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Art Hack #1 -> DSLR Camera External Power Supply:

Recently I heard a great podcast from Tim Ferris where he sat down and chatted with Robert Rodriguez. They touched upon a ton of interesting topics such as what being creative means, and that it is essentially problem solving. Finding work arounds either in creative projects or life in general. Rodrigues also discusses his work flow and how he bounces between painting, filming, editing, writing music etc. while he is developing characters and working on his films . This is definitely something I believe in and have a hard time when people ask me specifically what type of art I do. There seems to be a ridged box that people apply to artists such as ‘an artist’ = ‘a painter’. Well that is bullshit. I enjoy so many aspects of being creative and learning new skills, while also combining various interests and techniques. Being stuck using one medium would be mind numbing to me. Creativity is versatility and the ability to express your ideas in a variety of ways.

Rodriguez also recalls stories from his book Rebel without a crew. Basically a DIY guide to independent film making. One of the things I recall from the book is the ‘money hose’ theory. Essentially, certain problems can be fixed with money, but once you turn on that hose it is hard to shut it off. More money just keeps being used to solve simple problems. Before you know it your budget for the project is gone. Instead it is better to try to find work arounds and play within the creative limitations to resolve the issues at hand. This a great life analogy in general. Throwing money at problems can work, but a better solution is to face the problem head on and see what other options you can use to creatively solve the issue. Anyway, this was a great podcast and worth the listen if you get a chance.

Below is little work around that I came up with for a DSLR external power supply. Having had all of the material available in the studio it made sense to work with what I had. There may be other options that are better suited to your skill set and easier materials to work with to achieve the same result.

Art Hack #1 -> DSLR Camera External Power Supply:

I needed to get power to one of my cameras via an external power supply. Since this was for an older model Canon DSLR, I really could not be bothered to purchase a new piece of equipment for it. Waiting around for it to be shipped to me was another draw back. I needed this resolved quick and dirty and as DIY as possible. Having a variety of silicone and resin around I thought it would be interesting to see if I could create my own external power source adaptor. Here are some of the steps I took below.

1. There are many types of DSLR batteries, and this work around may not apply or may be more difficult with other types of batteries. It is a good idea to identify where the positive and negative terminal strips are located. This battery has them labeled with a positive and negative symbol beside them. The other two contact strips are for the battery charger unit. The exposed strips made things pretty straight forward.

2. I needed to create a dummy batter that would fit perfectly inside the camera. I decided to created a simple 2 part silicone block mold for this battery. There are various durometers of silicone ie. the hardness, to choose from. Drying times can also vary greatly, so choosing the proper material for the project is important.

3. After the mold was completed the original battery was removed and the mold was taped together. I then mixed a 2 part liquid resin and poured it into the mold. The battery cast needed to be hollow, so I kept rotating the resin around the mold until it began to set. Again there are various resin durometers and also quicker or slower setting/curing times. The one I was using had an 8min working time and a 60 min cure/demold time. Wear protective equipment when working with any chemicals and work outside or in a well ventilated area.

4. After 60 minutes the resin was fully cured and I could remove it from the mold. Even though you can demold your cast at this time, it could still be a bit soft. I like to let the cast cure for as long as possible after demolding especially if you will be tooling the piece. Resin usually reaches its peak strength in 7 days.

5. This is the 3rd cast I pulled from the silicone mold and it turned out pretty good. It is trial and error in estimating the right amount of resin to mix in general, but this is even more tricky when you want a hollow cast. The cast needs to turn out hollow but also needs to be thick enough to hold the form of the battery. If the resin is too thin it may become soft when exposed to hot temperatures.

6. This is a DC charger that out puts between 8 - 12v of power. It was used to power LED lights. The canon battery says it outputs 7.4v @ 1390mAh. This was the closest match I had lying around and I figured it was worth trying. If you have a plug that out puts a higher voltage, you may need to purchase a voltage regulator. This will step down the incoming current, and you will be able to match the out put close to the 7.4v that the original battery produces. There was one recommended on an Instructables tutorial, specifically the LM2596S step-down adjustable power supply module.

7. The next step is to drill 2 holes for the Positive and Negative terminal plates. These holes will allow the terminal plates to poke through the inside of the hollow resin cast battery. I used a 7/64 drill bit for these holes.

  1. 8. I pulled these thin metal strips off of an old battery charger. Using tin snips, I was able to cut them down thin enough to slide into the groves of the resin cast battery. It is important to keep the strips long enough to curve up through the drilled holes plus be long enough to reach the centre of the battery. Make sure you have enough length in the strips so that you can comfortably solder the wires onto the inside of the hollow battery. The exposed part of the strips fit tightly into the slots and were glued down into place.

9. Was able to find an extra female plug from a roll of LED lights I had lying around. The length was perfect for this project.

10. I think all DSLR cameras have a little access ‘door’ near the main battery door of the hand grip. I placed my resin cast into the camera and marked out where the cord would come out from. I then drilled out a hole large enough to put the female cable into but small enough to keep it tight and in place.

11. The next step was to drill or cut out a portion of the resin cast so you can access the positive and negative terminal strips. It is also important to be able to have enough room to solder the terminals but not too big to compromise the strength of the hollow cast. Make sure to solder the Red wire to the Positive terminal and the Black wire to the Negative one. Refer back to the original battery to make sure.

12. This is how the final piece turned out. It took a bit of time but overall was a quick and dirty fix. Again this solution may not apply to all cameras. Also, if you do not have mold making and casting equipment this might be a lot more work and probably not so simple. It might be better to use an old batter for your dummy shell if you have one.

13. This is how the final system looks. The resin battery fits perfectly in place. The small access door on the battery grip is a great size for the power cable to fit through and the door for the battery is able to fully close. I was curious to see if the voltage would work. It turned out perfect. Because this was done on an older camera I had no issues taking a chance on not matching the voltage 100%.

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