Friday, June 17, 2011

Battery Maintenance And Tips

One thing that is often overlooked when buying equipment for videography is your batteries. Practically everything you own takes some kind of battery these days. The camcorder itself, your shotgun mic, portable lights, etc.

Getting ready for a shoot usually means spending some time the day before charging batteries. For the average home video producer one battery for your camcorder is usually enough. That battery is probably the one that came with the camera. You should have plenty of time to shoot birthday highlights, your friends skating or your day-trip vacation. However if you are serious about video, or a pro, then you need at the very least three camcorder batteries per camera.

The battery that came with your camera is usually good but will shoot for about an hour or so. Larger batteries that hold more juice and will shoot longer becomes a must for important events. The last thing you want to happen is to run out of juice during a critical moment in a wedding ceremony or other event. So consider investing in a slew of back up batteries for your camera brand. A good place to buy batteries is Ebay, you can find some great deals there and if you don't mind waiting for them to ship from overseas, you can get more power for your buck.

Video Tip: After shooting never store your camcorder batteries drained. Always charge them fully, then store them.

I always keep a fresh pack of 9 volt, double A and triple A batteries in my camcorder bags. If it takes a battery then before a shoot I have an unopened pack ready if necessary and for every shoot a new battery goes into the device. You don't have to buy the most expensive batteries either. A quick trip to a one dollar store where you can stock up is usually fine. I consider these disposable, after a shoot I don't use them again.

However if you do not want to keep buying batteries then you may want to consider buying a battery charger and a set of rechargeable batteries for each device that takes them. This will save you money in the long run but the key here is not to forget to charge them.

Having a dead battery is like having none at all.

Design yourself a check list of all the components that take batteries and the day before a shoot go over the list and keep the chargers running. Make sure you have all the batteries charged and their backups. You may even want to set aside a shelf or area in your office that has your chargers plugged in and you can keep up with all the various different power packs. This will be your "Battery Charging Station" where every thing gets charged at once.

Another tip is to keep the power cord that came with your camera handy in the camera bag. Don't leave it at home! If all else fails then you can run the camera off a nearby outlet. This will limit your mobility but at least you will have a camera running.

On location it may or may not be convenient to charge batteries while there. If you are shooting outside you may not have access to a place to replenish batteries, however at a wedding or event you can usually find a place out of the way to have a charger plugged up in the event you need a quick charge. Check with the sound guy or some other event worker and ask if there is a place you can plug in a charger for a back up. When you drain a battery go put it on the charger at your earliest convenience.

You can get an inverter for your car too and charge batteries with the car running. The inverter will convert the energy from your car to run a charger. Many cars have an inverter built in or your device may have a "cigarette lighter" type charging cable. Use it if available.

Dedicate a box or place for batteries and tapes. You should never have to hunt for a battery. Keep one in your pocket if you can. As you see you are nearing the limit of a battery look for a pause in the action or a time you can quickly swap batteries and get a fresh one in the camera quickly. If you have an assistant, one of their duties will be to charge batteries on location and keep one ready if you ask for it.

Just before the bride says, "I Do" is a lousy time to run out of juice!

Batteries are designed to operate efficiently at normal room temperature. Extreme cold and heat will effect the batteries performance and can even kill a good battery. Take care where you are shooting and that your batteries don't stay back in your hot car, or out in the cold. If you are going to be shooting in extreme conditions, get an insulated container to store them in.

Be sure to store your camcorder batteries separate from the camera. This rule applies to all your device batteries. If you store the battery in the device it can explode or at the very least, drain down to empty. Charge them and keep them near the unit but not on it. Keep any used or drained batteries separate from the others, perhaps in another compartment of your storage box. This way you don't grab a drained battery at a critical moment.

When you swap batteries always test it. Turn the device on and make sure it is working. If the device has a battery power level or tester, check it. Even brand new store bought batteries could have died on the shelf. Never trust a battery you didn't charge yourself or are unsure of.

Good battery maintenance goes hand in hand with good equipment care. If you take care of it, it will last a long time. This is true with your equipment and your batteries. Have fun shooting and relax knowing you have the power to finish the job!
J.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good article however I would advise your readers to be very careful buying camcorder batteries over the Internet from sites like and including EBay as there are a lot of fake 'genuine' camcorder batteries out there. If the price looks to good to be true then it is certainly a counterfeit. I have been stung like this twice with 'genuine' Sony batteries, fortunately Sony do have a page on their website telling how to spot a counterfeit.

Samual said...

I found your post really interesting. Compact cameras are built to be sturdy, to withstand the occasional drop. The lenses typically retract into the camera, so there isn't much risk there for breakage.

camera crane

George said...

Great article as usual.

Jenifer Jack said...

Great article anyway I would encourage your perusers to be exceptionally cautious purchasing camcorder batteries over the Internet from online sites there are a considerable measure of fake real camcorder batteries out there. On the off chance that the value looks to great to be genuine then it is absolutely a fake.