Need power? Sometimes a location may not have adequate power, or due one reason or another, a production may not be allowed to use available electricity. Either way, your production needs an outside source of power -- and a generator is often the most practical answer.
For small lighting setups or base camps, we stock 2000w (16.7 amps) and 5500w (45 amps) portable generators that can be carried aboard our 3-ton or 4-ton trucks, and used as needed with minimal hassle. If 41 amps isn't enough (and often it isn't), we can recommend you to a partner that specializes in generators up to 1500 amps (178,000 watts). Have your gaffer decide what your power requirements are, and we'll help you find a solution that works best for your project.
A Note About Generator Sizing
Due to the complexity of electricity and the design of electronic equipment, the actual effective amperage draw of a electronic device (such as HMIs or KinoFlos) is often significantly higher than the real power draw -- and is referred to as power factor.
For example, a tungsten incandescent lamp (such as any of the Mole Richardson Fresnels, ETC Source 4) with no electronics built in, is a pure resistive load, and has a power factor of 1. This means that a 2000w tungsten lamp will pull exactly 2000w of load from a generator. When sizing a generator using only tungsten lamps, it is safe to use up to 80% of the printed generator power (leaving the other 20% headroom for power loss due to generator age and electrical line loss), so our Honda EX5500, with an on-paper average load of 5000 watts, can be reliably loaded with 4000w of tungsten lamps. Any more load, and the generator circuit breaker may trip, or worse, burn out the generator's power inverter.
For HMIs, KinoFlos, and other electronic lamps with built in capacitors and other electronics, often have a power factor between 0.5 and 0.7. For example, a KinoFlo 4-bank VE Select ballast has a listed power draw of 4.6 amps. However, what KinoFlo eludes to (but doesn't explicitly state in their literature), is that the same 4-bank Select ballast, has a power factor of 0.5. This means that a KinoFlo ballast, with all tubes turned on, has an effective amperage draw of around 9.2 amps. (Even the literature from KinoFlo states that on large KinoFlo setups you need to double your neutral leg).
This means that our same Honda EX5500 generator, with a reliable 80% load rating of 4000w (33.6 amps), can only reliably run 3-4 KinoFlo 4-bank VE Select lamps before running into the risk of tripping the generator's circuit breaker. Older electronic HMIs are similar -- their ballasts often have an actual power factors below 0.7. This means an older 1200w HMI Par, with a ballast that has a printed power draw of 13 amps, will have an effective power draw of more than 19 amps. This means you can only reliably run a single electronic 1200 HMI on our 5000w generator, and adding a second electronic 1200 HMI to the mix is completely hit-or-miss. With the years with we have been working with HMIs, this limitation is readily apparent in actual practice.
Side Note: New electronic ballasts (such as the Arri 1200/1800 EB, K5600's new Joker 1600 EB, etc) are power factor corrected, and have an effective power factor of 1, but these new ballasts are the exception, and not the norm. These ballasts are rather new on the market and are not in widespread use. Also, magnetic ballasts are "effectively" power factor corrected and also have a power factor of 1.
On complex lighting setups, determining power requirements can be very complex. I highly recommend figuring it out before ordering your generator, and not on set after the generator is delivered. If you have any questions about generator sizing, by all means, please give us a call.
Smaller generators, such as the popular Honda 6500is, or the robust Honda EX5500 (pictured here), have the primary advantages of cost, mobility, and space -- they are very inexpensive to rent and operate, can be easily moved at a moment's notice, and can be placed almost anywhere. The biggest disadvantage of smaller generators is the total power available: enough to get by on smaller sets or for emergency use, but not big enough to power more than a handful of lights.
|Honda eu2000i Generator|
|Power Available: 1600 watts (13.3 amps)||Peak Power Available: 2000 watts (16.7 amps)||Connectors: 20A Edison (2)|
|Fuel Type: Unleaded (87 octane)||Fuel Capacity: 1.1 gallons||Runtime (Full): 4 hours (average)|
|Size: 21" x 15" x 27"||Weight (empty): 46.3 lbs||Weight (full): 53.8 lbs|
|Honda EX5500 Generator With Crystal Sync Governor|
|Power Available: 5000 watts (41 amps)||Peak Power Available: 5500 watts (45 amps)||Connectors: 60A Bates & 20A Edison|
|Fuel Type: Unleaded (87 octane)||Fuel Capacity: 4.36 gallons||Runtime (Full): 5.4 hours (average)|
|Size: 38" x 24" x 29"||Weight (empty): 386 lbs||Weight (full): 410 lbs|
Bigger generators have the primary advantage of total power available -- our partners have generators as large as 1600 amps (178,000 watts). Their downsides are of course cost, mobility and space -- they cost more to rent, consume more fuel to operate, need to be towed to location and can't be moved even a foot without being hooked up to a vehicle, and can only be reasonably placed wherever there is a road or a parking lot. On the other hand, when you need more power at a remote location, it is the only way to go.
If you need a bigger generator, here are the people we recommend going to first:
Cine Power & Light
10845 Vanowen Street, Unit G
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Cine Power & Light is also a lighting company in LA County, offering studio power generators and a la carte lighting packages. Owner-Operators Terry & Maritza Meadows are as cool as a vendor gets -- they try to answer the phone 24/7/365, offer free classes, always available to offer suggestions, and do their best to make your job easier in any possible way. Their dedication to service is always the reason why they are my #1 call.
20420 Corisco Street
Chatsworth CA 91311-6121
The big boys of Hollywood, Cinerep Amps has been supplying generators since 1974. They really are the big boys, with dozens and dozens of generators, both truck mounted and towable. Everyone uses them, including us!