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Old January 12th, 2009, 09:58 AM   #1
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Steadicam Pilot AA Battery MOD

Has anyone replaced the AA battery option with a 12V version? Changing AA batteries is tough in the field as they cant be monitored and sometimes, I gotta do it real quickly.

Was thinking of using the Dolgin SWIT battery and adapter plate. Has anyone done so with other alternatives? The opbjective is to be able to monitor the batt life, allow quick swop and longer operating hrs. Of cse, it would be great of the EX1 is powered from this as well but thaz not impt.

Charger TC400 EX1
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Old January 12th, 2009, 01:03 PM   #2
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Sean, I am in the same sitiuation Pilot AA option is becoming a pain... I really don't have the funds right now to upgrade to the V-lock setup but your idea using the SWIT battery sounds very good... Would just need to create a stable holder or plate so that it would always mount in the same exact way and position to not throw off balance. I am going to look into this further for sure... I will let you know if I get anywhere with it.. Please do the same....And yes if anyboday out there is already doing this or has any other options please share...
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Old January 12th, 2009, 01:09 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Sean Seah View Post
Has anyone replaced the AA battery option with a 12V version? Changing AA batteries is tough in the field as they cant be monitored and sometimes, I gotta do it real quickly.
I love the AA batteries. I bought a couple of extra 10-AA battery holders on ebay, and enough rechargable AA batteries to make 3 packs, enough to last all day shooting on location. And if for some unusual reason all 3 packs run out, I carry a backup set of regular AA Alkaline batteries. With this many batteries, and the backup set, I don't usually bother unpacking the battery charger on set at all. Very convenient and very cheap!

You can buy 2 more AA battery holders here for $14 shipped:
http://cgi.ebay.com/10-AA-Battery-Ho...3A1%7C294%3A50

You can get AA rechargable batteries here that will last 4 hours on the pilot, 8 for $25:
http://thomasdistributing.com/shop/-...unqgsuhpvaob56

They also sell a fast, 1-hour charger for 8-AA batteries here for $69:
http://thomasdistributing.com/shop/-...unqgsuhpvaob56
I got 2 of these and mounted them on a piece of 3/8" plywood:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/attachmen...backpack_5.jpg

Also, since my Sennheiser G2-100 wireless system uses AAs, and my Fostex FR-2LE field sound recorder also uses AAs, it's very convenient to keep all the same battery type.
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Steadicam Pilot AA Battery MOD-batt4.jpg  

Last edited by Dave Gish; January 12th, 2009 at 02:17 PM.
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Old January 12th, 2009, 01:52 PM   #4
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Note that 10 AA rechargeable NiMH batteries does add up to around 12 volts, so most equipment that runs off 12v will work with the Pilot-AA no problem. For example, I have a 500mw 900MHz video transmitter for the director and DP, and that runs off of 12v power from the Pilot's 10 AAs just fine.

But if you want to power the EX1 or EX3 off the sled, I would not do this with AAs, since the voltage is a little different and Sony cameras are a little finicky about this. So for the EX1 or EX3, I would recommend the IDX E-7S batteries on the Pilot, and a custom 2.1mm to Sony power connector cable. I made a cable like this for a friend, and got the yellow Sony power connector from this cable here:
EXDC1

If you have the Pilot-AA, you can switch to the Pilot-VL by simply ordering the VL mount from Steadicam. They swap in seconds. Batteries not included...
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Old January 12th, 2009, 02:22 PM   #5
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Dave, sorry for interjecting here, just FYI we have a cleaner solution for the Sony EX users. Our new EX-V adapter comes with a V mount option, and has an adjustable length DC cable powering the camera, with the second available cable powering a 12V accessory.
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Old January 12th, 2009, 10:54 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Alex Dolgin View Post
Dave, sorry for interjecting here, just FYI we have a cleaner solution for the Sony EX users. Our new EX-V adapter comes with a V mount option, and has an adjustable length DC cable powering the camera, with the second available cable powering a 12V accessory.
Interesting...

Alex, just so you know, the Steadicam Pilot looks like this (see attached pic). This picture shows my HVX, but I've also flown the EX1, EX3, and V1U.

