Two Way Radios (Walkie Talkies) for Film Set

Hi,

I’m interested in purchasing two way radios for film production. We will be both indoors and outdoors and want something durable (impact-resistant), versatile and weather-resistant.

I’ve used the Motorola CP200 on film sets, but am open to other models and brands (I’ve heard it’s been discontinued). We want something commercial grade with good battery life (lasts an entire day of shooting) that will not require much maintenance or programming.

We are also interested in features that might be helpful on a film set, like the ability for the radio to vibrate instead of beep, and perhaps VOX or PTT, if that makes sense. Any suggestions for such features and additional accessories (surveillance headsets) that would facilitate using the radios on set are very welcome.

As independent filmmakers we are looking for a cost-effective solution but are willing to pay for quality that lasts.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

Nearly twenty-five years on film sets, up to 14 hours a day with an earpiece in my ear and working with half the actors in Hollywood, and I have learned a thing or two.

Firstly, are you looking for a business radio with your own dedicated frequency or are you looking for licence-free radios? That will dictate how we can best answer your question.

You can use cheap bubble-pack radios and accessories, but you will be replacing them a lot. In two-way radios, you truly do get what you are paying for. Cheap radios made for families to stay in touch at Disney World are not going to stand up to heavy duty abuse, nor will the accessories. There is a reason why the vast majority of film sets in North America rent Motorola HT750 radios.

If you want high-quality business-grade radios without having to invest in your own dedicated frequency, your choices are to buy MURS or FHSS radios, or rent radios on an as needed basis. If you decide to go with GMRS or FRS radios, you will throw them away in a month. Plus, you will have every kid in a five mile radius butting in to your conversations.

MURS are also shared frequencies but there are far fewer MURS radios out there, and there is less chance that you will be fighting for air time with the local drive-through or airsoft gamers. MURS are also VHF radios, so they will work better outdoors.

The frequency- hopping spread-spectrum (FHSS) radios (Motorola DTR series) are expensive but very heavy duty, well-built and they have about the longest range of any UHF radio on the market. Because they are UHF, they are ideal for use in buildings, but I have also found out they are very decent outdoors too.

The nice thing about either the MURS or the DTR radios is that you get professional-quality radios that will accept professional-quality accessories.

Trust me on this one. I have tried every headset on the market. When you wear one every day for 14 hours like me, you know what works and what doesn’t work. I use the 2-wire or 1.5 wire surveillance headset with the acoustic tube. I replace the ear plug with an ear mold sized to my ear. I can wear it all day long and not even feel it is there. Plus, I hear ambient sounds just fine, but is very discreet.

Hopefully this helps, but there is not much more we can tell you unless we know how much money you want to spend and if you want to apply for your own frequency or not. Licence-free radios such as MURS and DTR radios are expensive, but they are professional pieces of kit. If you are shooting web series with a Canon Rebel SLR or a BMPCC on a $400 tripod, then get GMRS radios and live with the limitations.

But of you are shooting serious movies on serious gear, get serious radios … or rent them as needed.

Forget VOX or even vibrate. You will never use either one. There are way too many conversations going on to use VOX. Even in theatre where they need duplex communication, VOX is never used.

Get GOOD quality headset and microphone combinations, and use the PTT button on the microphone when you want to communicate. The walkie itself can be buried way on the back of your belt or under heavy clothing.

One other trick that I find works well is a speaker mic, especially when wearing heavy clothing.

Instead of picking the walkie off your belt every time you want to make or answer a call, you just use the PTT on the speaker mic and mount it close to your face. When you cannot use an open walkie on set, you can plug in a listen-only headset directly into most good heavy duty speaker mics. Again, I use an acoustic-tube surveillance earpiece with a speaker mic when I bury a walkie under heavy winter clothes.

http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/xlt/SM400.aspx

http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/impact/P2W-AT1-NC.aspx

Wow, Chickenhawk, thanks so much for your detailed responses!! Extremely helpful and much appreciated! Also, sounds like you have a really cool job on set and have worked on productions much much larger than ours…

First, I would say that we are probably looking for license-free radios. The FHSS radios sound promising, since they are UHF and can be used indoors and outdoors.

