The Deity TRS lineup really wants to do more than ever before, and prove to be a necessary item for indie filmmakers.
Timecode is simply hands down the best way to keep your audio and video in sync, but it's long been slightly too pricy for independent productions.
With the new Deity BP-TRX units, Deity is aiming to make this functionality available for smaller productions in a unit that is both affordable and flexible to a bunch of different workflows.
Deity BP-TRX at a Glance
The BP-TRX units are kind of everything all in one.
You can use them as both audio transmitters and receivers (hence the TRX in their name), which makes them incredibly flexible in a variety of workflows that may evolve over time. Buy them for a job where you need them for one thing, and you can use them for a different thing on the next job you didn't anticipate.
They work well as a wireless transmitter for a lavalier, and in fact, come with lavaliers in most configurations. Beyond that, they also have a built-in recorder, so they can live record the audio signal to avoid any drop-outs that come from wireless transmission.
Tested on three jobs so far they don't seem to drop out very often, even in the busy RF environment of Brooklyn, New York, but the MicroSD card slot is there if you need it (though it's not compatible with Sandisk MicroSD cards).
But that's not the end of it. They also do timecode.
Sync with Timecode
Timecode is hands-down the most exciting feature on the Deity BP-TRX. It's yet another tool that makes productions more efficient, and Deity is now making it affordable.
Of course, some cameras have timecode built-in, and there are wonderful units like the Tentacle Sync kit that also do timecode, but those are dedicated timecode-only units. The BP-TRX has all the other audio features and does timecode on top of that.
Timecode boxes still matter because, no matter how much we might love a camera, there isn't a camera out there where we trust the timecode to be stable over a long period. The timecode on all cameras can drift, and that is going to make the timecode useless when it comes to syncing up the audio and video in post-production.
We tested the Deity units using the timecode output of the Sound Devices MixPre-10 II (which has a full-sized SDI timecode out) and fed it into both the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and the Deity BP-TRX. Even a few short hours later, the Blackmagic had drifted, while the timecode box kept sync a full 12 hours later.
Right now there just isn't a camera we "trust" for timecode. Camera manufacturers have a lot of variables they are juggling when they put together their cameras, and reliable timecode without drift isn't necessarily the highest priority on their list. As they work to design every single ounce of color science and dynamic range into a camera while on a limited budget, less reliable timecode is a fair place to sacrifice.
This goes for everybody—RED, Blackmagic, even ARRI and Sony. Camera timecode is just never as reliable as the timecode in your audio mixer or your dedicated timecode box. Maybe that'll change in the future, but it's where we are now.
Frankly, we were surprised by the battery life. When used only as a timecode box, we never ran out of power during a normal day of shooting.
More surprising than that was how well the Deity units held charge in between shoots. We had pretty good charging discipline going on the shoot, so they both were "full" when we wrapped at the end of the last day. Our crew was habitual about plugging them in while we wrapped at night. Four weeks after wrap, on impulse, I plugged the Deity units in to charge, and they both reported as full.
Of course, these are relatively new units, and over time this reliability might fade, but this is a major difference compared to the rechargeable AA batteries we traditionally use for sound. Those never made it through the day, and would definitely not hold a charge just sitting in a bag for four weeks.
The Deity BP-TRX units charge perfectly with the USB-A to USB-C charger they ship with, but since they are USB-C, I also tried charging them with my USB-C Power Delivery multi-charger, and that feature is turned off.
Deity made this decision since there are issues with lower quality chargers pumping out too much power over USB-C, and a direct 100W hit to the charging port would cook the unit. USB-A is still ubiquitous on film sets and charged plenty fast for our use cases, so it's a reasonable decision, though it really does make us wish that USB-C power distribution across the industry had been rolled out with more structure so we would get the fast speeds available safely. It's not Deity's fault that USB-C charging is a bit of a "wild west," but it's a bummer nonetheless.
Is Doing Too Many Things Bad?
Some might justifiably wonder, should these little boxes do so many things? After all, it's more things to break.
My mom always refused to get a combo VCR/TV back in the 80s since she worried the VCR would break, leaving the TV useless, or vice versa. Since you can't use them for both audio and timecode at once (you switch them into Timecode mode), you might think, do I need both in one little unit?
There are two main reasons I think the design makes sense in this use case. First off, it's insanely affordable to have both in this unit. You are likely to spend roughly the same or even slightly more to get separate timecode and good quality audio receivers that are as compact, well built, and ready to use. Things like batteries and I/O hardware are the same for both audio TRX and timecode, so why not put them in one identical metal box?
Beyond that, the key here is flexibility. Timecode is a wonderful feature to have, but one you could sacrifice if you were desperate since you can always clap-slate in an emergency. I just did a job for three weeks with mostly one subject, mic'd up wirelessly, with the Deity on camera doing timecode. If that main wireless unit failed, the Deity timecode box could be back up to get us through the day.
If another actor came to set for just a single day, we could live without timecode and still have another wireless option.
Small crew shooting is all about flexibility. Having a spare wireless lavalier is a luxury we can't always afford, but if we're going to have a timecode setup, having that also serve as a backup wireless solution is amazing.
Another scenario with the Deity BP-TRX units is going the other way, from the mixer back to the camera to feed the mix into the camera to make the post workflow easier. On top of that, you can also set up the receiver as a director's audio preview, since it has a headphone level output in addition to just line output. It's surprisingly flexible.
Timecode is one of those things that turn multi-camera shoots into a breeze. Multi-camera work is also increasingly becoming the default in documentary production and even on narrative projects.
With more affordable timecode generating mixers like the MixPre-10 II lineup becoming more common, these units roll out a level of functionality that should be on most shooters' radar at a price that's hard to beat.