Broadcast Batteries, Today and Tomorrow


As consumers, we all have experience of being let down by batteries (think rusty Italian cars in the 1970s!). But thankfully the world of batteries has moved on: the global battery industry is today worth $71 billion and is estimated to be growing at nearly 5% a year.
Of this, broadcast batteries make up a tiny fraction but the manufacturers that serve the video market are a surprisingly restless group of technologists who are continually answering the call for more and more efficient products.
Looking back over the recent history of the video industry, it's evident that whenever there is innovation in the motor trade, the telecoms sector or the world of consumer electronics, broadcast battery manufacturers are never far behind. They clearly scrutinise every advance and implement enhancements in the power packs they supply to our industry. Power hungry early-adopters, broadcasters are always quick to latch onto the newest sources of energy whether it's nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion.
Did you know? Half the world's deposits of Lithium are to be found in the salt desert of Bolivia.
So while the main independent battery manufacturers such as PAG, Sony and IDX are all innovative companies, the broadcast market is a classic 'trickle down' model. It's rather like what seems to be happening in the camcorder world: developments in DSLR sensors are having a major impact on the more niche, specialist market of professional video cameras. The same is true for broadcast batteries.
"As a battery manufacturer, we have to be quick to respond to what's happening in the electronics market so that we can get new technologies to market quickly but safely. Our customers can never have enough power so it's our role to make sure that we can supply them the best and most reliable solutions. Developing power packs is about constant innovation. We have to continually accommodate the changing shapes, sizes and power needs of the latest production kit. Innovation, research and development are in our DNA." Says Nigel Gardner, Sales & Marketing Director at PAG UK.
Before looking at particular professional battery advances, it makes sense to get an understanding of the bigger power picture.
Fujitsu Laboratories is developing a "Hybrid Energy Harvesting Device" that can generate electricity from heat sources - even body warmth.
Clearly the history of modern electronics is not just about Moore's Law and the superpower status of the microprocessor. Laptops, mobile phones, iPads, Satnavs... none of this would have been possible without the input of chemists in battery labs. The progress these scientists have made is incredible: a 1983 mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X weighed 785g and boasted one hour of talktime. Compare this to the latest 137g iPhone with up-to 14 hours talktime. By refining the chemical reactions taking place, batteries have been able to shrink in size and weight while providing ever increasing hours of use.
We are still in the midst of this revolution. Now, as big business turns its mighty sights onto environmentally-friendly transport, energy is again the focus of attention. Progress is rapid: the maximum range of electric cars has increased from less than 50 miles in 1990 to an average of around 150 miles today. The good news for us is that this is still not nearly good enough for the mass market. The era of battery innovation has no choice but to carry on until electric cars can purr along for at least 300 miles.
Remember 1980's video cameras? They were as unwieldy as the first mobile phones and both required the use of external battery packs. Broadcast manufacturers developed leather belts to do the job featuring deep pouches for batteries and chargers.
It was in the mid-nineties, as the personal computing revolution began, that major advances in Lithium batteries started to happen. The new chemistry boasted no discharge requirement (ie recharge in any condition), almost 40% more power and 50% lighter than standard NiCd cells, no memory effect and better environmental credentials. Li-ion cells have had a major impact in the broadcast world as well as in the consumer electronics market.
Back in 2001, PAG launched its first Li-ion battery as cameramen started using laptops powered by Li-ion and immediately appreciated the weight saving. "Our R & D department undertook extensive testing before we took on Li-ion and its benefits were clear. Li-ion has been a major step forward for camera operators with few drawbacks." explains David Hardy, PAG Quality and Technical Director.
The Next Big thing?
There is considerable excitement about nanowire technology. Electrodes made of carbon-silicon nanowires can store six times as much charge as the graphite electrodes in lithium batteries. Nanowires (each is seven-thousandth the thickness of a human hair) offer greatly improved capacity combined with reliability and a long shelf life.
