Gear for the Journalist on the Go

Freelance camera operator Michael Frye used Anton/Bauer Dionic 90 Lithium Ion batteries to cover the US Open for the Tennis Channel in August.

SEATTLE—The news shooter’s video tools may be a long way from a Hollywood movie crew’s collection of equipment. But the run and gun style has its own particular needs, and vendors are constantly reinventing and improving what news folk carry into the field.

An ENG shooter needs battery packs to power his camera, and IDX System figured that as long as he’s carrying a source of energy, the company’s Duo 95 and Duo 150 battery packs ought to have power accessible to run or charge other devices as well.

“What we’ve implemented on these new batteries is two D-taps,” said Zachary Shannon, field engineer and technical service for IDX in Torrance, Calif. “They can be used for powering onboard accessories, such as lights, or any recorders, or anything that requires 12 Volts. We’ve also added a USB power output that can charge tablets, smart phones, remote controllers, anything that requires USB power.”

Lithium-ion battery failures continue to make news, though those accidents have been in aircraft and electric cars. “But we went ahead and improved the safety of our Lithium-ion battery packs,” said Graham Sharp, Anton/Bauer general manager. “They’re now the safest on the market.”

First, A/B put in circuitry that’s constantly measuring temperature and current draw. “The minute we see anything strange going on, like a rise in temperature or overcurrent situation, we basically open a switch and shut the battery down,” Sharp said. On the physical side, following the recommendation of battery cell providers, the company has tripled the gap between individual cells to 3mm. Sharp emphasized that existing A/B Lithium-ion battery packs in the field have an excellent safety record.

BHV’s Video Ghost, an alternative to the traditional battery, works by sending a 48 Volt supply over an existing video cable but is designed to prevent damage from incorrect connections.

Vinten Vision blueBridge “The advantage of this system is that it allows the installation of location devices such as POV cameras and monitors in difficult access areas without the need to run a power cable or make regular trips to change batteries,” said Julian Hiorns, president of the U.K. company. The “GhostRack is designed for small trucks, giving the capacity to power four cameras from a single unit, very useful for operation in locations including news, sports arenas and concert halls.”

Size matters to an ENG shooter, especially when he’s got to pack and carry a piece of equipment. Zylight took that to heart when the company designed its F8 LED Fresnel fixture, which folds down to four inches thick for shipping.

“It’s bright like an HMI, but better suited for run-and-gun news ENG applications,” said Joe Arnao, president of the Los Angeles- based company. “You just snap on a battery and go.” The F8 draws just 100 Watts, but provides the light of a 1,000 Watt tungsten Fresnel. The light is equipped with ZyLink wireless technology, which makes it easy to link multiple Zylights for simultaneous remote control.

Metal halide discharge lamp technology has been a mainstay for ENG shooters wanting a big punch of daylight balance illumination. K5600 in North Hollywood, Calif., has launched a 200 Watt tungsten balance metal halide discharge bulbs for its Joker fixtures, which will let shooters swap bulbs in just minutes to get double- usage out of a single fixture, according to Ryan Smith, K5600 president. “That’s something that’s very unique considering that nobody’s been able to do that before,” he said.

Later in the year, K5600 will roll out 3200K lamps for all of its fixtures: 400W, 800W and 1600W. “Everybody will be able to take their existing Jokers and change their color temperature without gelling them,” said Smith.

One of the unfortunate truths of the universe is that the sun isn’t always going to be in the perfect position when it’s time for a liveshot. Litepanels’ high output LED field lighting solution, nicknamed “Hilio,” is a powerful bank of 1-inch daylight LEDs that fills in sun-caused shadows on the reporter’s face.

While there are heavyweight and energy gobbling fixtures capable of the same thing, the power- efficient LED Hilio can operate off a pair of A/B 91-Wh Dionic battery packs continuously for up to two hours, and for an unlimited time off a simple 15A wall circuit with power to spare. The Hilio/ HC lighting package includes a pair of A/B Dionic battery packs and a dual charger.

Scott Stueckle, sales and public relations manager for Kino Flo Lighting Systems in Burbank, Calif., pointed out that the film used for news shooting decades ago had well-known and steady spectral curve characteristics for lighting equipment designers to target.

DP Tom Guilmette and his Zylight F8 on Mt. Washington. “Now that you have a variety of HD cameras, the rise of the DSLRs and those types of things, each camera has tended to have, by manufacturer, its own spectral sensitivity curve,” he said. Kino Flo has designed their fluorescents and LEDs based on the spectral sensitivity curves of all the major camera manufacturers. “We’ve added into our line of our LED Celebs, and tubes for all of the fluorescent fixtures we made over the past 40 years or so,” he said.

Not everything designed to help the ENG shooter is hi-tech; take Vinten’s blueBridge for example. “It’s a very useful little accessory that has been created as a result of shooters innovating in the types of cameras that they use,” according to Andrew Butler senior product manager for Vinten.

With a news photographer carrying several different cameras with him in the field, the need arose for a payload-expanding device so the shooter doesn’t have to carry several tripods. “The blueBridge is our way of enabling them to use both small and larger cameras on a single support. The blueBridge would lower a tripod’s counterbalance range for a DSLR, where without the blue- Bridge the same tripod could handle a regular 1/3-inch camcorder.”

The trend toward reporter/ photographer video journalists (VJs) has put an emphasis on smaller gear. “They’re basically a one-man show now, carrying their own camera, tripod, microphone, and doing everything themselves as a VJ,” said Tobias Keuthen, global brand manager for Sachtler and Petrol Bags.

Where Sachtler’s larger Video 18 tripod system is a mainstay for traditional camcorder ENG shooters, VJs carrying DSLRs or small camcorders needed a smaller, lighter tripod for lightweight cameras. “The ACE L fluid head works the same way as our larger products, it’s got the DNA of Sachtler, a smooth camera movement,” he said. “It’s also the lightest tripod in this range.”

One of the challenges news shooters have is deploying their tripods with one hand while carrying all matter of equipment in the other. “With traditional three-stage tripods you had three locks on the upper part of the tripod and three locks on the lower part,” said Gus Harilaou, sales manager at Miller Camera Support in Cedar Grove, N.J. “On our Sprinter II tripods, we took the lower locks and raised them to the top, which allows you to unlock the lower and higher stage without having to bend over, without undoing the individual locks. It basically cuts the setup speed and the breakdown speed to less than half the time.”

An ENG shooter has enough on his mind when he arrives at a liveshot location without having to think about actually setting up the liveshot. Broadcast truckmaker Accelerated Media Technologies, a builder of ENG trucks based in Auburn, Mass., looked to simplify that shooter’s life, and came up with their Nissan MV 200, an all IP liveshot vehicle with a Dejero Ka-band system that’s both cellular- and satellite-capable.

“The shooter can literally push one button and have the unit completely connected to its bandwidth, via satellite or via cellular,” said AMT President Tom Jennings. “It’s got satellite backbone components so that if the cellular bandwidth drops off, the satellite bandwidth has the load and will maintain its bandwidth no matter what happens.”