skull (1 of 1)

Not the best news to start the year off, but it seems to be under reported. The FCC has proposed plans to eliminate public use of frequencies between 600 MHz and 700 MHz by the end of this year. You might recall that back in 2010 the FCC sold off the frequencies between 700 MHz and 800 MHz, this new proposed action will reduce public wireless UHF frequencies to the limited range of 500 to 600 MHz in the United States.

So how does this affect filmmakers? If you use wireless UHF microphone systems in your productions, this could affect you. I currently use 3 sets of Sennheiser G2 wireless body packs, two of these units are in the 500 MHz range which will remain free to use, but one set uses the upper 600 MHz band. That unit will become illegal once the auctions take place.

There are still 600 MHz band wireless units for sale and the price is the same as the 500 MHz units. If you plan to spend your hard earned money on a wireless UHF microphone system anytime in the near future, I highly recommend you look for units that operate in the 500 MHz range.

For small productions in lightly populated areas this shouldn’t be a huge issue. Sell off your 600 MHz stuff and pick up 500 MHz stuff before the FCC auctions take effect. For people working in high population areas, large productions, and plays this could be a big issue.

In many cities there is a theater district where 5 or 6 plays are performed within a 5 block radius each night. Before 2010 these theater districts had the option to use frequencies between 500 MHz and 800 MHz. After 2010 those frequencies were reduced by one third and by the end of this year the remaining spectrum would be cut in half. There are a lot of actors and actresses on stage at any given time in a theater production and each of them needs a wireless mic. Have enough plays going on at the same time and you’ll have a pretty hard time finding a clear channel.

This could have an effect on small productions as well. Imagine a car accident happens a few blocks away from your production location. Six or 7 news vans show up to cover the event in all it’s gory detail. The news anchors start powering up their wireless mics as well as units for interviews with the locals. Before you know it everyone of your wireless microphones on your small production are giving you interference and it’s either switch to a boom mic or give up for the day.

These are of course worse case scenarios, but it’s still something to think about. Hopefully this knowledge will save a few of you from buying 600 MHz units over the course of this year and get you to start thinking about the ever decreasing public bandwidth available for filmmakers.

UPDATE: A few of you have asked for more info, if you really want to dig into it here’s the briefing. You’ll find it under subsection “B” of “FORWARD AUCTION—RECONFIGURING THE UHF BAND”. It’s dry reading with big effects on spectrum.

Tags: , , ,