Improved chemistry has indeed played a large part in making today's batteries more reliable and longer lasting. But critically it's also down to enhanced power management through advanced electronics. Power management circuits are a crucial part of battery design. Where electricity and combustible material is involved, it is imperative to avoid over-charging, power spikes or power drainage. So important are these factors that manufacturers such as PAG implement designs with up-to 3 layers of protection circuitry rather than the required single layer.
This fits the human psyche that has a peculiar tendency to be cautious and to be prepared for the worst case scenario when it comes to batteries! Production teams often grossly over-estimate the number of packs they need. It is not unusual to see a camera bag containing a single camcorder, a couple of memory cards, a light and then 3-4 batteries - enough power for hours more shooting than is actually required.
The reality is that today broadcast batteries built to best practise standards are highly durable, reliable and should be trusted.
In terms of actual output, in the last few years there have been some very real advancements. A glance over some technical specs show some pretty good progress - a typical 14.8v Li-ion unit from 2003 would provide 75 Watt hours. Today, the same size unit is capable of running for as many as 110 Watt hours. "I imagine a 150 Watt hour battery can't be more than a couple of years away." Said PAG's David Hardy.
But how to recognise a truly quality product today?
It is true that nearly all the cells found inside broadcast batteries are sourced from one of a handful of manufacturers in the Far East. The likes of Sanyo and LG Electronics are continually refining existing technology and developing new chemistry to make the next big breakthrough. The technical developments they have already released have produced excellent cells that laid the platform for significant improvements in batteries.
Ceramatec claim that a battery using their ceramic technology could store 40 kilowatt hours of energy in a unit the size of a fridge.
However, when it comes to batteries, rather than invest in reliability, today's thrust for cost savings has opened the door to products that emphasise value over performance. These batteries often take advantage of lower grade cells that offer a shorter life span and are prone to internal shorts or contaminated electrolytes. As the TV industry looks to make savings wherever it can, these low-quality products have started to enter the European market. Buyer beware!
What's more, the cells themselves are only part of the story. Cell protection, robust casing, electronics, power management, capacity reporting, charge limiting, cooling, material testing - all these aspects are crucial to ensuring that camera operators have the power they need, when they need it. In order to protect the user and their camera equipment, reputable battery manufacturers today deploy a number of sophisticated features: multiple protection circuits, electrolyte-impermeable materials, high-impact cases and even built-in RF resistance. These are all areas where corners can be cut - but at what price?
The leading battery manufacturers have maintained their core values, in order to give users confidence in the performance of their units. Take power monitoring as an example. Accurate reporting of the charge remaining has been a holy grail for the industry. It took companies such as Sony and PAG years to develop their systems to give meaningful feedback to the camera crew. Today it is possible to achieve accuracy down to one minute.
"Knowing the exact status of a battery gives the camera team confidence in their equipment and helps them make correct decisions. It tells them when they don't need to take an additional pack or charger so directly saves time and money. Solutions with vague power indicators are cheaper but they may not make economic sense." Explained Hardy from PAG.
Take another case: airline restrictions limit the types and quantities of batteries permitted on certain flights. Researchers are now investigating ways of producing generic power systems for a range of broadcast equipment which do not conflict with transportation restrictions. "It's not a simple matter, but we're close to the answer." Commented Hardy from PAG. High capacity batteries are already being produced that do not comply with airline policy and for most shoots this will not be a problem. But those production teams that want to invest in power that can be used at home and abroad will find the bedrocks of the industry innovating to find solutions.
Companies can purchase cheap power packs that last only a year. These batteries may only be able to withstand modest knocks and have limited protection against electrolyte leak. However, if camera operators want to go on benefiting from continual innovation, research and development that produces ever safer, more powerful, more reliable batteries, then they would be wise to invest in those manufacturers and developers that have built a reputation for doing so.

