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Pro Video Tips is designed for busy videographers like you. This series brings you a new tip every week, on everything from controlling reflections to hiding mics. Host Anthony Q. Artis covers shooting techniques for particular video challenges like portraits, tools to help you control light and judge exposure, and advice for the traveling videographer, such as putting together a great lens kit or packing a truck. Come back every Tuesday for a new round of tips.
This week I want to talk completely about batteries. Now batteries I know for a lot of people isn't a very sexy topic. Not a lot to say about batteries, but there are a few things that you definitely want to keep in mind any time you're purchasing or using batteries on set. Not only do you want to make sure that you have plenty batteries, but I also recommend that you shoot only with extended life batteries. So these little, you know, four hour, two hour batteries, starter batteries that come with the camera, they're fine but these are pretty much batteries that I only use as an emergency back up when I need to.
Instead, I recommend for any extensive shooting that you go out and get some of these extended life batteries that will last you for six to eight hours on a full charge. So if look at these two side by side right here, you can see this one's about a third bigger and it gives you about a third more recording time. So this battery is six hours, this battery is four hours. Two of these get me through any shoot I've ever been on. I've rarely gotten through more than two of them. So usually I will quit before these batteries quit. So there are plenty of places in video that you can get down and dirty and cut corners, and you know I'm all about that, but any experienced shooter will tell you that batteries is not one of those areas.
So also, in addition to just getting extended life batteries, another tip that I would give you is to get some of these batteries they cost a little bit more, usually for this feature. But it gives you little indicator dots so even if the battery's not plugged into your camera, you can tell exactly how much charge you have, so this is telling me I'm at 100%, however this one is telling me that oh, this battery is almost dead, so I can save the trouble of having to pull out my camera, I can just look at my batteries wherever they are and tell right away, or if I have a PA or an assistant helping me out. They can check my batteries and tell right away whether or not they're fully charged.
So you want to get at least two of the best name-brand, extended-life batteries you can afford. And always bring your battery charger with you on shoot day, even if you don't think you're going to use it. So if it's going to be a long day and you anticipate swapping batteries a lot, you may want to consider investing in a rapid dual or quadruple charger, which costs more than a regular charger but juices up more batteries in less time. So, I have an example of one of those right over here. The camera comes with a charger, but I'd go out and get a dual charger, even if it's not a fast charger.
So, a dual charger's going to cost you more, and a fast charger's going to cost you even more than that. And, if you have a fast quadruple charger, like this, it's really going to set you back. However, it's going to save you a lot of time. Think about the scenario, if you only have a single battery charger, where you might go back, and you have two batteries that you need to charge. Now, you have these extended life batteries, two of these, plus you have a regular battery. But if you still only have one charger, overnight there may not be enough time or opportunity to recharge those batteries before you have to shoot again the next day.
So, similarly, if you're shooting in a remote location, an AC adapter that plugs into your car cigarette lighter can also be a real life saver. So, two extended life batteries is the minimum, but I like to take as many batteries as I have access to, anytime I'm shooting for a full day, or any time mistakes are high. Having a lot of charge batteries is especially important when you're shooting in cold weather, because even fully charged batteries won't perform well in the cold.
So you want to make sure your batteries stay warm in the winter. If you do plan shooting in extremely cold temperatures you may want to consider renting of borrowing some extra batteries for your camera, since it is not unusual for very cold batteries to die on you in less than an hour. I had a tragic case in film school where one of my favorite projects ended up not being shot simply because we got all the way an hour away in the Coney Island, started shooting in the snow and right away the batteries died before he even got off two full takes, so that's a heart breaking thing that I don't want to see happen to any of you.
So in the winter, make sure you keep these things warm. That's the most important thing you can do, is to keep these batteries as close to room temperature as possible. So if you don't have a warm interior space to keep them, you know, if you don't have somebody, you know, producer sitting in the car, or office nearby, you should keep them in your pocket. So inside of your jacket pocket, inside any place close to your body where you can keep them as warm as you are, will serve to keep those batteries lasting a little bit longer in the cold. And, if a few pounds of extra batteries in your pocket is going to slow you down too much, then you might want to try a trick that I learned from my friend D.P. Alex Houston who shoots a lot of winter sports, and that is to go down to the local sporting goods store or big box retailer, and get some of those packs of instant hand-warmers.
Heat up when you break the seal, place those hand-warmers inside of a interior pocket of your camera bag, along with your batteries. And that should help keep them happy, the one caveat is, you want to make sure that they don't get too hot because that's also a problem. So batteries that are too hot are also bad news, so in the summer months, same thing applies. Do your best to take practical steps to keep your batteries at room temperature. We don't want them too hot, we don't want them too cold. Now there may occasionally come a time on location when you're last battery is running low and you still need to get some more footage.