The battery is on the bottom left and plugs into the bottom of the Pilot's vertical post with a 2.1mm connector. The top right has another 2.1mm connector that's internally wired through the post.

So to use an EX compatible battery to power the Steadicam Pilot's monitor, I guess you would need a Dolgin EX-V plate with a single 2.1mm connector stuck on the bottom left somehow.

If you also want to power the EX1 or EX3 from that, you would need another cable for the top with a 2.1mm connector on one end, and a yellow Sony EIAJ DC plug on the other. Note that for the EX3, it's critical that the yellow Sony EIAJ DC plug is a right angle plug, otherwise the wire will stick out and hit you in the face. The right angle Sony EIAJ DC plug also keeps the wire from sticking out the back on the EX1, which gives you a little more room to change positions.

If you need to power something else in addition to the EX1/EX3 on top (e.g. lights, video transmitter, etc.), you'll need a 2.1mm M/F Y-cable in addition to the custom cable above, or perhaps a custom Y-Cable with all the right connectors.
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Steadicam Pilot AA Battery MOD-pb040005a.jpg  
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Old January 13th, 2009, 12:00 AM   #7
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Thks for the inputs Dave. I did consider extra AA battery mount but it is too much a hassle for me to be charging so many batteries. I prefer a single body battery.

The other solution of the V lock is a prob as well as it is underhung. Dolgin's adapter cannot be underhung with the SWIT batteries dangling. I was wondering if it could be flipped upwards but I'm concerned out the dynamic balance if it is done that way.

Buying a V type battery is too expensive considering the charger price and I am using the EX1 so it is best to stick to one set of batteries.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 01:24 AM   #8
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Hi Sean,

I don't know what to say. I would be concerned about mounting a tall battery like the SWIT S-8U62 as well. Just a little sway on the battery could throw off the balance significantly.

You might try calling Steadicam to see if they have any solution for this. You never know.

As for the AA batteries, I only charge my AAs at home, so it's no big deal. With 3 AA packs, I never have to fiddle with individual AAs on location. Also, I don't have to hunt for a place to plug in my charger on set where people wont sit or step on it. That's really nice. In addition, the AA chargers are really fast - 1 hour for 16 AAs. So I can fully charge 3 AA packs in only 2 hours at home, and that's enough to cover the next day's shoot. This is why I love the AAs, they're actually less hassle for me.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 06:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post

So to use an EX compatible battery to power the Steadicam Pilot's monitor, I guess you would need a Dolgin EX-V plate with a single 2.1mm connector stuck on the bottom left somehow.
So currently, there is a possibility of the V mount for the battery in case the IDX is used? Then the EX-V adapter would click in the same way as IDX. It can be upside down as it holds the BP-UXX battery with 4 tabs. But the full size BP-U60 (and SWIT replacement) is about 1 lb. Is it too heavy? Then the BP-U30 is better as it is about 1/2 lb. As far as wiring, we can produce a Y splitter for the top so it has a combination of 2.1mm plugs and Sony plugs...
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Old January 13th, 2009, 08:20 AM   #10
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Hi Dave,

I think I didnt express my concerns correctly! After some thoughts, my main concern is not really the battery charging hassle. I operate alone for about an hr or two at one go so I would prefer to have batteries that would last me 2hrs straight without replacement if possible. Trying to replace the battery (whichever it is) in the middle of a shoot is very tough for me as the shoot is usually run and gun in an uncontrolled environment.

I am considering the EX1 batteries since they are 14.4V, and also able to last longer (I tink). Alos, I would not be caught by surprise as I can check the remaining battery juice.

I suddenly have another idea to parallel 2 sets of the 10xAA batt. I wonder if that would solve the problem of replacement.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 08:21 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Alex Dolgin View Post
So currently, there is a possibility of the V mount for the battery in case the IDX is used? Then the EX-V adapter would click in the same way as IDX. It can be upside down as it holds the BP-UXX battery with 4 tabs. But the full size BP-U60 (and SWIT replacement) is about 1 lb. Is it too heavy? Then the BP-U30 is better as it is about 1/2 lb. As far as wiring, we can produce a Y splitter for the top so it has a combination of 2.1mm plugs and Sony plugs...