I looked up the Motorola DTR series as you suggested and they look ideal. The only thing is they are probably out of our price range for the time being. Maybe I can find them used on eBay or elsewhere, or rent for the time being with an eye on purchasing them in the future. Any particular model you recommend?

I started looking into buying radios because we will be shooting overseas for over a month, but on a very limited budget. I’ve gotten rental quotes (mainly CP200s it seems) but have been also investigating purchasing our own since we will definitely be using radios in the future.

One possibility that occurred was buying a larger number of inexpensive amateur radios, such as the following Baofengs or the slightly more expensive Wouxuns:

Baofeng BF-F8+ Dual Band Two Way Radio
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/baofeng/bf-f8-plus.aspx

Baofeng UV-82 Dual Band UHF/VHF Radio
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/baofeng/uv-82.aspx

Baofeng UV-5R Dual Band UHF/VHF Radio
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/baofeng/uv-5r.aspx

Ham Radio Starter Kit - HT
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/btwr-essentials/GSK-HAM-UV5R.aspx

It seems that these dual band radios would be versatile, but I don?t really know the difference between an “Amateur Radio” and a “Business Radio”. So I’m not sure if they would be appropriate for our usage scenario or if a license would be required. From reviews on Amazon, they appear to be used by a wide variety of people, including regular people in work situations, but also radio enthusiasts and some SAR (search and rescue).

Baofeng Fan Page
https://www.facebook.com/BaofengElectronics

I?ve heard differing opinions about the quality of these radios, but in general it seems they will not hold up as well as more expensive radios. But for the price of one business class radio, it looks like we would be able to purchase a large number of these cheaper radios, and just replace the ones that go bad:

BaoFeng BF-888S Two Way Radio (Pack Of 6): $89.70
http://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-BF-888S-Two-Radio-Pack/dp/B00ECWE4WC/

BaoFeng BF-888S Two Way Radio (Pack of 20): $283.31
http://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-BF-888S-Two-Radio-Pack/dp/B00ECWHI8E/

BaoFeng 10 Pack BF-888S (USA Warranty) 400-470MHz Two Way Radio - With Battery, Antenna and Charger (UHF Only): $153.99
http://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-BF-888S-Warranty-400-470MHz-Radio/dp/B00N296B5O/

It does look like they would need to be programmed, but it seems like there are places that will program for you before shipping. I could also purchase the programming cable and attempt to program them myself (I’m fairly tech savvy).

However, I understand that these radios probably do not fit the description “quality that lasts”. And I believe that buying quality pays off in the long run. But they are certainly cost-effective!

On another note, I heard back from BuyTwoWayRadios.com (I emailed them), and they recommended the Motorola RM RMU2040 radios:

I would recommend looking at the Motorola RM RMU2040 radios they are very durable water resistant and have great battery life but they do not have the vibrate function. Vibrate is not available on most commercial grade models unfortunately and VOX really want help you in a theater setting either .

The link to the radio and headsets is below that I would recommend

http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/motorola/motorola-rm-rmu2040.aspx

noise canceling headset for loud environments

http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/impact/P2W-AT1-NC.aspx

the M1 connector would be required to be compatible

speaker mic

http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/xlt/SM400.aspx

M1 connector would be needed as well

I also found a blog post on BuyTwoWayRadios.com (Dec. 2014) suggesting alternatives to the soon to be defunct CP200 (which is the only model I’ve used on film sets). They include the Motorola RDU4160d, the Motorola RDV5100, and the Vertex Standard VX-231.
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/blog/2014/12/motorola_to_discontinue_the_cp200.aspx

Finally, I really appreciate your advice regarding headset and microphone combinations. I will take that to heart and pick some up, as your suggestions seem spot on. I had one question: what is the difference/benefit of using an acoustic tube surveillance earpiece vs. a standard headset earpiece?

Again, thanks so much for your advice and opinions!! I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my lack of knowledge in this area, but I am seeking to learn more and hopefully benefit from your impressive expertise and experience.

No worries. Glad to help.