Well desperate times call for desperate measures. So one trick that might buy you a few more precious minutes of shooting is to close or turn off your camera's LCD screen. So when I'm looking there, we're getting down to the last hour of the shoot and I'm seeing my battery getting at a level. It's making me a little nervous. I would close this bad boy up just like that and that's going to save you a lot of juice. This LCD screen is a huge drain on battery power, and cutting it off will often significantly stretch your battery power. So as soon as you start to feel like the shoot's running longer than you have battery for, I would cut off this LCD screen and only open it up when I absolutely needed to see my shot on that larger screen.
Instead I would just use the viewfinder. And sometimes, another little tip I would tell you, is that I think we forget, that there's a perfectly good AC cable that comes with your camera. So use it any time you're stationary and buy a power supply. I think just out of habit, many times I'm on a shoot not unlike this one where we have a bunch of cameras in the room and everybody's operating their cameras off of battery power, we're just running through batteries mean while there's a plug within five feet of our camera position. So if you have a plug and you're stationary, you're doing something like an interview. Go ahead and plug it in. Save your batteries later for the bee roll.
Now, I want to talk about another type of battery that we have here and that is these Anton Bauer's. So, these are what the pros use right here. Now, there are many brands of third-party batteries. These are argo batteries that you can get you can these batteries with almost any camera, mini models out there will take these with a little adapter plate. So, this is what the little. Adapter plate looks like. And industry wide not unlike some other brands, the only brand that I'd personally would trust if I'm buying these third party batteries is Anton Bauer.
Anton Bauer's are just hands down the king when it comes to batteries and film making. They have been for a long time. So these are more common with narrative rigs. As you can see, they're a lot heavier than something like this. If I were to put this on my C100 I would also need to have a rail system. So I can't just stick this on the back of the camera obviously, but I would get a rail system and mount this plate on the back and that would significantly add to the weight of the camera, but that could be a benefit for some systems. So, if you have a really heavy lens on the front, well this can act as a counterbalance, and help you balance that out.
So you will need to get a rail system. So really this is not something for run and gun shooting most of the time. But if you are doing narrative and you have a whole built out rig with monitors and recordings and everything on it then you might consider one of these. But this is not just used to power cameras. So these type of Anton Bauer batteries can be used to power many other things on-set, specifically lights and monitors. So we use a lot of those LED light panels and LED solar lights that I showed you in the lighting course. Well those take these Anton Bauer's, and even though all those things plug in and we might have power sometimes it is often more convenient to have things operated off of battery power, simply because you can move them a lot faster.
So yes, you need batteries when you're outdoors and in remote locations, but, even indoors, if everything's battery powered and you're running and gunning, you gotta knock out a bunch of takes in a little bit of time. Battery powered lights, battery powered monitors, makes everything more portable and faster to use. So I want to close out by talking about another type of battery that commonly shows up on sets when we're dealing with mixers and other things. And that's simply AA batteries. Not a lot to say about AA batteries, but a couple of quick tips that I want to give you guys. First off, don't be cheap when it comes to AA batteries.
I don't go to the pharmacy and get the pharmacy brand, I only use Duracell and Energizer batteries, and even then I only get the top kind of Duracell and Energizer. So the super-duper electronic lithium, long-lasting ones, those are the ones that I want to get. I have a basic rule of thumb when it comes to film equipment. And over the counter batteries and that is I don't put anything in my film equipment that I wouldn't put in my pacemaker, if I had a pacemaker. So if I had a pacemaker and I wouldn't put that brand of battery in there, I not going to put it in my mixer because it's that vital for me on set.
Now, some people often ask me whether or not it's okay to use rechargeable batteries. If you trust rechargeable batteries, I think that's fine. Personally, I do not trust rechargeable batteries in my equipment. I just don't feel that comfortable. There is simply too much at stake and they don't really cost that much. I need to know 100% for sure that my batteries are going to perform every time. One thing that will help you along with that when we're dealing with AA and more domestic type of batteries is it's good to have a little battery meter with you. Just go to the hardware store and for four or five bucks you can pick up a little battery meter that'll help you keep track of how much power is left in your AA, C&D batteries.
And also make sure you always develop a system for keeping track of how much charge your batteries have. So even if you don't have these little LED indicator lights on your batteries, you can put little tape on there. You could have one side for charged batteries, one side for uncharged. It doesn't matter as long as you know and understand. But remember that batteries and battery power are something that we always want to pay attention to and it's something that can bring your shoot to a grinding halt. I don't care if you've got an Arri Alexa, a Red, or a C300, if you don't have battery power, all you've really got is a paperweight.
So check your batteries and keep them in good condition.
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