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Sarah on way to Egypt

Marlboro College World Studies Program student

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This site documents how to make 100% solar powered video kits with on-camera training for about $300 or less using off-the-shelf products. Last update, May 26th, 2010.

These kits are designed to enable anyone to record and upload great documentary-style video that is both sustainably powered and low-cost. The kits are housed in crush-proof cases that withstand harsh travel and shipping anywhere in the world.

Possible Uses

  1. Non-profits who want staff to inexpensively documentation projects  for Web broadcasting
  2. University study abroad programs that want to equip students to document their experiences for their studies and  Web 2.0 marketing initiatives
  3. Travelers, scientists or researchers who are going off the grid
  4. K-12 student video curriculum, combined with environmental education around solar panels


Fast Charger Still and Video

< $300.00. Any location. Charges batteries in 4 hours of direct sunlight.

fast charger canon a480 photo and still kit

Canon A480, case and solar charger

fast charging configuration

Video only kit with Flip Ultra, case and solar charger

  1. Kit with charger rolled out

  1. Canon A480 video and still  camera with Pelican Brand Model 1050 Micro Case with Foam.
  2. Flip Ultra video camera, Pelican Brand Model 1040 Micro Case with Foam.
  3. PowerFilm AA solar battery charger with 4 Sanyo 2000 mAm

How To Build

  1. Order products
  2. Download training video and load onto the camera
  3. Put printed directions that come with camera and solar battery charger into kit
  4. Tightly fold solar panel so it fits into case with Flip camera
  5. Optional: Use “Pick-N-Pluck” foam to keep camera in place inside kit (Buy on Amazon)

DIY Medium

Uses: Sunny locations where you only need to shoot about an hour of video a week, while batteries charge
Charge time for two AA batteries : 18 hours of direct sunlight

Budget solar video kit

Budget Solar Video Kit

Budget Kit Closed

Budget Kit Closed

Solar Panel for Budget kit

Solar Panel for budget kit

  1. Flip Ultra, with 50% charitable organization discount.
  2. Pelican Brand Model 1040 Micro Case with Foam
  3. DIY AA solar battery charger, or assembled solar battery charger.
  4. Shoe Goo
  5. 1 foot “Industrial Sticky Back” Black Velcro.
  6. 4 Rechargeable 2000 mAh AA Batteries.
  7. Tools: Solder iron if you use the DIY panel, solder, flux, knife.

How To Build

  1. See Photo based directions here to assemble kit
  2. Download training video and load onto the camera

DIY Small



For unny locations, where you only need to record about an hour of video a week while batteries charge.
Training Video that plays in the camera’s viewfinder

  • Flip Ultra
  • Pelican 1020 Case.
  • Silicon Solar 2AA battery charger. Charge time for 2 AA batteries: About 24 hours direct sunlight
  • Shoe Goo
  • 1 foot industrial Velcro
  • 4 Rechargeable AA Batteries

How To Build

  1. Glue Veclro strips to top inside of case and back of solar panel and battery tray using Shoe Goo type glue
  2. Reinforce where wires meet solar panel with some Shoe Goo
  3. Download training video and load onto the camera.

Product links

On-Camera Training

setting up training video dowload

Set up for loading training video onto camera

All configurations have a training video on the camera that plays in the camera’s viewfinder.

Training Video

The training video helps anyone get good light, sound and framing in any language. The training is usable with no audio and/or by non-English speaking people, but the videoalso has an English voice over explaining the three lessons.

Load the Training Video

  1. Download the video by clicking this link (243 MB, will take a little while!).
    You will be taken to where you can download the video. Use the below graphic to help you.

    screen shot of downloading traiing video

    Downloading Training Video

  2. training video set up close

    Camera recording training video

    Load Training Video: Set your camera up in a dark room, level with, and about 18 inches from, your computer screen. The goal here is to set up your camera up in front of your computer, then “Play” the video on your computer while you “Record” it onto your camera. It’s a simple and wonderful hack to load any video on any camera for playback in the camera’s viewfinder.

  3. Open video and put into full screen mode and frame camera so video fills camera’s viewfinder.
  4. “Play” the video to test the audio level. Make sure the audio plays loudly. Then reset the video the beginning.
  5. Click “Record” on the camera, and then immediately click “Play” on the video.
  6. When the video stops, click “Stop” on the camera.
  7. Play the video on your camera to make sure it’s OK.

Now try playing the video in your camera. Make sure to delete all other videos before loading camera into case.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Gilad permalink
    January 20, 2010 5:15 pm

    Rockstar project. Very nice execution – you nail simplicity. I hope there are resources to update and expand it. Good work!

    • January 20, 2010 7:29 pm

      Thanks Gilad! I’m watching for new AA battery cameras that are good and cheap, and new panels.

  2. January 22, 2010 3:32 pm

    Very well thought-through for simplicity – and relevant to some of the human rights contexts for testimony-gathering we work with at Thanks!

  3. May 26, 2010 11:37 pm

    Great Project..

    • May 27, 2010 12:40 am

      Thanks. I think with the smart phones getting streaming video, it might be a little lo-tech, but for certain situations, it could be very useful.

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