Those radio recommendations from our forum hosts at buytwowayradios.com are solid recommendations. The only thing to remember is they are all business-class radios, intended to operate on assigned frequencies. This means you will need to apply for a frequency and a licence. Plus, licences are not transferable from country to country, so when you go overseas, you will need other licences and frequency assignments. Depending on the country, this can be a bit time-consuming and costly to get a licence unless you are going to be using walkies long term.

Those cheap Chinese-made amateur (HAM) radios are actually reasonably good quality for the price. The problem is that HAM radios are not intended for business use. I will wait for people more experienced with HAM radios to weigh in here, as I am not an expert in amateur (recreational) radio.

Technically, you can program some of those Chinese-made HAM radios to send and receive common frequencies such as MURS, FRS or GMRS but it is not legal to do so (except in an emergency.) While it might be tempting to give it a try, thinking the chances of getting caught are slim, consider there are lots of regulatory agencies listening, and they may not be so concerned about a couple of kids using common frequencies for their airsoft toy games, but they will be very concerned about heavy business use from a film set. Fines are quite steep.

And, let’s not forget Sarah Jones, and what happens when filmmakers break the law and try to “sneak around.” I was being very serious about professionals using professional equipment.

Plus, if you program them for FRS, MURS or GMRS channels illegally, you are still going to have to contend with every kid and every drive-through in a five mile radius interfering with your communication.

Regardless of your choice, there is no guarantee whichever radio you choose will be legal to use in another country - or even in another location beyond the bounds of your radio licence anyway.

If I were you, I would investigate the cost of obtaining your own licence. It comes with your own dedicated frequencies, so there should be no interference from anyone else when used in your licence area. How much this costs and how you go about it varies by country, so investigate the rules of the country you are in. Once you have that licence, then look at those suggestions from buytwowayradios. They are good folks and they know their stuff.

If you decide to go the licence-free business-class radio, then MURS (if you live in the U.S.) or DTR (if you live in Canada or the U.S.) are the choices.

These are the ones I would recommend for licence free:
MURS (VHF)
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/motorola/motorola-rmm2050.aspx

DTR (UHF)
http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/motorola/motorola-dtr550.aspx

As far as the DTR radios, yes they are expensive but they will last for years. I would skip the DTR410 and go straight to the DTR550. It has slightly better range, a replaceable antenna (you can get a shorter stubby antenna for a more compact package) and a high-speed (one hour) charger.

With the DTR series, you get the advantage of a digital radio, with very clear sound. You can program them with “groups” so that as you get larger, your “net” can expand with you. For example, everyone can be on one common frequency - sort of the equivalent of channel one. But you can program each department with their own subgroup. Any radio can talk to everyone; can call up any subgroup (transport, props, camera, costume, office, grips, etc.); or can call up any individual radio. There is no need for a channel two assignment, as anyone can talk to anyone else privately, anytime they want. Programming the DTRs can be a daunting task, and it takes a bit of time to teach people how to use them properly, but digital radios have many advantages on a film set.

When I am on the big sets, I own my own headsets (the ones I described to you) and attach them to our rental radios. When I am on a small set, and end up being the one to provide the radios, I have my own personally-owned net of DTR550 radios. I now have half a dozen of them, and would buy a few more if I could afford it. (The reason I invest that much money in my own radios is due to the unique nature of my job on film sets, and the need for high safety standards in what I do, no matter the size of the budget.)

As for the acoustic tube versus regular earpieces … when you wear an earpiece or headset for 14 hours a day, five days a week, they ALL hurt, no matter what the design. A good acoustic tube with the accessory ear mold sized to fit the users’ ears can sit inside your ear for days at a time without problem. You won’t even know it’s there. Plus, with the ear mold, they don’t block the ear canal, so you can hear ambient sounds no problem.

But headsets are very personal items, and if you are buying for your whole operation, you may want to let people choose the one they like best. (Or get them to buy their own.)

I like the one-wire surveillance headset because I don’t have cables running all over the place. Others prefer the two-wire, because they like to ‘dangle’ the microphone out the front of their shirt. When I am outdoors, especially in the winter in heavy clothing, I prefer the speaker mic option, with an accessory listen-only acoustic tube. I can bury the walkie in an inside pocket and don’t need to worry about wires dangling all over the place and feeding them through multiple layers of clothing.

