound quality of digital audio processing with the reliability of analogue FM modulation. This helps improve the signal exchange between transmitter and receiver resulting in a stronger and more natural sound recording.  As a true dual diversity system, continuation of signal is maintained by the URX-P03 always using the strongest signal picked up either of the two independent receivers.

The D11 package offers wide frequency coverage with up to 72 MHz bandwidth across a wide range of channels.  The Sony website lists seven different carrier frequency versions of the D11 so it’s important to source the right model from an authorised Sony dealer for the country/region you are using it in as regulations do vary.  This should result in a product that works out of the box, without fear of interference or causing interference to others on restricted channels/frequencies.

Ease of use was high on my list of priorities and the D11 achieves this will some very useful features.  The large, bright display panels (11.5mm x 27.8mm) on both transmitter and receiver give you an instant indication of status.  This includes channel and bandwidth settings, battery strength and audio level meter on both units.  The transmitter also includes a mic or line setting indicator, a transmission indicator and transmission strength setting indicator. The receiver also has signal strength status (showing the dual receivers ‘a’ and ‘b’ independently – and which one it is presently using) – so at any one time you can see what each unit is set to and whether there’s communication and signal passing between the two.

The audio level meter also includes a peak indicator which displays solid black on the screen when you overload the input.  Both units also have two light indicators on the top edge of the body – one for Power (Power/Muting button on transmitter) and another marked ‘RF’ on the receiver and ‘Audio’ on the transmitter.  Under normal conditions the transmitter’s Audio light will flicker green to reflect the movement in the audio level – but if you do manage to overload the input on the transmitter this light will temporarily turn red which is very easy to spot.  If you lose signal at the receiver your green light will go out altogether – otherwise it remains on constantly.

UWP-D11 Batteries
2 x AA Battery Compartment

The power lights will also give you further information on battery condition (each unit takes two AA batteries) – with a solid green light displaying under good battery conditions, flashing green when the battery power is getting low, flashing orange when the audio is set to muted/disabled (switched on and off using a short press of the power button on the transmitter) and, finally, solid orange when the batteries are being charged.

This is one of the major advances on the UWP-D series in that you can charge Ni-MH batteries within the units by connecting them via their USB connectors (Micro B type) to a suitable supply (for instance, a laptop or any other standard USB power supply).  In addition, you can also use the USB connector to power the unit without the need to have batteries installed – plus this USB connection is also used for updating firmware.

UWP-D11 Menu Controls & Settings

Changing the parameters is carried out through a very simple menu system which is navigated via the ‘Set’, ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons. Besides the power button these are the only controls on the units.  There is an advanced menu setting which enables you to change the commander settings, lock power switches, alter screen brightness, battery type etc. – but for normal operation the simple menu mode gives you everything you’re likely to want to change in the field.

Both units also contain an infrared red detector.  By default the UK model comes set to channels 33-35 so you’ll need to change this to channels 38-40.  You do this by selecting the ‘Band’ setting in the menu on the receiver (using the ‘+’ ‘-’ and then ‘Set’ buttons) and toggle through to the desired channel set.  Once adjusted you’ll see that the RF signal is lost between the two units until you click menu again and then the ‘Auto Set – Yes’ mode – at which point the RF light will flash and the unit will go through searching mode and communicate with the transmitter via infrared.  Once coupled via infrared the transmitter display will show the channel setting on the receiver and ask you if you want to sync the units.  Select ‘yes’ and the transmitter will change to the same channel/frequency and two units will connect via RF again.  You’ll see the signal strength indicators return on the receiver and the audio level will match that on the transmitter.

Changing your UWP-D11 to Channel 38
Changing your UWP-D11 to Channel 38

If you are in an environment where there’s a number of radio devices being used the receiver also has a function that allows you to scan the channel band to see if there’s anything being used on the same frequency – and then select a frequency which is unused.  Within the advanced menu you can also use the ‘Active Channel Scan’ function, which allows you to tune in multiple receivers to the same transmitter.  In addition you can also manually adjust the channel/frequency by holding down the ‘Set’ button on the receiver and then pressing the ‘+’ ‘-’ buttons.  Again, once set you’ll need to select the ‘Auto Set’ button and go through the syncing process with the transmitter.

This all sounds complicated but in practice the D11 package allows you to be operating on a clean, interference-free and legal channel very quickly.

UWP-D11 Ins and Outs

Besides the USB connector the transmitter has only one mini-jack connector which also carries power to the supplied microphone.  This has a screw-on collar fitting to stop the microphone becoming inadvertently disconnected from the unit.  The receiver has two standard mini-jack connectors – one marked ‘Output’ for connecting to your camera or recording device and the other marked ‘Phones’ for headphone monitoring.  You can adjust the level on the output via the menu to match your recording device (±12dB) – as well as changing the monitoring level on the headphones. The receiver also has and additional multi-pin auxiliary connector for connecting accessories – but I’ve got no idea what these might be!

Conclusion

There’s lots of things that I really like about the UWP-D11 package – but the two things which jump out at me are its robust build and ease of use. The main body is made of metal and feels like it would fair well in the often drop-hazard world of ENG production.  In other words, they’re tough little buggers but weigh in at under 180g including batteries.  They’re also slightly smaller than my old retired UWP system making them ideal for use on DSLRs as well as traditional video cameras.

The other major advantages are the USB power supply or, more importantly to me, the ability to charge batteries within the unit whilst in the field.  Not only could this save your bacon but it also means you do not need to buy yet another charger unit.  I’ve not had to put this to the test yet but I’m sure I will.

UWP-D11 receiver's extra bright screen
UWP-D11 receiver’s extra bright screen

I’m also really looking forward to coupling the system with my Tascam DR-60D mixer/recorder – which will open up a whole new range of wireless audio solutions for me.  I do a fair bit of conference work and often there’s no AV technical handling audio – or when there is the feed from their desk is not exactly perfect.  Faced with these situations I could add get up to three mics placed on stage, mixed through the DR-60D and out to the transmitter once set to line input – and then wirelessly transmit this back to the receiver at the camera without the need to run and gaffer-tape cables.  I can imagine this feature/combination to be highly appealing to wedding videographers filming top-table speeches too.

The UWP-D series are also compatible with Sony’s WL-800, UWP and Freedom series systems, allowing you to switch between different commanding modes. Like any bit of technology you’re going to have to read the manual (supplied on CDROM) but, thankfully, not religiously and only when you want to dig deeper into its capabilities.

So, I’m legal at last – and ready to deal quickly with any audio situation that might arise without interference of other devices.  Well done Sony.

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)

Note: Check out the Sony website for your nearest authorised dealer.

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