Tags: iss049 | batteries | pag | technology | brand-name | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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    EBS at IBC 2014

  • Visual Unity at IBC 2014

    Visual Unity at IBC 2014

  • Hitachi at IBC 2014

    Hitachi at IBC 2014

  • Gearhouse Broadcast OBLite at IBC 2014

    Gearhouse Broadcast OBLite at IBC 2014

  • Comigo at IBC 2014

    Comigo at IBC 2014

  • AVIWEST at IBC 2014

    AVIWEST at IBC 2014

  • Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2014

    Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2014

  • Harmonic at IBC 2014

    Harmonic at IBC 2014

  • Guntermann and Drunck DP-HR range at IBC 2014

    Guntermann and Drunck DP-HR range at IBC 2014

  • Ateme at IBC 2014

    Ateme at IBC 2014

  • SIS LIVE ManPak and LoStow at IBC 2014

    SIS LIVE ManPak and LoStow at IBC 2014

  • Cobham satellite EXPLORER products at IBC 2014

    Cobham satellite EXPLORER products at IBC 2014

  • Cobham new receiver at IBC 2014

    Cobham new receiver at IBC 2014

  • Fibrenetix with StorageDNA at IBC 2014

    Fibrenetix with StorageDNA at IBC 2014

  • Cinegy at IBC 2014

    Cinegy at IBC 2014

  • Quantel LiveTouch at IBC 2014

    Quantel LiveTouch at IBC 2014

  • Quantel deal with AFP at IBC 2014

    Quantel deal with AFP at IBC 2014

  • Front Porch Digital at IBC 2014

    Front Porch Digital at IBC 2014

  • TMD Mediaflex at IBC 2014

    TMD Mediaflex at IBC 2014

  • TMD at IBC 2014

    TMD at IBC 2014

  • Pixel Power Buzz at IBC 2014

    Pixel Power Buzz at IBC 2014

  • Matrox at IBC 2014

    Matrox at IBC 2014

  • Blackmagic MultiView at IBC 2014

    Blackmagic MultiView at IBC 2014

  • Snell Kahuna Production Switcher at IBC 2014

    Snell Kahuna Production Switcher at IBC 2014

  • Telestream Wirecast and Switch at IBC 2014

    Telestream Wirecast and Switch at IBC 2014

  • Telestream Vantage support for DPP at IBC 2014

    Telestream Vantage support for DPP at IBC 2014

  • Facilis at IBC 2014

    Facilis at IBC 2014

  • Fibrenetix with Quadrus at IBC 2014

    Fibrenetix with Quadrus at IBC 2014

  • Sonnet Technologies Thunderbolt Chassis at IBC 2014

    Sonnet Technologies Thunderbolt Chassis at IBC 2014

  • Volicon Products at IBC 2014

    Volicon Products at IBC 2014

  • Volicon at IBC 2014

    Volicon at IBC 2014

  • NewTek TalkShow at IBC 2014

    NewTek TalkShow at IBC 2014

  • Blackmagic and Fusion at IBC 2014

    Blackmagic and Fusion at IBC 2014

  • Metus at IBC 2014

    Metus at IBC 2014

  • ChyronHego Metacast at IBC 2014

    ChyronHego Metacast at IBC 2014

  • ChyronHego Lyric PRO at IBC 2014

    ChyronHego Lyric PRO at IBC 2014

  • Sonys new cameras at IBC 2014 - including the FS7

    Sonys new cameras at IBC 2014 - including the FS7

  • Broadstream Solutions at NAB 2014

    Broadstream Solutions at NAB 2014

  • Matrox Monarch HD at NAB 2014

    Matrox Monarch HD at NAB 2014

  • Metus at NAB 2014

    Metus at NAB 2014

  • Cineline Fluid Head from Miller Camera Support at NAB 2014

    Cineline Fluid Head from Miller Camera Support at NAB 2014

  • MultiDyne Products at NAB 2014

    MultiDyne Products at NAB 2014

  • Nugen Audio at NAB 2014

    Nugen Audio at NAB 2014

  • PacTV Truck at NAB 2014

    PacTV Truck at NAB 2014

  • Phabrix RX rack mount range at NAB 2014

    Phabrix RX rack mount range at NAB 2014

  • Phabrix at NAB 2014

    Phabrix at NAB 2014

  • Phabrix TAG at NAB 2014

    Phabrix TAG at NAB 2014

  • Pixel Power at NAB 2014

    Pixel Power at NAB 2014

  • Polecam presents award to AMS Pictures at NAB 2014

