Why ARRI Making B-Mount for 12/24V Batteries Their New Standard Is a Good Thing
Major open-standards promoter ARRI has moved to B-Mount for 12/24V battery systems, and this is something that will absolutely affect your future camera setups.
We're big fans of open formats that allow for more flexibility for filmmakers. Beyond just things like PL mount, which makes it possible to own a camera from one brand and lenses from another, even film itself was an "open format" with 35mm where you could get a camera from a different company than the people making the film. Open, accessible, interchangeable formats make our jobs on set easier.
ARRI has long promoted these as well. Both PL and the new LPL were designed to be open formats, and its recent announcement that it's going to support B-mount for batteries is a good thing for all filmmakers.
What is B-Mount?
It's a brand-new battery mount from bebob that's designed for 12/24V power delivery. It addresses a major need for filmmakers who are facing increasing power demands on set. With newer, larger cameras processing more data into more formats, and ever bigger LEDs, on-set mobile power demands have increased. Of course, there is a limit to how much power can be drawn out of the traditional 12V battery systems used on film sets, leading to a variety of workarounds like the Wooden Camera Shark Fin that lets you mount two 12V batteries and get a 26V output.
These have worked, but never felt like a long-term solution, since they both make the camera longer and require more space on a charger. There was a need for battery systems that could deliver 24V, and the current formats, AB mount (also known as Gold mount) as well as V-mount, were designed around 12V systems.
Battery maker bebob then created B-mount, which is designed to work automatically with either 12V or 24V battery systems. The mount is backed by several players including SWIT, IDX, Hank-Woods, Core, Blueshape, and FXLION.
In addition to supporting 12V and 24V power, you can see from the B-mount design that it's a heavily robust horizontally locking mount. Compared to other design mounts, it features a large locking jaw, and most of the pin connections are built into sheaths that will protect them. While pin damage to AB and V mount batteries is rare, it does happen, and it can be frustrating to lose a battery to damage midway through a shoot.
The B-mount is clearly designed to minimize that. It's also a horizontal mount, which makes for fewer accidental bumps. V-mount batteries have a vertical mount format and everyone has a story of it popping off at an unfortunate moment when a green AC lifts the camera at a strange angle. Even if the camera isn't dropped, this often leads to the delicate battery going flying.
Is a new standard necessary?
Well, as XKCD points out, every time you introduce a new standard designed to cover "all use cases" you just increase the standards in competition, something called standards proliferation. However, one of the few moments that you have to simplify standards is the introduction of a new technology that will require mass adoption. 24V is that moment. Older battery systems aren't designed to deliver it, and since you'll be buying new 24V batteries to meet new 24V systems, it's a time where the introduction of a new standard makes sense.
Of course, that XKCD comic is true, introducing B-mount doesn't get rid of AB mount and V mount, the two most common standards for delivering battery power to cameras and lights on a film set. As someone with both AB and V-mount batteries occupying a full shelf in my office, I shouldn't be excited about having to add a third set of batteries and chargers, but I am.
Gradually, 24V systems are going to take over, and the previous systems will fade away as we see the move toward a single standard that is capable of delivering both 24-volt and 12-volt power when needed. This will make our lives easier in countless ways. Rather than situations like the current Aputure 600D having 4 V-mount plates (2 on each side) at launch to power the unit, a single 24V battery could potentially have the punch to get the unit going.
The 600D was released with 4 Vmount plates, 2 per side, to get enough power.Credit: Aputure
Standards survive and become dominant, in large part, through adoption by major players. ARRI is in a lucky position to be dominant both in camera manufacturing but also in lighting manufacturing. This means it's incredibly likely that B-mount will become the default mount for 24V battery systems, which likely means other manufacturers are taking notice right now and considering if they should adopt it as well.
The bigger question in all this is why it was the relative newcomer bebob and not a more established player like Anton Bauer that delivered the new format. I guess sometimes you need to be just newer to the scene to see the next opportunity.
This is the sort of thing that seems a bit obscure, but in five years when you can roll onto a set and power everything off of batteries and all those units can be the same B-mount, your life on set is just going to be easier. When you fly to a remote location and want to rent batteries locally for your LEDs and camera, this standard is going to make that a more seamless process.
Hopefully, it takes off.