Static Electricity shocks

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    • #48143

      Recently during filming an event I found that I was getting shocked when I touched my tripod-mounted camcorder (using wall power not batteries). The shock while unpleasant was not the main problem – what happened everytime I was shocked was that it knocked out the firewire connection to the laptop!

      I am considering getting an anti-static wrist strap – from what I’ve read, the wireless ones are a hoax. However, the wired ones which need grounding, would impede my mobility since one needs to move around during shooting. Also where wouldone attach the ground wire of the strap – to the tripod? To a wall outlet ground socket?Any advice anyone?

    • #197914

      Whoa! If you are getting shocked while your camcorder is plugged into the wall socket you have some sort of problem with the extension cord, camcorder or the wall outlet. If the shock is unpleasant but didn’t knock you back, it was probablya grounding problem and you are providing the ground when you touch the camcorder/tripod.If this happened only with one wall outlet, there could be something wrong with that outlet. If this happens with any outlet, there could be something wrong with your extension cord or the cord leading from the camera to the ac adaptor to the wall outlet. Since you mentioned the firewire connection to the computer, there could be something wrong with the computer/ac connection. I am assuming that there wasn’t a puddle of water or rain involved. This sort of shocking shouldn’t occur if there is proper wiring. You need to make sure that properly grounded extension cords are used. Extension and other electrical cords are designed to only plug one way into the ouletfor apurpose, to provide a good ground. I would not try to add a ground wire but instead find out what part of the equipment I am using is not correct.

    • #197915

      I’ve experienced the shock, and occasionally electronic repercussions as a result of inadvertent grounding out on the equipment or laptop, digital recorder, etc. When I am aware of the presence of conditions leading to electrostatic buildup, weather or feet scrubbing across carpet, I usually always simply ground myself out on a door knob or available metal structure in the building.

      Of course, if you are near someone you don’t particularly like you could simply reach out and grab his/her arm or something 😉 but I’ve not found a simple grounding process using ANY of the anti-static straps that doesn’t limit my ability to move around. I suppose there are such with longer leads, but still a hassle. When I’ve used them I usually attach to a file cabinet, metal table or some available metal portion of the building, etc. Never my tripod or anything connecting with my equipment.

      Videoman’s points are also totally valid and could be a serious hazard problem beyond static.

    • #197916

      The shock was not serious and no puddles of water were involved since this was in a hotel meeting room. Also my extension cords are heavy-duty and 3-pin with proper grounding – but who’s to say what the hotel’s wall outlets are like(?).

      The thing about camcorders (and some laptop) power supplies is that they are often 2-pin plugs with no grounding.

      Do you think using the camcorder on battery with no electricals would solve the problem? Possibly, though it is still connected to the laptop via the firewire and the laptop itself is still plugged into the wall. Can’t use battery power on the laptops since more often than not the events run all day and laptop batteries don’t. Maybe an investment in a dc power supply???

      AArgh!!! What a ‘shocking’ state of affairs!

    • #197917
      Grinner Hester

      Some buildings are better grounded than others and reverse polarity just aint yer buddy. Keep your static bracelet in your bag for these buildings and occasions.

    • #197918

      Thereare small inexpensive testers that you can plug into an outletto check it, proper grounding etc. After reading about your experiences I will probably add this to what I carry although I usually don’t need to use ac power on site. You could also use this to ‘test’ your extension cord by plugging into the female end of the cord after pluging the extension cord into a tested outlet. If static electricity is the issue, any charge could cause a problem for the sensitive electronics in our computers, camcorders, voice recorders etc. Perhaps we should make a habit of discharging static electricity especially while wokrning on carpets as EarlC suggested. I know something else to keep in mind while shooting.I wonder if using the tripod with the metal spikes exposed makes a difference one way or another. Forewarned is forearmed. An ounce of prevention etc..

    • #197919

      Sharing additional info. Working over 25 years in an high end electronics company we have Electro-Static-Discharge training on an annual basis. ESD is the major preventablecause in electronics for infancy failure.

      Static discharge can be disastrous for any electronic equipment. This includes those shocks below human sense threshold (those you don’t feel). The worst part is that it can be cumulative. This means you can shock an item a few times and all seems well but then weeks or months later your electronics start behaving unexpectedly from not keeping settings to outright failing to work. The good thing is the manufacturers package their items to minimize this impact. But with enough of a charge, you can stillgo right through this protection.

      Taking Earl’s suggestion a step farther, have an object you can touch and discharge yourself close to your electronics,grab it and not let go until you have touched what your are working on/with. You want to do this after you have ruled out any electrical causes for your static shocks so that you are not the path to ground, yourself.

      We induce static generation all the time just by moving around.

      Things thatincrease static charge generation, outside electrical issues as mentioned above, are;

      The closer to 0% humidity the greater the ability to generate, and hold, astatic charge. Beingcold here in most parts of the northern hemisphere at this time of year,the colder the temperature the lower the humidity, the air just can’t absorb more water. The same holds true for any room that is being cooled with air conditioning since part of that process is to remove moisture in the air to help with the cooling.

      Wearing synthetics and wools. These generate static charge by you simply moving in them. Cotton is your friend. You still generate static charge but at a much lower level.Using fabric softer that reduces static clingalso helps.

      Wearing rubber or synthetic soled shoes, the natural act ofwalking makes these great generators of static. Wearing leather soled shoes and cotton socks will greatly reduce static generation.

      These are just a few areas to be aware of if you should find yourself getting zapped by your equipment.