The only issue with acoustic tubes is that they can build up condensation when moving a lot from cold areas into warm areas. But they detach at the plastic tube part and a quick blow through the tube will clear any droplets.

Apologies for jumping on this thread but I’m looking for something similar but perhaps a bit more specific and hoped I could get some informed advice?

I too am a film maker looking for a “reasonable” ($200-$300? per unit?) system - probably FHSS, but long range and full duplex capability so mics can stay on for constant real time communication. Ideally this would have minimal latency for obvious reasons as well…

We are also heavy lifter drone operators however so are looking for an in ear headset and headset mic (that does’t require a free hand to operate) that offers as much isolation and noise reduction as possible so both sides can speak quietly in a loud environment but still be heard clearly by the other. I was even considering exploring covert throat or jaw / skull vibration mics lol.

Any help figuring this out is very much appreciated!

Not sure if it matters but this system would be used around a BUNCH of other wireless systems including UAV remotes, wireless 5Ghz video and more so hopefully is robust and won’t interfere or be interfered with…

Thank you!

~Kidtreo

I know exactly what you are looking for and understand your needs. (I fly r/c helicopters for fun, and I don’t scratch my nose without rolling it into a ball of plastic and carbon-fibre.)

You are in luck. You can get inexpensive radios, that have long range and full duplex capabilities.

Sadly, you cannot get all three in the same radio system.

You will need to prioritize. Which is the most critical to your operation: full duplex, range, cost, reliability, lack of interference or clarity of the audio?

First of all, ALL UHF or VHF two-way radios are limited to line-of-sight. The best radios in the world don’t provide that much more range than the cheapest bubble-pack radios. But considering all professional drone operations must be conducted with full line-of-sight to the camera drone anyway, I am guessing you are just looking for the best range, not unrealistic numbers such as 5 miles away or so.

Full-duplex intercoms such as we use in theatre sets sounds like a great idea, but they are expensive. There are some new self-contained full-duplex systems on the market, and might be worth looking at.

I suspect that full-duplex or VOX sounds like important factors in your line of work, but ultimately you just may not be willing to accept the compromises for what may prove to be a very small return. There are some good two-way headsets on the market with remote PTT that can be easily reached by pressing the transmitter against the button. Plus, the rule of operation could be that one does NOT talk to the drone operator while the drone is in the air. All communication MUST go through the spotter, and even then, communication can be heard but don’t expect a reply while the drone is in the air. (This is my policy when I am handling guns on film sets; don’t expect a reply when I am loading the guns, especially considering that I am the eye-line for when they are being fired, and if I make the slightest mistake, it is not only my life but you will also read about it in a thousand newspapers in the morning … which, if you think about it, pretty much applies to professional drone operators as well.)

Personally, I would look at the best business class radios you can afford, and experiment with a variety of headsets. For example, if you use a two-wire surveillance headset, it would be a simple matter to loop the PTT button through the transmitter sling.

If you want to test out the FHSS radios, there are no frequency-hopping radios on the market that could ever interfere with anything, let alone radio control transmitters. The DTR skips at a rate of 90 milliseconds - which is way too fast to cause interference and cannot be monitored by anyone this side of the NSA. Plus, the DTR operates at 900 MHz, which is a long way from the new 2.4 GHz frequencies of your transmitter.

Picture how many wireless phones, wireless intercoms, radio control transmitters and garage door openers now operate on 2.4 GHz without interference, so that should not be a concern.

Hopefully, some of this helps. Investigate full-duplex intercoms systems, but I suspect you will decide it is not as necessary as you think.

Please forgive the loooong delay in getting back Chickenhawk and thank you for responding! In order of priority we are looking for:

full duplex
range
lack of interference
clarity (audio quality)
reliability
cost (so I guess this is going to get expensive lol).

MOST CRITICAL IS THAT THIS SYSTEM INTERFERE AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE WITH OUR DRONE WIRELESS SYSTEMS INCLUDING 2, 2.4GHZ LONG RANGE VIDEO SYSTEMS, RC, 5Ghz follow focus not to mention GPS and compass of DJI A2 controller LOL.
Yes - our 333 exemption requires line of sight, but there are times when our crew is behind trees (non line of sight) even if we do have eyes on our drone so non line of sight would be great.

