A user’s review
Wireless video transmission systems are a crucial part of any large production. They let everyone from the director, to the focus puller and hair and makeup see what is going on. If you are a solo shooter or working in a small team, it’s often not cost effective to buy or rent a wireless video solution. The thing I have found with wireless video is you usually get a client asking for it but then they aren’t prepared to pay you any extra for providing one. The Storm 800 is still not what I would call budget friendly, but at $1880 USD, it is considerably cheaper than some of its competition.
The Vaxis Storm 800 Wireless HDMI/SDI Transmission Suite can send an uncompressed HD video signal via SDI or HDMI that the company claims has a zero delay. The suite includes one transmitter and one receiver, and both feature a 3G/HD SDI interface and an HDMI (1.3) interface. The Storm 800 can transmit and receive 525i, 625i, 720p and 1080p (up to 60P) signals over a distance greater than 800. Vaxis quotes a figure of up to 200m (656ft) on their website. If both the SDI and HDMI have valid video inputs, the system will take the 3G SDI input as a priority.
The transmitter uses two blade antennas, and the receiver uses five antennas that are built-into the housing. The antennas look more like propellers from a drone than the type used on most other wireless devices. The reason behind this design is that it helps the antennas mitigate dBi loss from reflections because the polarization does not change when the waves reflect off surfaces. The “sword” antennas have ceramic plates inside of them that according to Vaxis, increases the signal strength. This blade design was pioneered by Vaxis and now many companies such as Movcam and Kinefinity are using it.
They have also been designed to be very flexible and you can bend them around without having them break.
The Storm system operates on the 5.1-5.9GHz frequency band and it can be software configured to change the ISM band so that licenses can be given for it to work in different global regions. Getting certification for wireless devices can be tricky in certain countries around the world, especially Japan, Taiwan and Korea. The Storm systems currently only have FCC approval and can be used in most parts of the world. When I spoke to Vaxis they said that the Storm series will also soon have CE approval.
On the front of the transmitter and receiver, there is a control panel with an OLED screen and channel adjustment button. Up to 10 workable frequency channels can be chosen. On the OLED display, you can see indicators for wireless power status, temperature, video status and receiver RSSI. The Storm 800 lets you use up to four sets of wireless transmission suites all working simultaneously and in the same place (Multi-point to multi-point to transmit different images). There is also a USB input for upgrading firmware.
Another nice feature of the Storm 800 is that it supports metadata, timecode and run/stop control for ARRI, RED, Canon, Panasonic, and Sony cameras.
Power wise both the transmitter and the receiver have multiple options available. The transmitter features a SONY NP-F970 battery plate as well as a 6.5-16.8V DC 2-pin female LEMO input.
The receiver has a built-in V-lock or Anton Bauer Gold Mount battery plate (depending on which one you choose). It also has a 6.5-16.8V DC 2-pin female LEMO input. The Storm 800 receiver and transmitter draw<6W of power. The only thing I don’t like when it comes to the powering options is the fact that the system uses two different types of batteries. I would prefer to have seen a dual SONY NP-F970 battery plate on the receiver (even if it was an optional extra).
The nice thing about the Vaxis Storm 800 is that GM-Cine gives you 2x LEMO 2 pin male to D-Type conversion cables as standard. Not having to buy these cables as optional extras is a nice touch and a money saver. It also means you don’t have to go and try and source these cables from another company to power your wireless suite.
The receiver is a lot bigger than the transmitter and I imagine most of this has to do with the fact that Vaxis have chosen to incorporate a V-Lock or Anton Bauer Gold Mount battery plate. On one hand, I like the option of being able to power the receiver from a large camera battery, but on the other, I would prefer to have seen a more compact receiver.
The connectors, inputs and buttons on the Storm 800 receiver and transmitter are all solid and well made. The Storm 800 has mounting points on the bottom of the transmitter and receiver.