Cut The Cord

If you’re a director or cinematographer who’s meticulous about the look of your movie (framing, lighting, art direction, etc.), proper monitoring is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking. Before HD, to view shots while not looking through the viewfinder, one had to employ a video tap. The video tap monitor attached to the camera’s viewfinder using a beam splitter and was typically a low-quality monitor with a dark, flickery image. Because of this, cinematographers still relied on their light meters. Another big difference between 35mm film and digital productions was that you had to wait until dailies the next day before you could see what you had captured. It gave a lot of power to the cinematographer, but if something went wrong, there’d be hell to pay.

HD brought along a much better monitoring system, with DPs and directors (not to mention pesky producers) being able to view a much higher-quality image to frame and light shots. What was most revolutionary was the fact that what you were seeing on the monitor was what you were capturing in-camera. But even with this advanced viewing system, one disadvantage is that you’re tethered to a cable if your monitor isn’t attached to the camera. For big productions, DPs, directors, DITs and other crew members often gather in video village, away from the scene, to make creative decisions.

Based in Irvine, Calif., Teradek specializes in wireless video devices and platforms that help filmmakers break boundaries on set. One of their cool products of recent years was the Cube, a small device that enabled filmmakers to monitor shots live on their iOS device. Although a great device, what if you need a higher-quality signal? Teradek’s newest system is the Bolt, which is a latency-free wireless transmission system that can send 4:2:2, 1080p60 video up to 300 feet. Targeted to both low- budget filmmakers and studio moviemakers, the small, easy-to-use system will take on-set monitoring to the next level. Bolt has been recently seen on projects such as Wilfred, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, Fast & Furious 7 (preproduction) and more.

Bolt used on Nationwide’s Content Creators Road Show.

Teradek graciously sent over a Bolt system, which includes a transmitter and receiver that you hook up to your camera and production monitor via HD-SDI. Working with the wireless transmitter and receiver eliminates the need for cable between your camera and monitor. Teradek also sent over a Canon XF105 camcorder that can capture MPEG-2, 4:2:2 1080p video at 50 Mbps and contains HD-SDI out. For monitoring, I used a Sony LCD monitor that also had HD-SDI I/O.

I had to test the system in our offices since I couldn’t power the LCD out in the field. Out of the box, the transmitter is held inside a 7-ounce milled aluminum chassis with six 1⁄4"-20 mounting holes and the receiver is enclosed in an ABS plastic shell. The Bolt also ships with a Lemo to P-tap cable that can connect with an external power source like an Anton/Bauer Gold Mount battery plate.

Setting up the Bolt was both quick and easy. I didn’t look at the instruction manual and was quickly able to connect the transmitter to the camera’s hot-shoe and HD-SDI input and the receiver to the monitor’s HD-SDI port. It’s important to keep both the transmitter and receiver mounted upright with nothing covering the antenna.

Not knowing a lot about wireless transmission, I was up and running with an image on the monitor in less than five minutes. For me, the most impressive detail was that I noticed no lag when comparing my camera’s LCD to the Sony monitor. According to Teradek, latency is measured at less than one millisecond, which essentially means no lag. I did notice that the transmitter does get a little hot if you’re shooting for an extended period of time, which is probably expected.

Bolt used during a Freefly MōVI shoot.