Walkie talkie lingo film set

Walkie Talkie Lingo: How To Use Radios On A Film Set

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In this article we look at walkie talkie lingo, radio etiquette and how they should be used correctly on a film set.

Walkie talkies are a key piece of film equipment. They’re a fundamental way to communicate with the crew on set, however, there isn’t much training on how to use them.

Therefore, I’ve created some key do’s and don’ts to give new filmmakers some guidance. As well as an explanation for some of the walkie talkie lingo you’ll hear frequently over the radio, and what it all means.

Get Familiar With The Walkie Talkie Handset

walkie talkie station on film set

Firstly, get to know which buttons do what. Each radio is different, although generally they all have the following features:

  1. On / off + volume dial
  2. Channel switch
  3. A push to talk button
  4. Microphone + Loudspeaker
  5. Headphone connection

Obviously, when recording sound on set it’s important to use a headset / earpiece. Generally, these tend to come with the walkie unit, but you may want to invest in your own (like this one from Amazon).

Furthermore, when you’re on a shoot that’s more than one day, keep hold of your radio until wrap – especially, if you are using an earpiece.

Additionally, you should practice good hygiene and always remove your earpiece if you’re handing your walkie talkie to someone else.

Wear Your Walkie Talkie Correctly

camera crew walkie talkie belt

Undoubtedly, you’re going to get frustrated with a poorly fitted radio very quickly. For this reason, you should get it set up right from the start.

Firstly, a pair of well-fitted trousers is key. Because attaching a radio to baggy clothing weighs you down and you’ll spend the entire shoot constantly hitching up your trousers – it’s not a great look.

★ TOP TIP ★

For clothing without a waistband, invest in a good utility belt that you can clip your radio to.

Additionally, this doubles as a handy place for Sharpies, petty cash, your phone.

Secondly, tuck those wires away, because loose wires are dangerous.

Specifically, you should run the wires up the back of your shirt so the earpiece tracks over your ear correctly. Your mic should be clipped to a lapel or collar so it’s within reach for you to respond, with the right walkie talkie lingo, quickly.

Needless to say, fumbling around trying to locate your mic when someone is calling for you isn’t ideal.

Speak Clearly, Slowly & Keep It Short

Radio code film set

Muffled sentences that are cut off and long-winded chat are all no no’s when it comes to walkie talkie lingo.

In contrast, if you’re walkie talkie lingo is clear and concise over the radio, it’s going to make you seem more professional.

So, here’s the key instructions to follow:

  • Wait a beat before you talk to allow the connection to be established
  • Hold the mic 3-5 inches from your face to avoid a muffled voice
  • Speak at a moderate volume, you’ll soon be told you’re too quiet/loud
  • Be clear and keep it short – Don’t waffle on, be sure about what you’re saying
  • Listen & wait before you reply – Don’t cut someone off and always acknowledge that you understood.

Remember Everyone Can Hear You

Radio earpiece

In addition to my previous point, be mindful about how you conduct yourself with your walkie talkie lingo. Here’s the important do’s and don’ts:

  • Keep chat off Channel 1
  • Save the jokes for wrap
  • Be courteous with your walkie talkie lingo
  • Lose the attitude – even under pressure, remain calm
  • Think before you speak – remain professional, you may have clients on set 
  • Abusive and offensive behaviour is never OK

The AD Controls The Walkie

film set radio etiqette

After all, the AD’s job is to keep everything on track by clear, regular communication on the walkie talkie. Get to know their voice, listen for their cues and leave channel one clear.

Similarly, it’s good to learn crew members voices to identify which department might need help at any given moment.

Furthermore, respect the hierarchy of crew. Expect to give up your walkie talkie for someone senior or a Head of Department where required.

In addition, make sure your walkie talkie is working before you hand it over to them.

Get talking: Say Your Name

The first thing to learn about walkie talkie lingo is the way to address someone. You should begin with your name followed by the person you’re trying to reach.

For example; Natalie the Producer, is addressing Chris the AD:

Natalie: “Natalie to Chris”

Chris: “Go for Chris”

If members of crew have the same name, it’s good to use their title when addressing them;

Sarah Producer: Sarah Producer to Sarah AD”

Sarah AD: “Go for Sarah AD”

Walkie Talkie Lingo Code Words

Finally, it’s time to get schooled up on your walkie talkie lingo, so you’ll be confident on how to use them next time you’re on a film set.

Here’s the main lingo you’ll hear and use frequently:

  • Radio Check – “Is my radio working?”
  • Good Check – “Yep, it’s working”
  • Go for (name) – “I’m listening”
  • Go again / Repeat that – ‘I didn’t catch that, can you say that again?”
  • Copy / copy that – “I understood”
  • On it – “I’m working on that task”
  • Over – “End of sentence, you’re free to respond”
  • What’s your 20? – “where are you?”
  • Eyes on – “Has anyone seen (name)? / “I’ve got eyes on (name)”
  • Travelling – “The person / thing you asked for is coming now”
  • 10-1 – “I need the bathroom”
  • Stepping off – “I’m leaving set / I’m off walkie”
  • Stand by – “Please wait, I’m busy right now”
  • Standing by – “I’m waiting for further instruction”
  • Switch to 2 – “Switch your walkie to channel 2”
  • Switching – “Switching to channel (number)”
  • Switching back – “Switching back to channel 1”
  • Lock it Up – “Secure the set – don’t let anyone through”
  • Hold the work – “Stop what you’re doing off set, we’re about to shoot”
  • Going for a take – “Get ready to shoot”
  • Roll Camera / Turnover – “Start rolling camera / sound”
  • Back to ones – “Back to first positions”
  • Reset – “Reset the scene / action / camera position”
  • Final checks – “Wardrobe / Make Up / Art – check your department, we’re going for a take”

Also checkout this short video from StudioBinder which shows the basics.

Wrapping Up – Walkie Talkie Lingo

Like all aspects of honing your craft as a filmmaker, knowing your walkie talkie lingo is yet another one to add to your repertoire.

In short, do your research and practice, practice, practice. 👍

If you’re in the early stages of your career and working on short films or student projects with others who aren’t familiar with walkie talkie lingo, don’t be afraid to give it go and implement these tips.

Start using the correct walkie talkie lingo before you step onto a professional set and you’ll find you’ll be respected by the crew when you get the chance to work on a large scale production.   

Film Production, Filmmaking Tips

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