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Getting a Charge From Batteries

Lithium-ion based systems power most hand-held cameras

Try to imagine a world without batteries. That would be a world with no cell phones, cameras, hand-held video recorders, iPods, or lap top computers. It would be a world where every hand-held electronic device would have to be plugged into the power grid.

Of course it is difficult to imagine. Batteries, or power-pack systems, have become such an integral part of our lives that it is not possible to think about not having them. It has been part of our lives for so long that our grandfathers, who may harbor memories of horse drawn buggies, cannot remember a time when a flashlight was not able to magically illuminate the dark.

Today’s batteries, especially the lithium-ion based systems that power most hand-held cameras and video displays, are a far cry from the first batteries. In 1746, Pieter van Musschenbroek of Holland wrapped a water-filled jar with metal foil and discovered that this simple device could store the energy produced by an electrostatic generator. In 1800, Alessandro Volta of Italy built the Voltaic Pile—alternating discs of zinc and copper, with pieces of cardboard soaked in salty brine between the metals—that produced electrical current. This device is the forerunner of today’s lithium-ion models.

Frezzolini Electronics’ PB-65 in action


Anyone using batteries to power their cameras or hand-held video systems favors the lithium ion battery, which came out in the 1980s, said James Crawford, spokesman for Frezzolini Electronics, of Hawthorne, N.J. The military, government agencies and broadcasters are constantly on the lookout for smaller and better portable power sources, Crawford said.

“Lithium is the ideal system,” Crawford said. “The reliability is so good that they are used in every cell phone, and they are lighter,” he said. “The batteries range from an (older) battery that weighs five pounds to a lithium-ion that weighs just two pounds,” he added.

The advantage to the lithium ion polymer version is that it can be encased in a flexible wrapping instead of a rigid metal casing, which means such batteries can be specifically shaped to fit a particular device, such as a cell phone or tablet computer. Frezzolini recently introduced a new cuttingedge battery-charging system, the PB-65, which features a 14.8-volt lithium ion battery for the Sony EX1 and EX3 camcorders, and the PBC2, a two-channel charger. It can charge two batteries simultaneously, but using the DC OUT connector and optional PBC2 Cable, another PBC2 base can be connected to charge four batteries simultaneously. The PB-65 battery has a higher capacity than the Sony BP-U60 and has a built-in “Power Tap” connector that can be used to power a separate set of lights for the camera.

“The new battery is 20 percent more powerful than the older models and it is the most advanced battery for the broadcast industry,” said Ed Kuhn, Frezzolini vice president of sales.

Anton/Bauer’s DIONIC HCX


Anton/Bauer, a longtime battery producer, has released a DIONIC HCX high-current battery which has a 124 watt-hour capacity and a motion detection sensor that protects against capacity loss, said Annie Lisa, the company’s manager of marketing and promotions.

The DIONIC HCX’s motion detection sensor significantly increases the overall life of the battery. After a two-day period without a load, the DIONIC HCX automatically goes into “deep sleep,” allowing extended storage with nearly zero capacity loss. The battery can be revived by moving it, according to the firm. To provide precise run-time data, an enhanced LCD RealTime fuel gauge has been incorporated to display up to nine hours of run-time (under low power load conditions) using a seven-segment display.

Reliability and safety are keys to the power systems that the company sells, Lisa said. Welldesigned batteries, such as those from Anton/Bauer, have built-in safety mechanisms, she added. One example is the honeycomb cell design where each individual battery cell is self-contained, thereby preventing cells that are damaged from damaging adjacent cells, Lisa said. The company’s chargers are also smart, with the ability to detect the type of battery that is being charged, which prevents overcharging, she said.

“Because we have a close relationship with our customers, we always looking for ways to provide batteries that will go longer on a charge,” Lisa said.

PAG’s PAGlink


PAG, the British camera power and lighting specialist, has developed a linked battery charging system that will allow multiple batteries to be charged at the same time, said Steve Emmett, PAG’s publicity manager. PAGlink allows multiples of batteries (up to 16) to be linked for charge and discharge, providing combined capacity for extended camera runtime and a higher current draw of up to 12 amps. The system includes XLR4 to V-Mount (or PAGlok) battery charging connectors, the PAG Intelligent Parallel Charging software for fast, charging and a 100-watt output (6A at 16.8V).

“This is an industry first,” Emmett said. “This system is great for power-hungry high-definition cameras, and set-ups with multiple accessories that require power from the camera battery. PAGlink is suited to everything from news gathering to highdefinition (HD) and 3D digital cinema production.”

And, the charging system is smart. When linked, the batteries create a high-speed serial network, enabling them to communicate with each other, and ensuring that higher voltage batteries do not discharge into lower voltage batteries. The collective state-of-charge for the linked batteries is displayed on the camera viewfinder.

BHV’s Video Ghost


A British company, BHV Broadcast, has developed Video Ghost, a power transmitting system that could become an alternative to batteries. The Video Ghost provides a switchable 5 volt or 12 volt auxiliary power for camera accessories along an existing video cable.

The system is made up of a power transmitter and a power receiver. The transmitter takes in 12-volt direct current and boosts it to the transmission voltage, said Julian Hiorns, BHV’s managing director. The power is then sent down the video cable to the receiver, which converts it back to 12-volt direct current. Meanwhile, the standard definition (SD) or HD video signal is sent down the same cable, Hiorns said.

“As an example, the system can be used to power a composite to SDI converter at the camera, thus avoiding the significant signal degradation,” Hiorns said. “The main reason for the introduction of Video Ghost was the perception that it could act as a cost-effective replacement for batteries, doing away with the need to change batteries, especially in hazardous or inaccessible locations,” he said.

The breakthrough of Video Ghost was considered so significant that in 2011 it won the Mario Award, which is annually given by TV Technology magazine for those products that represent significant technical achievements.

“The development of this product has taken the best part of a year,” Hiorns said. The company has been “refining the design with special attention to the safety lock.”

The feature ensures that the transmitter only sends power down the cable when the Video Ghost receiver is connected. If the receiver is removed, the power is immediately disabled. That prevents any risk of damage should the user inadvertently connect the transmitter output to a camera output, Hiorns said.