Imagine this scenario: You're shooting a wedding and you've decided to have two cameras on the ground. You're getting shots of the families while your camera operator is grabbing b-roll shots for cut-aways. The music starts and suddenly you get a SD card error. "No big deal" you tell yourself, "I'll just grab the extra from my camera ba—crap!" You accidently left your spare SD cards in the cup holder of your truck.
You need to get those extra cards immediately; the wedding party is getting ready to walk down the aisle! You can run over to your assistant grabbing b-roll and see if they have an extra card. If they don't, they'll need to get people shots while you run to the truck. To make matters worse, you're wearing dress shoes, and the wedding takes place on a sandy beach. Time to hustle!
Regardless of how this scenario ends, remote communication would have saved you a headache and some sandy shoes. Just imagine if you could have asked your assistant shooter to cover your shots while you grabbed a card, without even moving a muscle.
This is exactly the problem that Eartec UltraLITE headsets solve. They allow for clear and convenient communication.
Ease of Use
Let's get this out of the way right up front. These things are dead simple — Like, brain dead simple. That begs the question: why bother reviewing them? Is it even possible to write 900 words on something that you can learn how to use in thirty seconds and never think about again? First, challenge accepted. Second, we felt that this is a product category most people don't think about despite the fact that they may not be able to live without it once they use it.
These things are dead simple — Like, brain dead simple.
Our UltraLITE set came with three headsets: two single earcup headsets and one double. They have a rotating boom that allows you to wear the earcups on either ear, which is great if you're using one of the singles, especially if you expect to wear one while using a shoulder-mounted camera rig. They're lightweight and comfortable, so wearing a set for hours shouldn't be a problem. On the side of the ear cup with the microphone are three buttons: a small on/off button and two larger volume up/down buttons. On the end of the boom arm is a humorous label with the word "talk" written in two directions and an arrow pointing toward the microphone. Nice touch Eartec.
The UltraLITE couldn't be easier to set up. After turning on each headset, everything was paired in five to ten seconds. Because of the relatively few buttons, configuring the volume of each one is dead simple; you just press the buttons. There is no push to talk, which means communication is automatically flowing whenever the headset detects sound entering the mic. There's also no mute button, but the on/off button effectively achieves the same goal.
Quality and Consistency
You'd never want to listen to music, watch a movie or play video games with an UltraLITE headset — the sound fidelity simply isn't very good. That said, the sound quality is perfectly fine for voice communication. Talking to someone with an UltraLITE headset sounds similar to listening to someone speak over the phone, assuming you have a clear connection, communication is clear and is free of drop-outs.
Speaking of connections, we didn't experience drop-outs until about 60 meters without line of site. With a clear line of sight, we were able to have a clear connection up to approximately 241 meters. To test the range, we drove out to a straight country road with no traffic and parked. We had two people put on the headsets. One person stayed with car while the other walked in a straight line down the road while holding a conversation. When the drop-outs made communication unreasonably difficult, the walker stopped. We then zeroed the trip odometer on the car and drove to pick up the walker. The odometer had risen to .15 miles, or 241.4 meters. While we acknowledge that this test was hardly scientific, the results were as expected considering the approximate 60-meter range we achieved in an environment without clear line of sight.
While we were unable to replicate the 400-meter range touted in the tech-specs, we were satisfied with the range we achieved. In real-world tests, we had no problems communicating. We suspect this system will be best used in small to mid-sized studios or in venues with clear line of sight, such as churches, performing arts halls or sports venues.
Battery life is expected to be about six hours of continuous operation. We didn't even come close that limit in real-world testing. We tested the headsets during setup and production of a half-hour live video presentation. During this time, two on-camera hosts wore the headsets so they could communicate with an off-camera director. Admittedly this isn't the ideal use for the UltraLITEs; they're not intended for on-camera use. However, the system did its job. Everyone was able to seamlessly communicate hands free.
In another test, we powered on a headset and left it sitting, unused in a quiet office space. The battery lasted the entire working day.
The UltraLITE headsets were so easy to set up and use, we found ourselves using them in unexpected situations. For example, we wanted to feed video footage from a Phantom 4 Pro+ into a TriCaster Mini. This required running 100 feet of cable from our studio to the front of our building. Rather than have a single person run back and forth from the drone to the TriCaster, we grabbed a couple of the UltraLITEs and stationed one person at each station so the TriCaster operator could describe to the drone pilot what was coming through. We could have had our cell phones, but piloting the drone is a two-handed operation and we didn't have easy access to earbuds with a microphone. Meanwhile, the UltraLITES were already in the studio with charged batteries. Considering setup is about five seconds, it was a no-brainer.
There are other ways of achieving remote communication on a shoot, and we think we've tried them all. We already mentioned the mobile phone technique. The main problem is call drop-outs and network congestion. At events with hundreds or thousands of people, sometimes it's hard to get a signal.
Running back and forth for face-to-face communication is another, less-convenient option. The exercise is nice, but the delay between when you decide you want to tell someone something and the time they receive the message isn't ideal.
Years ago we bought some inexpensive two-way radios with earbuds and clip-on microphones. The big problem here was push to talk was the only real option, as the voice detection was too sensitive for a clip-on mic and only one person could talk at a time. Also, because the clip on mic goes on your shirt, you can't realistically whisper into it, which event attendees found annoying.
Needless to say, the Eartec UltraLITE headsets were better than all the above options. However, at 150 to 175 dollars each, they're also the most expensive. That said, a set of two to four headsets isn't out of reach for weekend warrior videographers or enthusiasts.
Headsets may not be the most exciting thing in the world when it comes to making video purchases, but we can say definitively that they've been the most surprisingly useful thing that have come into the office in a long time. We couldn’t replicate the 400 meter claim in the tech specs, but the range is long enough for most uses. For small to mid-sized productions, the Eartec UltraLITE system is a great addition to any kit.
Single Ear: $150
Dual Ear: $175
- Easy Setup
- Long Battery Life
- Limited Range
Eartec UltraLITE headsets are dead-simple to use. While their range is limited with obstacles present, the system should prove to be an invaluable communications tool for most small to mid-sized productions.
- Event Videographers
- Indy filmmakers
Standard: DECT 6.0 (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications
USA Frequency: 1920 - 1930 MHz
Euro Frequency: 1880 - 1900 MHz
Weight: 4 oz
Channel Bandwidth: 1.728 GHz
Modulation Type: GFSK
Transmission Speed: 1.152 Mbps (Baud Rate)
Duplexing: Time Division Duplex (TDD
Speech Encoding: ADPCM / 32 bit/s
RF Accessing: Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)
Range: 400m in open space
Headset Power Supply: Rechargeable Lithium 3.7 V/ 800 may 3.0 Wh OUTPUT 5.0V - 1 1000mA
Charge Time: 3 hours
Operation Time: 6 hours
Storage Temperature: -10 C to 60 C
FCC License Required: None
Mike Wilhelm loves making video more than he loves taffy; and he’s a man who enjoys his taffy. He’s also Videomaker’s Director of Content.