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|| News Item: Posted 2005-04-02

Pocket Wizard basics and then some! (Part 2)
The true story about Custom ID's

By Shawn Cullen

Here are the details on the Custom ID's for the PocketWizard units. There are 17 Frequencies in a US MultiMAX. Channels 1 - 16 share 344.04 MHZ and channels 17 - 32 each have their own frequency. You do "NOT" get a "private frequency." You get a Custom ID which is an exclusive digital code that rides ON TOP OF the PocketWizard frequencies.

It is a common misconception that you are getting your own frequency. Another way to say it is your Custom ID replaces the channel number, not the frequency (usually).

You can have the same ID on more than one channel but there are some things to know about that: If you have a Custom ID on Channel 17 then it will only work on Channel 17. The same is true for all the higher channels. If you have a Custom ID on a channel then all of your other channels work normally. This is usually done on purpose! If you need to buy a spare unit because your Wizard was crushed in a basketball incident, or you are teaming up with another photographer, then you can still have compatibility on the other channels.

So you could have Custom ID "A3B" on Channel 17 and on Channel 18, and they would be exclusive. Channel 17 (A3B) would not trigger Channel 18 (A3B) because, even though they are the same ID, they are on different frequencies. This can be changed in certain circumstances (see far below).

If you have a Custom ID on channels 1 through 16 however, operation is different because they are ALL on the same frequency. If you have Custom ID on Channel 5 and another unit with the same ID on Channel 12 then they will trigger each other because they are on the same frequency.

This is usually only important for folks still using the Classic PocketWizards which were the first to get Custom IDs. Classic Channels and MultiMAX ABCD channels are NOT compatible.

Custom IDs are only available directly through LPA Design. They are not available through Mamiya, the PocketWizard distributor. If you need to get your Custom ID units repaired then they usually go through LPA rather than Mamiya. Non-Custom ID repairs should go through Mamiya, however. Confusing, but that is the deal that helps LPA keep its sanity.

How much does it cost for a custom ID? The first ID in a unit is $50, so if you have 3 MultiMAXes then it is $150 for one ID on one channel. Additional IDs in the same unit are $25 each, so if you want 2 IDs in 3 units it is $75 per unit so $225. Shipping is on you both ways. Additional repairs performed at the same time are, well, additional. If you are in a big yank to get the units back in
less than two weeks then they usually charge a $50 expedite fee (only guarantees you move to the expedite list, doesn't guarantee a specific return date -- sorry!).

If you want a Custom ID and you don't already have a Custom ID of any kind, you simply tell LPA what channels you want to be exclusive and they will assign the IDs for you. If you already have Custom IDs then you need to tell LPA where you want them.

They can match IDs and frequencies in the upper channels if needed. Just contact them with what you want to happen when you push the trigger and they will help you make the decision. For example, you have 2 exclusive custom IDs, both on Channel 17. You want to be able to use both of those IDs from the SAME unit. They could, in that case, turn Channel 18's frequency into Channel 17's frequency with the same ID.

Can I get Bert Hanashiro's Custom IDs in my unit and snipe his flashes? Not unless LPA contacts him through their channels and he verifies it. Some organizations have a pool of Custom ID units with multiple photographers using the equipment. LPA needs to hear from the person in charge of those units before you can get an ID on your units that is the same as one in the pool. LPA has a very carefully maintained database of Custom IDs and contact info. The whole point of Custom IDs is that they are exclusive!

Virtually all PocketWizards, EXCEPT THE PLUS can get Custom IDs. Repeat - the PocketWizard Plus cannot get Custom IDs. Basically it has to have a MultiMAX level of functionality to get a Custom ID with the only exception being the Classics.

Who needs Custom ID's? Anybody that shoots at events where there may be another person using the PocketWizards. If you do not communicate with the other photographer about what channel they are on, there is the chance you could be on the same channel. This has happened to me! I worked with another photographer at a Padres game but we never talked. At the end of the game our 512mb card was full of batters swinging, with no play at the plate! The other photographer had a 1 GB and got what he needed.

Also, any photographer that shoots in a building that has multiple studios should have Custom ID's. You never know if one of the other studios gets rented out to a photographer who does not check with everybody else about their PocketWizard channels.

These products are easy for LPA to do and thus are subject to the pricing I've mentioned:
PocketWizard Classic
PocketWizard MAX - (and a great time to upgrade to MultiMAX!)
PocketWizard MultiMAX
These products are slightly more difficult, and MIGHT require additional service time charges on top of the Custom ID charge:
PocketWizard inside cameras (that means cameras that already have a built-in PW, not any camera)
PocketWizard inside Sekonic Meters.
These products are MUCH more difficult and WILL require additional service time charges on top of the Custom ID charges:
PocketWizard Inside flash/strobe packs (ones that already have PWs built-in, not any flash)

Last but not least

Fast Mode just might be the most valuable feature that is never used. This feature allows the Receiver unit to trigger the lights or your remote camera faster! It shortens the delay from 1/2000th to 1/4000th of a second. If you have been in a situation where your camera has a thin band of clipping even at the recommended sync speed for that camera this feature will help. It might even help when trying to use a little faster sync speed. This feature is only available on the MultiMAX and on channels 17-32.

It is highly recommended that every time you turn on your PocketWizard MultiMAX or when in doubt, reset the MultiMAX unit to factory settings. This will clear out any of the advanced settings you may have used the previous time and will help cut down on mistakes. You do this by holding the "C" button while you set the power switch to either Receive or Transmit. Release the "C" button when the CLEAR/RESET message appears.

After turning on your PocketWizard MultiMAX and putting in all your settings, it is a good idea to lock the key pad. This way the lid of a hat, a bulging forehead, or some misguided fingers do not accidentally change any of your settings. You can do this by pressing and holding the Back Light key in until you see the message "KEYPAD LOCKED".

To check the software version on your MultiMAX, hold the "A" button while you set the power switch to RECEIVE or TRANSMIT. Release the "A" button when the software version appears. This will not reset the unit to factory settings. The latest software version is v 3.28. If your unit needs to be upgraded you should contact LPA or Mamiya about sending it in.

If you do not already keep your PocketWizard Manual packed in with your equipment, this is a reminder to do it now. Also, I highly recommend downloading the Quick Guides and keeping that packed with your equipment as well. If you have lost your manual and need a new one, you can download it, as well as, the Quick Guides from the PocketWizard web site or from this link,

Also on the PocketWizard web site is a page that allows to you to choose exactly what you want to know about without having to search through the manual. It even has pictures and step-by-step instructions on several features of the MutliMAX. Here is the link, Then on the far right side of the page click on "MutliMAX Operating Essentials". If this page does not have the info you are looking for, feel free to contact PocketWizard here, and you can also try the PocketWizard forums,

*Lastly, as of summer '06 the PocketWizard Classic will no longer be supported by LPA or Mamiya. If there are still any available on store shelves, LPA will honor the 1 year warranty. Weird I know!

The vast majority of this information is from Jim Clark and Patrick Clow of LPA Design, as well as the PocketWizard manual.

Hope this helps!

(Shawn Cullen is currently Sports Illustrated lighting technician. He can be reached through his member page:

Related Links:
Cullen's member page

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