It's time to check something we usually rarely deal with: an intercom! More precisely, it is the Hollyland Mars T1000 Intercom – a digital full-duplex radio system for up to 5 people, which is theoretically perfect for a small device. Let's take a closer look!
Intercom Systems On Set – A Nuisance Or An Asset?
With many larger movie sets, especially commercial productions, intercom systems are standard practice – AD and manufacturers communicate with their PAs on one channel, and the gaffer speaks with their electricians on a different channel. Even so, even the most modern equipment often uses old systems that suffer from acoustic noise or generally poor sound quality. It's not a priority for many production companies, but it can be quite annoying with the crew if it doesn't work properly. Many use their cell phones instead. It doesn't have to be like this if better, noise-free (digital) systems are used.
On the other hand, intercom systems are typically not used on smaller devices. Either because the production company thinks it doesn't fit the type of production (e.g. a small documentary crew of 5 that I work in frequently), because of the cost or the practicality of using such a system ( many require AC power). Cell phone calls are considered “good enough” when something else would be much more practical in many cases.
When I heard about the Hollyland Mars T1000 Intercom System, I was fascinated: a digital system that seems small and affordable enough to be used on smaller devices, with a promised "carrier-grade voice quality" that actually sounded very interesting .
Hollyland Mars T1000 intercom. Image credit: CineD
What's in the box of the Mars T1000? Content and built quality
When I opened the box, I was surprised at how much was in the Hollyland Mars T1000 Intercom System: the base station plus 4 belt pouches and 5 headsets. Two antennas for the base station as well as a spare antenna and spare headphone covers for all 5 headsets and school bags for all. A 4-pin XLR power supply for the base station and an NPF style battery holder (Sony) on top of the base station. Really a very comprehensive setup and nothing that was missing, with spare parts that I wasn't actually expecting. And all of this from a company (Hollyland) best known so far for wireless video systems, an unexpected new product!
Belt pouches – robust with a built-in battery
Even more surprising in terms of processing quality: the belt pouches are made of solid aluminum with built-in antennas. To me, the waist packs are the most important part of intercom systems as they really need to be able to withstand blows – they get tossed around, fall to the ground, etc. – and the Mars T1000 waist packs even come with a built-in strap -in antennas that look like they won't break off easily (always a problem with devices with antennas sticking out!).
Belt packs for the Hollyland Mars T1000 intercom system. Image credit: CineD
The battery is built in … now that's good and bad of course, on the one hand it's good for robustness because it can't just fall off (yes, we all know the intercom systems that often do this !!), but that it means you can't just switch to a full battery when the built-in is empty. However, when fully charged, it takes about 8 hours (i.e. 8 hours of continuous use without switching off in between!). Given normal usage, this means you should be able to last through a full day of shooting. Still not ideal, but for this type of system – let's call it a "prosumer intercom system" – I think it is right to put the battery in the belt pouch.
Base station – solidly built, 4 USBs for charging
The base station is also made of solid aluminum. It also looks like it will be very durable but it will usually live in the video village or anywhere the director or AD sit. The base station itself has a headphone jack for one of the headsets. Both the base station and belt packs have OLED screens for settings, and there are some very basic settings on the base station that you can change, such as: B. for a noisy or quieter environment.
Base station of the Hollyland Mars T1000 Intercom System. Image credit: CineD
The base station has 4 USB Type-A ports on one side, via which the four belt packs can be charged using the 4 USB-A to USB-C cables supplied. Very nice idea, no additional USB charger required for this system. In addition to these 4 ports, there is also an additional USB-C port for firmware updates.
You can even daisy-chain a second base station over Ethernet to connect up to 10 people to two Mars T1000 intercom systems. A smart move that makes your small system somewhat scalable (although there is a maximum of 10 people, you can't add a third system to a network).
Mars T1000 base station power supply – AC power or batteries
The Mars T1000 base station can either be operated with a 4-pin XLR cable (included) or with NPF batteries. As mentioned earlier, this is a great idea that makes you very independent. You can literally take this system to the top of a mountain and still communicate with your crew without the need for AC power or other funky battery improvisation. We tested this and it works like a pleasure – I also applaud Hollyland for using the NPF standard which guarantees these batteries are cheap to buy and also easy to get anywhere as this is such a widely used standard.