I bought a set of Motorola DTR550 for an associate of mine and they work pretty well but aren’t duplex and have some pretty severe delay when starting com. Range was good if I recall though…

Many thanks again…if I could also ask, what kind of in ear headset / boom mic systems you recommend for hearing well in loud environments - as well as being heard when speaking in a loud environment that’d be great as we’re flying 55 pound Heavy Lifter Drone which makes quite a ruckus LOL.

BTW - you sound very interesting and I’d love to take this conversation off forum if you can spare a few minutes. My email is PCG [at] FLIGHTAV [dotcom]

Cheers!

Kid Treo

:smiley:

Check out Eartec for full-duplex wireless communications. The problem will always remain that full duplex is just not made for longer range communications. It is more for use inside theatres, and where they can even install repeaters to help fill dead spots. You would be lucky to get half a mile with a full duplex system.

Plus, most of them operate in the 2.4GHz band. The only way to see if they will interfere is to try them. Technically, they shouldn’t because they (along with your transmitter) use a frequency-hopping system to prevent interference in spite of literally hundreds of electronic objects within range.

Sadly, like most other things in life, everything in two-way radios is a compromise. You can get duplex, but not range; you can get cheap but be plagued with interference; you can get secure communications and excellent clarity with maximum range, but you put up with a half-second delay because of digital latency.

Try a full duplex system first. It may just be what you want. Maybe find a local supplier who will let you rent a system for a few weeks before you buy.

As for radios that are not duplex, the new digital Motorola DLR1020 and DLR1060 radios should be right up your runaway (so to speak.) Cheaper than the DTR series, they work the same and can be integrated into the same frequencies as the DTR radios. Their range is just as good, and they are half the size and weight.

As for headsets, I stick with the two-wire surveillance headset. It goes into a clear acoustic tube, and I normally discard the factory ear plug in favor of a ear mould sized to my ear. This way, I can hear all ambient sounds just fine as they do not block the whole ear canal like the factory earpiece. For your purposes, you might want to stick to the factory ear plug, and put a simple foam earplug in the other ear.

But you may need a headset with a boom mic. You can get some really good quality “NFL” style single earmuff headsets with built-in boom mics for loud environments from our forum hosts at buytwowayradios, or you can get lightweight headsets with boom mics. You will need the ones their own built-in PTT, as you don’t want to fumble with the PTT on the radio. When shopping for headsets, take a look at where they have the PTT. There are some that have a PTT wired part way up the cord and fit nicely right around waist level and are soft enough a push that you can press back on your r/c transmitter to open the circuit. (The button push on one lightweight headset was actually TOO soft a push for me. Just ask me … I had an entire film set listen to me go to the washroom once!)

PM me when you get this and we can share notes some day. I had a look at your website and you folks do some high-end stuff!

Your budget is simply not going to let you do this, the list of must dos, is going to be problematic.

Full duplex is a specialist area - the usual radios mentioned here are semi-duplex, as in they use two separate frequencies for send and receive, but you cannot speak and listen at the same time - as cellular radios can. Duplex systems use a repeater, so that’s another cost, but does increase range, but you also need antenna systems and height. Range between handsets working simplex - the usual system for handheld to handheld, is not really set by power output. Going from 1W to 5W output doesn’t help the range very much at all. Lack of interference requires dedicated channels, so in most countries, licensing and modest cost. Clarity isn’t usually an issue, as comms audio response is pretty narrow. reliability is an interesting one. Technical performance varies little between cheap Chinese to full business quality radio. What does change is physical strength. The business radios (and oddly amateur radios made by the same manufacturers) can be dropped, misused, poorly looked after and still work. The cheap Chinese radios might loose their belt clips, crack the cases when dropped and even snap off antennas and knobs. Many business users who do cheap radios just bin them and open a new box! You have to decide what you want.

