Whenever I hang out with fellow production guys at concerts, or at many larger churches, the tech guys always have radios. Usually compact Motorola or Kenwood units with those cool clip-on mic's over their shoulder. While I certainly saw the usefulness of those radios, I figured we didn’t need them for our church. We’re not really that big, and the productions we do aren’t that involved. Then came VBS…
For a variety of reasons, VBS was crazy production-wise. It was made crazier by the fact that I had an incredibly difficult time communicating with my ATD Jon. Though we had Clear-Com stations on stage, I spent an inordinate amount of time hitting the call button waiting for someone to answer. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but it was frustrating.
FRS Radios Don’t Do It For Me
To try to solve the problem, I pulled out the FRS radios we had bought a few years ago. Those didn’t help. In fact, they actually made the situation worse. Because we didn’t have mic's for them, we could hear when one of us called. In desperation, Wednesday afternoon I started looking for a real solution. I ended up with a pair of RCA BR-250’s along with a pair of speaker mic’s. They arrived Friday afternoon just in time for tear down.
Initially, I was bummed because I didn’t think we would really need them on weekends. But as fate would happen, we had a few issues that needed to be figured out with one person on stage and another in the booth. Radios to the rescue! It was magical. We both agreed by the end of the weekend that a good set of radios is a life saver.
Since summer, the radios have become a regular part of our weekend routine. As soon as we arrive on Saturday or Sunday, we clip them on and go to work. It’s amazing how nice it is to quickly ask a question, clear something up or relay some information by simply tipping our heads and talking into the mic.
Time Will Tell…And It Does!
Having used them for about 4 months now, I can’t imagine doing production without them. The last few weeks, while Jon was off getting married, I gave a radio to our teen volunteer lighting and sound techs (I’ve since bought a third). Again, it was fantastic to be able to answer questions quickly without shouting all over the auditorium. And I think the guys liked wearing them, to be honest.
Most major cities have dealers that sell business class radios; we bought ours from Discount Two-Way Radio. They are located north of LA, so it was a quick ship for me. We bought RCA because I found them quickly, they had a great feature set (though our needs are simple) and they were cheaper than the Motorola units I saw. They also have a 3-year warranty.
When I was in the fire service years ago, all our radios were Motorola, and they were bulletproof. You certainly wouldn’t go wrong with them, either. I would discourage anyone from trying cheap (sub $125) FRS units you can find at the sporting good store. They just aren’t solid enough for production. The RCAs were about $250 each with the mic and charger. While not cheap, they are well built, and most importantly, sound clear enough to be heard over the band during rehearsal. We can use them anywhere on campus and have no issues communicating.
More On The Way
I’m up to three of them right now, and I plan on adding at least one more this budget year to help out with larger events. Yes, they’re a bit expensive, but I’ve kind of reached the point where I’m done buying cheap stuff hoping it works. I actually threw the FRS radios in the trash one day because I was so frustrated with them (I later pulled them out and gave them to someone else…). I need stuff that works, and these do. Like I said, I can’t imagine doing a weekend without them now.