One thing that keeps bothering me about a lot of other intercom systems is the fact that the headsets often hurt or don't sit perfectly on my head. Nothing is more distracting than a headset that you have to wear all day long (e.g. on a multicam production linked to the director) which gives you a headache because it presses against your head and there is nothing you can do about it .
Headsets supplied with the Hollyland Mars T1000 Intercom System. Image credit: CineD
Fortunately, I find the headsets Hollyland ships with the Mars T1000 extremely comfortable. I have a relatively large head and it fits me very well, although it can of course be adjusted to different head sizes. The headphone case completely surrounds your right ear, which is great – there is no pressure on your ear so wearing the headset for long periods of time is not a problem. In addition, the headset is generally very light and doesn't feel like a full-fledged headset when worn. The microphone in front of your mouth can easily be adjusted to any desired position. However, I can only recommend wearing it as close to your mouth as possible to ensure good audio quality.
Very comfortable: the Hollyland intercom headphone cover.
In terms of frequencies, there's nothing you can really change (which I found) – the Hollyland Mars T1000 system operates in the 1.9 GHz band, the upper limit of the frequency band used by GSM systems. This means that it works on the same wavelengths as cell phones, which can cause interference in high-traffic areas (e.g. if you operate the system during an event with many people nearby – okay, let's assume they are Kind of events will occur again after 2020 is over ….). It is something to be aware of and plan accordingly before landing on the set and you will not be able to use it due to interference.
In terms of audio quality, communicating with the Mars T1000 sounds pretty much like a cell phone call over a normal cellular connection. The audio quality is not as clear as a VOIP call (such as Facetime Audio or WhatsApp call), but rather like a normal GSM call.
There appears to be a little more acoustic noise than normal cellphone communication, but it is negligible. When connected, the quality is quite decent.
From what I've found in louder environments, it sometimes seems like I turned the volume all the way up to hear my counterpart. This may also be related to how close the other person's microphone is to their mouth – these are tight microphone headsets. Therefore, it is recommended that the microphone almost touch the lips when speaking. Just be sure to change the foam and disinfect the headset before changing people.
If the connection is lost, the audio is really unusable – typical behavior for a digital system. This is pretty similar to being in an area with poor phone coverage. It just sounds like this: at first you only hear snippets of what the other person is saying, and then the connection is completely broken. Sometimes there is a hissing sound before the display shows “LOST”. And that actually brings us to the next point: achieving.
Range and connection
Hollyland claims the Mars T1000 system has a range of approximately 300 meters. Of course, this only applies to lines of sight. To test this – you can see it in the video above – I left the studio and walked down the street, initially with the base station still in the studio. It held the connection all the way down the stairs and then it broke up by the time I was about 50 yards from the office. Not a long range, but “good enough” for such a system, considering that there were very thick and old walls between me with my belt pouch and the base station.
The next test was a line of sight test, and our "equipment wizard" Florian stayed with the base station at the open window and I walked down the street. What is remarkable is that it is clear that even a car or an electric scooter can cause interference when driving by. Nevertheless, I was able to approach the claimed 300 meters distance, maybe around 250 meters before the connection was interrupted. What is strange is that when you get close to the base station, the link doesn't necessarily reconnect automatically. It is helpful to turn the belt pouch off and then on again as it appears to be "harder" to reconnect. Sometimes the link jumped from no link to a 3 bar link by just walking back a few feet. But we all know how funky cell phone reception can be. It is clear that this is the same behavior.
Comfortable: The headset is nice to wear, and that was during our long-distance test on the road. Photo credit: Nino Leitner
Conclusion – Mars T1000 Intercom
I can recommend the Hollyland Mars T1000 Intercom System to people looking for an affordable and durable communication solution for small sets and small teams. Range is a problem. So be aware that it won't work within a radius of about a kilometer, but it doesn't have to work that far – even indoors, as long as people aren't too far apart should do its job well. The durability is great and I can see the thing taking a beating. In fact, I think it is suitable for rental in case you decide to rent it out to someone else. The price doesn't seem that low at first glance, but it's quite affordable compared to similar solutions on the market. I definitely plan to use it for a lot of my upcoming shoots when communicating in a small crew. Thumbs up!
Hollyland is currently running an action on the system through the end of September. The normal price is $ 1,800, now it's a little over $ 1,500. Please support us with further reviews by using our links below! Thank you very much.
Do you use intercom systems like the Mars T1000 for your productions? Which? Do you like to use them or do you want to buy one? Let us know in the comments below!