HowTo use a walkie
Posted by notKlaatu , 15 June 2009 · 442 views
Walkies, aka "Walkie Talkies" or "CB Radios" come in two varieties: the expensive kind that you rent, or the cheap kind that you buy. They are different in these ways:The cheap ones (two for $50 or less) are a little noisy and have less range.The expensive ones (too expensive to buy but ok to rent) frequently have a cleaner signal and a greater range.You can choose either one, depending on your budget, but renting is usually the better option. You can rent them from equipment rental houses; sometimes they are specifically film equipment rental houses, or sometimes they are construction rental stores, or event equipment rental...just open up a phone book and call around.The rental usually comes with the walkies, ear pieces for each walkie, and a charging station.Keep in mind the range of signal; the cheap ones will have an advertised range of one mile, maybe, but what they mean is half a mile in realistic conditions. The expensive ones will advertise 5 or 10 miles and what they mean is 1 mile. If you need something stronger than that, you're looking at some serious radio gear that you're probably not using for a Linux fest or a film shoot, so you should check trucker supply stores and places like that, or consider going cellular.You want to distribute the walkies among the key members of the organization. This isn't because you want to create an elite group of special people who are more important than everyone else involved, it's just a matter of practicality. Not everyone needs a walkie; it would be prohibitively expensive, and there would be way too many people chattering on the line. So just the team leaders of the event need a walkie, and if you've managed to organize an event then probably you've already assembled some kind of hierarchy or structure to your group of participants.For instance, at the top of the group, there is some kind of leader. The leader needs a walkie. Under this leader there are probably some chair members or a group of assistants or (in film terminology) keys. Each of these people should get walkies. Under the key personel there are probably supporting groups; generally the leader of each group should also get a walkie. There may be one or two people within each group that should also get a walkie, but usually this is where walkie assignment ends.All in all, walkie assignment really is discretionary. You know who needs to be available via walkie and who can simply receive second-hand orders from key personel, so assign walkies as your budget and common sense dictates.Walkies come with a number of channels. These channels exist for two reasons. First of all, so that you can select clean channels over which you can communicate since sometimes there is another group using walkies nearby, and if you are all trying to use channel 5 then you may end up interfering with one another. Secondly, so you can isolate different groups within your own organization in order to reduce chatter.Choose two or three channels to use for your event; how many you need will depend on the scope of your event. For small events, you may want one channel for key personel, one channel for everyone else, and all other channel for private conversations. In this scenario, everyone with a walkie would have their walkie tuned to, say, channel 1. All general instructions would be broadcast here. The key personel might switch over to channel 2 for specialized conversations that lower minions might not need to hear; why bother someone doing crowd control with details about what restaurant to use when you order everyone lunch? the crowd control person doesn't need to hear about lunch plans, doesn't need to think about treasury concerns or time concerns, or anything like that. Now, after the key personel have ironed out all the food details, they would switch back to Channel 1 and broadcast for everyone to hear that a person from Joe's Diner will be arriving around 13:00 with food for the guest speakers; this will let the crowd control person (and everyone else on that channel) know that when someone claiming to be from Joe's Diner arrives, to let them through and to then announce to the key personel that the food has arrived.Chennel 3-10 then might be reserved for private conversations. If, for instance, two key personel members (let's call them Klaatu and Gort) are discussing lunch options and two other key personel are discussing parking logistics, then suddenly Channel 2 is going to become pretty chatty. It makes sense for one of those two conversations to move to an alternate channel. This is done with a simple "Klaatu, go to 3" -- which tells Klaatu to move over to channel three. Gort will also move to Channel 3 and the heated lunch debate will continue in relative privacy.Keep in mind, of course, that walkies are not secure on any level. Not only can an outsider with a walkie of their own tune into your conversations, but any member of your team can switch to any channel and listen in. So don't sit on Channel 5 and poke fun at Klaatu, and do not convey sensitive information like login username and passwords for your computer (unless they're temporary and don't actually matter to you).In a larger event, you might find that you need even more specialized channels. On a feature film shoot, it's typical for there to be no main channel, but lots of specialized ones; the art department might take Channel 1, while the camera crew will take Channel 2, and the lighting team Channel 3, and so on. Whatever channels remain will be private channels. The theory remains the same, it's just that you have more specialization.Walkie etiquette has its own protocol and jargon:Protocol:1. Do not fill the channel with chatter.If you can't figure something out within two or three exchanges, then go to a private channel. Not only do people not want to hear you talk back and forth about something that doesn't concern them, but it also prevents anyone else from broadcasting a more important message. So switch to a private channel, figure out what you need to figure out, and then switch back to the general channel and make the announcement.2. Use appropriate language and be professional.Everyone on your crew may say that foul language doesn't bother them, and they may all be open to jokes and silliness, but you never really know how they feel. Whatever your event is, if it is important enough to rent walkies for, it's important enough to be professional. Some jokes and wisecracks are fine, but keep it to a minimum, and keep the language clean. Remember that without face-to-face communication, there's no body language to offset remarks that might sound rude, so be polite or you may be making some new enemies without meaning to. But most