Ultra2 & 12V Cameras

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Let me begin by saying that most of what I’m about to write about could have been avoided if I had just read the damn manual! But who reads manuals anymore?

I am a relatively new owner of my Ultra2 Sled. Bought it back in December of ’10, so I’m about 9 months in. On one of my first jobs I was flying a RED. I thought to myself, why don’t I just use the rig in 12v mode. Unfortunately, I got very little run-time in that mode. Hmmm. I had two PowerCubes on there… should be getting better performance. But, I’m at work. No time to diagnose… just switch over to 24v mode and let the down-converter do the work. Viola, better run time on the two batteries.

Then, a couple months pass, and I’m back on another job with the RED. This time I can’t even get the rig to boot properly in either mode. Camera gets 50% through booting and dies. Weird! So, again, no time to diagnose, just slap on the camera battery and go!

Now a couple months go by… in the meantime I’m flying the Alexa a lot. Back to a job with the Red and again, camera not booting. Here I have a bit of time so I decide to figure this out. I start trouble shooting and realize that if I power the monitor via 12v the camera dies during boot up… if I go with 24v, then it makes it through boot up. Hmmm. Guess what else is happening!?!? The battery bracket is getting scorching hot!

So, its pretty clear what’s happening… the RED pulls so much current that its overworking the 24-12v down-converter. It in turn is getting VERY hot. AND if you add the stress of the addition current demand from the monitor (if you connect the cable so as to power it off the down-converted 12v source) then you officially hit the limit and the camera shuts down.

Great, now I know what the problem is, but how do I fix it. Here are a couple answers to that question which might benefit others!

1) Its important to note that out of the box the Tiffen Steadicam Ultra2 is configured as follows: Switch the unit on in 12v mode (indicated by | on the switch) and you are ONLY using the rear-most battery in 12v mode. Switch it on in 24v mode (indicated by || on the switch) and you are now using both batteries in series – giving you 24v and implementing the 24 to 12v down-converter which is housed in the battery bracket. My guess is that this down converter maxes out around 8 or 9 amps… so beware. HOWEVER, if I had only read the manual I would know that I could configure the unit in 12v mode to use both batteries in parallel. This is done by removing the battery plate closest to the post and swapping around some cables (see your manual for details). This effectively eliminates the 24v mode, but sure does solve the problem described here! Only pain is that you have to open the unit up to switch back and forth. Shame they didn’t build in a switch… will work on a solution for that.

2) Another alternative that I implemented and like is to use the IDX E-HL9 batteries instead of the PowerCubes. These are essentially the same exact guts as the PowerCube, but have the ability to stack onto one another. So what I’ve done is to switch the rig into 12v mode, and just place two stacked batteries on the one active battery plate. It does essentially the same thing as achieved by the procedure mentioned in #1. Furthermore, you can combine these two solutions and fly 4 batteries at a time! I’ve done this when flying gyros.

So I hope this has helped some of you that were also scratching your heads about using power hungry cameras like the RED with your Ultra2 or other similar Tiffen model.

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