Having reviewed basic information about portable power solutions for event videography in the last Gear & Now column, here we'll get down to more specifics on actual products. (For background on portable power types and categories and the technology terms tossed around here, see May Gear & Now, "Batteries and Battery Chargers (part 1)," pp. 26-28.)
Naturally, given the time of year that was upon us as this issue of EventDV went to press, we were eager to learn about new solutions to be unveiled at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, which ran April 18-21 in Las Vegas.
Some new product information was available before NAB, and in pre-conference announcements, manufacturers said they would be addressing a range of issues regarding power interruptions, portability, mounting options, multi-purpose usage, and compliance regulations in their new offerings.
PAG Limited, for example, started to ship its L95 Power Circle batteries with V-Mount compatibility in early April. It's the third model in the lineup: Anton/Bauer and PAGlock models have been available for almost a year, but the new model means PAG now offers lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries compatible with the three major battery mount systems.
The L95 (all models priced around $550) offers a 95 watt-hour (Wh) capacity in a package that weighs in around 1.5 pounds. Users can drive a camera and 35 W light easily, and check their run-time remaining with a display of charge status in terms of percentage.
There are no air-transportation worries with the high-capacity PAG L95; it conforms to the regulations for Li-Ion batteries and is supplied with a manufacturer's certification of compliance.
PAG Pulsar and Quasar all-chemistry chargers are required for charging all PAG L95 batteries, except the V-Mount compatible model which can be charged using a suitable Sony charger.
Switronix had added new V-Mount products to its PRO-X lineup earlier this year, as well, but just before NAB they announced new chargers and a new PRO-X ultra high-capacity battery.
The new 190 Wh brick battery features a 14.8 V design and a very powerful 13 amp-hour (Ah) capacity rating. Yet it is about half the weight of similarly rated NiCad or NiMH batteries, weighing in at just under 3.5 pounds; it's only about an inch deeper than other 90 Wh and 130 Wh batteries offered by Switronix, the company reports.
The battery will be available with or without Switronix' Intellicom RT Display, and along with other new products, should be available by the time you read this (May 2005 was the target release date for the new 190 Wh V-Mount PRO-X).
Switronix batteries are available in Anton/Bauer or V-Mount configurations, and have a two-pin power-tap connector built in. Other products have power taps, of course, which are a very handy addition for powering lights up to about 25 watts, but the power-tap on the 90 Wh and 130 Wh allows for up to a 50 W light.
Switronix also expects to deliver new XT Multi-Chem chargers at that time, with added analyzer/discharger capabilities lacking in previous models.
In addition, the company has a new GP Mobile charger available for V-type and three-stud mounts. It acts as a power supply when mounted to the back of a camera, and can drive a 30 W camera, charge a battery, and power a 35 W light with its four-pin connector, all at the same time. Its universal wide-range AC input (90 to 250 VAC 50/60Hz) makes it the ideal travel charger. In the event that AC power is interrupted, the GP Mobile will automatically switch over to the power of the battery mounted for charging without delay.
IDX System Technology has unveiled its next-generation ENDURA System Li-Ion batteries and charging systems, including the E-10 98 Wh battery for video cameras, HD, and disc-based camcorders. Products are anticipated in Q2 2005, according to IDX.
The ENDURA system features IDX' PowerLink technology, meaning a second battery can be docked to the first for continuous 196 Wh capacity. Other features include a five-LED accurate power status display. The new unit registers a 6.6 Ah capability, 14.8 V, and weighs 1.75 lbs (780g), according to IDX.
The new IDX VL-4S four channel charger is designed for fast turnaround by charging each battery independently. This direct V-Mount charger is the first of a new generation of multi-chemistry IDX chargers that's also somewhat indicative of an industry-wide trend toward providing cross-platform compatibility in power solutions.
Now available (or very soon on the market) is the VL-4Si, containing an LCD screen that will provide continuous live charging information and advanced digital information from ENDURA System E-10/E-80/E7/E50 batteries when connected to the charger. A USB connector on the back of the charger makes it easy to check charger information onto a PC.
Frezzi introduced at NAB 2003 what it called at the time the most powerful on-board battery available in the world. At 130 Wh (which translates to more than five hours with a 25 W camera), the BP-14MH batteries do provide much more runtime than most typical bricks; the product is still Frezzi's most powerful brick-type solution.
The batteries connect to existing Anton/Bauer bracket mounts and Sony V-Mounts. Frezzi's Energy Gage is an option on the BP-14MH; as the company recently released new lighting solutions (many with power options of their own). It will be interesting to see where the company's dedicated power products will go.
Anton/Bauer, having released its Dionic 160 late last year, while calling it the most powerful Li-Ion battery in the industry, held its cards close to the vest prior to NAB. If the 160 is any indication, new offerings to the general market will be robust upon launch: the 160 was available for more than a year as an exclusive limited production product before general availability. Dionic batteries can be used with PowerCharger and Titan series chargers only.
The 160's load capacity of up to 140 W is more than other Li-Ions, and it can run standard-draw camcorders for up to five hours, along with an on-camera light.
The company did unveil new nickel metal hydride cell technology, available in the Hytron 140, capable of handling loads up to 12 amps, including the high demands of fully dressed HD cameras. Anton/Bauer also has a new battery holder that features three 14.4 V outputs and one 28.8 V output, capable of handling loads up to 10 amps.
Anton/Bauer's STASIS camera support system, a unified solution for camera support and power supply that can be used with any professional Gold Mount battery and UltraLight 2, was a popular addition when introduced; different system configurations, options, and compatibility would be welcome additions to its current capabilities.
Best of the Rest
While the major manufacturers announce significant new solutions such as these at popular industry events, it pays to keep an eye on lower-profile providers as well, also with interesting power products.
Many dealers and vendors have their own branded products, while also offering those of the majors. For example, Armato's offers its own line of batteries, such as the new L95 14.4 V (minimum rating; maximum is 16.8 V), 95 Wh Li-Ion model. Priced around $280, the battery uses the popular V-Mount to attach to cameras, and has a five-step LED power indicator on the side of its 1.58-pound package.
The BP-type battery can be charged using the Sony BCL50, BCM50, BCL100, BCL120, BCM150, or IDX VL2Plus, VL4, VL4S.
DSM Power, based in the UK, is perhaps not as well known as some of the bigger battery makers, but it (along with the patent owners of Li-Ion technology) made the first Li-Ion NP1 batteries. Today, the company offers Li-Ions, Ni-Cads, and custom power solutions in V-lock and DSMlok configurations.
Compatible with Sony, IDX, and Li-Ion V-Mount and V-Lock chargers, the UV-98, for example, is a 14.8 V (14.4-compatible) 98 Wh battery with a five-state LED indicator that is growing in popularity among event videographers.
As such, it makes the DSM UV-98 worth considering, and serves as a reminder that it is always a good idea to stay "plugged in" to new power technologies and solutions coming to market.