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LPA Design releases beta firmware for the PocketWizard MultiMAX  
Thursday, August 7, 2008 | by Rob Galbraith
USB Onboard: A PocketWizard MultiMAX with USB port. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
LPA Design has made available in beta form an update to the firmware for USB port-equipped PocketWizard MultiMAX radio remotes. Beta version 7.33 adds two features - an RF interference meter and a range-extending repeater function - plus it corrects a transmit mode bug.

The user-installable firmware, which can be replaced with the unit's earlier firmware again in the event a shoot-stopping problem is encountered, is available through the PocketWizard Utility, an application for Mac and Windows from LPA Design that handles the downloading and installing of firmware into MultiMAX units. PocketWizard Utility is compatible only with MultiMAX models that have a USB port. This MultiMAX variant began shipping in early 2008.

New in v7.33 beta

Version 7.33 beta introduces three changes:
  • Transmit mode bug corrected With v7.29, if the MultiMAX is turned on to TRANSMIT, set to channel 1-16 and the TEST button isn't pressed, the unit will transmit continuously, draining the unit's battery and clogging the airwaves. Version 7.33 beta fixes this.

  • RF interference meter added To help determine which channel offers the lowest RF interference, and secondarily to help in finding the ideal location to place the MultiMAX in proximity to likely sources of interference (such as the metal supports of a basketball backboard), the new firmware adds a screen showing the noise levels on the selected channel. Once the firmware is installed, set the unit to RECEIVE, then press *, then B, then L to access the RF interference meter. There are three readouts:

    • Fast Displays readings about as quick as the MultiMAX can measure, showing in real time the level of interference.

    • Slow Displays the highest reading from the last 150 measurements.

    • Peak Displays the highest measurement since selecting the current channel or performing a measurement reset (which is done with the A key).

    The highest value possible is 127, while readings below 40 are unlikely. Numbers in-between aren't particularly useful on their own as there is no magic number to aim for or threshold to stay below. Instead, the main purpose of this feature is to compare interference levels on one channel to another, so as to enable the selection of the cleanest channel, and then to find a mounting location for the MultiMAX that minimizes RF interference.

  • New repeater mode Not to be confused with the existing relay mode, which receives a signal on one channel and then immediately transmits on another, the new repeater mode is meant to be used exclusively to extend the range between the transmitter and a distant remote, on the same channel. For example, if you determine that you and your transmitting PocketWizard are going to be 1200 feet from a camera connected to a receiving PocketWizard, but the RF conditions are such that the reliable signal range is only 600 feet, you can place a MultiMAX at about the midpoint and set it to act as a repeater on the same channel as the transmitter and receiver.

    The number of repeaters you can employ is effectively unlimited, as long as no more than one repeater is receiving a signal at the same time. In the above example, if the transmitter to receiver distance was actually 3600 feet, you could place MultiMAX repeaters every 600 feet, for a total of five repeaters, to bridge the distance. Repeater one would receive a signal from the transmitter and pass it on to repeater two, which would in turn pass it on to repeater three, and so on.

    If only repeater two can "hear" repeater one's signal, and the same down the line from there, then all is good. If the spacing of the repeaters is too close such that, for example, repeater three and repeater two both receive the signal from repeater one directly, then communication errors can occur. Successfully using the repeater mode will require careful unit placement, especially when multiple repeater units are deployed.

    Note that repeater mode can be used to extend the range between not just a transmitter and a remote camera, but a transmitter and a distant strobe too (or anything else that you see fit to connect to a PocketWizard receiver). The additional signal hop does impose a slight additional signal transmission delay, of well under 1ms per repeater. In a typical transmitter-to-remote-camera configuration, the additional delay is undetectable, since adding less than 1ms to the firing time is insignificant when compared to the approximate 40-60ms shutter lag range of current Canon and Nikon pro digital SLRs. If, however, the configuration is transmitter-to-distant-flash, or you're trying to fire multiple remote cameras in sync with flash, then the repeater delay is definitely a factor, one that will require a slight slowing of the shutter speed (from 1/320 to 1/250, for example), depending on the camera and the number of repeaters.

    Configuring repeater mode is straightforward: set the MultiMAX to RECEIVE, then press the L key one or more times until it displays RPT in the lower right corner of the display.
The photos below shoe the RF interference meter and repeater mode screens on the MultiMAX with v7.33 beta installed.

Maxed Out: The RF interference meter display on the left, and repeater mode on the right (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Updating MultiMAX firmware

Installing v7.33 beta into a USB MultiMAX with PocketWizard Utility is also straightforward. If you have a MultiMAX with a USB port on the side (either a North American or overseas version) and want to try loading the firmware, follow a link below to download PocketWizard Utility:
A help button in the program provides direct access to a detailed description of the firmware update process, both loading in a new version and rolling back to the earlier version if necessary. The firmware update process has been made painless by LPA Design, at least in the Mac version of PocketWizard Utility we used (it took only a few mouse clicks and a few minutes to load and verify the beta firmware in four USB MultiMAX units).

That said, you'll want to read the help document carefully before proceeding, and the usual beta caution applies: this firmware might contain bugs which could foul you up on assignment.

Here's a quick look at what's involved:

Once PocketWizard Utility is installed and you've confirmed the batteries in your PocketWizard are fresh, launch the software, connect the MultiMAX to your computer via USB, then hold down the display light button while turning on the unit to RECEIVE. The MultiMAX will enter USB mode (the display will be blank and the red light will blink).

At that point, PocketWizard Utility should automatically recognize the connected MultiMAX and begin the process. The remainder of the steps are shown in the screenshots below.

Step One: Check for available firmware updates

Step 2: Download either the original firmware, beta firmware or both

Step 3: Start the update process

Step 4: Confirm that you want to do this

Step 5: The selected firmware is loaded into the unit, then verified

Step 6: The update process is complete

Availability of v7.33 final

LPA Design has not set a release date for the final, non-beta version of MultiMAX firmware v7.33. If bugs are found in the current v7.33 beta, they will probably release another one or more beta versions through PocketWizard Utility, but if no bugs are found in this or a subsequent beta release, that beta release may simply become the final version.

If you stumble upon a bug in v7.33 beta, or you have comments about it, you can let LPA Design know by sending an email with a description of the problem to Note that PocketWizard Utility lists a different email address for feedback, but Patrick Clow, Web Marketing and Tech Support Manager at LPA Design, indicates that the support email address is the best one to use during the beta period.

The company is also working on an update web page which will contain information on new firmware releases and links to PocketWizard Utility (for now, you can grab the software via the links earlier in this article).

Revision History
August 8, 2008: Added more info about repeater mode and changed the email address to send feedback.

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