I came across your blog post on technomadia. I am soon to hit the road in a 12 volt RV. You had mentioned you were looking at putting in an Editing system. Did you do it, and what tricks did you learn? I have a full FCP setup that I want to have to edit HD.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Taylor is referring to Tales from Technomadia, a blog about “two gen-X geeks who are digital nomads synthesizing technology in with our full-time RV traveling. We’ve been on an unending road trip in our tiny fiberglass solar powered travel trailer since May 2007; sharing our journeys of embracing serendipity, logistical tips and inspiration.” I found their blog last year when I was Googling about a Honda generator that I used for Go West Happy Cow. I’ve been hooked on the idea of building a mobile production/editing RV ever since.
I haven’t really gone beyond the planning stages.
But here’s a few things that could start you in the right direction:
Monitor power use seems to go up exponentially with screen size. If you can learn to get by with smaller screens (very hard with editing) it will have a huge impact on your energy usage. Also, look for “green” models from manufactures. I have a Dell G2410 and it uses a fraction of the power of a 24″ Ultrasharp (the G series uses LED backlighting whereas the Ultrasharp, like most LCD monitors, uses a fluorescent backlight). But the trade off is that it’s not nearly as accurate as an Ultrasharp (or a Dreamcolor, which uses even more power).
You will benefit by ditching the tower and going with a laptop or Mac mini. With a laptop, you have the ability to hook it up directly to 12v power. The goal is to use as much 12v stuff as possible. If you just buy a $50 AC inverter for your laptop, you’ll drain your batteries faster because much of energy in the 12v DC (car) to 120v AC (inverter) to 16v DC (laptop) conversion is wasted as heat. So the goal with all these suggestions is to get as much stuff running on 12v as possible, and only running things on 120v AC through an inverter when there’s no other way.
With the current gen Mini, they took away the separate power brick. The benefit is smaller footprint, but with the old gen with a separate brick you could run the Mini directly off 12v power. The new Mini is more efficient, so with a good inverter, this could be a wash, but worth testing. In normal use, a tower draws a few times more power than a laptop, and that doesn’t include screen power. If you need to hook up a separate HD monitor for viewing or output and want to go the laptop route, I suggest the Matrox MXO2 Mini. I’m an owner and a fan. You’ll need an Expresscard slot though. If you go FW800, then you can use the AJA Io HD, but then you can’t really run a FW800 external drive as the FW bus will be saturated by all the data.
Hard drives are a bit tougher. Anything bus-powered or low-power probably won’t be fast enough to edit with. Small Firewire 800 drives like the CalDigit VR mini (RAID-1) or OWC Elite-AL mini (single drive) are probably your only bet here. They have a high $/GB ratio, but if you only keep your current project on them, then you might be able to get away with using them. Switching to a Proxy codec could help too. I haven’t seen a DC to DC power supply for full-size external drives yet. I figured that once I got to that point, I would have to build my own. Theoretically it should be easy as most external drives want one 12v lead and one 5v lead.
As far as an HD monitor, you could look at field monitors like those by JVC, Panasonic, FSI, etc. They will all run on 12v or batteries like Anton Bauers, in addition to AC power.
For the items that can only run on AC, you’ll need a very high quality inverter. Your electronic components will depend on it. Don’t cheap out here. Chris wrote on the technomadia blog that their Dell monitor would hum and he believed replacing their inverter with a higher quality one would stop this (replacing their modified-sine wave inverter with a true sine wave inverter). I would also suggest getting more batteries than most RVers go with, since your power draw will be much higher. When you’re looking into amp-hrs and things like that, remember that you don’t want to go below 50% charge, which can damage your batteries and shorten their life. If you can add solar, even better. Chris and Cherie suggest 100w of solar panels and 100 amp hrs of battery per person, minimum. But if you’re editing, you’ll want more than that.
Finally – Kensington locks for everything. You don’t want anyone making off with your monitors, computers, drives, etc. If you’re bringing camera equipment with you too, then probably a locked cabinet or cabled Pelican cases would be a good idea.
Do you have a digital cinema production question you’d like to ask, use the contact form to the right —>