As first production ever, the fourth season of German series Babylon Berlin will generate its electric power on set with the MB-Filmhybrid 100. The eco-friendly generator is designed by Cologne-based rental house Maier Bros. The CEOs Niels and Knut Maier handed the production vehicle over to the crew of Babylon Berlin which starts principal photography in Berlin.
Generating electricity on set is often a dirty business. Sometimes the “genny” is run only to charge camera batteries. But at a low or medium load, a diesel generator can’t reach its optimum operating temperature, so the particle filter that collects soot ends up not working properly – if there is a particle filter at all. Classic film generators come in two performance categories, 120 kVA and 60 kVA. Other performance categories are rare. There are also energy storage devices of various capacities but none is able to cover the energy requirements of a twelve-hour shooting day.
“A 120 kVA generator should provide about 1,000 kWh of electric power”, says Niels Maier, Managing Director and Co-Owner of the Cologne-based rental house Maier Bros. This total electric power output is rarely used up because often only small to medium loads, from 1 kW to 20 kW, are used. But a crew on a film set has to be equipped to handle all contingencies. If there is a need to switch to huge lighting units because the sun suddenly vanishes behind a cloud blanket, then the generator needs to quickly output large loads of up to 50 kW.
“Individually assessing various loading requirements is fundamental for efficient use of the energy supply”, emphasizes Maier. With the MB-Filmhybrid 100, he provides a clean solution for generating electricity on set. This hybrid generator in the 100 kVA class operates in four different modes: battery, solar, grid, and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). “The system is designed so that the most ecologically friendly and economic energy source is always able to serve the particular load requirement.” Small to medium loads will be charged by the battery for a longer time period. Installed on the roof of the truck are photovoltaic panels that char- ge the batteries with up 1 kW in bright outdoor light. The battery has a utilizable capacity of 12 kWh, and it consists of temperature-tolerant, high-performance lead gel accumulators, which are 99 percent recyclable.
The LPG-powered generator only kicks in when the load level of the battery is low or the load requirement rises above 8 kW. During its ongoing operation, it automatically recharges its battery. “These are the huge advantages obtained by coupling hybrid technology with an LPG generator”, says Maier. “The combustion engine runs for only a fraction of the total operating time, and if so, it then operates in an efficient load sector. And it’s much cleaner and quieter than a diesel engine.” The LPG gas motor emits no particulates, almost no nitrous gases, and much less carbon emission thana diesel generator. A 500 l tank of LPG gas is enough to power the generator at full capacity for a twelve-hour shooting day.
However, Filmhybrid isn’t a push-button or turnkey solution. “Since different operational modes are combined, the handling of the system is more complex than that of traditional generators, and it requires a certain understanding of energy management as well as the system”, emphasizes the equipment expert who rents the Filmhybrid to productions for testing purposes. “As soon as the prototype has stood the test on set, a miniseries of generators will be launched.” The distribution of the hybrid generator will be handled by the Cologne-based company LightEquip.
“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.