Let's take a look at common walkie-talkie language used for movie sets and other two-way radio tips. Check out these.
If you're using walkie talkies on set, familiarizing yourself with the jargon is a good idea! In this article, we examine walkie-talkie code words and how they differ from colloquial language in other professional fields. We'll also explore other tips like radio etiquette and the difference between radio types.
Why not just speak normally?
One of the most common questions about bidirectional radio communication is: "Why do we need code words at all?"
The truth is that the radio communication quality is far lower than that of a cell phone. Also, the radio is unlikely to be next to your ear all the time and is more likely to be attached to your clothing. With codewords you can keep the communication short and release the radio channel for others. You can say a lot with very little.
Walkie-talkie jargon varies by profession.
Always remember that two-way radio codewords vary by industry or profession. For example, code words for a film crew are likely to be different from those who are medical first responders, civilian pilots, or other industry fields. Let's dive into the walkie talkie jargon that you might want to learn about on a movie set.
- 10-1 – Quick bathroom break.
- 10-2 – Long bathroom break.
- 10-4 – Got the message.
- 20th – Short for place. Example: "What's your 20?"
- 86 – When something needs to be removed. The term strike is also often used. Example: "86 these props from the set."
- Understood – Alternative answer to 10-4 also means that the message was understood.
- positive – Yes.
- negative – no
- Copy – Message heard and understood. You can also use this to ask if a message has been received. Example: "Are you copying?"
- Disregard – Ignore the previous message.
- about – Message finished and waiting for a reply.
- out – Communication ended for the time being.
- Go again – Please repeat the last message.
- Radio check – Check that your radio is working properly.
- Loud and clear – Frequent response to someone requesting a radio check.
- Go for … – Answer someone who calls your name and that you can hear them. A more specific answer than Copy. Example: "Go for Charles."
- Thereon – You are in the process of completing the task you have set.
- Stand by – Please stop for the answer. Usually said when someone is busy and cannot yet answer correctly.
- Stand by – Waiting for further instructions.
- Open eyes… – You can see the subject. Example: "I have my eye on the van."
- Lock it up – Do not let anyone through or cordon off an area.
- Fly in – I am on my way. Example: "I'm flying into craft services."
- Keying – A person who accidentally holds or presses the talk button on their radio.
- Kill – To turn something off. Example: "Kill the stage lights."
- Spin that – When a message has to be transmitted to another radio channel. Example: "Please turn this message to channel 3 for transport."
- Turn off the radio – Turn off your radio and do not communicate.
Lingo movie set
Some jargon is more specific to movie sets. These words are not limited to radio use, but are used widely. If you want to dig deeper into the origins of these phrases, check out Learn the Lingo: 15 Weird Filmmaking Terms.
- Martini shot – The last shot before packing the set for the day.
- Abby Singer – The penultimate shot of the day. Also known as The Abby.
- Sticks – camera tripod. Also known as legs.
- Baby legs – Smaller tripod legs.
- Juicer – Refers to an electrician on the set.
- Stinger – Extension cords, usually colored black.
- Brick – The camera battery is charged.
- dead cat – Fuzzy windshield for a microphone.
- leprechaun – A person who isn't supposed to be on the set.
- Four bangs – Trailer with changing rooms.
- First team – Leading actor for a scene.
- Second team – Stand-ins / doubles for a scene.
- DISPLAY. – Assistant director.
- P.A. – Production assistant.
- Run-and-gun – Shooting with little preparation and equipment. Usually used for documentary or low budget movies.
Walkie talkie channels on the set
Different radio channels are assigned to certain production areas.
While working on the set, different walkie-talkie channels are assigned to specific production areas. This ensures that not everyone is talking about each other on the same channel. Certain channels vary, but the channel list is usually included on the daily call sheet. A general channel list could look something like this:
- Channel 1 – production.
- Channel 2 – Open the channel. Usually for longer one-on-one meetings.
- Channel 3 – transportation.
Walkie talkie etiquette
Walkie-talkie etiquette is extremely important. You never want to be "that guy" on set, which makes communication difficult for everyone else. Proper etiquette, however, is pretty simple. First, speak clearly. This is by far the most important. When crew members cannot understand what you are saying, they will ask you to repeat yourself often, which opens the doors to errors and delays on set.
Next, Follow the channel rules. Seems simple enough. On the call sheet, speak through the assigned channels and make sure you are on an open channel for longer conversations. Finally, learn the voices of the crew. This will come with experience, but it can speed up conversations and communication tasks significantly. If you want to know more, check out the article Production Tips: Walkie-Talkie Codes and Etiquette On Set.
Walkie talkies versus CB radios
Walkie-talkies are intended for communication over short distances, while CB radios are intended for longer distances.
Walkie talkies and CB radios often get confused. So let's look at the differences. Walkie-talkies are perfect for most movie sets because they are relatively cheap and small. They are perfect for working in confined spaces or in buildings. However, walkie talkies can be a bit misleading if you expect them to pick up long range signals. And many walkie-talkies will advertise that "they can work up to five miles". This is because radios operate in two different modes.
The first mode is FRS (Family radio service). FRS works on channels 1-14 and anyone can use them. The caveat is that they are limited to a shorter range, which realistically is around half a mile. (So nowhere near five miles!) The second mode is GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service), which requires a special FCC license to operate. GMRS operates on channels 15-22 and they operate over a much greater range which realistically is about 2-3 miles.
CB radios (which stands for Citizen Band) are primarily used in vehicles, but hand-held CB radios are also available. Handheld CB radios can be quite bulky, but they can work much longer distances than walkie talkies. The best part is that you don't need a special FCC license! They are great for remote shooting.
Phonetic NATO alphabet
If you want to take your walkie-talkie skills to the next level, you should learn NATO's phonetic alphabet – a universal alphabet system that ensures clear communication. You've probably heard that it is used in military films, but civilians use it all the time too. It works by assigning a word to each letter so that a letter's name starts with the letter itself.
- ONE – Alfa
- B. – Bravo
- C. – Charlie
- D. – Delta
- E. – echo
- F. – Foxtrot
- G – golf
- H. – Hotel
- I – India
- J. – Julia
- K. – pounds
- L. – Lima
- M. – Mike
- N. – November
- Ö – Oscar
- P. – Father
- Q. – Quebec
- R. – Romeo
- S. – Sierra
- T. – tango
- U. – uniform
- V. – Victor
- W. – whiskey
- X. – X-ray
- Y. – Yankee
- Z. – Zulu
You can pronounce numbers as they are, with the exception of the number nine, which is always Niner.
Find out more about filmmaking on site here: