Shooting with RED Epic #2: REDVOLT Batteries Trade Power for Portability

Shooting with RED Epic #2: REDVOLT Batteries Trade Power for Portability

The RED Epic will accept many different battery types with the right adapter to jack into the power port, but the introduction of Epic also saw the introduction of REDVOLT batteries. And that's what I want to talk about today.

From our ongoing exploration of 10 Things You Should Know Before Shooting with RED Epic:

2. REDVOLT Batteries Trade Power for Portability

No camera that requires AC power has ever rooted itself firmly in the film industry. Batteries are crucial to camera crews in terms of efficiency, mobility, and ease of use.

The RED Epic will accept many different battery types with the right adapter to jack into the power port, but the introduction of Epic also saw the introduction of REDVOLT batteries.

And that’s what I want to talk about today.

These little rectangles are a lot more portable and well-designed than their RED Brick brethren, but that comes with a caveat — less juice.

Depending slightly on your setup, a single REDVOLT will power the camera for about 30 minutes.

That may seem fairly reasonable at face value (and it is for the size of the battery), but 30 minutes is sometimes the duration of just setting frame. And you can potentially spend another 30 minutes rehearsing and shooting takes. Or 30 minutes waiting for a complicated lighting rig to go up.

(This is where the shorter boot time of the Epic is great. When you see approaching downtime, power down the camera knowing that it takes only a few seconds to boot back up.)

And the frequency with which you have to swap the batteries really sneaks up on you — I was constantly caught off-guard on an Epic shoot a few weeks ago having to make battery runs.

Of course, this is because we only had the side-handle module for the EPIC which accepts one REDVOLT. There is a quad-power module that will allow you to use four REDVOLTS at the same time and shoot for a much longer duration before having to power down and swap out. The catch on that is it about doubles the size of the camera.

Regardless of which module you use, however, each REDVOLT takes about 90 minutes to charge to 100% and 60 minutes to charge to 80%. So having multiple chargers and certainly multiple REDVOLTS is crucial to lasting an entire 12 hours shooting with RED Epic.

But even with the power module, one thing that has bothered me ever since the RED One is the camera displays battery power as a percentage — I really wish it would display an estimated time figure. Most camera setups run at a constant voltage and so I don’t see this as unreasonable.

Because, frankly, it’s hard to gauge the amount of time 10% will give you without a stopwatch and a mindful eye.

With that said, I recommend you swap REDVOLTS out as close to 5% as possible. This gives you enough leeway to wait a few moments to swap out — say to finish a take or frame a shot — while also sucking the battery for as much juice as it can provide.

I also urge you to use the three-bar indicator on the REDVOLTS to your advantage. This will quickly let you know if a battery has low power (one-bar) or is at least 80% charged (three-bars).

I usually place one-bar REDVOLTS on the charger first. As soon as they hit three-bars, I swap them out for one-bar batteries.

While that usually means my REDVOLTS are working at an 80% charge, the time it takes the battery to charge from 80% to 100% isn’t worth the time it would take the one-bar battery to go from 0% to 80%. I talk more about this theory here.

Finally, no matter if you decide to use REDVOLTS, RED Bricks, or another power solution, you should brush up on battery technology with these resources:

How many REDVOLT batteries do you make sure to have before a long day with Epic? Have you ever run the risk of running out of power? Share your thoughts in the comments!

  • http://twitter.com/gaboguzman2 Gabo Guzman

    I started using the Volts when I worked with the Epic, but I found it tedious to change every 25 minutes, so I only use the volts to hot swap the Bricks.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      I like the Volts size and their design, but the short life is obnoxious. AB batteries are always my favorite to work with. Good idea to use the Volts when hot swapping though — I’ll file that tip away for future use :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/Volstraav Kevin Marshall

        I advise a little bit of caution for that. While technically the power should transfer immediately to the side handle/battery module upon a brick being pulled – several people have had issues with that not happening (including myself, on multiple cameras). Not sure if this is a hardware issue or a firmware one, but it’s something I’d test during prep…

        • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

          Well, and you have to give a bit of bumper time for the transfer. Wait a few seconds between each swap

        • Brettclements

          Hi Kevin. I have never had an issue. We shoot our Epic real hard. I use a backplate and Bricks or SWITS. I always keep a Redvolt in the side handle. It is just getting it in that tskes the time. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/peuchoa Paulo Eduardo Uchoa

    The volts are a joke! When I did my first Epic shoot last year, we had a bunch of those batteries but at the time RED hadn’t released the quad so it was just a major pain to always have to swap batteries. So I put an order to production and got some real batteries and the camera dept started moving fast again. Even if we had that quad adapter, I would still have put the request for other batteries. There’s a lot of things that makes the Epic frustrating and those volts are one of them. 

