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Power in the field for your Mac? Matt Allard looks at the Hawkwoods V-Lok power solution

By technical editor Matt Allard:

The Hawkwoods V-lok Mac power adapter

For News crews who often get sent out into isolated locations the biggest problem is usually that of power. If there is no mains power or access to a generator you can be left in a very frustrating position. Powering up cameras and lights can still be done relatively easily these days as many field lights can be run off camera batteries and the cameras themselves can run longer than ever on small compact batteries.  What can’t be powered easily is Apple Mac computers which a lot of photographers and film crews use.  The new generation have built-in batteries that you can’t just swap over when they drain out.  This leaves you with very few options to keep your computer powered up once the battery runs out and you have no other way to directly power it.   If you are in the field with no source of power and you need to ingest, edit and then transmit your material your Mac’s battery may not last long enough to get the job done.

There are plenty of external battery or power solutions for PCs – but not for Macs.  What I now have and use very frequently is a special Hawkwoods V-Lok power supply.  By attaching two V Lock batteries to the device (any V-lock battery brand will work) and hooking up the supplied 4 pin XLR to MagSafe Mac cable I now have an external power source for my computer.  The batteries on the V-Lok run in series and that is why two are required to power your Mac.  The run times depend on how good your batteries are so it is recommended you use two batteries of equal charge.   I have found they can run your Mac for quite a long time depending on what you are doing with your computer.  Obviously computer editing or live streaming will draw a lot more power than just surfing the web.

This system will run any MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air – although you need this adapter for the very latest Retina ones.  With the MacBook Air it will charge the internal battery first where as with MacBook Pros it will just provide external power without charging the internal battery.  I have no idea why this is but I assume it is more to do with the specifications of the Mac rather than the Hawkwoods V-Lok.

If you don’t have or use V-lock batteries Hawkwoods make two other versions.  The DV-Mac which uses four Sony NP-F batteries and another version- the BP-Mac which takes Sony BP-U batteries that are commonly used on the Sony EX1, EX3 and F3 cameras.  Again it requires four of these batteries to work.

I would of liked to have seen them make a version that uses DSLR batteries from Canon and Nikon as a lot of shooters would already own a lot of these batteries.  There may well not be enough power from these type of batteries for this to work but I’m not a design engineer so I’m only speculating!

The only downside to this device is having to use multiple batteries to power the unit.  Anton Bauer does make a similar product that requires only one Bauer pack.

When you stuck out in an isolated area or even in an urban environment the ability to be able to keep your computer powered up no matter where you are is crucial.  The Hawkwoods series of Mac power supplies enables you to do this by using the batteries you already have.  There is nothing worse than having to tell a News desk that you can’t do another live cross or send in a story because your computer ran out of power.

For more information and a list of dealers check out www.hawkwoods.com

About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He is a multiple ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) award winner. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras, the Sony F3 as well as new Canon DSLRs.

Posted on August 10th, 2012 by Matthew Allard | Category: Batteries, Computers |

9 responses to "Power in the field for your Mac? Matt Allard looks at the Hawkwoods V-Lok power solution"

  1. Joe Sheffer Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Looks like a pretty good solution; but i bet 2 v-locks only give you an extra hours battery when editing. I’ve no idea why someone can’t just make a big old lithium battery for us to haul about, which would give 10-12 extra hours of power to edit off. It’s really frustrating the lack of options at the moment.

  2. Matthew Allard Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Hi Joe,

    The problem is always going to be size/weight and also the amount of lithium the battery contains. Aviation rules are quite strict these days and they simply won’t let you transport batteries that will not meet their safety requirements. In a lot of countries now they make you hand carry lithium ion batteries with you on board in separate plastic bags with the terminals taped up. You cannot even check them in! In China they will only allow each individual to carry two batteries each on board domestic flights.

  3. Sam_Morgan_Moore Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 4:19 am

    It is my understanding that laptops draw quite a lot of current – more than a single Vlock can happily push out -hence the need for two – which of course extends how ling the thing runs for

  4. insicht Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 7:21 am

    you can also use portable car jump start power stations. they are very cheap and can power every device you want. but they are also quite big in size.

  5. insicht Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 7:54 am

    quite the opposite of being cheap but therefore amazingly powerfull (up to 32 additional hours !) and small is this one here:
    http://www.hypershop.com/HyperJuice-External-Battery-MacBook-iPad-222Wh-p/mbp-222.htm

  6. Matthew Allard Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 9:26 am

    insicht,

    Thanks for the link. That one looks interesting. Although I’m not sure how long it lasts when your editing ProRes footage, compressing or doing live streaming. I think the 32 hours is in standbye mode. I find my 17″ Macbook Pro doesnt even last for 2 hours when im editing or doing live streaming. The benefits of the Hawkwoods for News crews in particular is that most of us use V-lock batteries and we tend to have a lot of them. I would defenitely be interested in checking the Hyper Juice out though :)

  7. insicht Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 11:47 am

    it’s the same to me. editing on my 15″ leaves about 2h max.
    i haven’t tested the hyper yet. but maybe this helps:
    17″ battery has a capacity of 95 Wh as apple says here:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/SP621?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

    and the hyper pretends to have 222 Wh.
    that would mean about 2,33 times of your internal battery extra – or 4h and 40 min extra.

  8. insicht Says:
    August 11th, 2012 at 11:53 am

    and while compressing and streaming you could lower the screenbrightnes or turn it off. i also turn off airport, bluetooth and keyboard-light if not needed in such situation.

  9. kayleigh Says:
    March 14th, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    You should take a look at the DSLR rig power accessories at http://www.fastforwardtime.co.uk/dslr-rigs/rig-power-accesories. They have some great battery mounts to choose from!

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