I use some full duplex comms systems here in the UK and they are notorious for being unreliable. Digital cleverness doesn’t help either. If you are doing comms for broadcast TV or radio, then semi duplex is usually OK - you hear the running comms, and then if a response is needed, you transmit. At that point your audio cuts off, and your comms goes out to everyone else. This works pretty well for us as usually the response is yes, no, hang on. We don’t need telephone type service. This means a system that can listen and transmit, and base stations are fairly expensive compared to hand held radios.

I don’t think duplex is really needed - as multiple simplex radios should seem to be enough - unless you need the ability to have both ways working at the same time? VHF systems, as opposed to UHF might give you a bit better range outside - but how much range do you actually need? Behind a few trees locally isn’t a problem, the other side of a hill may be. Using a base station as a repeater in a vehicle increases the working area nicely.

keep in mind that taking kit to another country is a different thing altogether. Radios in your kit may well be examined by customs on exit and entry, and if they ask for licenses, you are stuck. Your business band could be used by the fire, police and ambulance service in another country. I’ve taken kit to the US, and just used it - having a fiddle after a few days use revealed my working channel was between two busy Police channels, and I’d been lucky! American free to use radios and business radios may well be in bands used for other things in Europe.

I’d suggest getting a pair of cheap Chinese ones to have a play with and see if they do the job. If the range is insufficient, then business expensive radios will be very similar, so you need to add range boosting features like base stations and semiduplex operation. This adds to the expense considerably.

Hi there,

Interesting thread. Q for Chickenhawk mainly - you seem very knowledgeable on these things!

I work as an AD on film/tv/commercials in the UK where we pretty much universally use the Motorola GP340 (which i believe is v similar if not identical to the HT750 you mentioned?). I am looking into making an investment to purchase 30-40 Motorolas that i can hire to production and want to make sure this investment is future proof.

I understand they have stopped making the GP340 and are only supplying parts until they run out - i.e. the 340 will go the way of the old GP300 brick (which used to be the standard here) and we will HAVE to go digital in our on-set comms. This has an issue in our industry, as i am sure you know, as the digital latency in the DP series is highly annoying and unpractical for the film set. Precise cuing from the AD’s / Stunts goes out of the window, if filming without sound (and so without coverts) you can hear yourself on multiple other radios on set speaking half a second after you speak, and if you use a two radio system on your belt so you are always dialled into channel 1, you go mad as the delay from the words you are saying permeates your ear!

I was wondering your thoughts on the above problem and how you see the industry moving forward with digital walkie talkies? Certainly in the UK industry, we have shunned them and will be clinging on to our GP340’s until they die off completely.

Also, if making a investment in two-way radios for the set (and yes i do want Motorola), which model would you purchase? and UHF or VHF? I do see both UHF and VHF on set, with different sized ariels on both, but now i look at purchasing one or the other I wondered which is best. Logic would lean to UHF.

I am leaning towards the DP1400 and just having to suck up the digital delay, but i know for the time being at least my colleges will hate my radios, as i do all digital radios, as they are not practical for the film set and a naff re-invention of a wheel that worked very well!

Any thoughts or guidance much appreciated. Many thanks.

Two main issues with DMR compared to the frequency dividing systems (dPMR, Icom and Kenwood systems etc) - DMR tier 2 - working through repeaters is a very invasive system used next to audio devices. The constant RF from the frequency division systems seems much more friendly. My DMR radios close in seem to get into the audio preamps of two of my professional cameras and produce a nasty thumping sound. dPMR and Kenwood Nexedge which I have here too do not do this. UHF would normally be my preference in local area comms simplex, but I’ve been operating a VHF semi-duplex system for the pas 6 months with excellent results - Kenwood kit with a Kenwood repeater linked into the wired duplex comms system. Semi-duplex from the outstations works fine, allowing break into the wired comms and radios on receive. The only negative is that a radio cannot break into another radio on transmit - but this has not proven to be a pain at all. I have a large inventory of Kenwood kit analogue and digital, and like it for it’s interchangeability. I can mix in the radios with LCD displays with those without, and use the fleetsync programming to simply give a display of who it was who sent the message - comes in very handy. The few extra simple radios with no display, send their ID, and just cannot display info themselves. Motorola is of course a decent brand, I just prefer by my own history, Icom or kenwood, and Kenwood worked well for me. Although the latency issue when you hear your voice delayed is very odd - it’s actually shorter than half a second, and shorter than mobile phones in most cases - which also sound odd in use when you can see the recipient! However - we’ve found no practical problem with cueing at all. There clearly is a delay, but it’s actually not a problem timing of cues wise. We set up one of our backstage systems with an analogue channel and a digital one, and users only comments were the slightly odd sounding digital voice, NOT delay. Not sure this helps much - but for me - dropping a radio and having it bounce and not crack is the key for me. We do have a half dozen Baofeng 888s on the shelf in boxes, brand new - and we use these on the jobs where it’s likely the radios will get dropped into water, mud, or fall out of pockets up in the air. We then replace them - disposable radios. Technically, they work fine - they just break.

