Firestore FS-4 Mounting Bracket
The FS-4 has an optional mounting kit that utilizes the standard camcorder accessory shoe. The Canon XL1s video camera that it was mounted to needed that shoe for other purposes, so the quest was on to find an alternative mounting system for the FS-4. An additional power source was also required, but it all had to be done with a non-existant budget. What resulted from those limitations is the functional but unattractive compromise that you see in these pictures.
Another concern that had to be addressed was protection from bumps and vibration, since the video camera was going going to be hand-held in run 'n gun shooting situations. The internal hard drive of the FS-4 is fastened directly to the case, which is how most laptop hard drives are mounted. The difference is that you don't usually carry a laptop around while you are writing a steady stream of data to the hard drive. Banging on a hard drive while the heads are flying back and forth over the spinning platters is asking for trouble, because the air cushion between the two is microscopic in size.
The FS-4 comes with an 11.1v/850mAh lithium-ION battery that is rated to power the FS-4 for about 90 minutes. The NIMH AA batteries that you see in these pictures are a whole lot cheaper, but their NIMH technology doesn't have quite the charge density that lithium-ION does. Charge density means that, ounce for ounce, lithium-ION will pack a slightly bigger punch than NIMH does, which is why it's the standard for camera batteries. In this case, you can hook eleven of these AA batteries together and get 15.3v/2600mAh, which is enough juice to actually recharge the factory FS-4 battery. The FS-4 can also be run with just the external AA battery power source, without it's internal battery being plugged in. Note that the FS-4 factory wall wart puts out 15.1v. The FS-4 has a menu-selectable status page that monitors several different voltages, as well as the internal temperature of the unit.
The location of the firewire port on the Canon Xl1s is right next to the record button. In a perfect world, you would be able to at least buy a right-angle firewire cable that would give your thumb a bit more room, but there is no such animal for this application. None of the cables on the market today have the angle going in the correct direction. The hacked-up firewire cable that you see here cost $2.99(computergeeks.com), so if you wreck a couple of 'em, it's not going to hurt too badly. Just take a quality pair of small sharp wire cutters and carefully cut away all of the outside plastic. If you cut into the wiring itself, you'll have to trash the cable and start over. You'll have to unfasten the metal cable bracket, and re-attach it after the cable is bent the way you want it. The re-bent metal cable bracket holds the angle perfectly, and the green strap functions as a strain relief of sorts, that keeps the firewire cable from popping out of it's plug. If you did the job right, you'll end up with a cable that is putting mild tension on the bend, so that it's actually pushing the cable plug into the firewire port of the camera.
The mount itself is made up from aluminum angle stock that can be purchased at any hardware store, it's very light and easy to cut with a hacksaw. There is a long sheet metal tab on the mount that slides down into the mic adaptor slot on the factory Canon XL1s MA100 shoulder pad. You can use contact cement to fasten the foam padding to the aluminum, but be sure and keep all of the airholes in the FS-4 clear. Since these pictures were taken, additional foam has been added to the outside of the mount to keep it from bouncing around, and the wiring has been cleaned up. If you go to Radio Shack to get a power plug, take everything with you to make sure that it fits, and use an ohmmeter to verify the polarity of your hookups. The mount itself only took a couple of hours to fab up, but the AA power supply construction was a bit more complicated.
The first page of this review section covers the