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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Rich Harrington: When it comes to getting the most out of batteries, there is a couple important strategies. Let's start with the initial charge. Robbie Carman: Yeah. Rich: You buy a new battery and a lot of people are like I'll just plug it in and use it. What do you do? Robbie: Not a good idea. Most of the batteries these days need to be conditioned in one shape or another. What I typically do is I'll plug the battery in, let it get to full charge but then immediately take it out of the charger and run it in that camera or whatever device it is. And the important thing is to let it run all the way out until it dies.
A lot of these batteries are sort of going to limit, sort of their overall life span and capacity by continually charging them when they're say 90% full, or you know, 100% full or keeping the battery on the actual charger itself. It's a good idea in any battery, and I usually try to do this once a month, once every other month is get it to full capacity and let it drain completely out until it dies. Rich: Yeah, now batteries have gotten smarter, so that advice may not be needed for every piece of electronics. Robbie: That's true. Rich: But it's still not a bad idea. It used to be an absolute critical must.
Manufacturers are trying to alleviate this, but I still find, if I take it out of the package, I want to charge it up to full before I take it in the field, because it's not very accurate. Another thing that's kind of weird is you'll often--especially early on in a battery--get false reports about how full it is or how empty it is. You'll start getting that warning much like the inkjet printer, it's almost empty. It's almost empty. If you can, run it down. Now the hard part is, is you're on set, you don't want it to run out in the middle of a take, because if it runs out in the middle of a take, well, that kind of sucks because you've lost that take. Robbie: Yeah, it's true.
And I've actually found, especially early on in life span of batteries, that the battery meter on the actual camera itself is not all that accurate sometimes. Where I've actually found the most accurate metering to be is on the charger itself. I don't know why that is necessarily, but I've gotten reports where the cameras tell me that the battery is a quarter full. I put it into the charger and it's telling me that it's half full. Rich: Yeah, and so that Nikon charter just says charging or full, but the one we have here from Canon does have a status indicator. Robbie: Yeah. Rich: Different chargers will have different options.
Now that's when you take the battery out of the package and you want to sort of condition it to get it used, if you need to on set, if you have an extra camera body, you could pop that almost empty battery in and drain it all the way, then start to charge it up. But when you're shooting, there are some important options you could change to get things right. Robbie: Absolutely. Rich: For example, one of the things a lot of people leave turned on is live view. And you know, oh, I want to see it, I want to be able to walk around on set and look at the back of that camera. I set this to power off with 1 minute of inactivity.
I also do things like turn off the Auto Image Review so when I'm shooting stills or video it doesn't keep popping the last shot up. Nothing says--especially if you're using an external monitor--that you have to even use the live view monitor. Robbie: That's a good point, Rich, and I'll add one more thing to that is that a lot of these cameras will actually turn off the whole camera, not just the live view function, but turn off the entire camera after I used it a finite amount of time. So if you're in the middle of say a set change or a prop change or a wardrobe change, and you're not actually using the camera, and if you're anything like me you probably actually forget to turn it off, after say 5 or 10 minutes you can say, hey, power down everything and it will turn off the camera and saving you some critical battery time.
Rich: Yeah, I actually tend to set mine to a 1-minute auto shut off or a 2-minute. It really depends on the style of shooting, it's up to you, but you want to get that. So make sure and even consider turning down the brightness. Remember, I do not trust the brightness on the camera monitor for really anything. I'll set my brightness to about mid-level and then rely upon things like histograms or putting the footage on an external display. You want to just use that display on the camera minimally, because that's really the thing that sucks the most power. Robbie: It does, I mean, there are some other minor things, you know, sort of the top LCD if you turn the light on, if you have a lens that has, you know, IS sort of VR image stabilization in it, that can suck a little bit of battery life, but you are absolutely right, Rich, the back of the LCD in live view mode is going to be your biggest consumer.
Now the other thing to keep in mind, too, I think it's a really good point that a lot of people don't realize, and you brought up just a second ago is that playback and review does spend some power, because not only are you using the back of the camera and the LCD here, but you're also hitting that memory card which requires some power as well. So, yeah, I know you want to always go out there and sort of get, you know, review and sort of see what you've got, but don't spend, you know, countless minutes and hours reviewing stuff and then expect your battery to be at full charge. Oftentimes what we'll do on the set is sort of take that memory card out, move it over to a laptop station so we can ingest it and review there, so we're not sucking out extra battery power out of the camera itself. Rich: So it's all in strategies to manage.
Remember, you can always plug the camera in if there's an outlet available. Make sure you have plenty of batteries charging and on hand to replace, and make some menu choices that are going to minimize just how much power is being used. With some intelligent decisions and workflow, you could dramatically extend the life of the camera, making sure that you actually have power when it comes time to get the shot.
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