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On set power - Generator vs Block battery


barefoot_dp
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Hi all,

Just wondering if anyone has any input for on set power solutions? In particular experiences with block batteries versus generators. I'm looking for something to power a laptop and a v-lock charger, as well as LED lights (up to ~600W total) when required.

A battery seems like a much simpler solution and has the ability to have a data/charging station setup in a car or van. And because my work car is also my family car I like the idea of not having it stink like petrol for a week after every shoot just from carting around the generator and petrol can. No problems with sound either if I go the battery route.  However a generator does have the ability to run for much longer because you can keep topping it up, whereas a battery solution would only last a few hours and require charging overnight.

Has anybody had this same dilemma, and what direction did you go in the end?

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If your LED lights actually draw a total of 600W, you might suffer continual battery management/charge anxiety.  Also, when you kill your battery-powered set lights in between takes and in between set-ups, will you also have a separate battery-powered work-light running?

On the other hand, a genny with a 600W constant capacity is not that big (but it's good practice to use a genny that is rated at twice the anticipated power draw).  You can keep it and a gas can in a large plastic bin(s) to protect your car's interior from  gasoline/oil.

By the way, gennys last longer than batteries because their tanks have much larger power capacities than typical batteries -- not because they can be "topped-up."  A battery system can be "topped-up" with a parallel, rectified circuit and/or switches.

If you are recording sound, make sure to have at least 150 feet of 12 guage stingers (extension cords) just to run power from the genny to the set, and hide the genny behind a distant building or thick bushes.  You can also build a sound shield with stands, heavy vinyl and a furniture pad (or a thick blanket).

If you can arrange in advance to run power from a nearby building, that might be an even better solution.

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37 minutes ago, tupp said:

If your LED lights actually draw a total of 600W, you might suffer continual battery management/charge anxiety.  Also, when you kill your battery-powered set lights in between takes and in between set-ups, will you also have a separate battery-powered work-light running?

 

We've got plenty of light off camera. No problems there. This is just specifically for the lighting for remote IV/PTC setups. 600W would be the max if all lights are running but that would not be 100% of the time - just for the 30mins or so to record that piece.

 

37 minutes ago, tupp said:

On the other hand, a genny with a 600W constant capacity is not that big (but it's good practice to use a genny that is rated at twice the anticipated power draw).  You can keep it and a gas can in a large plastic bin(s) to protect your car's interior from  gasoline/oil.

 

If I went the Generator route, I'd be looking at at least 2KW.

37 minutes ago, tupp said:

By the way, gennys last longer than batteries because their tanks have much larger power capacities than typical batteries -- not because they can be "topped-up."  A battery system can be "topped-up" with a parallel, rectified circuit and/or switches.

If you can arrange in advance to run power from a nearby building, that might be an even better solution.

If I was in a position that I could run a cable then I would, but it's hard to find a power outlet when you're sometimes 1000km+ from the nearest town!

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46 minutes ago, barefoot_dp said:

We've got plenty of light off camera. No problems there.

[snip]

If I was in a position that I could run a cable then I would, but it's hard to find a power outlet when you're sometimes 1000km+ from the nearest town!

You have plenty of work light?  Are you shooting nighttime exteriors 1000km form the nearest town?

 

49 minutes ago, barefoot_dp said:

This is just specifically for the lighting for remote IV/PTC setups.

What is "IV/PTC?"

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44 minutes ago, tupp said:

You have plenty of work light?  Are you shooting nighttime exteriors 1000km form the nearest town?

Yes, we're often camping and working out of vehicles - plenty of lights on the 4WDs, as well as flashlights, headlamps, firelight, etc. Plus needing to light a scene does not always mean it is nighttime.

I do a 4WD Adventure show and we usually rely on the hero vehicle's dual battery/2kw inverter, but sometimes we're away from the main cars for a day or two (eg somewhere that is only accessible by boat/helicopter) and need another solution.

 

44 minutes ago, tupp said:

What is "IV/PTC?"

IV - Interview
PTC - Piece to camera.

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3 hours ago, barefoot_dp said:

Yes, we're often camping and working out of vehicles - plenty of lights on the 4WDs, as well as flashlights, headlamps, firelight, etc.

