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Tips for Using Walkie-Talkie Lingo on Film Sets and More

Charles Yeager

Let’s take a look at common walkie-talkie lingo used on film sets and other two-way radio tips. Check these out.

If you’re going to use walkie-talkies on set, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the lingo! In this article, we explore walkie-talkie code words and how they differ from lingo 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 asked in regards to two-way radio communication is: “Why do we even need code words?”

The truth is, radio communication quality is far lower than something like a cellphone. Also, the radio probably won’t be next to your ear the entire time, and more likely, will be clipped to your clothing. Code words allow you to keep communication short, freeing up the radio channel for others. This allows you to say a lot with very little.


Walkie-Talkie Lingo

Walkie-Talkie Lingo
Walkie-talkie lingo varies depending on the profession.

Always remember that two-way radio code words varies depending on what industry or profession you’re working in. As an example, code words for a movie crew will likely differ from someone who is a medical first-responder, civil pilot, or in other fields. With that, let’s dive into the walkie-talkie lingo you’ll want to know on a film set.

  • 10-1 — Quick bathroom break.
  • 10-2 — Longer bathroom break.
  • 10-4 — Message understood.
  • 20 — Short for Location. Example: “What is your 20?”
  • 86 — When something needs to be removed. The term Strike is also commonly used. Example: “86 those props from set.”
  • Roger that — Alternative reply to 10-4, also means message understood.
  • Affirmative — Yes.
  • Negative — No.
  • Copy — Message heard and understood. You can also use this to ask if a message has been received. Example: “Do you copy?”
  • Disregard — Ignore the previous message.
  • Over — Message finished, awaiting reply.
  • Out — Finished communicating for the time being.
  • Go again — Please repeat the last message.
  • Radio check — Checking to see if your radio is working properly.
  • Loud and clear — Common reply to someone requesting a radio check.
  • Go for… — Reply to someone calling your name and that you hear them. A more specific reply than Copy. Example: “Go for Charles.”
  • On it — You are in the process of completing the task asked of you.
  • Stand by — Please hold for reply. Usually said when someone is busy and can’t properly reply yet.
  • Standing By — Awaiting further instructions.
  • Eyes on… — You can see the subject. Example: “I’ve got eyes on the transportation van.”
  • Lock it up — Don’t let anyone pass through, or lock up an area.
  • Flying in — I am currently on my way. Example: “I am flying into craft services.”
  • Keying — A person accidentally holding or bumping the talk button on their radio.
  • Kill — To turn something off. Example: “Kill the stage lights.”
  • Spin that — When a message needs to be conveyed to another radio channel. Example: “Spin that message to transportation on channel 3, please.”
  • Going off radio — Turning off your radio and won’t be in communication.

Film Set Lingo

Some lingo is more specific to film sets. These words aren’t limited to being used over two-way radios, but they’re used frequently. If you want a deeper dive into the origins of these phrases, check out the article Learn the Lingo: 15 Weird Filmmaking Terms.

  • Martini shot — The final shot before wrapping the set for the day.
  • Abby Singer — The second-to-last shot for the day. Also referred to as The Abby.
  • Sticks — Camera tripod. Also referred to as Legs.
  • Baby legs — Smaller set of tripod legs.
  • Juicer — Refers to an on-set electrician.
  • Stinger — Extension cord, usually colored black.
  • Brick — Charged camera battery.
  • Dead cat — Fuzzy windshield for a microphone.
  • Bogey — A person who isn’t supposed to be on the film set.
  • Four-banger — Trailer with dressing rooms.
  • First-team — Primary actors for a scene.
  • Second-team — Stand-ins/doubles for a scene.
  • A.D. — Assistant Director.
  • P.A. — Production Assistant.
  • Run-and-gun — Filming with little preparation and equipment. Typically used for documentary or low-budget filmmaking.

Walkie Talkie Channels on Set

Walkie-Talkie: Radio Channels
Different radio channels will be assigned to specific areas of production.

While working on set, different walkie-talkie channels will be assigned for specific areas of production. This makes sure everyone isn’t talking over each other on the same channel. Specific channels will vary, but the channel list is usually included on the daily call sheet. A common channel list might look something like this:

  • Channel 1 — Production.
  • Channel 2 — Open channel. Typically for longer, one-on-one conversations.
  • Channel 3 — Transportation.

Walkie-Talkie Etiquette

Walkie-talkie etiquette is extremely important. You don’t ever want to be “that guy” on set, making communication difficult for everyone else. However, the proper etiquette is pretty simple. First, speak clearly. This is by far the most important. If members of the crew can’t understand what you’re saying, you’ll be asked to frequently repeat yourself, which opens the doors for on-set mistakes and delays.

Next, follow the channel rules. Seems simple enough. Speak on the assigned channels from the call sheet, and make sure you’re on an open channel for longer conversations. Finally, learn the voices of the crew. This will come with experience, but it can vastly speed up conversations and communicating tasks. If you’d like to know even more, check out the article Production Tips: Walkie-Talkie Codes and Etiquette on Set.


Walkie-Talkies vs. CB Radios

Walkie-Talkie vs. CB Radio
Walkie-talkies are for short-range communication while CB radios are for longer distances.

Walkie-talkies and CB radios often get confused, so let’s take a look at the differences. Walkie-talkies (two-way radios) are perfect for most film sets because they’re relatively cheap and small. They’re perfect for working in a confined location or building. However, walkie-talkies can be a little deceptive if you’re expecting them to get long-range signals. And, a lot of walkie-talkies will advertise that “they can work up to five miles.” This is because two-way radios operate in two different modes.

The first mode is FRS (Family Radio Service). FRS operates on channels 1-14 and anyone can use them. The caveat is that they’re limited to a shorter range, which is realistically about half a mile. (So, nowhere close to 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 work over a much farther range, which realistically is about 2-3 miles.

CB radios (which stands for Citizen Band) are primarily used in vehicles, but handheld CB radios are available, as well. Handheld CB radios can be quite bulky, but they can work over much longer distances than walkie-talkies. The best part is, they don’t require a specialty FCC license! They’re great for long-distance location shoots.


NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Finally, if you want to take your walkie-talkie skills to the next level, you’ll want to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet—a universal alphabet system to help ensure clear communication. You’ve probably heard it used before in military movies, but it’s used all the time by civilians as well. It works by assigning a word to each letter, so that a letter’s name begins with the letter itself.

  • A — Alfa
  • B — Bravo
  • C — Charlie
  • D — Delta
  • E — Echo
  • F — Foxtrot
  • G — Golf
  • H — Hotel
  • I — India
  • J — Juliet
  • K — Kilo
  • L — Lima
  • M — Mike
  • N — November
  • O — Oscar
  • P — Papa
  • Q — Quebec
  • R — Romeo
  • S — Sierra
  • T — Tango
  • U — Uniform
  • V — Victor
  • W — Whiskey
  • X — X-ray
  • Y — Yankee
  • Z — Zulu

As for numbers, you can pronounce them as they are, except for the number nine which is always Niner.


Learn more about boots-on-the-ground filmmaking here:

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