Watch the NAB Show session, “Why Sustainability In Media Matters.”
Developing tools and practices to promote conservation and reusability
BY Peter Suciu, TV TECHNOLOGY
Even in the best of times, there are plenty of short-term reasons not to consider the greenest option, such as the expense of replacing legacy hardware that is doing the job. In today’s economic climate, going green is even harder.
“Times of inflation, low growth and recession are notoriously difficult times to convince customers to go with more sustainable options,” said Tom Kirby, marketing manager at Altadena, California-based Nila Inc. “People tend to think more in terms of short-term gains than long-term ones. It can be hard to get them to see just how much more money they’ll save in five years or more with sustainable options. It can also be hard to get them to look past their own needs and see the greater needs of the planet.”
Nila has carved out a niche in the market by developing and manufacturing environmentally sustainable, high-brightness LED lighting systems that can serve customers well beyond the present day. But challenges remain.
“We know our customers depend on us for reliability and sustainability, so we can’t hedge on either. The result has been that we’ve been much later getting our new Arina-400 and Zaila-50 products to market than we expected, but we’d rather have delays than compromise the quality of our products,” said Kirby.
There also remains a lot more “churn” as the market continues to be driven by the hunt for new products yet too much hardware isn’t repairable or upgradable, said Kirby. “It’s considered disposable, and it’s largely made from materials that aren’t recyclable. That’s frankly unacceptable. Lighting is a great place to start with sustainable practices because smart purchases can often be utilized for decades.”
Off the Shelf
Utilizing ready-made equipment can help sustainability efforts, said Barbara H. Lange, principal and CEO of Kibo121, and moderator of the today’s panel discussion as part of the NAB Show’s Excellence in Sustainability Awards ceremony, “The more you work with off-the-shelf products — as opposed to customizable offerings — you are helping to reduce unnecessary waste. We have to look at energy consumption as an industry across the entire workflow, even if changing habits can be challenging.”
A common misconception in the production space is that lessening energy consumption is the only method of going “green.” In fact, that is just one component of it. So, too, are other factors, including reducing water usage and ensuring that today’s racks of equipment aren’t an electronic waste, or “e-waste,” problem for tomorrow.
“We’ve seen a trend for everyone to have as small a carbon footprint as possible,” said Linda Tadic, founder of archival storage firm Digital Bedrock, which to date has preserved 3 PB (parabytes) of data for media and entertainment companies, as well as for museums, law firms and nonprofits.
“We think the discussion needs to turn to the storage waste — and that includes how water is used to cool the data centers, but also how everything doesn’t need to spin in the cloud if it doesn’t need to be readily accessible,” Tadic explained.
Digital Bedrock utilizes LTO data tape, which isn’t just a form of storage but also provides long-term preservation. In addition to less energy consumption, it also means there are fewer servers that require rare earth minerals.
“We can do everything on two racks, while we might upgrade to three,” said Tadic. “But the goal is to consume less. The cloud isn’t light; it is very heavy.”
One positive side effect of the pandemic — which forced productions to scale back, do more with less and notably work remotely — is that those efforts could result in leaner and, more importantly, greener productions.
“We’re finding that most visual houses are just a server, and no one is working there,” said A.J. Wedding, director and co-founder of Orbital Virtual Studios. “But this also means that we learned that everyone doesn’t need to be in the office.”
That can not only mean fewer cars on the road in major urban centers like Los Angeles, but it can also open up a worldwide talent pool, added Wedding, who will discuss the opportunities for the industry in the Tuesday session “The Economic and Sustainable Wins of Virtual Production.” “The biggest hurdle is going to be education, but it will save productions money and, in the process, use fewer resources.”
Wedding will be joined in the session by Erik Weaver, director of adaptive and virtual production at Entertainment Technology Center, and Addy Ghani, vice president of virtual production for disguise.
Weaver said, “OSVP [or on-set virtual production] allows teams to work anywhere without flying large crews to remote locations and saving all types of carbon footprint. Picture a team going to Nepal one week, and south of France next month. All of this could be done in a single location.”
Virtualization is part of the new normal for remote production, as it can also utilize remote teams from around the world for asset creation and post production.
“For example, a team from Europe will remotely collaborate with a team from India to build a photoreal environment for a shoot that will happen in Los Angeles,” said Ghani. “Decentralized artist teams will be managed by small overhead teams. By digitizing your production, or a portion of it, you will now have the flexibility to take that content to any virtual production stage.”
Also on Tuesday, the session “Changing the Climate of Hollywood” will address whether Hollywood is doing enough to battle the climate crisis, and it will include industry insiders who are leading the efforts to make it a greener business.