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Using/conserving power in a location with no electricity


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#1 Hira Manek

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 12:18 AM

Hi,

I landed a job as a cameraman on a shoot in West Africa, not only in a country that lacks a reliable power infrastructure, but in islands off the coast, where power does not exist. We are there for a month and need to find a way to be able to shoot.

1. We are debating on what kind of camera to bring. I've been informed through friends that a card-based camera would conserve more power than a tape-based, due to lack of motor. However, we'd then need a barebones laptop rig to transfer the cards. Which would be more power conservative?

2. Can someone offer suggestions on specific products/solutions for charging our batteries? The budget is not unlimited -- after all, this is a documentary. A reasonably-priced/reasonably-sized solar suitcase with enough power to charge overnight? A kinetic-powered outlet? Disposable batteries? Portable generator with an easy way to transport gasoline?

We have a crew of only a few people, so weight is an issue as well.

There has to be some solution. All ideas very welcome. Thanks!
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 01:29 AM

Hi,

I landed a job as a cameraman on a shoot in West Africa, not only in a country that lacks a reliable power infrastructure, but in islands off the coast, where power does not exist. We are there for a month and need to find a way to be able to shoot.

1. We are debating on what kind of camera to bring. I've been informed through friends that a card-based camera would conserve more power than a tape-based, due to lack of motor. However, we'd then need a barebones laptop rig to transfer the cards. Which would be more power conservative?

2. Can someone offer suggestions on specific products/solutions for charging our batteries? The budget is not unlimited -- after all, this is a documentary. A reasonably-priced/reasonably-sized solar suitcase with enough power to charge overnight? A kinetic-powered outlet? Disposable batteries? Portable generator with an easy way to transport gasoline?

We have a crew of only a few people, so weight is an issue as well.

There has to be some solution. All ideas very welcome. Thanks!


Well, a film camera would actually be the least power hungry option but that opens up a lot of other questions, especially for a documentary.

When a laptop is factored in for card transfer, I think a tape based camera would be the most efficient. Do without external monitors if you can as they are comparatively power hungry.

I think you could do a solar panel if you bring enough batteries to have a day's supply with you and the next day's supply on charge. That should also give you spares and help safeguard against charging problems due to a cloudy day.

You'll have to do the research but a normal anton bauer quad charger draws 70 watts and I've seen portable solar panels that claim up to around 200 watts of power in full sun. Four antons should get one normal camera through any of your days, since I assume you'll be completely daylight reliant for light. You should be able to do 4 batteries and one quad charger per camera and then calculate the number of solar panels based on that wattage requirement.

Check out the solar panels well. They're usually encased in glass because the cells are fragile and are connected in series, so if one connection is broken, the whole panel goes kaput. A portable panel will be in thin plastic and will probably have to be rolled up and care taken to never, ever fold it or allow it to crease or kink. You should probably have a spare, too, that you only uncase if the first fails.
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#3 Paul Bruening

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 01:57 AM

Filmos?
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 02:50 AM

Filmos?


and bollei.
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#5 John Sprung

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 03:07 AM

I'd check out the Sony optical disk XDCam systems. There are plenty of good reports on them standing up to primitive and harsh environments, and the mechanical power requirement should be less than tape.

What you want is a solar charger -- actually a couple of them -- that charge your batteries directly from DC. Converting to AC to run a conventional charger would be less efficient. Have three days worth of batteries with you, one in use, two on charge, just to be safe.




-- J.S.
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 09:50 AM

I used the EX1 in Senegal to shoot and we got screwwed when we lost power in the country for 3 days. There are solar powered back-packs which we brought for production And it was able to keep the laptop charged enough for dumping (it charges it's own batteries which then discharged to the laptop when we plugged it in. I also brought an inverter with me, 100W so that when we were in a car in transit I was able to charge up camera batteries for the EX1. I had 3 batteries, to BP60s and 1 BP30. the BP60s lasted all day, something like 400 min of straight shooting, but since we had to dump cards after just 56 min of shooting we were able to go all day with just one most of the time (56 min shooting, power down, dump cards to laptop format cards and power up). the BP30 would last about 180 min or so so that was our backup.
If you're traveling a lot, in country, and find a car/cab get one with a working cigarette lighter, it'll double, then as transportation and small mobile generator which'll help you power things when you need to (charger etc). Also get a solar backpack with as much power as posible as many as possible for when you're on remote locations to keep things up and running.

Though, for me, I'd kill for a bolex, though you can probably forget about shooting interviews with it it would make a nice back up camera requiring no power just in case the worst happens you'll still be able to shoot something!
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#7 Rob Vogt

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 01:20 PM

Depending on your budget Panavision in South Africa might be able to swing you an old PSR, Itll be a pain in the ass but It'll definitely be able to give you a high quality output without power.
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#8 Tom Mitchell

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 08:58 PM

you might want to check out voltaic solor bags, buy a few of theses should do the trick. and when u do have power they have there own battery you can charge to say from a inverter and a car. http://www.voltaicsy...generator.shtml.

im really tempted to buy one for my self for my portable DIT gear
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#9 Hira Manek

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 10:17 PM

Thanks so much for the help, everyone! We are exploring all these options now and doing tests. I think some kinda solar rig and many batteries as backup is going to be our saving grace.

Adrian, did the solar backpacks save you from those 3 days of blackout? Were they enough to charge your cameras too?

Thanks again, all. Any other ideas still appreciated!
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 11:15 PM

They saved us for the first day; they didn't really charge up fast enough to charge up all the batteries at once. We needed to charge their batteries first which then discharged to out batteries; so after 1 reload of the camera batt it took awhile for the backpack batteries to get a charge again. Sorry, I don't recall the brand/name of the pack, though. Inverter is the much easier/cheaper version if you're anywhere near autos. I have a 100W which fits right into my cargo pocket and cost $30 from an auto store, as opposed to the few hundred the solar backpack cost production.

Which part of Africa are you heading to anyway?
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