Lights, Camera, Action…Pollute? Powering Greener Media Production

With the NAB Show underway in Las Vegas, broadcasters, event planners and directors of photography are discovering new technologies to help enhance their productions. But beyond the boosts from innovative LCD screens and high-definition cameras, media professionals of all levels might ignore another important facet of the production world – how to provide better and cleaner power for that equipment.

“Houston, we have a problem.” – The realities of production needs

Industries of all types are actively working to minimize their carbon footprints and changing business practices to reflect the triple bottom line. As forward-thinking as the media sector is, new green alternatives can really improve the reel’s impact at the production stage. The demands introduced by lighting, set design and transportation increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically.

A champion of sustainable productions, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)’s Albert Consortium organized a study detailing the negative effects of media production. The BAFTA think-tank found that the production of each hour of on-screen content can generate roughly 14 tons of CO2 emissions – equivalent to the impact of powering two average-sized U.S. homes for a whole year. In fact, almost 60 percent of those production-related emissions come directly from electricity use.

Other organizations like the Producers Guild of America (PGA) have also recognized the need to reduce the environmental effects of productions. In 2017, the PGA, in tandem with the Green Production Guild, developed a guide called the Production Environmental Actions Checklist (PEACH). The checklist includes a list of suggested green strategies, resources and guidelines for an esteemed recognition program. For a total of 13 points, one of the more significant sections details the use of scalable generators and grid-enabled technologies. Productions like “Sesame Street” and Netflix’s “Okja” have been awarded the EMA Green Seal for exhibiting sustainable excellence during their filming processes as documented through PEACH evaluation.

While efforts by both groups to track and amend production problems are helpful, the industry has opportunities to adopt new energy-related solutions as a part of their regular equipment lists.

“Show me the money!” – How clean onsite power saves on logistics and finances

Beyond reducing carbon emissions, green technologies can solve operational complications and improve production costs. Take the complex issue of permits for example: most municipalities require thorough permitting processes to reduce the environmental impact of shoots. Constraints introduced by commercial contracts can drastically limit the amount of equipment for production. To comply with strict filming standards, producers are forced to find workarounds for noisy generators and avoid making changes to physical infrastructure. For example, productions like “Mad Men” and “Coming to America” were shot at the popular but sensitive Huntington Library Gardens in California. Diesel generators aren’t allowed within the perimeter, so camera assistants need to position lengths of cables strategically to prevent foot traffic accidents if using diesel. These long distances often cause voltage drops, so the source voltage must be cranked up – draining more fuel in addition to more time.

To run a cleaner set and secure permitting rights in difficult areas, studios can incorporate onsite power alternatives like turnkey energy storage. Diesel generators are still the standard for most projects, despite the planning, fuel consumption and high maintenance costs involved. Not only is energy storage devoid of those issues, but it’s also whisper quiet and can provide reliable onsite power to remote locations that aren’t connected to the grid.

“And that’s a wrap” – The future of mobile energy storage and visiting FreeWire at the NAB Show

Spot the Mobi Gen powering the speaker stage at the March for Science LA 2017. We might have a particular solution in mind: FreeWire’s Mobi Gen is a mobile energy storage system that meets demand when and where it’s needed. Mobi Gen is ready to deliver power from the moment it’s deployed onsite, cutting out interconnection headaches and wasted time. If you’re at the NAB Show and want to learn about our offering and how it can benefit productions, come visit the north hall at the Startup Loft.

Mobi Gen has been used for film productions and events, like the inaugural March for Science where it supplied safe, flexible power for a speaker podium amidst a large crowd using technology innovations that fit the demonstration’s mission. At this very moment, Mobi Gen is in Indio, California, waiting to power portions of Coachella 2018 in the coming days. In its first pre-event week at the festival grounds, the unit already delivered 579kWh of energy as the site ramps up to host more than 250,000 guests and 160 artists. That’s the electricity needed to drive a Tesla from San Francisco to Houston!

If you’re not attending the NAB Show (or Coachella), you can explore Mobi Gen here.

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