“Locations no vacation.”
Jeff Sacks coined that one on a pharma job years ago. It’s always resonated with me. I’ve traveled to some of the most beautiful places you can imagine for work. Years of hopping islands with David Tsay or Dom Savini, and the Eagles cheer squad. Running around with Ben Leuner through the depths of America. Even lassoing Jimmy Chin at the top of the Tetons, it’s always for work. Head down, flight home is the goal. I spend the majority of my career experimenting with solutions and trying to provide consistency, efficiency and stability in any place you put me. Holed up in a hotel in British Columbia, stuck in a hut in the Dominican Republic, or tethered on the roof of a skyscraper, it’s all the same to me. When dealing with technology and environmental constraints, finding the sweet spot of luxury and necessity is a scary edge to walk on.
Being a digital tech, we spend a lot of our time trying to stabilize power and provide consistent data transmission so everyone else’s day at the office is a little less stressful.
For the majority of my projects, I end up constantly hunting for power or for somewhere to stick a generator to run my rig. I’ve tried a few different battery options but have struggled to find one that is universal on every set and project and efficiently works with multiple kits and is easy to maintain. The homies at Tether Tools were kind enough to provide me with a few of their new offerings to test out on a few recent projects and see if I could come up with a few scenarios that wouldn’t be commonly thought of for on set needs. Let’s start with the basics before we start plugging everything we can reach in; that’s coming later.
The basic necessity is powering the capture machine for optimal efficiency of the computer. Typically for location days I use the 16” MacBook Pro which pulls 100w when charging, so having a battery system that can provide that much power and still be mobile and rugged enough for travel is hard to find. There are tons of options out there on the standard 87/85w USB-C PD, but 100w providers are still the unicorn and to carry a bunch of them for a single purpose isn’t always practical. So, the balance has always been finding DC solutions that convert to AC so you can power anything. I typically resort to my trusty little 2000w Honda or the big 4000w guy that’s buried in a pelican somewhere, but they are a total pain to drag around, smell horrible and make noise that’s not fun.
Onsite Power From Tether Tools
Introducing the ONsite Power System… this little setup offers a ton of solutions that can power just about anything in my kit. At the bare minimum, I can take a D-Tap battery and their ONsite D-Tap to USB-C PD Adapter and run any laptop up to 100w USB-C delivery for a quick run and gun kit (In the fashion of Richie, let’s build it up…).
From there you can add the D-Tap to AC Power Supply and run power through your hub, a secondary display, or just use the power brick that was included with your laptop.
To keep things tidy and quick you can grab their ONsite Versa V-Mount with Rock Solid Master Clamp or Cardellini Clamp and mount power to anything, anywhere. I’ve used it to mount to a stand, a cart, my tripod, the back of my SUV, anywhere for continuous power delivery to your kit.
Even on days when I’m powered and have an APC on my cart, I keep the AC adapter on standby for most kits just in case I need to be mobile with a laptop. Or when I wrap out I can cut power to my iMac and do my end of day processing or drive transfers on a laptop and pack everything else out while it works without needing to rely on house power or any location. I can push my cart to my load out, pack up, toss the laptops in a backpack and be off site quicker than ever.
For laptop power, I’ve been using just the ONsite D-Tap to USB-C PD Adapter directly from a battery into the machine and have been getting great results. I’m running it with a shorter cable as well to keep things tidy. The standard Apple cable is a bit long and tends to get caught on branches or door handles when running around.
Having the ONsite D-Tap Battery and ONsite Versa V-Mount system integrated into my kits provides a universal power source found on most commercial sets as well as always available at rental houses to have a few days’ worth at your disposal. I personally carry 2 sets of adapters with a few batteries for each and have found that I’m able to run a full laptop kit and drive a wireless client monitor with ease and consistent power needs fulfilled.
The key to having a smooth tethered session with a portable kit is to make sure the laptop starts at 100% battery, and the external power source is uninterrupted during heavy use of the machine. What this does is allows the laptop to run at its full potential and never have to rely on power management with intensive use of the system. The minute the computer starts charging it starts figuring out where it can save power and contain the heat the internal battery is now going to put off as well as the excessive use of the fans from crushing your CPU and GPU. If you can keep your laptop powered and cool under most circumstances, your tethered session will be bulletproof. Power and heat management are the key to success, and the more stable the power, the more stable the computer will run. If the battery is charged, most often the computer is only pulling 60w to stay charged which keeps the heat down and makes those 150w batteries last a lot longer!
Even days when I’m running a full iMac Pro kit on one of my carts, I still have the kit attached just in case I need to go to a laptop kit for a mobile solution for any on set power needs.
Other Applications For Onsite Power
We’ve experimented with a few other uses as well:
- Provide uninterrupted power to your computer on a tethered session
- Charge camera batteries
- Create a power station for client area
- Provide power separate monitors
- Provide power for hubs and various necessities for data wrangling on set.
- Provide power to LED panels
- Power CPU cooler kit
- Power EGPU for location needs
- Powering a time-lapse kit
- Powering a Fujifilm GFX camera during a tethered session (why charge extras when this runs it all day on still life shoots with the Air Direct Wireless Tethering System providing live view)
- The kids’ iPads on road trips
I’ve spent the last few location jobs using the ONsite D-Tap Battery with V-Mount to power my laptop as well as wireless client displays located remotely around the set.
Rich Myers is a Digital Tech from Philadelphia, PA. Always on the look out for his next project, his computers have taken him all over the world to capture just about anything imaginable. From iconic key art in the desert to winter athletes in the back country. He has a deep understanding of technology, meticulous attention to detail, fascination with innovation and a love for creating images. Rich’s art is taking all of the pain points out of a production and allowing his Photographers and DP’s to have complete creative freedom with knowing that he has their image pipeline dialed in.