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      I can see why they’d be good in an environment where you want the Epic to have a small footprint, but on a cinematic film-style shoot, they are really a hindrance.

  • http://twitter.com/Zacatac Zac Crosby

    I’ve seen everything from using 10 red volts for a feature in Spain on 2 epics, but that was a lot of rushing around for my AC buddies. I personally use RED Bricks and other off-brand batteries, and they do much better than the bloody redvolts. I love them and hate them. Grabbing a quick sunset shot? got REDVolts, anything else, stick with V-Mounts on a Wooden Camera quick plate.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      V-Mount batteries are definitely the preference. The REDVOLTS seem like they were designed more for those peeps shooting stills or non-scripted video photography with their Epics

  • http://www.facebook.com/Volstraav Kevin Marshall

    Yeah, REDVolts are kind of a weird deal. I can see maybe for people wanting a no-wires approach to power, and the XLs in the quad module apparently get similar performance to a brick, and hot-swapability without a side handle. Dual module seems kind of interesting. Charge time is still kind of a drag, though…

    I personally love bricks on the back – smaller than a quad module and powers the camera forever…not to mention more cost effective, and not Red-specific. In fact, a DP I work for is very excited because he found out his old block batteries for his 35-III work on his Epic, and communicate voltage…we may never have to power down again…

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Yeah I prefer bricks too just because of their duration in powering the camera. The one thing I’ve always hated about those though is the stupid RED logo on the back which makes it impossible to stack them.

  • HumanGobo

    funny, I generally do the same thing with most camera batteries (except maybe AB’s). I mostly end up with SWIT V-locks, but typically I’ll take those up til the charger light turns orange for 80%, and pop on the more drained ones… You’re right in that it’s not worth it to wait all that extra time for it to get to 100%! I sometimes find a fully dead one can take over 4 hrs to charge to full :- 

    Didn’t know how many other folks did that!

  • HumanGobo

    A complete sidetrack, but still having to do with batteries… 

    I recently had a camera PA that I told to take our batteries home and charge them, which he proceeded not to do because the PM told him the night before that we’d have power the next day, which I guess he assumed would mean he could charge in the morning. 
    I was so very close to chewing him out for that one, but I’m too damn nice. Had we been shooting on a battery hog camera (we’re using a Sony F800 on that one), I think I would have ceased being nice…

    This is why even when I do have a 2nd or camera PA, I still find it hard to give up controlling and overseeing everything, and do everything myself… Any suggestions how I can alleviate that, or tips on simple delegation? I’m so used to being the only AC that my lines between duties of a 1st and 2nd can be quite blurred. I guess it may come down to having sometime I truly trust on hand.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Ah scary story, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been asked to write posts before on running the cam dept/leadership, which is what you’re alluding to. A lot of it is trust. I always try and work with a 2nd AC who I believe does the job better than I could. You have to find someone like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rasch80 Marchese Dè Rasch Vignoni

    the biggest problem whit red one was the boot agony – time… we used to call it the red-time! some rentals made an external hand made module, that permits to use v-lock batteries and bricks at the same time. In this way one can change the brick when is gone whitout tur off the camera, using the v-lock as a safe battery. Is possible to do the same whit red epic? I mean, leave a redvolt into the side handle and go on whit bricks batteries, using the redvolt just as safe for the brick change???
    I’ve got some bad surprises whit the side handle, it stops to work on a shooting in the top of a mountain reached by helicopter…fortunately i’ve got a v-mount hand-made module whit me, put it into a backpack and go on but…thrills!!! ;-)

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      There are ways to power the camera using Anton Bauer batteries and a hotswap plate. You can even power using the old RED Bricks. But I also believe RED has their own hotswap module in the works, if it’s not out already.