It's all about monitors this week! We delve into the various monitor options that we can choose from; mixing from FOH, a monitor desk, personal mixers, iPad options and even hybrid solutions. Plus, In The News.
I’ve written a whole series on soldering XLRs, 1/4” plugs and Speakon connectors, but I’ve never done a post on BNCs. A few months back, while I was wiring our video rack, I decided to take some pictures of the process. Several people asked if I could write this up, along with a list of tools and connectors I use. I’m happy to do so, but with a simple caveat; I use what I use because it works for me, and I’ve had good luck with the tools, connectors and cable. There are other varieties of all available, so this is not a “you must do it this way” post. I’m showing you my process, with my stuff. Feel free to copy it though, it works great.
Parts is Parts
First, we’ll start with the tools and parts list. Terminating coax is actually pretty simple, and once you get things in place, you can do an end in under a minute. Here’s what I use.
Cable: Gepco VPM-2000
Connectors: Kings 2065-2-9
Cable Stripper: Paladin CST Vario 3 blade adjustable stripper
Crimper: Paladin 1389 full-ratchet crimper
In the past, I’ve used Beldin cable, as well as Canare, and I find the Gepco easier to manage. The braiding is much easier to flare out without tearing it all up. It’s also affordable and stocked 40 miles from me. Kings has been my BNC of choice for over 15 years. I’ve simply never had one fail. Note that I’m using the 2065 series, which is their 75 Ohm connectors (which you should use if you plan to do HD ever).
The “2-9” destination indicates the variant for that particular cable. Most of the problems people have with terminating BNCs stems from not using the correct connector for the cable. Not all cables are the same diameter, so the center pin won’t crimp fully, or the outer crimp will be weak. If you choose to use Kings, you can find their connector/cable reference here. Most cable manufacturers also have a cross-reference. If you properly match the cable to connector, you won’t have any problems.
We went through several strippers before I found one I really like. The CST Vario is about $90 at Markertek, it’s totally worth it. You can get the blades adjusted exactly right for your connectors (look up the instructions for assembly, they’ll tell you what the strip lengths should be), and I’ve not broken a single Vario blade. I have however, gone through about $90 worth of blade cartridges for their cheaper stripper. Spend the money the first time.
I’m not going to get into the process for adjusting the stripper. Follow the directions with the stripper and the connectors. It will take a while to get the blades set to the right depth. Be patient, and be prepared to waste a few feet of cable. Once you get it right, you shouldn’t be nicking the center connector, and the braiding should be cut cleanly. Take the time to get this right. After it’s done, everything goes a lot easier. Trust me…
The first step is to strip the cable end. With the Vario, I will line the end of the cable up with the outside of the cartridge, and engage the rollers. I like to push the rollers up until they engage the cable, go another two clicks, then make a turn or two. After two turns, I’ll push the rollers all the way in to fully seat the blades and make 4 more rotations. After that, grip the side of the stripper and pull it straight off the cable end. If you have it adjusted correctly, it will look like this:
The next step is to crimp the center pin in place. I found with my 1389, I can close it 5 clicks then drop the pin into the .041 hole. I then slip that over the center conductor on the cable. A final few clicks on the crimper, and we’re done. Make sure you don’t twist the crimper when you put it on. Keep the center conductor straight. It should look like this (and not pull off under moderate tugging):
You’ll notice I’ve already put the outer sleeve on the cable (along with a heat shrunk label). I like to put the sleeve on before I start crimping so I don’t have to take the end off and put the sleeve on after I’ve adjusted it. Flare the braiding out a little bit, or if you’re using Kings, just gently slide the end over the cable. They thoughtfully put a little ramp on the connector that flares VPM-2000 pretty nicely. You should feel the center pin snap into place (it’s pretty subtle, but it does seat if your strip lengths are correct). It should look like this:
Now slide the sleeve up in place, making sure you don’t push the end off. This takes a little practice to get the feel, but it’s not hard. You should now have this:
Finally, put the sleeve (and everything else) into the right slot on the crimper (for a 2065-2-9, it’s a .255). Making sure to not jostle the connector off the end of the cable, gently crimp down. When crimping, you don’t have to squeeze extra-hard or anything; just complete the ratchet cycle. After you’re done, it will look like this (you will probably have to make an extra pass at it to finish the rest of the sleeve):
Now give it a little tug. It shouldn’t pull off even if you pull pretty firmly. If it slides off too easily, you are either using the wrong connectors for the cable, your crimper is not adjusted properly or you pulled the connector off while you were crimping. No big deal, cut the end off, re-strip and do it again.
