Our first DIY Project: Poor Man’s Wireless Video Monitor.
We are a production company who has always done films on a budget. There are a lot of great tools out there to make a film makers job easier. Unfortunately these tools usually have a high cost to them. One of those is a wireless monitoring system. We decided it was time for us to have one. But on a budget. Here is our first DIY project.
Doing just a simple search for wireless monitor film production comes up with great options. Probably one of the best being the Paralinx Arrow HD system which is a 1080P 60FPS 150 foot distance transmitter/receiver. At a mere $900 this too can be yours. Monitor not included.
I like to think that some day it will be in our budget. But today is not that day. After some more Googling the closest thing I found was this DIY project by Dave Wallace which drops the price to below $275. Though it still didn’t include the monitor. And honestly since this was a first time project I really didn’t want to sink too much money in to it.
Our main use for this monitor is strictly for monitoring actors on scene. I was not too worried about HD video. We wouldn’t be using the monitor to pull focus.
At the end of this project you will get a standard definition wireless monitor system at 50 feet for under $200 including the monitor. I will warn you the direction I went is pretty custom and I designed my own portable power pack for it. (see: soldering happened) Here goes.
A rundown on those items. The Philips portable DVD player. I picked this one for the slave screen. And to be honest I didn’t buy it. I already had one. So if you want to be real cheap find a friend with kids and they probably have something similar. The key to the slave monitor is it works off 12 volts and has component inputs.
Tell them you need to borrow it for a road trip. If it’s like that Terminator movie you borrowed on VHS they will never remember who they lent it to.
The USB battery stick. The wireless transmitter/receiver I chose runs off of 5 volts. We’ll have to do some adapting to get the USB plug to barrel jack to connect to the transmitter/receiver but that’s for later.
And finally the custom unit. I took an old modem case, gutted it, then shoved parts inside. My end result is a plastic case that fits behind the viewing monitor. This case powers the 12 volts needed for the monitor, the 5 volts needed for the wireless receiver, and I added a few more parts because I had them laying around. Here is a picture of the inside.
I won’t go into too many details here. I’ve spent a lot of my life around batteries and low voltage equipment. Simply put: Main power source is 11.1 volt LiIon battery. Wired into a toggle switch and fuse. Which then is feeding a female cigarette lighter adapter to power our monitor. And a cigarette lighter to USB adapter to power our wireless receiver. Plus one more USB output if I need to charge my phone.
Here are a couple of more shots for those curious on this custom pack. If you have any questions hit me up on Twitter. I geek out on this kind of stuff.
OK. Glued the plastic case back together and put it to the side. Now the only other tricky part was getting a 2.5MM female barrel plug to USB adapter cord.
Oh who am I kidding. It was really quite easy. Take a couple of those old Mini USB or iPhone 4 cables you have laying around the house. Snip off the USB portion. Strip back the wire some like so:
Then plug it into the USB on your computer. Why? Because we need to figure out which wire is the positive and which one is the negative. Take your volt meter (or your “borrowed from the neighbor” volt meter) and test the wires until you get your 5 volts. Remember which one is positive and negative.
Now you can either buy a couple of these or just cut the barrel connector off the power supplies that came with the transmitter/receiver (note: polarity. The barrel plug should be positive center). Then splice them together. I happened to have a soldering iron at my disposal. You should end up with what is hopefully a cord like this. It will plug into the USB 5 volt output and then into the wireless transmitter/receiver’s.
I strapped the USB stick to the transmitter. Which then gets plugged into the video output of my camcorder via the 3.5MM AV output.
By the way I went with the 3.5MM plug because it was A) cheap and B) found to be on every camcorder we had in use. From our older Sony MiniDV that collects dust to the newer Canon XA-10.
I strapped the battery pack and receiver onto the back of my Philips monitor.
It needs some clean up. I need to cut back on the wire length to make this more compact. Maybe a cloth case or wrap. But the important part is it worked! It’s light weight and received great. In my not so humble opinion a really good first draft.
And now for the picture. This is a shot of our monitor. The camcorder was about 40 feet away on the other side of a kitchen wall. I’d say in an open area you could easily get greater than a 50 foot distance.
Of course now that this has been made we haven’t shot any short films. But hopefully in the near future it will get some use.
Thank you for checking out our first Poor Man’s DIY Project.
Big thank you to Batteries Plus. Even though my links above all went to places like Amazon I actually purchased most of the batteries and components at a nearby Batteries Plus store.
If you have any questions find me @stevenmastin on Twitter. I’m always up for suggestions on the next project too!