One of the biggest challenges when shooting video on location, especially when you need to stay mobile for a long period of time, is how to keep all your gear powered without adding excessive weight to your rig. When I was out shooting long days handheld, there were many choices to keep the camera and accessories powered for a long shooting day. There’s a wide variety of mobile power options available; decisions on what to choose just depends on a few factors, such as what kind of rig you’re using, weight/portability limitations, and how much power you need for your rig size.
- Small: Smartphone/Action cameras
- Mid-Size: DSLR/Mirrorless cameras
- Large: Broadcast/Cinema cameras
Small Size Rigs: Smartphone/Compact Gimbal/Action Camera
There are many lightweight options to power your mobile compact camera rig, especially since a smartphone, action camera, or small gimbal camera doesn’t require a lot of power to keep their relatively small, built-in batteries charged.
- Power banks: The easiest method is by using a power bank. Power banks are reasonably priced portable LiPo or Li-Ion batteries with a relatively low, safe capacity and can be found everywhere. They generally have USB Type-A outputs to power using your smartphone USB cable, but you can also use them to charge an accessory such as a gimbal or light if they utilize a USB input. Ensure the power bank has a high enough power capacity to cover the charge of your device, because smaller ones (e.g., 500mAh or under) can be depleted quickly.
- Small battery plates: Small plates might also come in handy to utilize a larger battery to keep your GoPro or gimbal camera charged. For example, this adapter plate from IndiPRO Tools allows you to utilize a high-capacity L-series battery and provides a mini-USB output for a variety of small accessories. This DigitalFoto V-mount plate provides a USB Type-A output, as well as multiple DC barrel and D-Tap outputs to power all your accessories simultaneously, and a compact V-mount battery such as the Core SWX Nano won’t add too much weight or bulk to your small rig.
- Car chargers: It’s also helpful to consider a car charger or cable to connect to the car’s 12V power plug (formerly the cigarette lighter plug) to power small gear, as well when doing car shots, so you can save battery life. It won’t add much weight to your rig. However, make sure not to power large-capacity gear with your car battery if you want to drive it later.
Mid-Size Rigs: DSLR/Mirrorless/Small Camcorders
If you’re using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, or even a compact camcorder, they have incredible image quality but tend to have abysmal battery life, by default. Some options that can help you get through a full day while not weighing you down any more than you can handle include:
- A battery grip: Custom-designed battery grips for your camera fit right into your camera’s battery slot and double your battery power.
- Shoe/cage/rod-mounted battery plates: Keeping your rig compact is important, so utilizing a battery plate that can be mounted directly on your camera or rig, such as a battery plate with a cable or dummy battery output can be a great addition to your small rig. Many of these plates have multiple power outputs with different voltages so they can power your camera and accessories.
- Plates or monitors with power output via cable or dummy battery: Check to see if your accessories have a power output, such as the Feelworld HDMI monitor with a dual L-series battery plate—if they utilize larger-capacity batteries than your camera, you can also use its larger battery capacity to power your camera. A cage-mountable battery plate, such as Tilta’s L-series plate, with the addition of a dummy battery, can be an easy fit for any DSLR/mirrorless rig.
- AC-to-DC adapters: If mains power is available, an AC-to-DC adapter to plug into your camera’s power input can avoid batteries running out. There are also AC to Dummy battery adapters so you can use the camera’s battery slot instead, or wall plugs with multiple outputs.
Large Rigs: Broadcast/Cinema Cameras
To power larger rigs, you’re going to need more juice, but the heavier your rig, the less portable it will become. If you aren’t around AC mains power and need more portable options, there are several stationary/portable and handheld mobile choices available.
- Gold or V-mount battery with D-Tap and/or USB output: Professional Gold mount and V-mount batteries hold the highest capacities to power large cameras and equipment. They can power your camera by either direct mount, and most of these batteries feature a D-Tap output, and there are numerous regulated and unregulated D-Tap cables available to power a wide variety of cameras and gear. Many of the batteries also feature USB outputs, so you can also power smaller accessories such as a monitor, a light, or a smartphone while you are powering your camera. The Core SWX Powerbase EDGE line even features a quick release plate to mount your battery directly on your cage or rig.
- There are also battery plates that provide a conversion from a large-capacity battery to a smaller-capacity mount, such as the Tilta V-mount to dual BP-U plate for the RED KOMODO.
- Double-sided battery plates to pass through power, such as a Gold mount to V-mount, V-mount to L-series, V-mount to V-mount, dual V-mount to single V-mount, and many other configurations, can not only convert power, but they also feature LEMO-type outputs, as well as DC inputs to provide a failover option for your camera, while still remaining portable. Failover is an important requirement in a live broadcast environment to make sure your camera stays running, even when the power is cut. There are several options for your camera that allow you to utilize the power from a battery while using mains or alternate power to fail over if one of the sources fails.
- Distribution/junction boxes are handy power boxes and strips to input power from a large-capacity battery, such as the Wooden Camera V-mount D-Box , a LEMO power strip, or SHAPE’s J-Box kits, and route it, simultaneously powering your camera and all your accessories, even when they require different voltages and cable types.
- Some power stations can be bulky and heavy and may require mains power, but there are also several models that fit into a carry case, such as some BLUESHAPE models, to provide high-capacity performance for power-hungry professional equipment. You can group multiple V-mount or Gold mount batteries to power equipment with stations such as the POWERANGE V-mount station or by using a BlockBattery power pack.
A Multitude of Mobile Options
Mobile battery choices should not add too much to your existing rig, though in some cases heavier batteries are a bonus, because they can also be used for counterweight. But you may need a way to remove the battery altogether from your rig, so there are plenty of options to mount batteries on a belt, in a bag, or hanging in other locations while still remaining portable. Gimbal vests and other mobile rigs often support a battery slide option to provide easy battery mounting, in addition to battery plates on your camera rig itself. Another great idea for small camera rigs is a backpack with USB output port. Put any power source such as a power bank inside your backpack and the pack has a plug on the outside that allows you to power your handheld device easily.
Give us an idea what your mobile rig power setup looks like in the Comments section, below, and how you solved weight and power capacity issues in your own mobile productions.