The primary purpose of a battery system is to provide power to the rig. In addition, a system has to:
- Connect physically to the camera/rig
- Allow for adapters and cable management
- Provide charging, testing and display
- Provide voltage and power management
Let me outline the basic building blocks of a battery system. Let’s start with the battery:
The battery is mounted on a battery plate or bracket:
Wait a minute. Why do we need a plate?
The bracket is screwed on to the rig, so that every time you need to change the battery you don’t need to bring out the screwdrivers. Also, when a battery dies for good, which it will at some point, you don’t need to pay for the plate again.
This kind of modularity has great benefits on professional rigs. Every project is different. A race car changes tires depending on track conditions – you don’t force someone to change the whole car every time you need to change tires! Some companies have the opposite philosophy. I avoid these companies for professional setups.
Sometimes the bracket can also charge the battery:
If it doesn’t, you’ll need a charger to charge the batteries:
Professional battery systems have a proprietary P-tap or D-tap connector, from which you run a cable that connects to your camera. Usually, when you’re buying a plate, it is custom-made to fit the DC port of your camera, like this:
If you want a solution that isn’t custom-made, you could try something like this:
If you want, you can split P-taps to power multiple devices:
The system is designed to provide for one or more D-tap connectors, so it can power more than one device. Since each device might have its own connector (DC, XLR, LEMO, P-tap, etc.), you’ll need an adapter cable:
For D-tap to XLR, make sure to have the same pin configuration as your gear:
To convert DC voltages, you’ll need something that’s called a buck-boost converter, to raise or lower the DC voltage according to the device used. Take great care, as an error here will destroy your gear. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. This is what it looks like:
Some battery manufacturers make direct converters from one voltage to another. If you have access to it, buy that instead of DIY solutions.
See how the system works? If you need to upgrade batteries, you can, without changing everything else. The charger can take many kinds of batteries, too. When you change your camera, all you need to do is change an adapter cable and the voltage.
A typical battery on a broadcast camera helps it become ‘center-back’ heavy. A smaller, lighter battery does not provide for much support. We’ll look at this in depth later, but you get the picture.
These components make the foundation of a battery system. On the opposite end, the simplest rechargeable battery system is:
One last piece of gear to consider is the DSLR battery grip, like this one from Nikon:
This fits at the bottom, and comes with two trays – one for the original battery and another for 8 AA batteries. The battery grip is more of a photographer’s necessity, but it has the advantage of taking another battery:
Each DSLR camera ‘type’ has its own battery grip, and I recommend using the grip the manufacturer provides, if you want to go that route.
We now have enough information to put together our own system. In the next part let’s put together a custom battery system for the Canon C300.