Report on Steadicam AA battery option at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Stabilizers (Steadicam etc.)


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old January 20th, 2008, 01:46 PM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Report on Steadicam AA battery option

With some trepidation, I ordered my Steadicam Pilot with the AA battery option, hoping it would provide a sufficiently long power cycle for the 5.8" LCD monitor. The alternatives, Anton Bauer or V-Mount, would have forced me to spend at least $1300-1400 for a two battery and dual charger setup (based on pricing from Tiffen's site).

Since none of my current or planned-for gear uses either of those, my HVX200 uses the same batteries as my VidLed and Marshall monitor (with the Nebtek battery adapter), and I already use AA batteries for lavs and the Letus Extreme (coming soon), the AA option seemed like a good bet. So I bet on it.

Here's what I got, all from Thomas Distributing: http://thomasdistributing.com

24 Maha Powerex 2700MAh NiMH batteries (the Pilot uses 10):

http://thomasdistributing.com/shop/-...9ihidqkac1vsn2

And two Maha MH-C801D 8-slot chargers:

http://www.thomasdistributing.com/ma...ry-charger.htm

For a total of $228 including shipping. That's a lot less than the price of just *one* battery from either of the other options.

Yesterday I finally had a chance to test the power cycle of the system in use. It ran 4 hours and 15 minutes continuously on freshly charged cells. That's approximately the same as the HVX's batteries (although I haven't formally timed them in the same manner).

The charger is a high-speed unit, and while I have not timed it charging completely discharged cells (which I will do soon) it claims to be able to do so in an hour. I think that is for somewhat lower capacity batteries though, so I'm guessing about 90 minutes. What it should mean is that with two sets of 10 AAs and two chargers I should easily be able have continuous operation of the LCD. The six additional charging slots should cover my lavs and Letus as well.

A side note: Thomas Distributing evidently likes to thow in freebies, and they turned out to be quite welcome. I received several 8-battery snap cases for the AAs which are indeed handy. Also included were two small zipper pouches that appeared to be pretty much useless as the chargers didn't fit in them and the battery cases were already handled. Then I discovered that four HVX200 batteries happen to fit *perfectly* in them. I've got eight of 'em, so the two little pouches cover that to a T. Nice!

I hope this info will be useful to other budget-minded prospective Pilot buyers.
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 22nd, 2008, 12:23 AM   #2
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Bozeman, MT
Posts: 215
Thanks, Ted! I am seriously eyeing the Pilot, and the biggest question mark for me has been the issue of the batteries. This information is extremely helpful!
Frank Simpson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 23rd, 2008, 05:48 AM   #3
Trustee
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Singapore
Posts: 1,498
nice info. About the 4hrs, is it based on 10 batt or 20 batt?
Sean Seah is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 23rd, 2008, 08:49 AM   #4
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Seah View Post
nice info. About the 4hrs, is it based on 10 batt or 20 batt?
4 hrs 15 minutes continuous on one set of the ten 2700 MAh batteries (at room temperature - batteries are quite a bit less efficient outdoors in wintertime).

These, btw, are as far as I know, the highest capacity AAs batteries available. The battery/charger combo I found was the fruit of about a 10 hour internet search session, reading reviews, etc. Best price/performance/quality combo I could find anywhere by far.
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 23rd, 2008, 10:09 AM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 2,966
Nice info Ted. I thought about doing the AA option, but ended up spending the 'battery' money. I'm a little annoyed at Frezzi at this point because the light/battery kit I ordered needs the pilot to run the light, i.e. the battery doesn't have a side plug that I can run the light off of, the battery has to be mounted. So you may have come out better than you thought. I'm still in communication with Frezzi for an economical solution. For 1600.00 dollars you'd think they would have given me a better solution......vent over.
__________________
What happens if I push the 'Red' button?
Steven Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2008, 10:57 AM   #6
Trustee
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Singapore
Posts: 1,498
hi Ted. So how much did u pay for the whole pilot including the batt?
Sean Seah is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2008, 11:28 AM   #7
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
So I'm curious guys, because I'm looking into some alternative power setups for the Pilot. Did you all research the available 14v solutions out there outside of the standard brands (Anton Bauer etc), such as the Varizoom batteries for instance? Quite a bit cheaper but obviously still more than AA's. I'm wondering if there is interest in a battery solution that costs a certain amount more than AA's but has the advantage of a single-unit design. I personally can't fathom the concept of having to manage individual cells coming out of the rig and going into a charger every time the power goes down. Plus would you not agree that it would be much easier to work if you were relying on a single battery to power ALL of your accessories? I would think with the situation that Ted describes, you'd have to be regularly checking the Letus and the lavs to make sure they are still powered, plus you have something like 4 separate camcorder batteries onboard when using the monitor and light, any of which could go down in the middle of a take? Just trying to get a bead on all this, it's a very different way of working than I am used to and it seems like a big cluster-f (understood that it is budget-dictated, but I am looking into solutions for this--just need to know that the market is feeling the pain).
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2008, 01:17 PM   #8
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Seah View Post
hi Ted. So how much did u pay for the whole pilot including the batt?
Well...I have some "industry friends", so I got a deal that is not available generally, and that I can't discuss publicly. But it was not a lot less...

