Crappy location power

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by John Stafford, Jul 10, 2005.

  1. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I've never been on location where the quality of power was an issue. Just wondering what people here do to avoid the pitfalls of a filthy power supply, with bad grounding etc.

    I did connect a cable to a brass grille on the floor that ran the length of the venue and found a slight improvement, but this was by no means necessary.

  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Hmm, you could travel with a UPS, but they're heavy as hell. For anyone that doesn't know, the right ones are wonderful power conditioners because they convert incoming AC into DC, and then back to a pure, steady sinusoid.
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yep - that's the trick.

    I carry around a medium one (750 Va) by APC. I'll be upgrading in the near future though to a rackmount unit (also by APC, but 1500 Va). David's right - they're damn heavy but certainly worth it if you have crappy power or have an outage while recording.

    They've saved my but since back in the day when I did some remote recordings on MD (I know, I know - shitty medium, but it worked - that is unless the power went out and you couldn't write the TOC...)

  4. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I do several things, beginning with checking the wiring of the AC with a simple 3-:LED tester. You will be frightened by the percentage of improperly wired outlets.

    I alsp use a Tripplite 40lb UPS (don't know if it does the AC/DC/AC thing) and also have a Furman power cleaner in the micpre rack out near the mics. Sometimes it is necessary to lift the ground on that via a simple 3-prong>2-prong adapter. Always good to have several for the older churches without 2-way outlets.

    These measures have always beeen sufficient heretofore!

  5. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I forgot to add that you should always unplug any water coolers or fridges, or you will get a nice click every time the compressor kicks in.

  6. Costy

    Costy Guest

    Was it Yamaha MD8 ? I still have one of those. An undestructable
    piece of gear, actually.

    I second the opinions above, power conditioning helps in lots of
    cases. I use a Belkin 1500 VA UPS and a Furman rack-mounted
    conditioner. In my experience with DAW, the max load is when
    bouncing stuff on disk. If UPS is not powerfull enough it'll go nuts...
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    Sony 2 track. The Yamaha stuff was "out of my price range" at the time. (Think back to when MD was brand new and recording digital was a HUGE novelty - I had the Sony converters that would allow you to do digital to VCR - :lol: and then upgraded to MiniDisc.

    Frankly though, I've been somewhat impressed by the new crop of MD recorders. I'm thinking real seriously about buying one only to use as my on-location backup device. (I never need to use the back-up, but a decent 2 track would save me in the event that I would need to.)

  8. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Getting back on topic-- beware that with a Masterlink if you lose power before hitting STOP you have lost the file, unless you have the patience to pull the drive and go into it in Linux.

    And that is assuming that Masterlink used the FST format. If so it might be possible. As I write there is a guy who is pulling data off my HD24 HD that was "prematurely reformatted." I will post the results of this rescue mission......

  9. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I have gotten to the point where I simply expect the power on location to be completely substandard. I do not EVER travel to a gig without a Furman AR117 or AR1215 voltage regulator and power conditioner. I have a lot of location power horror stories and they have almost all been solved in the end by having the AR117.

    Beyond that, I also bring a APC UPS (750Va) with me that I run my computer and sometimes converters off of. The only thing the Furman won't solve is a power loss so that is used to protect the computer.

    It gets heavy to carry all that stuff, but the proverbial tush that is saved is your own.

  10. 0VU

    0VU Active Member

    I always try to check out any venue in which I haven't worked before. I've got a fairly large written checklist that I run through and use to write up a "venue notes" report that goes into a file for future reference. This checklist/report includes finding out what power supply is available, where the fuse box/consumer unit is located, what type it is, where the socket outlets are to be found and what type(s) they are. I also check out the options on cable runs, and access points for cables to get an idea of the lengths of runs involved.

    Like Rich, I test any sockets I might want to use, to make sure they're wired properly and earthed. I also carry an earth loop impedance tester to check that the ground/earth connection is a good, low impedance one. If it's not, I can use a mains isolation transformer and run a separate ground line to a gound spike outside the building.

    If I can find a building services manager or resident electrician to talk to, I do, just to see if they know of anything tricky that isn't immediately obvious.

    In most venues I use a Liebert UPStation GXT2U (3KVA, 2U rackmount online (AC-DC-AC) UPS) and an Isotek Nova mains filter/distribution unit (I used to use an Isotek SubStation but I upgraded to the Nova because it offers better performance whilst being physically much lighter to carry around). I've also got an Isotek Titan high current conditioner/filter which I use for my power amps/active monitors. This doesn't all go out on every job; it depends upon how poor is the venue supply and how important the job. For any live recording, I use at least the UPS and the Nova; for session work, where I'm set up in the same place for a two or more days, I'd probably use the whole lot unless I wasn't using a computer, in which case the UPS sometimes stays at home and I just take the full power conditioning setup.

    I only actually started carrying a UPS when a particular job came up which needed one. I was recording a string quartet CD in a church in a small village in Yorkshire. It was a quartet and venue that I've worked with about three or four times a year for the last fifteen years. This time we were going to lose half a day to a funeral service in the church and another session to a wedding. We often lose the odd session to church business, but it was unusual to lose two on the same project. A couple of days before we were due to travel to the venue, the vicar rang to tall us that he'd just had a letter from the local power company telling him that they would be shutting off the power to the church for half a day so they could do some emergency power line replacement after recent storms.