    Polecam presents award to AMS Pictures at NAB 2014

  • Pronology at NAB 2014

    Pronology at NAB 2014

  • Quantel Pablo Rio at NAB 2014

    Quantel Pablo Rio at NAB 2014

  • Quantel Enterprise sQ at NAB 2014

    Quantel Enterprise sQ at NAB 2014

  • Quantel QTube at NAB 2014

    Quantel QTube at NAB 2014

  • RTW at NAB 2014

    RTW at NAB 2014

  • SGL at NAB 2014

    SGL at NAB 2014

  • SIS LIVE product range at NAB 2014

    SIS LIVE product range at NAB 2014

  • SIS LIVE ManPak at NAB 2014

    SIS LIVE ManPak at NAB 2014

  • Softron MovieRecorder updates at NAB 2014

    Softron MovieRecorder updates at NAB 2014

  • Sony Alpha7S at NAB 2014

    Sony Alpha7S at NAB 2014

  • Sound Devices at NAB 2014

    Sound Devices at NAB 2014

  • Studio Technologies at NAB 2014

    Studio Technologies at NAB 2014

  • Telestream Enterprise at NAB 2014

    Telestream Enterprise at NAB 2014

  • Telestream Switch at NAB 2014

    Telestream Switch at NAB 2014

  • Thomson Broadcast at NAB 2014

    Thomson Broadcast at NAB 2014

  • Perception at NAB 2014

    Perception at NAB 2014

  • Visual Unity at NAB 2014

    Visual Unity at NAB 2014

  • Volicon at NAB 2014

    Volicon at NAB 2014

  • Calrec Summa at NAB 2014

    Calrec Summa at NAB 2014

  • ChyronHego PowerClips at NAB 2014

    ChyronHego PowerClips at NAB 2014

  • ChyronHego at NAB 2014

    ChyronHego at NAB 2014

  • Cinegy at NAB 2014

    Cinegy at NAB 2014

  • Clear-Com ProGrid at NAB 2014

    Clear-Com ProGrid at NAB 2014

  • Clear-Com HelixNet Partyline at NAB 2014

    Clear-Com HelixNet Partyline at NAB 2014

  • Cobalt Digital at NAB 2014

    Cobalt Digital at NAB 2014

  • CueScript Prompters at NAB 2014

    CueScript Prompters at NAB 2014

  • Dalet at NAB 2014

    Dalet at NAB 2014

  • Dejero at NAB 2014

    Dejero at NAB 2014

  • DPA Microphones at NAB 2014

    DPA Microphones at NAB 2014

  • Editors Keys at NAB 2014

    Editors Keys at NAB 2014

  • Elemental Technologies Software-Defined Video at NAB 2014

    Elemental Technologies Software-Defined Video at NAB 2014

  • Elemental Technologies HEVC solutions at NAB 2014

    Elemental Technologies HEVC solutions at NAB 2014

  • Elemental Technologies Multiscreen Solutions at NAB 2014

    Elemental Technologies Multiscreen Solutions at NAB 2014

  • Ericsson at NAB 2014

    Ericsson at NAB 2014

  • Facilis at NAB 2014

    Facilis at NAB 2014

  • GB Labs Space at NAB 2014

    GB Labs Space at NAB 2014

  • Glensound Atomic Copper at NAB 2014

    Glensound Atomic Copper at NAB 2014

  • Guntermann and Drunck at NAB 2014

    Guntermann and Drunck at NAB 2014

  • Haivision at NAB 2014

    Haivision at NAB 2014

  • IMT at NAB 2014

    IMT at NAB 2014

  • Inmarsat at NAB 2014

    Inmarsat at NAB 2014

  • JVC GY-HM850 and GY-HM650 at NAB 2014

    JVC GY-HM850 and GY-HM650 at NAB 2014

  • JVC concept products at NAB 2014

    JVC concept products at NAB 2014

  • Libec ALLEX slider system at NAB 2014

    Libec ALLEX slider system at NAB 2014

  • Matrox Mojito at NAB 2014

    Matrox Mojito at NAB 2014

  • Matrox Capture Card at NAB 2014

    Matrox Capture Card at NAB 2014

  • AQ Broadcast at NAB 2014

    AQ Broadcast at NAB 2014

  • ATEME at NAB 2014

    ATEME at NAB 2014

  • Atomos Shogun and Ninja Star at NAB 2014

    Atomos Shogun and Ninja Star at NAB 2014

  • Atomos Operating System at NAB 2014

    Atomos Operating System at NAB 2014

  • Atomos at NAB 2014

    Atomos at NAB 2014

  • Blackmagic URSA at NAB 2014

    Blackmagic URSA at NAB 2014

  • Blackmagic Studio Camera at NAB 2014

    Blackmagic Studio Camera at NAB 2014