Hi Alex, I'm not sure if the SWIT at 1 lb would be an issue. The whole rig is designed to take 10 Ibs max. The EX1 is already 6 Ibs. I have a lot to think about but thanks for the suggestions.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 02:53 PM   #12
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Dave, very easy solution with the extra AA battery packs fully charged ready to go... Thanks for the links. I am going to go this route and try it out for a while.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 10:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Dolgin View Post
So currently, there is a possibility of the V mount for the battery in case the IDX is used? Then the EX-V adapter would click in the same way as IDX. It can be upside down as it holds the BP-UXX battery with 4 tabs. But the full size BP-U60 (and SWIT replacement) is about 1 lb. Is it too heavy? Then the BP-U30 is better as it is about 1/2 lb. As far as wiring, we can produce a Y splitter for the top so it has a combination of 2.1mm plugs and Sony plugs...
Hi Alex,

Yes, the Steadicam Pilot comes with a choice of 10-AA, V-Lock, or Anton Bauer battery mounts.
steadicam pilot | B&H Photo Video
If you order 1 version and want to switch later, you can order the other mount directly from Steadicam/Tiffen as an accessory. They swap in seconds.

The IDX E-7S V-Lock batteries weigh around 0.75 pounds. The 10-AA pack is also around 0.75 pounds. The Pilot will lift up to 10 pounds of camera, batteries, and accessories. So a 1-pound battery should work fine.

The bigger issue is the shape of the battery weight. A tall battery with a relatively small mount area like the BP-U60 or SWIT may move around just a little, and that could throw off the balance of the Steadicam. That's the concern anyway.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 11:54 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Sean Seah View Post
Hi Dave,

I think I didn't express my concerns correctly! After some thoughts, my main concern is not really the battery charging hassle. I operate alone for about an hr or two at one go so I would prefer to have batteries that would last me 2hrs straight without replacement if possible. Trying to replace the battery (whichever it is) in the middle of a shoot is very tough for me as the shoot is usually run and gun in an uncontrolled environment.

I am considering the EX1 batteries since they are 14.4V, and also able to last longer (I think). Also, I would not be caught by surprise as I can check the remaining battery juice.

I suddenly have another idea to parallel 2 sets of the 10xAA batt. I wonder if that would solve the problem of replacement.
Hi Sean,

My AA rechargeable batteries last around 4 hours powering the Pilot's 5.8" LCD, provided they're fully recharged when I start. Three AA packs will last me 12 hours, enough for a full day of shooting.

If you power other accessories from the 2.1mm power connector on the Pilot's stage (on-camera lights, wireless video transmitter, etc.), then the battery will obviously last less than 4 hours, depending on the power draw of the accessory.

Also, at colder temperatures, the AA batteries last less time, maybe around 3 hours, or possibly less if it's really cold. I'm pretty sure this is an issue with all batteries.

Note that, with the exception of the camera itself, the difference between 12v and 14.4 volts is usually a non-issue. I think batteries that say they are 14.4 volts can really be up to 16 volts fully charged, and as low as 12v when they are low on power. 10 rechargeable AAs can be over 14v when fully charged or under 11v when they are low. Most equipment that is rated for 12v power will actually run on anything from 10-17 volts.

Camera's are more finicky because they monitor the voltage in order to tell how much power is left in the battery, and sometimes beep or do other things when the voltage is low.

One thing to note about the rechargeable AA batteries is that they have memory issues. For this reason, you have to refresh the batteries every 10 charges or so. Most AA chargers have refresh cycles to allow this. Another issue is self discharge. If you fully charge AA batteries and then let them sit for a month or more, they will not be fully charged. So I make sure to charge up my batteries the night before a shoot.

Bottom line: Three 10-AA packs should do everything you need, except display how much charge is left. Would it be possible to just change battery packs every 3 to 3.5 hours? Also, do you run any power hungry accessories from these batteries, like on-camera lights?
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Old January 15th, 2009, 08:45 AM   #15
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Ooh really? So far i have not tried rechargeable batts. I'll have a go may be. I do not power anything off those batt, only the monitor. If the batt can last 4hrs it will be great.
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