The best deal I've seen otherwise for the Pilot is at B&H for $3800. The batteries and charger were $228, so it's just over 4 grand...
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2008, 01:39 PM   #9
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
So I'm curious guys, because I'm looking into some alternative power setups for the Pilot. Did you all research the available 14v solutions out there outside of the standard brands (Anton Bauer etc), such as the Varizoom batteries for instance? Quite a bit cheaper but obviously still more than AA's. I'm wondering if there is interest in a battery solution that costs a certain amount more than AA's but has the advantage of a single-unit design. I personally can't fathom the concept of having to manage individual cells coming out of the rig and going into a charger every time the power goes down. Plus would you not agree that it would be much easier to work if you were relying on a single battery to power ALL of your accessories? I would think with the situation that Ted describes, you'd have to be regularly checking the Letus and the lavs to make sure they are still powered, plus you have something like 4 separate camcorder batteries onboard when using the monitor and light, any of which could go down in the middle of a take? Just trying to get a bead on all this, it's a very different way of working than I am used to and it seems like a big cluster-f (understood that it is budget-dictated, but I am looking into solutions for this--just need to know that the market is feeling the pain).
LOL!

Yeah it could appear to be a cluster-f I'm sure... : )

The Pilot's AA batteries are in a snap-in/slide-in cassette that I could certainly get another of if the above description were to become a reality. It wouldn't pop off and on quite as well as a single battery would, but it would be close.

The HVX battery is what it is, and will die when it dies, so you're going to have to deal with that regardless. I've got eight of 'em, and a Dolgin 4-place charger. As for the VidLed and Marshall monitor, it just seemed to make sense economically to keep one battery standard. I've found Panasonic compatible 5400MAh batteries on eBay for about $24 apiece that are working just as well so far as the $150 (at B&H) Panasonic OEM ones. If I know the typical running time per device per battery (considering the temperature du jour), I'll know about when to expect changes.

My primary shooting scenario is going to be narrative style, so continuous operation isn't likely to be necessary. P2 cards will need to be changed, dumped and formatted as well. Hopefully, I won't find myself in the scenario you envisioned : )
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2008, 07:39 PM   #10
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
You still have to take the batteries out of the cassette to charge them individually, right?

Doc work I don't do, I'm pretty much all narrative. To me, rolling out or having a battery go down in the middle of the take should be an avoidable evil--you can lose a great take that way. Having a single battery controlling everything may mean more changeouts during the day, but you only have one gauge to keep an eye on and with practice you never have to risk having something shut down on you.

So what if you had a single battery source that powered everything for you; on the Pilot, it would live at the bottom of the sled and have breakouts up top for camera power, lavs, light, 35mm adaptor etc. In studio mode, add the onboard monitor (and enjoy not having the extra bulk and inconvenience of those batteries on the back). How much would that sort of solution be worth to you guys? Let's start with a target of two batteries and sequential charger as a minimum package--how much would you pay (we know it's less than the stated $1300-1400)!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2008, 07:59 PM   #11
Major Player
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 326
If I could get a 12v battery system with 2 batteries and a charger for under $400, or maybe up to $500, I'd be pretty happy. Also, if it could be on a standard mount, or if a proprietary mount, it should be pretty inexpensive. (enough for me to put a mount on both my rig, and on my camera)

Currently, with some IDX systems, the batteries are the least expensive part of the system. E7S batteries are $200 each, which isn't bad, but then a 2-position charger is $550, and the plates are $100 each, all of which makes an expensive setup.
Tom Wills is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 27th, 2008, 03:57 PM   #12
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
You still have to take the batteries out of the cassette to charge them individually, right?
Yes, but another crewmember could have a recharged set loaded for immediate use. The gear table might have an external sound recorder, battery chargers, a P2 dumping/logging station (Powerbook) etc. It's possible the sound recordist (but not the boom operator) could be doing all of these tasks.

Quote:
Doc work I don't do, I'm pretty much all narrative. To me, rolling out or having a battery go down in the middle of the take should be an avoidable evil--you can lose a great take that way.
Well, it's a little like driving - you mustn't run out of gas! Knowing when you're getting close to changing time, and being conservative about it, would be key.

