You're Doing It Wrong: Wireless Antenna Placement

These days I see a lot of images of wireless transmitters on set. These transmitters include Teradek, Hollyland, Accsoon and others. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon that they are very poorly placed. I've seen them placed at waist level mounted to tripod legs, under a laptop plates beside a card readers and power banks, directly against the back of monitors surrounded by a bundle of cables and even hanging off the bottom shelf of a cart.

Some examples I recreated:

Now, I have no idea if these people are having connection issues but I can assume they are not getting great performance from these systems considering how they are positioned. At the very least, range is being limited by bad placement of the transmitter. 

When it comes to wireless communication, the placement of the antenna is critical for proper transmission and reception. This is especially true for 2.4GHz and 5GHz transmitter antennas, which is typical of many wireless devices found on set. I will try to shed some light on this subject without going into the weeds of the somewhat magical science behind wireless transmission and antenna theory.

First, it's important to understand the characteristics of 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals. These signals have a relatively short wavelength and can be easily obstructed by physical objects such as walls, furniture, and people. As a result, the placement of the antenna is critical to ensure that the signal is not obstructed and can travel the desired distance.

It might help to visualize the pattern of an omni-directional antenna like you find on wireless HDMI transmitters and wireless routers.

Image source

The image above helps visualize a the transmission pattern from an omni directional antenna. Imagine the antenna is the Z axis the donut patten is the radiation of that signal from the source. So the signal radiates outward and not so much up or down.
If you want to dig a bit more into the finer details you can click on the link to the image source or this article about antenna patterns. 

The reason it's not ideal to place a transmitter at waist level on set is that human bodies can significantly affect the signals. The human body is made up of approximately 60% water, which is a good conductor of electromagnetic waves. This means that when a person is in the path of a 2.4GHz signal, the signal can be absorbed or reflected by the body, which can weaken the signal strength. This can vary depending on the distance between the person and the device.

One of the best places to mount a transmitter antenna is higher up, but not too high, ideally just above head height. Additionally, it should be centrally located in relation to the receivers Since the signals tend to radiate outward from the antenna in a circular pattern. By mounting the antenna above head height, the signal can travel in all directions, maximizing the coverage area and most obstacles in a room. (These considerations should also be considered for receiver units also.)

Bird's eye view of antenna patterns

It's worth mentioning that the placement of the antenna is not the only factor that affects signal strength and range. The quality of the antenna itself, as well as the power output of the device, can also play a significant role. In addition to the physical placement of the antenna, there are other factors that can affect the quality of the signal. These include interference from other wireless devices, such as microwaves, cordless phones, and other Wi-Fi networks To minimize these effects, you can choose a channel that is not already in use by other wireless devices in the area and to avoid placing the device near large metal objects or walls.

One way to help with placement of your transmitter while using a laptop kit on set it to use our Accessory Mount and Accessory Mount Pro. These two options allow for mounting a wireless transmitter just off to the side of your laptop plate. They get the transmitter out from under your shade or plate and give it a strong and stable mounting option. The Pro version can support more weight and can be used with iPads and Portable USB monitors.

I like to pair the Accessory Mount with a field monitor quick release as I mentioned in a previous post.

Accessory Mount Pro

The Accessory Mount Pro works well paired with a NATO rail, ARCA type clamp or field monitor mount.

Both of these options can offer you a safe, secure mount while not being a major impact on performance with sub optimal antenna placement.
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