The Need for Speed

ENG crews see lighter, more powerful gear in the field


Getting there, getting the story and getting back as fast as possible has long been the challenge to TV news crews. But the need for speed is only one of the trends affecting equipment purchases by these journalists-in-motion.


"With all the cable news and all that's getting to be so much stronger," said Autoscript president Michael Accardi, news crews are being tasked with executing in the field the longer, more complicated pieces that used to be done in the studio.

Autoscript is selling them its TFT 12 High-Bright prompters, which combine light-weight and screens that are bright enough to be read outdoors. Luckily, said Accardi, technology that allowed light and bright prompters was there when the demand hit.

Autocue has found demand for an even more portable unit. "The 6.4-inch FDP MiniCue has been specifically designed for handheld cameras and Steadicam," said Mark Shoesmith, Autocue production manager.

The prompter unit is four pounds, including mounting hardware, which makes it light enough to truly go anywhere.

Still, some news applications call for full-size prompters. "News crews are finding they need to use large teleprompter monitors in the field, but they still need portability and quick deployment," said John McGrath, Managing Director of Telescript Systems, Inc. "Our new folding teleprompter systems have been very well received by news professionals."

Telescript's FPS-150-F 15" Fold & Go prompter is lightweight and easy to set up and break down, yet it gives talent a large viewing screen that allows the cameras to be a comfortable distance back.


Weight is also important for portable power. "News shooters are impressed with the power-to-weight benefits of PAG Li-Ion batteries," said David Hardy, PAG Quality and Technical Director.

"It is understandable when very often you can shoot all day on one battery, and keep a backup battery in your pocket."

Battery muscle is also a factor, said Frezzi President James Crawford. To give news shooters enough power to run both the camera and on-board light over a long period of time, Frezzi developed its BP-14MH 130 watt-hour brick battery.

"For maximum power-energy density deliverable to a load, nobody else can do it better," said Crawford.


Barry Rubin, General Manager of IDX System Technology, sees news crews moving to LED onboard camera lights. "LED lights have more than 10,000 hours of life, generate no heat, are very lightweight, and do not produce the inrush that other light technologies produce, therefore giving longer life of their batteries."

IDX's X3-Lite puts out illumination equivalent to a 35 W halogen bulb at daylight color temperature, while only requiring 11 W of power.

"There's a lot of interest in the new camera formats, the P2 and XDCAM," said Greg Neal of Miller Camera Support. Neal sees customers buying new tripods and head for the cameras, but said they are cost-conscious while demanding high quality.

Anton/Bauer Marketing Manager Greg Prentiss noted the great variety in equipment a battery maker must power.

"From DV to DVD to P2 solid state recording--throw in the migration to HD--and the result is the widest mix of cameras deployed in news, sports and production the industry has ever seen."

This has led Anton/Bauer to offer its Gold Mount system as eight different batteries in three chemistries: lithium ion, nickel metal hydride and nickel cadmium.

Miller introduced its Arrow 30 camera head along with its Sprinter tripods to support these new camera formats, which are lighter than their tape-based predecessors.

Although news shooters have seen the weight of ENG cameras gradually drop from more than 30 pounds, Ste-Man's President Steve Manios said he thinks they've now stabilized at around 18 pounds.

This has meant a good business for the Cartoni Laser fluid heads his company markets in the U.S. Designed for cameras from 8 to 21 pounds, the Laser features an infinitely adjustable tension system.

Bogen Imaging is finding news shooters interested in tripod products from both its Manfrotto and Gitzo lines, said Creative Marketing Manager Larry White. The Manfrotto 519 Video Fluid head is compact, yet capable of accommodating a payload up to 23 pounds. It is paired with the company's 542 A.R.T. Roadrunner tripod legs.

From Gitzo, White said news shooters are buying the G1548 four leg-section tripod, pairing it with the G1380 Video Fluid Head with six interchangeable tension springs to allow it to remain balanced with a wide range of camera weights.

Not all customers are using the lighter-weight cameras, said OConnor Engineering National Sales Manager Bob Lowe. "I'd say 95 percent of what's done is run-and-gun news, but there's a small segment of the news market that is more sophisticated, multicamera."

To carry the heavier camera loads needed for these kinds of shoots, OConnor is providing its 1030B fluid head and the 25L as the tripod.

For the lighter-weight cameras used in news, Lowe says OConnor's parent company Sachtler provides its Video 15.

The need for news crews to handle varying weight, as they add lights, heavier batteries, teleprompters and more, is addressed by Vinten's Vision 100, designed for payloads from 15 to 44 pounds. To aid the operator in adjusting and recalling balance settings for various camera configurations, it features an illuminated digital balance readout.

The Vision 100 is matched up with a Vision tripod that can be equipped with a Spread-Loc Mid-Level Spreader. That feature has a geared midlevel spreader controlled by a lock knob, and the arms are individually extendable to provide a large spreader radius and facilitate use on uneven ground.