Crew conversation frequently turns to the problem of the rigger's remote: either why there isn't one in the rig, or if there is, why the damn thing has to have that annoying trailing cable. The $450 Focus 60 wireless remote from Deltatronics of Sydney, Australia, is the answer to that problem for DMX systems of up to 60 channels, at ranges of up to 160' (60m) indoors and 650' (200m) outdoors.
Matt Cawrse, head electrician at Perth Concert Hall, recently evaluated the Focus 60. "It's a pretty cool gadget. The absence of a cable is great. We already have a cabled DMX remote, but when I focus the auditorium wall ladders I start at the top and work down to avoid getting in my own way; then I have to climb halfway back up again to unplug the remote. I want one of these just to save me that hassle several times each gig."
The simple, lightweight (7oz, or 200g, including 9V battery) remote is compact enough to fit comfortably in a shirt pocket, but for safety it comes equipped with a small climber's carabiner to allow attachment to the user's belt or safety harness. The unit's seven keys allow any of the 60 channels to be faded up or down in level or cut directly to full or off. Holding down the off key for three seconds takes all channels to zero. Unlike some earlier attempts at cordless remotes which used infrared transmission, the Focus 60's 10mW UHF radio link does not require line-of-sight contact between the receiver and the remote, allowing it to be used from virtually anywhere in the venue: up a ladder, in the truss, under the stage, in a front-of-house roof slot, or even from the crew rec room.
Operating in the CCIR and ITU allocated Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (433.05 to 434.79MHz) band, well away from either VHF or UHF radio microphones, the radio link transmits check-summed data to ensure the integrity of the link in the hostile radio frequency environment that exists around most productions. Both the transmitter and receiver (pictured) feature internal helical wire aerials which enable the cases to be free of breakable external protrusions. Helical aerials, however, have a tendency to couple with nearby objects such as dimmer racks and people, making it important to follow the straightforward instructions for correctly locating the receiver unit.
The receiver not only outputs 60 channels of DMX, but also merges its output with an incoming DMX stream on a highest-takes-precedence basis. This allows the receiver to be located on a DMX cable anywhere between the control desk and the dimmers, eliminating the need for any switch-over mechanism between the desk and the Focus 60. Channels may be brought up backstage for setup and adjustment while the preset is still on the stage, something not always possible even on top-of-the-line wired remotes.
"The only real complaint that I've had about the Focus 60," reveals its designer Tim Schofield, "is that it only provides 60 channels of control. It was designed for small to medium systems but people seem to want to a device like this for large venues and touring rigs as well."