    The producer went into the panic that was his normal reaction to a potential problem and started saying that we'd have to cancel the sessions as there was no way we could finish everything in the time left. We'd already added on a half day to cover the lost time but losing another morning couldn't be covered. I did some quick sums and worked out that if I got a big enough UPS with a cold start facility we could run all the equipment for long enough to cover our morning session and suggested that if the UPS ran out before the power came back on we'd just have to take an early lunch.

    I managed to find a local computer dealer offering a good price on a 3KVA online UPS in a 2U rackmount case so I bought it and crossed my fingers. Sure enough, on the appointed morning, we arrived from the B+B to find the power off at the church. We waited until everyone was there and warming up before we powered up the UPS and gave all the equipment 15min warmup time to settle in. Thankfully, the weather was fine and sunny so the church was warm and bright so we didn't need the electric heaters or floodlights, and as everyone in the control room used cans anyway we turned off the active monitors.

    The UPS was still showing 10% capacity when the line power came on after about three and a quarter hours :) It did take the rest of the day and overnight to get back up to full charge but without it we couldn't have done the sessions.

    The only problem we had was that without killing the UPS batteries we couldn't boil our kettle so it looked like everyone had to go without coffee for a whole session - a much bigger problem with this quartet of coffee addicts than almost anyone else I've ever met! I ended up leaving the assistant running the machines and walking into the village in search of a camping gas stove and kettle! The one and only shop didn't have them but one of the locals buying his newspaper overheard me explaining the problem and offered to lend me what I needed. You don't get that in London! He refused any payment but needless to say, he now has a few boxed sets of CDs including one signed with messages of thanks from everyone on the sessions :)

    Since then I've almost always taken the UPS along on sessions. If I'm running a computer based recorder, it's set up, if not, it might get left in the van as it's heavy(!) but if the venue is remote or power unreliable it gets used.

    I now also have a 3KVA petrol generator in a quiet-pack case just in case of emergencies. It's output is too dirty to use directly for equipment but it can feed the UPS to keep it topped up if the need arises.

    I should perhaps explain that my rather over-spec, belt and braces approach to power supplies has come more out of remote recording/live broadcasting with a vehicle than live recording/sessions in nice civilised hall/church/whatever. The most extreme power problems came when I used to record a weekly gardening panel show for national radio. The venues ranged from 1500 seater auditoria to village halls where the only power supply was a pair of 3 Amp sockets and even the odd tent/marquee/boat. We also did a couple of candlelit Christmas carol services from remote and windswept cathedrals/churches, one on a small island, so we needed to be self sufficent for power as in everything else to be sure we'd get the job done. Even more than normal to think about but some of the best times I've ever had on a job. :)
  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I'm really enjoying reading all these stories and suggestions when it comes to power.

    A few of my own: Like Rich, I keep a 3-pin AC cable tester (with LEDs, etc.) in both of my live rigs. (It can save your life as well as your equipment someday!) I don't always need it, and sadly (human nature what it is) we sometimes dive right in and plug our gear in without testing first. (Ever have a 220 outlet wired as a 120? You learn reallll fast about making assumptions! :( )
    You can get these from many places - Home Depot, Lowes, Radio Shack, and certainly online. For anywhere from $5-25 each, they're worth their weight in gold.

    I keep a UPS here in my garage, ready to go on gigs I'll know it'll be needed, but it's so darn heavy, it's not worth lugging out on everything. (I figure if the power goes in the bigger venues, we're going to have to stop the performance anyway - the lose the lights as well, and the fire alarms go off....)

    And it's hard to believe in this day and age, but we're STILL running into places where they've not yet upgraded from 2-prong to 3-prong AC outlets. Usually it's old churches and institutions like them, where they have difficulty accessing the wiring to make the upgrades. (why fix it if it's not broken, is the usual assumption....sigh....) So, I always keep a number of "Gazintas" in all my cable & tool boxes as well. (It's probably a local expression: Three-goes-into-two: AC ground-lift adapters.)

    We had to run camera AC and stand lights in a recent CD/DVD production at this newly renovated Catholic Diocesan church (still within City limits, and thusly rather cash-poor) where they did NOT upgrade the AC service. 2-prong stuff everywhere. The funny part was WHERE we found receptacles for some of the cameras & stand lights: One of the best spots was INSIDE the confessional booths...... there were a number of switches & outlets where the priest sit - things like "occupied" lights, reading lights, and even cooling fans. Hehehe.... We ran our AC cables right in under the doors, turned off the "occupied" lights, but had plenty of sources to feed the gear - without a load of wires underfoot, as well.

    Always an adventure in this biz, indeed. :cool:
  12. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    The beautifully engineered Nagra V, runs 11 hours on a battery charge, the PSU when connected goes through the battery first, ie its like an online UPS. Also if the power is lost, mid writing files are cleaned up gracefully. I once had the battery shut off catasrophically in a recording, because the battery type was set incorrectly in software after a service. The file was fine up until that point and the file catalog was undamaged.

    This is one of the most important technical specs to check on any new recorder. Go to the dealer, set in into record and pull the power and see what sort of mess results.
  13. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I shoulda guessed this would be a big thread!

  14. recordista

    recordista Active Member

    For smaller gigs, the 744T has enough juice to run all day (using an NPF-960 battery.) I carry two other (smaller) batteries as well and can also run it off my 33 AH AGM cell if needed or charge the batteries from a car or PV panel.

    On larger multitrack projects, I bring an Oneac power conditioner, an outlet tester, DVM with one loooooong lead (for testing ground connections across different circuits) and a waterpipe ground clamp (just in case there's no ground at all.)

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