As more of us strive to live greener lives and lessen our environmental
impact on the Earth, increasing numbers of studios and post houses are
sharing those same goals. No matter if their initiatives involve major
infrastructure changes or simple day-to-day practices, they’re making a
Environmental stewardship is nothing new for Warner Bros.
(www.wbenvironmental.com), which has been a leader in greening its
studios for the last 15 years. “The studio was an early adopter of many
programs and policies that have now become more common,” notes Shelley
Billik, VP of environmental initiatives.
She believes Warner Bros.’ most significant programs have been devoted
to energy efficiency. “We’ve been reducing our energy consumption while
growing our business over the last decade. This was before the energy
crisis in California, before the awareness of energy consumption and
its impact on climate change.”
An example of energy efficiency is the installation of a solar
electrical system on the roof of the Mill Building, one of the original
crafts buildings dating back to the 1930s. The system feeds the Burbank
grid, which means the studio can draw less from non-renewable energy
sources. “It’s a great success,” says Billik. “We may not have a lot of
room on the ground but we have plenty of square footage on our roofs.
We’re talking about enlarging the system, and we’re staying in close
contact with companies developing thin-film solar technologies which
could be used for our soundstages.”
The studio’s transportation fleet is fueled with ultra-low sulfur
diesel and serviced with re-refined motor oil. “Half of our courier
fleet is comprised of hybrid vehicles with the other half small, very
fuel-efficient vehicles,” Billik points out.
Warner Bros. also maintains a hands-on materials recycling program in
which it finds new uses for furniture, set pieces, computers and other
electronic equipment about to be discarded. Theater groups and students
have been among the beneficiaries of this material.
On the post production side, the introduction of reusable water bottles
has cut the order for disposables in half. Digital cue cards for post
audio are replacing the use of heavy card stock as much as possible. As
theater projectors get red LED-reading capabilities, CYAN dye analog
for film soundtracks replaces silver-treated soundtracks eliminating a
lot of toxic chemicals in production and in the film recycling process.
When Warner Bros. remodeled the structure housing its International TV
Distribution division the building became the first in the
entertainment industry to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design) certification for green building. “We’re working
on a new soundstage and are going through the process to see if it can
be a LEED stage, which has never been done before,” she says.
Thanks to its leadership role, Warner Bros. has been approached not
only by other Hollywood studios, but also by film commissions in other
states and countries, and by Canadian studios, which “are interested in
doing what we’ve done and more,” Billik reports. “Now we’ll have to
keep up with the competition!”
GREENING YOUR POST HOUSE
Santa Monica’s Cut + Run (www.cutandrun.tv) couldn’t have more
solid green credentials: Executive producer Lesley Chilcott was one of
the producers of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and company owner Dan
Swietlik edited the Academy Award-winning documentary. Swietlik owned
an electric car back in the day and now rides a Vectrix electric
scooter to work.
“Sadly, our industry is inherently wasteful, although there’s much
greater awareness than there used to be,” says Chilcott, who recently
penned a piece on the Top 10 Ways to Green Your Post House that
appeared in the trades. After that “we got calls from other post houses
trying to do the same thing,” she reports.
Among the simple measures Cut + Run has instituted are installing a
water filter and offering downloadable show reels. “We have pitchers
with ice and sliced fruit and real glasses instead of plastic bottles,”
says Chilcott, “and when people call us for a reel we ask if we can
post it for downloading instead of shipping it.”
Cut + Run’s offices “incorporate a lot of natural daylight with
skylights and windows, and we get cross-ventilation with the ocean
breeze,” notes Swietlik. “With properly positioned windows you can
really cool a place.” Working with a green architect and green interior
designer in designing its edit bays, the company has decided not to
install carpeting, use no-VOC paint and choose furniture made from
Post production technology has even turned a bit greener itself. “On
some jobs there’s no tape involved: they’re shot to hard drive” and
remain tapeless through post, Swietlik points out. Every edit bay has
its editing equipment on a power strip which can be shut off at the end
of the day lessening the draw from standby power, which occurs even
when devices are switched off at their source. The company’s thermostat
is also turned off overnight.
