Posted on 22nd March 2023

BSC Expo 2023: Electrification, Reuse and Jewellery

At this year’s BSC Expo in London sustainability and dumping diesel were a key part of the conversation

The albert team were delighted to attend this February’s British Society of Cinematography Expo at the Evolution London in the heart of Battersea Park. We were able to see many of our suppliers in action demonstrating how they are decarbonising the industry; we met with new suppliers and attended a range of seminar sessions. 

Virtual production dominated the seminar topics on Friday, and offered some valuable insights on the growing market, and benefits, of virtual shooting. Florian Gallier from Mo-Sys, explained how high-budget productions can use studios to film impractical, or even impossible, scenes. But virtual studios are also opening up to low budget productions, offering a scope and scale to productions that would be well outside of budget in a location shoot or soundstage.

Virtual production offers the opportunity to drastically reduce the carbon footprint associated with travel-intensive location shooting too. albert is in the process of analysing the carbon footprint of virtual studios compared to filming on location with an eye to developing some best practice guidelines for the industry. 

The expo was a great event to convene the industry on the most pressing technological advancements - It was great to learn more about the potential of virtual production, and to see how it is fast becoming a green solution to filming.

— Jung-Min Kim, albert Data Analyst

Greener solutions

For those filming on location, we saw an encouraging number of green innovative solutions, including a good number of battery electric generators. An exciting innovation is the capacity for generators to accurately track consumption use, and so feed back in real time the tonnes of carbon emissions which have been saved. This often comes with the ability to track the data directly from a smart phone. 

Dumping diesel – in fact, leaving all internal combustion behind – was in evidence from the moment you walked through the door at BSC. Before you walked through the door, in fact. Battery-powered generators from Green Voltage, on display, outside the Evolution showed delegates what all-electric generation would look like for large scale productions. 

Greener solutions

Sunbelt Rentals also showed off its power, lighting and grip solutions, which included fully electric plants as well as biofuel powered generators. Switching from diesel to biofuels creates an instant drop in emissions, and while biodiesel has its own environmental downsides (eg, clearing forests to grow fuel), kicking fossil fuels to the curb and lowering CO2 emissions by 40-50% are instantaneous benefits. 

Sunbelt is a company that serves multiple sectors, and Titan Power, a first time exhibitor at the BSC Expo, also hails from outside the media industry. The company offers a host of battery powered distribution systems, and is seeing an opportunity in an industry on the cusp of big changes. 

Film is back – no, it really is

But alongside new technology, old technology still trudges forward. We spoke to the gang at the Kodak booth who assured us that shooting on film has moved beyond its retro-fad stage to becoming a ballooning business. There are interesting sustainability bonuses to shooting on film – you can use cameras and lenses that are literally decades old – and your camera negative needs no electricity to keep it alive (assuming it’s stored in a cool, dry place etc).  

Film development brings with it a host of potentially unfriendly chemicals, but the impact these might have on carbon emissions and biodiversity hasn’t been looked at recently in any material we’ve seen. The Cinelab Film & Digital booth showcasing its film lab services also hosted the work of From The Silver Screen, a business started up by former Cinelab employees, who use the reclaimed silver that comes out of the film development process to make high quality silver jewellery. This collected silver is normally resold back into the general silver market, but there is something appropriately romantic about film itself providing personal glamour – with a minimum of transport and a homemade ethic. The jury may be out on the sustainability of film but reuse and localised creativity at very high quality is something to celebrate.  

CVP’s camera repair department was also showing off their skills. The company is a massive supplier of production kit in the UK and beyond and its inventory relies on highly skilled engineers repairing and refurbishing equipment. This could be tedious cleaning and dusting of a run-and-gun camcorder or precision realigning of top end broadcast gear.  

Gear reuse itself encourages changes in manufacturing too. If rental houses see that a camera is going to have a long shelf life and can be rented out for many years, they’ll be more inclined to adopt those as standard, rather than something newer, but with a shorter, or untested life expectancy. The rapid evolution of digital cinema over the past 20 years left a massive wake of e-waste behind it as the technology improved year on year. One hopes that now we’re in a place where cameras can be built to last and that upgrades happen at the level of chips and firmware rather than whole new camera bodies and designs.