  • Cintel Film Scanner: Blackmagic Design at NAB 2014

    Cintel Film Scanner: Blackmagic Design at NAB 2014

  • Brainstorm Multimedia at NAB 2014

    Brainstorm Multimedia at NAB 2014

  • Haivision on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Haivision on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Wowza Media Systems on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Wowza Media Systems on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Broadstream Solutions on the Oasys stand at IBC 2013

    Broadstream Solutions on the Oasys stand at IBC 2013

  • Oasys Chameleon at IBC 2013

    Oasys Chameleon at IBC 2013

  • Loft London Solutions with Cubix on the Oasys stand at IBC 2013

    Loft London Solutions with Cubix on the Oasys stand at IBC 2013

  • Official TOUR Video 2013

    Official TOUR Video 2013

  • AC Entertainment Technologies at BVE 2013

    AC Entertainment Technologies at BVE 2013

  • Jonathan Harrison at BVE North 2011

    Jonathan Harrison at BVE North 2011

  • Gekko at IBC2011

    Gekko at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • ADDER Technology LIVE at BVE 2016

    ADDER Technology LIVE at BVE 2016


Articles
Shedding Light on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k BMCPP4K
Garth de Bruno Austin “What is it about light that has us craving it?” Is the question asked in the opening seconds of Garth de Bruno Austin’s latest short, The Colour of Light. Exploring this natural, human need as well as our innate desire to control it, Garth’s film showcases everyday people going about their lives in differing degrees of luminance, whether that be an artificial streetlight or a natural morning sunrise.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | cinema camera | 4k | cpp4k | Garth de Bruno Austin
Contributing Author Garth de Bruno Austin Click to read or download PDF
Using Wireless Transmission
Jeremy Benning Wireless acquisition is a staple of live sports, entertainment and reality shows where cable free capture permits shots not previously possible, for health and safety reasons, and gives the camera-operator greater artistic licence to roam. The same is increasingly true of narrative drama where cinematographers are keen to work handheld or Steadicam where that helps tell the story. Any equipment which frees their movement and time by being lighter, easier to use and reliable in performance is going to tick a lot of boxes.
Tags: iss134 | wireless | 4k | transmission | Jeremy Benning
Contributing Author Jeremy Benning Click to read or download PDF
Accelerated Workflows with eGPU
Mike Griggs From the UK’s National Trust to magazine publishers to manufacturers, digital content creator Mike Griggs has a wide and varied portfolio of clients for whom he creates 3D art, motion graphics and multimedia exhibits. A typical day might involve sampling birdsong near Virginia Woolf’s country estate or creating 3D animations for VR. To keep on top of these demands, Griggs wanted to take the full power of the GPU computing revolution on the road.
Tags: iss134 | sonnet | egpu | amd | post production | editing | Mike Griggs
Contributing Author Mike Griggs Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read
The Wireless Way to 4k
JP Delport DTC’s AEON group of products have been specifically designed for the 4K market. We encode with the more efficient HEVC algorithm, which means we are taking a 12G signal and compressing it to a bitrate that can be managed over an RF link. So what makes this a leading idea in the 4K revolution?
Tags: iss134 | wireless | 4k | transmission | JP Delport
Contributing Author JP Delport Click to read or download PDF