importantly, remember that you have no idea who is listening in on your conversation. Anyone around the area with a receiver of some sort can tune into your frequencies and listen in. If you want to be faultless, don't start broadcasting questionable content over the air. 3. Hold down your TALK button longer than you think you need to. Really. People press TALK and start talking, and their first few words are not broadcast; they release TALK and their last few words are not broadcast. And then people have to ask them to repeat. So hold it down, wait, talk...finish talking, wait, release. It takes a little bit of extra effort to remember this but becomes habit pretty quickly.4. Run your channel how you want to run your channel. If you're key personel and are the top dog of a chennel, then you can pretty much run your channel however you please. Keep it professional, but your group is isolated on its own channel and only your group knows what needs to be conveyed via their channel. You will hear some groups being very vocal and chatty, while other groups maintain radio silence until really important logistical information needs to be conveyed. It just depends on the group and its needs. Feel free to customize.5. IDENTIFY yourself. Remember that you are on walkie; people don't know who you are when you speak. If it is important for people to know who you are, then you must state your name for them. You might think you have a distinctive voice and vocal style -- and you might actually have those things -- but there is a chance that someone listening doesn't know who you are, so identify. Statements like "I have the paperwork here in the entrance hall" doesn't give a listener much confidence in being able to find you; they want a name so they know who to look for, or else so they can ask for you if they don't know you by sight.6. Make sure your walkie isn't TALKing without your knowledge. There's nothing quite as annoying as someone leaning up against a wall or something and having their walkie's TALK button pressed without them realizing it. They then start talking about the weather or something, and everyone gets to hear about it whether they want to or not.Jargon:"Basecamp"It is important in most events to identify some common location as the administrative center. You don't have to call it "basecamp" necessarily, but there should be some place that can serve as a lowest common denominator so that if nothing else, when Klaatu needs a flux capacitor from Gort, they can arrange to meet in basecamp, or Gort can drop it off in basecamp and Klaatu can pick it up when he's available, and so on. Sometimes it's easiest to call this location "basecamp" rather than "that one room where all the equipment is, you know, the one at the end of the hallway near the bathrooms"."Go to <channel>"Move the conversation to channel 3 so as not to fill the current channel with chatter that doesn't yet matter to anyone else. If you are chatting too much about something that doesn't matter, you may be told by superior personel to take your "convo" (conversation) to another channel; better to self-regulate."Back to <channel>"Once your private conversation has ended, it is customary to announce to the other person or people you are speaking with that you're going back to your main channel. This not only lets them know that you are no longer available on the private channel, but also reminds them to go back to their main channel. There's nothing quite as annoying as forgetting to go back to your main channel and missing out on important general chatter."What's your 20?"Where are you located right now?"Does anyone have eyes on <person>?"Typically this is asked over the general channel when you are looking for someone but they are not responding to a "what's your 20" request. Keep in mind that this is a "have eyes on" request -- meaning that a response like "I thought I saw <person> going over to the coffee machine" is NOT acceptable. Answer only if you actually see the person being asked for in your field of vision at that moment. "Breaker breaker"Say this if you are interrupting a convesrsation or when there is important information to be conveyed or when you are interrupting a conversation that is in progress."Testing"A simple test to make sure you are broadcasting. Typically this is done when you first turn on your walkie and hook up your earpiece, just to make sure you are being heard and can hear. Someone will respond with a confirmation that yes, you are being heard. If you are someone hearing a test come through, you can answer that yes, you heard the test...but don't answer if someone has already done so. There's no point in getting twenty people confirming that a test broadcast was successful."Going off walkie"If you are for some reason going to turn off your walkie, then you'll want to announce that so everyone knows that you will not be reachable. I hate going off walkie and never do it, but sometimes there are times when you simply can't have the walkie turned on; maybe you are speaking with someone very important and don't want the walkie chatter in your ear. Or maybe your ear hurts and needs a break. In any case, it's good practise to announce when you'll be unavailable just so people don't try to talk to you in the meantime."Back on"Announces that you have come back on, having been off walkie."What channel is <groupname> on?"If you have just come on walkie, or you suddenly realize you need to speak with a specific department that you usually don't communicate with, you might ask to know what channel they are on. This obviously depends on the structure of the organization; but in the cases that there is a general channel, this is a fair question to broadcast. Someone from that group might be on the general channel at that moment and will tell you their channel, or else someone else may know the channel list by memory and will tell you. Either way, this is a fair question that you hear broadcast fairly often."That's a wrap"Means that the event is over and that all walkies can safely be shut down. Granted this is a film term and there may be other jargon to convey this in other industries, but this is the one I know. The point is, there should be some statement made at the end of the day so that people know that no further official conversations are going to be held. They may need to keep their walkies on for their specific group, but at least they know that once their group is finished, it's safe to shutdown. You probably also want to announce who should receive all the walkies; ie, "Give your walkies to <person> in basecamp when you're finished with them" -- this lets people know who has been assigned to gather and account for all the walkies and earpieces....and, well, that's a wrap. Good luck.