This tentacled outpost struck icy fear in the hearts of my classmates (and myself) the first time we saw it. That’s reasonable, after all. Not many people see or know much more of audio than earbuds and volume knobs, and this contrivance is a bigger beast to tame. It’s a frightening mess with a dozen color coded cables sprouting forth, snaking to other mysterious parts of the studio, connected to other pieces of equipment that we had to learn.

The Studio Wall Box
And we did learn them. Our instructors were top-notch professionals. They took their time, nursed their frayed nerves, and answered all our questions, including mine (which typically veered beyond where the expected questions lead).

Now, having completed the course, I can decipher the interface of the wall box with ease. I understand its purpose. It is, essentially, a large wall-mounted hub that connects a variety of studio floor inputs, such as microphones and monitors, to peripherals and hardware in the Control Room.

Audio Mixer Inputs
This area is for connecting microphones, which will be adjusted via mixer in the Control Room. There are seven XLR cable heads plugged into an 8-port bay on the upper left side of the wall box. These are joined into one larger cable that spans the length of the studio and has an 8-port head on the opposite side. This unit is called a snake and allows for up to eight microphones to be connected to it. We connected all mics—lavaliers or handheld mics—into the snake, so we didn’t have to connect individual mics into the wall box.

Our Clear-Com headsets were plugged into the two aptly-named Clear Com ports. There were two ports and three headsets, so we daisy-chained the second and third headsets together.

The floor manager used one headset and the two camera operators used the other two headsets. The Director, using the other end of the Clear-Com intercom in the Control Room, spoke instructions to the Floor Manager or Camera Operators through the Clear-Com headsets, and they carried out their orders accordingly. Using headsets to communicate is obviously a better solution than shouting across the studio floor, where the microphones would pick up the Director’s voice.

T-Prompt and Video
These two ports aren’t labelled as conspicuously as the others, despite their equal importance. T-Prompt is the port for the teleprompter. There is only one port, so the two teleprompters in the studio have to be daisy-chained together with BNC cables (we learned that all video connections rely on BNC cables, while audio relies on XLR cables). The Video port is for connecting the studio monitor to the wall box, so a video feed of the hot camera can be displayed to the floor personnel.

This brief explanation of the studio wall box should help you understand the mechanics of the wall box you may find when you enter the studio you’ll work in. Your ports may be labeled differently, and there may be more or fewer ports than shown in the photo above. Keep in mind that the wall box is simply a hub that connects the studio floor equipment to the Control Room equipment. Plug your equipment into the appropriate ports and all should be well.