Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tired of dead batteries

You've seen the numerous hunting TV shows and decided to jump into filming your own hunts. Maybe because your intent wasn't to go as far as producing TV shows, you didn't want to get soaked buying the multiple thousands of dollars worth of gear it takes to do it. Sure, you may have spent a little cash getting a decent HD video camera, or even two for a POV angle or other second angle, but there are considerations that have to be accounted for when it comes to making hunting videos.

One such consideration is camera batteries. They are expensive little dudes. Despite their considerable cost, they do not last nearly as long as you'd like. So, here's the deal, unless you're using high dollar cameras (>$3,000) there just aren't many battery options for your video cameras to keep you rolling when trying to film in the outdoors. You could search high and low for a higher capacity, brand-specific battery to fit the bill. Or, you could buy extra standard batteries and switch them out as needed.

The problem with option 1 is there's no guarantee you will find a higher capacity battery for your rig. If you do it will be expensive. The problem with scenario 2 is if you're like me, you WILL need to change batteries at the absolute worst time to have to change a battery. It happens every time. For many cameras, to change the battery requires pulling it off the tripod and removing the tripod mounting plate. Sure, you could think to put in a fresh battery before "go-time," but when you're in the field, anytime could be "go-time." This is a serious pain, especially when you've got deer moving within range. In the past, I've just let the camera go in favor of completing my hunt. I've lost more than one filmed hunt due to this problem.

Well no more. Not wanting to drop a ton of more cash on batteries, I looked into other, outside-the-box options. My search turned up a rig that will last me eight hours with the Canon HV20/30/40 series HD video cameras.

I employed the use of a high power RC car battery for my power needs. I learned the 120 volt power cord for the camera is actually sending 9.4 volts from the transformer in the power cord to the camera. As luck would have it, some NiMH RC car batteries are made to output 9.4 volts - an exact match. Next was the matter of figuring out how much power I wanted the battery to have. I went with a 5,000 mAh battery. Some go up to 9,600 mAh and higher. This decision really comes down to how much you want to spend. My battery and charger cost me roughly $80 for both. The "high-capacity" Canon battery was well over $100 not including the charger, and I'd be lucky to get four hours out of a charge.

Next I took a 120v power cord and cut the camera end off, leaving about a foot of wire still attached to the transformer. I installed a quick-release female connector on the camera cord that fit the male connector on the battery. I then installed the same male adapter on the power cord still attached to the transformer so I could switch back and forth between 120v and battery power.

I tested everything while hunting yesterday, and it worked like a charm. I left the camera powered during the entire hunt and never ran out of battery. Now, all I need to do is make a camo sock and rig a better way to mount the external battery to the tree arm or tripod. To do this with the Canon batteries I would be looking at well over $200 and the frustration of having to change the battery when I don't want to change a battery. The other good thing here is, you can leave a regular battery in the camera so you can shoot while on the move. Then when you get set up in the tree or blind you can just plug in the external. It will work just as it would with the cord plugged in to the wall.

The only thing that didn't work like a charm was getting the deer to cooperate with me. I managed to get plenty of b-roll, however.

This is actually a pretty easy DIY solution. Most importantly, it will keep you rolling when that big buck decides he wants to make his wide-screen debut.


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