It’s Not Hard
You can make these cables. And once you get the hang of it, wiring a video rack is easy, fun and makes the rack look really nice. The best piece of advice I can give is do your homework and get the right parts. All the manufacturers publish specs on which ends to use with which cable, and what crimp die sizes to use. Sometimes you need to dig a little bit, but you can figure it out. Don’t skimp on the tools, and they will last you a long time. Happy crimping!
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For those of us in the production department, Easter week (as defined as the week between Palm Sunday and Easter) is one of the toughest weeks of the year. Perhaps it’s because we typically have only 5 days to get everything ready (4 if you do Good Friday…), or perhaps because we pull out all the stops for the weekend, but it can be a killer for us. I’m not afraid of some hard work, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that A) I really don’t enjoy 80-hour weeks any more and B) I know I get cranky and irritable after about 60. The last thing I want to be on Easter morning is cranky and irritable, so I’m learning how to keep that from happening.
Pre-Build Anything You Can
In year’s past, we really did try to pack everything into those four days after Palm Sunday. This year, we learned from our Christmas experience, and pre-built a lot more. Weeks before Palm Sunday, my show files were done for the SD5, SD8 and M-48s. All I had to do was load them and start working. We pre-built some of the set the week before, and even installed the SD5 at FOH and SD8 at monitors the weekend before Palm Sunday, getting everything full functioning and operational.
Because of the work I was able to do with last year’s virtual soundcheck files, I pre-built all my vocal monitor mixes several weeks before as well. With a good 20-30 hours worth of work done before we even started the week, it was amazing how ahead we were.
Hit it Hard Up Front
This year, we were able to get a great team of helpers in on Palm Sunday afternoon to help with the set. In just two hours, the set was built, and we had already checked off half of Monday’s list. When Monday arrived, we started early, got all the lights in, set the band decks and fully wired and line-checked all audio before we went home. Granted, we didn’t go home until 11 PM, but we were essentially set for the whole week. Having all that work done by Monday night made the rest of the week go much more smoothly.
Take Time to Rest
Because we had rehearsal on Tuesday night, we decided not to come in until 12:30 that day. We spent the afternoon tweaking, checking and re-checking our set ups and doing some lighting programming. When we wrapped up at 9:30, we all still felt pretty good, having had a good night’s sleep, a quiet morning and only a 9 hour day.
Wednesday was even better. We came in for about 4 hours mid-day to run tracks from the previous night, and reset for Good Friday.
Thursday we again arrived at noon, so even when we left at 11 it was a long day, but it wasn’t 16 hours long. By the time we got to Friday, things were ready to go and we were reasonably rested.
Granted, by the time I got to Saturday, it was day 12 in a row for me, and I’m learning if I don’t get a full day off every 10 or so, I get cranky. So next year, I’m going to figure out how to take Wednesday off next year. It may mean working a little longer Tuesday or Thursday, but I think it will be worth it.
Now, what works for me may not work for you. If you’re young and spry, working twenty 12-hour days in a row may not wear you out. But when you’re old like me, that is not nearly as much fun. Rather than being aggravated and cranky all the time, I’m working really hard to figure out how to pace myself so I can stay positive all week.
It’s a funny thing, though. When we left at 2 on Wednesday, my wonderful ATD Jon texted me saying, “I feel guilty leaving this early, like we’re doing something wrong.” I reminded him that his boss said it was OK. But I can relate. I too, felt a little guilty. But I remembered, we’re not being paid to work 80-90 hours a week during Easter. We’re paid to produce a memorable and powerful Easter weekend. If we can do that and take a day off during the week, then I’d say we are doing something right.
What about you? How was your Easter week?
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No, you haven't tuned in to This Week in Livestock. Instead, it's a good discussion of current projects; a mobile video system, ancillary room audio updates, and making FOH more productive. Plus, In The News!