All of the above is good advice. I have never experienced a problem with the half-second delay, and the user will likely never even know it is happening unless they are standing beside an open walkie while transmitting. Obviously, cues are important in my line of work, and it has never been a problem.

If we are coordinating a gunshot for example, with a zirc ball hit or a window breaker, we never use radio. It is done with audible or light triggers (that I hate because they are so flaky) or old-school by reacting to the sound (which is always the best and most reliable way if you have a good special effects tech on the trigger.)

All that being said, analog will be around for a long time. Parts will become scarce but used radios will get cheaper and you can just buy double the amount you need and sell the broken ones for parts if they wear out.

Radios are like cameras; just because new ones are on the market, doesn’t mean the old ones perform less than what they did before.

It seems most of the industry in North America and the UK run similar (if not identical) radios. They are solid radios and will continue to work for years. Up here, we run UHF almost exclusively. This is mostly because our rental radios are not on fixed frequencies. Most of our rentals are on analog trunked frequencies (although few end users even know this, as it is 100% transparent to the user and there is no latency delay.)

Personally, I feel that the old adage that VHF is better for foliage and UHF is better for glass and steel, is not really true. There may be slight differences, but I would personally just go UHF.

I only use the DTR and DLR radios on my own film sets or when helping out low budget filmmakers on their own projects. Otherwise, i spend 14 hours a day with my earpiece plugged in to the UHF rental radios as provided by the production. (HT750)

This thread has been a huge help. I work at an events company, and we’re looking to finally stop renting CP200s. The DTRs look great, but, at the same time, I realize that they’re old tech by now. The Motorola TRBO line (and other DMR and/or compatible models) seem to be newer tech, but I am wondering about the differences. I know I’d need to get a national itinerant license if I went the DMR route, but what else?

-Is the push to speak, wait for the chirp delay longer or shorter or the same with newer radios as the DTRs? That is one thing that I won’t look forward to with the DTRs.
-I know the DMRs can have more power than the DTRs. Does it translate into actual usable range? Also, I understand there are differences here, between the TYT and the Motorolas and the Hyteras and Vertex etc. But because a license is required for broadcast on a lot of the DMR radios, they’re allowed to go above 1 watt (let me know if I’m wrong here).
-The DMRs seem like they can do all the great stuff the DTR can, like private calling and group calling (though maybe not frequency hopping). That being said, what’s actually the difference between frequency hopping and encryption for actual usability?
-I know that DMRs can use repeaters (the DTRs have a 3rd-party repeater option), and it seems like there are a lot of “public” repeaters. Does that mean that a DMR would automatically use one in the area? If yes, it seems like this would increase the range quite a bit. I know that some are marked as “permission needed.”
-Another plus to the DMRs is that it seems like you can find submergible (IP67) spec models.

All in all, I’m looking for privacy (if other people are on your comms channel, it’s the biggest headache), clarity, and range. The license won’t deter me either, if I decide to go that route. Any suggestions?

DMR is far less simple and user friendly. Repeater access needs proper programming and is rarely straightforward. In terms of range it’s a bit different to how the adverts put it. Analogue FM vs Digital should mean that at the fringes the digits hold up a bit better, then die suddenly, while analogue gets noisier and noisier then dies - however, canny operators get used to the impending dropped signal and move the radio a little, minimising noise and maximising distance. Digital doesn;t give you a clue disaster is near, apart from perhaps a few missed called, or “say again” messages - but because they come either loud and clear or not at all, the extra distance can’t really be banked on.