[snip]

I do a 4WD Adventure show and we usually rely on the hero vehicle's dual battery/2kw inverter, but sometimes we're away from the main cars for a day or two (eg somewhere that is only accessible by boat/helicopter) and need another solution.

Okay.  If you can keep your set-up and shoot time down to an hour total and if you are only using two or three fixtures, then it is probably better to use batteries.  Bring spares.

 

3 hours ago, barefoot_dp said:

Plus needing to light a scene does not always mean it is nighttime.

LED fixtures might need to be fairly close to the subject when shooting in the daytime.

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Perhaps a combination of the two or a mix of solar in there as well ? Some of those modern generators are pretty small, efficient, and surprisingly quiet. I see caravans and motorhomes in the local showgrounds all the time with little generators. I have to go past them to get to the local mens shed. 

After a recent encounter with having a fuel container in the back of the car and the fumes associated it, i have vowed never again. On a separate issue, I'm looking at a  6x4 trailer with solar panels on top. For my modest electrical needs, when i take off for the weekend. 

I have a mate who has a converted toyota van, he pretty much lives in it due to circumstances outside the scope of this reply. I think he has 300 watts on top with a another 300 watts in one of those folding panel thingies. Pretty sure there's two large amp hour 12 volt batteries in there somewhere. So long as its a nice sunny days he's ok, if not so sunny, he needs to either plug in or run the van for awhile after about three days. Of course everyone's needs are going to be different. 

I presume nobodies going to want genies running while shooting. At this point i'm almost giggling with the thought of ironfilms jumping up and down in an agitated state 🤣. As mentioned you could run a generator between takes and at the end of a day to counter any issues. If you do get a genie make sure it has a dc output for charging batteries and 240 volts. 

Is a trailer out of the question ? With a 6x4 trailer,  you could get, two batteries, inverter and generator plus fuel and have room for lights and other things. If your running from batteries you could park the trailer as close as you can and run a lead as one option, then fire up the genie as required. You could probably free a bit of room up in the car as well no doubt.

I should probably also mention, i recently had a visiting electrician tell me off, for plugging two leads together to extend the range. Apparently that's becoming a no no. Voltage drop and things.

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I might be way off here but what about something like the Jackery 1000?

Can't buy anything more powerful than the 500 model here in the EU at the present time so I went for another companies 500 model.

It's principally to charge all my batteries and run my laptop when I am 'off grid' at or between jobs in my mobile office/bathroom/kitchen/bedroom AKA my caravan.

 

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On 6/4/2021 at 4:27 PM, IronFilm said:

Once EV Vans become mainstream with their huge batteries, they'll be able to run the lights for small local shoots off their own batteries built into the van!

Only problem with this is if you run the battery empty and can't get home - you'll still need a generator to charge the vehicle! 

 

On 6/4/2021 at 10:38 PM, MrSMW said:

I might be way off here but what about something like the Jackery 1000?

Can't buy anything more powerful than the 500 model here in the EU at the present time so I went for another companies 500 model.

It's principally to charge all my batteries and run my laptop when I am 'off grid' at or between jobs in my mobile office/bathroom/kitchen/bedroom AKA my caravan.

 

Looks like it's essentially the same thing as a block battery, just with different (ie no XLR/28V) connections. Though I guess with modern LED lights a standard household power plug is all you need anyway.

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2 hours ago, barefoot_dp said:

Only problem with this is if you run the battery empty and can't get home - you'll still need a generator to charge the vehicle! 

Yeah, like anything, you'll have to use a bit of common sense. 
No different to say using the cigarette plug on your normal ICE car, only to let your battery run flat then being unable to start your car to get back home. 

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2 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Yeah, like anything, you'll have to use a bit of common sense. 
No different to say using the cigarette plug on your normal ICE car, only to let your battery run flat then being unable to start your car to get back home. 

manually driven cars aren't too bad provided you haven't completely flattened the battery. You can push start it with a couple  of blokes or roll start if your on a hill. Did that for about a week with a dying battery, but it required a bit of forward planning  finding a hill that was convenient. You learn pretty quickly after you flatten your first battery, not to do it again. lol 

A dual battery setup is the way to go, that way if you flatten the second battery your main battery is still good.

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