By the time he was a teenager, John Fry had become passionate about the moving camera and had purchased a hand-held Steadicam to help him better tell his stories. After earning a degree in film and TV production, John got to train under a Steadicam master, and for the last decade, he and his mentor have been instructing a Steadicam course at the U.K.’s renowned National Film and Television School.
A respected camera operator and director of photography, John is also the owner of Fryfilm Productions. He has worked with big rigs for nearly 15 years, operating a Steadicam on everything from feature films, broadcast TV, documentaries, and independent movies to news, corporate films, commercials, and music videos.
John recently started using the new Titon 90 and 150 V-Mount batteries, which he pairs with a variety of cameras and plenty of other complementary equipmen, including: a Sony FS7 camera; Litepanels Astra LED; Atomos Shogun Flame monitor/recorder; Tiffen Steadicam Archer; Sachtler flowtech tripod; 24” directors monitor; Bebob Lux LED lighting kit; and even a Blackmagic ATEM TV Studio Pro 4K which takes a 12v input for short, remote outside broadcasts and/or emergency power. His favorite thing about the Titons is the digital readout that tells him exactly how many minutes of battery life remain. This feature is critically important when using power-intensive cameras and other gear and when filming live television news.
As a Steadicam operator, you use the camera you’re given. There was one week when I used five different cameras on five different shoots in five days,” said John. “Some cameras draw a lot of power. So knowing precisely what's left in the battery is absolutely critical, especially when you have a camera that will eat up the battery more quickly — not to mention all the remote gear that also runs off the battery. The Titon batteries can handle all of it, all day, and on a single charge."
On a recent live broadcast for the U.K.’s Channel 4, the 30-minute shoot went live into Channel 4 News — a tense situation for any ENG crew. John knew with certainty that he could get through the shoot with one battery just by looking at the display.
“I didn't have to worry about how much battery was left because the readout told me exactly. There was no wondering, ‘What's the difference between two or three bars of charge? 20 minutes? Half an hour?’ The Titons tell you to the minute what you've got left,” John says. “That makes a real difference in my confidence level, especially when I’m out shooting nationwide live news. Knowing how much power is left is always slightly nerve-wracking, but that’s no longer the case since the Titons give such an accurate readout.”
On the Channel 4 shoot, John used the Titon 150 to power his Sony FS7 and his Atomos Shogun Flame external monitor.
On a recent feature film project — John used the Titons to power much more than that. During this particular shoot, the Titon 90 was running an external remote monitor, while a Titon 150 on the bottom of the Steadicam powered the Steadicam, the camera, a remote focus kit, the Steadicam monitor, and a Teradek transmitter.
“There were two or three principal characters and a dozen extras in a huge room in a beautiful old building, and we'd rehearsed most of the key shots at least five or six times each. When you're about to go for a long take that's taken loads of rehearsals to get right, it’s terrifying to think the battery could die in the middle of it,” John said. “You're pairing so many things on a Steadicam that knowing how much power you've got left at any second's notice is invaluable. Because Titon’s display is on all the time, you can just glance at it and know exactly what’s happening. That’s what makes the Titons in my kit so tremendously reassuring.”
When he’s not using the Steadicam, John’s go-to tripods are the Sachtler flowtech75 and flowtech100. The combination of the flowtech75 and flowtech100 tripods and Titon batteries served him well on a recent project, a series of branding videos for U.K. telecom company Openreach. Fry and the crew had to work quickly because they were filming Openreach technicians between actual jobs in and around Cardiff, Wales, and they only had a certain number of vans and people at their disposal.
The flowtech100 let Fry capture 500mm long-lens shots of Openreach vans driving through the valleys around Cardiff, while flowtech75 came in handy for quick-change setups during shoots in the center of Cardiff. The handle on the flowtech75 – unique in the industry – made it much easier to carry and reposition the tripod. And of course, the Titon batteries ensured reliable, consistent power.
“I used the Titon 150 with the Sony FS7 V-Mount camera because one battery would last the whole day without worry. The director used a Titon 90 on his Shogun Flame monitor, which he wore around his neck,” John said. “Despite its small size, that monitor draws a lot of power because it’s very bright. The Titon 90 happily powered the monitor all day. Consequently, we were able to go the entire day running everything on only two batteries — the Titon 150 and the Titon 90.”
Even better, besides the cameras, the monitor, the wireless focus pulling kit, and all other accessories, the Titon batteries also power Fry’s two Litepanels Astra lights, which he uses to light everything from interviews to feature films.
The Titon’s digital battery readout is Fry’s most loved feature, but having a USB port is another feature he believes sets Titon apart from the pack. John can power his external wireless remote-focus kit to do nice focus pulls from the flowtech handle. Instead of relying on the kit’s internal battery, which regularly needs recharging, he leaves the controller and the motor plugged in to Titon’s USB port for a constant power flow. He can also use it to charge his phone, which has become an indispensable part of his toolset for remote monitoring and camera control.
John is no stranger to Anton/Bauer. The original version of Steadicam only came with Anton/Bauer mounts, so he’s used a range of A/B batteries over the years — from the early Pro Pack 14 batteries with no readouts or ports to Dionic XT and now, the Titons. But John has always used Gold Mount. This is his first experience with Anton/Bauer V-Mount batteries.