    • #197920

      Great suggestions and advice guys – I’d got used to touching walls to ground myself in my studio and I need to keep doing that in hotels too.

      Cotton is king as far as I’m concerned, but I just noticed my ‘leather’ shoes have rubber soles! I guess I could slip them off and stay in my cotton socks (and hope the client doesn’t notice 🙂

      >>Taking Earl’s suggestion a step farther, have an object you can touch and discharge yourself close to your electronics,grab it and not let go until you have touched what your are working on/with.<<

      What sort of object – does it have to be metal? metal that is grounded? Wallpapered walls of the kind you find in hotel ballrooms?

      Also I have to use AC power onsite unfortunately since many events I coverlast all day. Tripod with metal spikes exposed does make sense but would that help if the tripod is on synthetic carpeting? What about using anti-static mats under the tripod? anyone used those?

    • #197921

      Here’s a thought – would wearing an insulated glove (like a surgeon’s latex glove or a rubber glove) help insulate the static on our bodies from the objects we touch? While it might look a bit wierd, at least my equipment would be protected?

    • #197922

      The best course of action is to find out the causes of your static or electrical charge and make the changes to reduce or eliminate them first. Your initial comments make it appear this was the first time you had observed this issue so you would want to check out all your electrical first. Something like this should be in your kit if you are using host supplied power. Tester.Place this at the end of your extension cord. Or justleave this in your power strip as a continuous monitor as well.

      After you have confirmed it’s not an electrical issue, move on to reducing the environmental issues. I have seen people mix a small amount of the static reducing fabric softener with water (2 tablespoons per cup of water) and use in a small pump spray bottle. They lightly spray the carpet around the area they are working in (or just a light mist of water alone). Caution here as itwill attract dirt over time.

      Running a grounding cord from a known electrical ground, like you suggested, and have the end accessible so you can touch it before you touch your equipment will help. If you are still getting shocked you need to look over your equipment more thoroughly.

      Use insulation when all else fails. You will forget to pack and/or wear the gloves.

    • #197923

      Thanks for the useful advice CraftersOfLight – I will be certain to put them all into practice.

      Thing is – my own studio is pretty well free of static – its the various hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms that I have to work in to videocast various events, that have these issues and there’s a different locale every time.

      Having used the equipment in my studio (almost) static-free, I’m almost certain its hotel wall-outlets grounding that could be the problem (and their carpets of course, which are always synthetic). I’m going to try the fabric softener trick, the tester and the grounding cord tomorrow’s event, which is conveniently in the same location as the last one and I’ll post my results here. Thanks again for the advice…

      >>Use insulation when all else fails. You will forget to pack and/or wear the gloves.<< How do you mean insulation? what and where?

      Note: as regards a lot of video/audio/computer equipment, they often have 2-pin plugs on their power cords (ie. no grounding) though I do connect them all to a power-strip with 3-pin plugs and industrial extension cords (also 3-pin).

    • #197924

      From what I’ve seen the lower the humidity the more I build static electricity when I walk on certain types of flooring. The idea of misting fabric softener will work. I’ve taken dryer sheets and wiped down my shoes before and and it helped keep the shocks down. I hate touching a door knob and hearing the tick and feeling the shock 🙂 If you enter a fellowship hall that’s been recently swept (tile) or vacuumed (carpet) static happens.

    • #197925

      My reference to insulation was in regards tothecomment about wearing rubber gloves, insulating you from your equipment.

    • #197926

      Yesterday I bought a pair of ‘ESD’ (electro-static dissipator) shoes with special carbon-ingrained soles designed to keep you static free – and today I wore them to an event (same hotel as the last time where I’d got badlyzapped).

      They worked pretty well – I had one very minor zap right in the beginning(just once) and then nothing. I completely forgot to use the dryer sheets I’d taken along but I guess I didn’t need them.

      They’re pretty ugly but I’ve seen some very nice styles on the Helly-Hansen site for about $80

    • #197927

      There are a lot of good ideas posted here, but it is not clear to me if this a static electricity shock or a leaky power shock. The difference is very important.

      It is a leaky power shock if you receive a continuous “tingle” while holding onto your equipment. The leaky power shock will also read a value on an ac voltmeter. If this is the case, there is something very wrong with your equipment. Any sort of power shock on small equipment is a sign of insulation breakdown and can worsen to the point of being deadly. Three prong grounded plugs provide a better level of safety by grounding the leaking current, but they are a safety net and do not fix the problem.

      If you get only a quick, but unpleasant jolt, when you touch your equipment after walking across a carpeted floor, you are getting a static shock. This occurs when two dielectric (insulating) materials rub against each other like your shoe soles on carpet.

      Wrist straps with the ground lead connected to your camera equipment will stop the shocks. Never take the cheap way out and use a piece of wire. Wrist straps have a high resistance built in to prevent dangerous shocks in the case the equipment develops a power leak. You can get shoe inserts that ground your feet and don’t require any extra wire. I believe these are effective and not as restricting as the wrist strap wire.

      In the end, either type of shock is dangerous to equipment and should be eliminated.

    • #197928

      This is definitely not a leaky power shock (I used a tester in the wall-outlets to confirm it – the ground was fine). It was definitely a static shock and the ESD shoes seemed to work well.

    • #197929

      Pesi, happy to hear that the that the ESD shoes have solved your problem. I’m wondering if these are what surgeonsand other operating room personnel wear to prevent static charges which can be a problem around the use of oxygen.

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