Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

How To Build A Wireless HD Transmitter For Under $275

This past week I was the cinematographer for an intense action short that was shot using two Epics. Even though we were on two Epics, we were still on a shoe-string budget, and we had to get creative to deliver cinema quality visuals. Due to the tight schedule and limited crew, we needed to go wireless for our director's monitor. Top of the line wireless systems are great to work with when the funds allow, but for this production, it wasn't an option. Fortunately, my long-time 1st AC Jerry Turner came to the rescue with an affordable solution he had created based off of research he'd done on the internet.

And, while I've had varying success with home-brew wireless HDMI in the past (so I was skeptical), I was delightfully surprised with how this unit performed in the middle of an industrial district in a major city. And all for under $275. Here is what you need to make this happen for yourself.

Important Disclaimers:

  • Jerry is not the mastermind of this system. It is something he compiled off of research he did on the net and his own testing. It is not original, nor am I or Jerry claiming that it is. However, it has been tested and you can rest assured that it works.
  • This solution does not replace a system like the Paralinx Arrow. That system will perform better over longer distances and will be more reliable. Quality does not come cheap. However, if you don't have $900 to spend on a unit, then this home-brew solution is for you.

The Item List:
$250 - Nyrius ARIES Pro Digital Wireless HDMI System
This is the heart of the system. Unfortunately, both the transmitter and receiver need power, but it isn't much...which is why you'll also need to pick up...

$8 - DC/DC Converter Regulator to Mini USB Cable
It accepts 8-22v, so you can use just about any battery system you can think of to power the transmitter. On the empty side of the cable you'll need to add your adapter of choice...

$7 - D-Tap Plug
Add this to the other end of the regulator cable, and you can now power the transmitter off of your Anton Bauer, or V-Mount batteries.

Grand Total: $265 - something my pocketbook welcomes. :)

If you want to power the transmitter with your Canon or Sony batteries, there are a ton of battery plates available on Ebay. While I haven't tried it yet, this $12 Canon plate or this $25 Canon plate has caught my eye and could potentially work well for my C100 system...

More Accessories:
If you are looking to fully kit out your home-brew system, then you might want to look into adding these items...

$99 Paralinx Shield
This unit not only provides you with a way to rod mount the transmitter, but it also converts the male end into a female end so that you can connect your desired length of HDMI cable.

$41 HD-SDI to HDMI Converter
If you only have HD-SDI out, then you'll need to convert your signal with one of these. However, if you use this, just be aware that the black levels are altered- so don't trust it for color accuracy, only for framing.

Issues Powering The Receiver:
Unfortunately, as of this writing, the regulator cable I linked to above can't actually sustain 3A at 5V. They get close enough to power the transmitter just fine, but the receiver knows better. If you try to power the receiver with the same solution, it will work for about 30 seconds before shutting off- if you can even trick it into powering up in the first place.

So, for now, that means the receiver has to be powered via the included AC adapter. Which really isn't that big of a deal, as the monitor has to be plugged in anyway. So, for now, I don't have a completely wireless solution...

My Real World Experience:
After a day of running around a warehouse with two Epics, shooting handheld along with high powered blank adapted guns firing back towards the cameras, we didn't drop a signal at all. I was more than impressed. :)

The biggest problem we had with this unit was when we went into playback mode with the cameras. Changing modes caused the signal to drop and it took about 30-90 seconds for the signal to reconnect. While that may not seem like a lot, it is an eternity when you are on set under a time crunch. Say that happens 10 times...you've just lost 10-15 minutes...which could be an additional setup, alternate angle, or the time you need to finesse an important shot.

So, all that to say, you cannot expect this $265 system to perform like a $900 one. But, for the money, it is a great solution for a low budget shoot where you don't want to be tethered to the director's monitor.

What are you using for your wireless HD transmitter? What has your experience been like? Do you have any recommendations, or additions to make to what I've listed above?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!

See Older Posts...