Industry Report: Green Film Shooting
The efficiency test
by Bernd Jetschin
- The sustainably produced feature film Schrotten is a triple debut for the Hamburg-based production company Tamtam Film. This witty tragicomedy is not only the first feature film by the Student Academy Award winner Max Zähle, but it is also the first feature for the producing duo Andreas Schütte and Dirk Decker. This maiden project was at the same time an efficiency test for energy-saving LED lights on a feature film production. Philip Gassmann’s performance analysis of the LEDs was supported by the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein.
“This is a win-win situation,” says Producer Andrea Schütte, “because Schrotten benefitted from the performance analysis because our production was able to work with LED-Scheinwerfer at no-cost, while the Italian manufacturer DE Sisti also benefitted from it.” The key requirement was testing the LED lamps in an exterior/outdoor environment because the Italian manufacturer had already proven their reliability in the studio.
“About 95% of our shooting days were exteriors, which is not the preferred application for LED lamps,” explains Producer Dirk Decker. In principal, LED lamps are much more suitable for exterior shooting in the summer than in winter. “The harder the conditions, the more difficult is it to work with these sensitive lamps,” points out Andrea Schütte. “Our film is a good example of what these lamps can’t achieve yet.”
Shooting during wintery conditions, for example, in a junkyard or a train robbery scene in a forest where railroad tracks had been laid down, caused the LEDs to reach their limits pretty quickly. Rain and high humidity makes their sensitive electronics prone to failure. While traditional motion picture key lights vaporize humidity by generating a great deal of their own heat, the energy-saving LED lamps emit less heat, which may lead to failures. Even so, LEDs are favored for interiors because they are compact in size and save a great deal of space.
Gaffer Daniel Kuhn viewed the Schrotten production as a challenge to gain experience with LEDs. The producers were enthusiastic about working with him because he was amenable to their goal of working sustainably. “He checked to see if he could get rid of the generator at certain locations,” reports Dirk Decker. “That wasn’t always possible.” So, when they had several shooting days at one such location, the production ordered fixed power lines. Daniel Kuhn bench tested the LED lamps beforehand. “He didn’t want to give up traditional key lights just yet; he wanted to make sure that he could always create the kind of lighting that was called for.”
During principal photography, DoP Carol Burandt von Kameke was delighted with the look Daniel Kuhn created with LEDs. His bottom line: If you can keep quality while developing further luminosity, you can use LED much more on set. “The performance analysis concluded that LEDs can’t completely replace traditional lamps,” says Andrea Schütte. “The interaction of a digital camera with LEDs is essential, because this would not have been possible with 35mm film cameras.”