I’ve been introducing digital kit and am a bit underwhelmed because while they have all these great features, many of my clients simply cannot cope with them. Spending ages making every radio unique with it’s user’s name or department is possible - so when a general call comes through to everyone, the radios say for example “John Stage Left” in the display - however, when John picked his radio up, he’d forgotten to turn it off, so it was on the charger, still charging, so he simply takes Dave’s radio and the confusion starts - programming in groups and other features means people need to remember certain button pressing sequences - so a general call transferring to a one to one group or maybe a department group falls over when they forget to return to channel 1, or whatever. I find so far the most popular request is simply one channel, and a display that doesn’t need reading - exactly the same as the analgue ones they replaced at great cost. I’ve not yet found the repeater thing that handy, as some of the advertising suggested that users could migrate in stages using a mix of analogue and digital - which is partly true. The repeater can handle FM and the digital radios - but they’re not linked I assumed wrongly, that FM into the repeater would come out as digital inside the machine, and it doesn’t so not as wonderful and handy as I thought. I’ve discovered that total strangers can also get into my system and use it, but I don’t know because their programming prevents my radios hearing them - so apart from seeing the TX light come on, I’m unaware, and I don’t like this.

It sounds like DTR is the way to go then. No wonder they still sell it. With DMR, I think if you have 2 repeaters connected (this is based off a non-expert --me-- watching a Hytera video explaining DMR) you’re able to do analog in digital out. I know what you’re saying about programming in specific names and people just grabbing whatever walkie is on the gang charger. It’d be nice to have priority broadcast capability to a couple people in charge, and a time out function for some PA keying though.

Since no one else seems to have done so, I will address your questions about amateur radios.

[ol]
[li]Amateur radio is a licensed service. There is a written examination that has to be passed before the license is issued. Also, everyone using the radios would have to obtain a license.[/li][li]Amateur radio regulations prohibit using the service for business purposes, so that would rule out what you propose.[/li][li]The Baofeng radios, for the most part, are certified for use in the land mobile radio service (business radio) but this is another licensed service and much more complicated and expensive than amateur radio.[/li][/ol]
Possibly the best option for you might be the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS.) You might give that a look.

There is no easy answer. One has to balance 1) renting versus buying, and then 2) licence versus licence free.

There is always a tradeoff. My friend above did a very good job explaining the advantages and disadvantages of digital versus analog, so if the decision is made to buy, and to obtain a licence, it then becomes analog versus digital (such as DMR.)

Hopefully, I did a good job explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the DTR/DLR Motorola digital radios.

  1. Most film sets rent. Most theatre productions buy.

  2. If your activities are in a relatively fixed area, business licences guarantee you an interference-free experience, in exchange for a considerable ongoing cost (depending on the country.) If you are getting outside your home geographic area, licence costs go exponentially higher because you need a frequency not currently used in your whole state or province.

Itinerant (shared) business frequencies can be a good solution, but you still need to pay for a licence. They will try to get you a frequency well away from other users, but there are no guarantees. Plus, when you get outside your home area, some interference is almost assured.

Licenced frequencies have the advantage of reasonable privacy and a WIDE range of business radios - both analog and digital - available at every price point.

Licence-free radios just don’t have the wide range of radios available. In digital, it is the Motorola DLR or DTR. The DTR is complicated to program, but one can simply unpack them, turn them on and be almost guaranteed to not have anyone else on the same frequency no matter where you go in the country. They also have the unique ability to call up any other radio individually, leaving the channel still open for other users at the same time.

The DLR series uses the same technology but are much simpler to program. They are also half the size and weight of the DTR. So, yes the technology behind the frequency-hopping spread spectrum radios is not the latest, but it still works great. Users will not care if it is the latest digital interface; it still sounds very good.

I highly recommend the DLR if you don’t want to spend too much time programming them, and like the smaller size and weight. I recommend the DTR for have proper names listed instead of obscure numbers and for private one-on-one calling to individual radios.

As for repeaters, there is a third-party solution, but not that many users go that route, simply because the DTR/DLR provides greater range at 1-watt than most analog business radios at 4- or 5-watts.