When dealing with on location-power generation for film and TV production, diesel generators and batteries have their respective limitations. The power generator must be reliable, affordable, and quiet. It should work efficiently at different load profiles and, furthermore, it should generate zero-emission power. Several off-grid solutions are now being developed.
A zero-emission solution available for various applications may be found in fuel cells. The basic principle involves an electrochemical reaction that splits hydrogen gas molecules (H2) to create hydrogen ions and electrons. The power provided by fuel cells ranges from methanol-based portable units with outputs of 1 W to 150 W, to hydrogen-based stand-by power units with10 kW to 100 kW, all the way up to heavy-duty natural- gas-based power units with 250 kW.
Depending on the amount of energy needed, different projects and production conditions call for different solutions. Fuel cells can power a remote camera for several days on end if wildlife is being filmed for a documentary. While batteries only supply a limited amount of power before they lose their charge, fuel cells automatically supply power when the batteries drop below their 12.5 volt floating charge. This turned out to be the perfect solution for a documentary crew that was filming wildlife for the BBC’s Winterwatch program. Housed in Peli cases, two methanol-powered fuel cells provided enough energy to operate a pair of remote cameras for nine days.
Meanwhile, larger crews shooting in London’s city-center have different requirements. Starting in 2019, film and TV productions will be able to power their shoots with green energy straight from the electrical grid. Launched by Film London, this pilot project will provide grid access at ten key locations throughout the city. Waterloo Place will be one of the first public squares where productions can plug into the grid via an electric cabinet instead of using diesel generators. “A move to green electricity has the potential of not only significantly cutting CO2 emissions and noise pollution created by diesel generators on location, but it can also reduce fuel costs for film and TV productions at frequently used sites in the capital”, says Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission.
An ambitious off-grid solution will be made available throughout Europe by the Everywh2ere Project. Budgeted at € 6.76 m, the goal of this Horizon 2020 project is to make hydrogen-based power units affordable for sustainable operation in European cities. This consortium brings together twelve partners who represent technology centers, fuel cell system experts, and hydrogen producers as well as a construction company from six European countries. Thanks to its expertise with fuel cell applications for automotive solutions, robust fuel-cell stacks, and low-weight pressurized hydrogen technologies, the Everywh2ere Project will provide transportable gensets. In total, eight gensets with a power capacity of 25 kW and 100 kW will be developed.
“The first prototypes will be unveiled in fall 2019”, says Jacob Bilabel who represents the Green Music Initiative in the Everywh2ere Project. In 2020, the gensets will be tested at construction sites, music festivals, and public events throughout Europe. Gensets will also be made available for field testing on film sets. “Our goal is to make this hydrogen technology affordable so that it can compete with traditional generators.”
“The time for half-measures and climate denial is over. Unless we move quickly away from fossil fuels, we’re going to destroy the air we breathe, the water we drink, the health of our children, grandchildren and future generations. If we’re going to avoid the worst of the impacts, then we’ve just got to act boldly. And we must act immediately."
Actor, Director, Producer, Environmentalist
"The media has a powerful role to play in the fight against climate change. Through films, television, and all media outlets, we must continue to deliver the message that solutions are out there and are happening now. We have to make it attractive for people to take action. Movies like Avatar, The Day After Tomorrow, and documentaries like Years of Living Dangerously, which I was proud to be a part of, have been very popular, reaching and inspiring millions of people. And I believe films in particular can really inspire and make people want to take action. It’s great to see some of my film-industry friends working with climate related organizations to push forward those messages."
„It‘s high time to reorganize film production in Germany in a ‚greener‘ and more sustainable way. So far, I am flabbergasted by how much our industry works in environmentally harmful ways.To this very day, it starts with until today one-sided print-outs of scripts, and then it continues with plastic bottles in production offices and lots of plastic waste with every catered meal, and it doesn‘t stop with the limousines that pull up to a red carpet.
For many years, people have sneered at me when I brought my own cup or I declined to eat cheap meat served on paper or plastic plates with plastic knives and forks. It would be great if the Green Shooting Card could change all that.“
Director (Ben X, Time of My Life)
„It’s absolutely great that filmmakers all over the world are trying to clean up their act, and are trying to film as sustainable as we possibly can. Still, I think we shouldn’t underestimate the incredible power of the moving image to also change the hearts and minds of people.
So, apart from trying to be more environmentally aware in our business, I think the big gain lies in how we might make everyone more environmentally aware. Yes, cinema can change the world.
I think filmmakers should start using the powerful weapon in our hands that is the camera.
Let’s not only try to do ‘less bad’. Let’s try to do right, and help drive the change that we all know needs to arrive.“
“We are living in a time in which we can’t afford to behave irresponsibly towards nature. The more important is it that film productions try to work as environmentally friendly as possible. A film team produces every day tons of garbage. I try to avoid using plastic cups on set, I bring my own cup, use ecofriendly cosmetics and avoid needless single rides.”
Photo ® Maddalena Arosio
Darren Aronofsky, Director, Noah / Jury President, 65th Berlin International Film Festival
“When we did Noah we knew we were making a film about the first steward of the earth, so we wanted to be good stewards ourselves. There’s so much waste on film sets. Because of groups like Earth Angel, we were able to change that a little bit.”
"As a TV and film producer I try to incorporate environmental storylines into my projects as much as possible. But it’s just as important, if not more, to ‚go green‘ behind the scenes! Therefore, I help run the Producers Guild of America’s Green Initiative.
We provide resources such as a Best Practices and a Carbon Calculator to help producers green their productions. We also partnered with all the major studios to create www.greenproductionguide.com which is a free green vendor database with over 2,000 vendors offering sustainable production solutions worldwide!"
Producer, Director and Visual Effects Supervisor (2001: A Space Odysee, Blade Runner)
"Trumbull Studios in Massachusetts is dedicated to being green as much as possible, including the use of LED lighting, solar power, and solar laptops. This is not just because our location has limited amperage and no three-phase, we believe we have a responsibility to our community and our planet to be a clean industry.
We are planning for digital photography in 3D 4K at 120 frames per second from remote and inaccessible locations that will not have available power. Solar is the way to go."
Dieter Kosslick, Director Berlin International Film Festival
„The Berlinale is already actively addressing the sustainability subject since years. We appreciate it very much that a growing number of filmmakers, among them this year‘s jury presiden Darren Aranofsky, is following green guidelines on set.“
Director of Photography (A Most Wanted Man)
‘I never have been told precisely what the rules are for shooting a green movie, but we are trying to do it. This is something new for me. Sometimes people overlight scenes at night. I don’t. If I can see with my own eyes, then it is enough for the film. In that sense I am a green DoP.’
Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons who stars in the Berlinale Competition entry The Night Train To Lisbon is a fan of source segregated recycling. „Especially in Germany you have done a lot for that. You are examplary in the matter of waste separation.“
The Hollywood actor travelled around the world to promote the environmntal documentary feature film Trashed by Candida Brady which deals with the global garbage problem: „We buy it, we bury it, we burn it and then we ignore it“, says Brady. „With Jeremy Irons as our guide, we discover what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that goes unaccounted for each year.“
Since the world premiere at the International Cannes Film Festival in 2012 Trashed picked up various nominations and awards at international festivals.