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.
Photos: © Niels Maier/Maier Bros