To that end, I've collected some more data on the battery lives of my gear. On a single battery:

-HVX200 runs 2.5 hours with LCD active (figure 3 or so without, as on a Steadicam)
-Marshall HD monitor runs just over 2 hrs on an HVX battery
-VidLed DayLed runs 5 Hrs 15 min on an HVX battery
-Dolgin TC-400 charges an HVX battery to 90% in 2.5 hours
-As previously posted, the Steadicam 2700 MAh AAs last 4 hrs 15 min.

So if I changed HVX and Marshall batteries every 2 hours, and Steadicam and VidLed every 4 (shutting off the Steadicam LCD between takes occasionally to be safe), I should be fine for a day's shoot.

Quote:
So what if you had a single battery source that powered everything for you; on the Pilot, it would live at the bottom of the sled and have breakouts up top for camera power, lavs, light, 35mm adaptor etc. In studio mode, add the onboard monitor (and enjoy not having the extra bulk and inconvenience of those batteries on the back). How much would that sort of solution be worth to you guys? Let's start with a target of two batteries and sequential charger as a minimum package--how much would you pay (we know it's less than the stated $1300-1400)!
It might be nice, and while I did check, and found that the Marshall and Vidled will run on 12v, the lavs require 3v, the HVX runs on nominal 7.9 (batteries are 7.2), and the manual doesn't indicate that it can take higher voltages. So presumably you'd need a transformer/PS in addition to the battery that could derive 3, 7.x and 12 volts from whatever the battery produced and distribute it through proper connectors to the various pieces. Starts to sound a little complicated and potentially more expensive.

Then there's the issue of moving the whole setup to and from the Steadicam, with all the weight and (re)balancing issues attendant to it.

Dunno...starting to think my "C-F" isn't such a bad plan after all : )
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 27th, 2008, 05:24 PM   #13
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Spencer View Post
So presumably you'd need a transformer/PS in addition to the battery that could derive 3, 7.x and 12 volts from whatever the battery produced and distribute it through proper connectors to the various pieces.
That's exactly the concept Ted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Spencer View Post
Then there's the issue of moving the whole setup to and from the Steadicam, with all the weight and (re)balancing issues attendant to it.
Should be far easier. Your power distribution box stays mounted with the camera, you simply replace the 12v input cable from whatever onboard battery to the Pilot's 12v output.

The thing is that we have been running from single battery sources for both conventional and studio use for many years in the pro world. The recent generations of small format video setups have created this monster of carrying multiple batteries. When I see pictures of people operating handheld rigs with large onboard monitors with dual batteries on the rear that are straining on the end of a Noga arm, it seems totally alien to me. I just think that most users have not experienced anything different and more streamlined, so this is why I believe a solution is in order.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 27th, 2008, 05:53 PM   #14
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
I just think that most users have not experienced anything different and more streamlined, so this is why I believe a solution is in order.
And I have complete respect for your professional background.

It's a great idea. It'd be interesting to see what such a system might cost, particularly including the PS which would probably need to be designed specifically for this application.

So: at least a 2-place charger, batteries (two if the charger can outpace the devices' consumption by a decent margin, three or more if not), a transformer/PS with camera attachment hardware and a wiring harness.

With large enough batteries to keep it to only two, I'm guessing at least a grand, possibly a few hundred more, which would bring us back to my original math. But you'd still need AAs and a charger for the actor-mounted lav transmitters, and you'd probably want a few standard batteries for just the camcorder too. Figure maybe $150 more there.

But it's still a good idea : )

And in fairness, if I look at my TOTAL budget for all the batteries and chargers in my setup it looks like this:

-8 HVX batteries (from eBay/DigitalPowerPro): $200
-Dolgin 4-slot HVX Battery charger: $529 (there's a 2-slot model for cheaper, and IDX makes a cheaper 4-slot)
-2 Maha 8-slot AA chargers and 24 AA batteries: $228

To handle two lav systems at the same time as the Steadicam and Letus, 16 more AAs would be needed (8 per 2-lav set per cycle), so another $55 or so should be added (I already had these before I got the others).

Total: $1113

Last edited by Ted Spencer; January 27th, 2008 at 08:03 PM.
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 31st, 2008, 07:55 AM   #15
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: New York City (USA)
Posts: 53
Some additional battery test numbers:

Using some 2200 MAh NiMH AAs that are about 2 years old (not the newer Powerex 2700s), my Sennheiser G2 lavs ran 6 hours for the transmitter (with its powered mic attached), and I gave up and switched off the receiver after it had run about 9 hours. I figured that was enough!

The four batteries fully recharged in the Maha charger in about 40 minutes.

The only test remaining is the Letus Extreme's spinning ground glass motor, which also runs on two AAs. I'll do that shortly after I receive it, which should be very soon.
Ted Spencer is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Stabilizers (Steadicam etc.)

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:20 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network