Working with Native Energy, Cut + Run has created a carbon offset line
in its budgets amounting to about $9 a day per job, on average. “Some
clients say okay, yes, but when clients say no we always offer to pay
it, trying to set a good example,” says Chilcott. Native Energy allows
the post house to specify where it wants to allocate its carbon
offsets, for example to wind power and methane projects.
Chilcott reports that staff are all supportive of Cut + Run’s green
measures. “Everybody’s a creature of habit. When plastic water bottles
disappeared the world turned upside down, then a new rhythm was
established with pitchers and glasses. Going green is a bit of trend
now so most clients are very happy to do something, too. With a bit of
effort and guidance you can open people’s eyes.”
Finger Music, which has offices in LA and London
(www.fingermusic.tv), has been carbon offsetting with Native Energy for
several years, but creative director David Hodge wanted to do more, so
for every project they work on, the boutique music house has been
making a donation on the client’s behalf equivalent to reducing 20 tons
of carbon emissions. “That doesn’t necessarily get people to work with
us,” he notes, “but it raises awareness. We send an online newsletter
to 5,000 people a month and have an advertising partnership with Native
Energy. We also encourage people to check out the Native Energy portion
of our Website.”
Hodge feels strongly that “those of us in the advertising industry have
an obligation to be responsible since we’re often involved in selling
people things they don’t really need. The least we can do is be more
Finger Music is phasing out show reels in favor of online viewing.
“DVDs are still available, but only by request,” he says. “Hundreds of
music and production companies are sending DVDs that may be watched
once then thrown away. It’s a really wasteful part of the business.”
The company’s overall communications are “very Internet-based” as well.
“We don’t use a lot of paper,” Hodge reports.
Finger Music has also reduced its office space, opted for filtered
water instead of bottled and uses compact fluorescent light bulbs. It
offsets carbon emissions generated by business air travel, too.
“In an industry dedicated to consumption you can feel guilty” about
wasteful practices, Hodge remarks. “So do you quit or do something to
help? I feel a moral obligation to start getting the word out about
what we can do.”
A GREEN LOCALE
When 1080, Austin, (formerly Match Frame) moved to new digs the
full-service post facility (www. 1080.com) chose a particularly “green”
site: the world headquarters of the organic food retailer, Whole Foods.
“The building is part of Austin’s smart growth policy to increase
density downtown by renovating and creating new spaces so people can
live and work downtown and contain travel” to outlying suburbs, reports
GM Tobin Holden. “Most agencies are now located within a 12-block
radius, and our employees can ride bikes to work now that we’re in the
center of town.”
The Whole Foods headquarters offers a number of green innovations. The
building buys chilled water from the City of Austin for air cooling;
the city chills the water at night to use otherwise wasted electricity
from their power plants. Air conditioning enters the suites in a unique
way — via floor diffusers — which are more efficient than wall
vents. 1080, Austin, however, supplements the building-provided AC in
its machine room to cool equipment.
The building uses computer intelligence to maintain temperatures and
control carbon dioxide levels and monitors the system via the Internet.
Manual window shades are specified for offices to screen the strong
Texas sun. Most tenants use compact fluorescent bulbs. Glass, paper and
plastic is sorted and picked up by the building for recycling.
Bathrooms and public spaces are stocked with organic or recycled
Offices overlook a landscaped plaza, which is watered by an
11,000-gallon rainwater collection system. The leafy lanai serves as a
community gathering spot, and part of the patio boasts an ice rink in
“We live in a particularly environmentally-conscious community,” Holden
notes. “Our new location is a perfect fit for Austin’s ‘green
personality.’ It is very characteristic of the companies that live and
On a day-to-day basis 1080, Austin sees the biggest move to greening
the post business in the reduced use of tape as a delivery format. “The
industry is moving toward electronic files and storage,” Holden
observes. “Project files are posted to Websites or emailed to clients
for approval. We even upload the final product for distribution. All of
these files flying around cut fuel costs associated with traditional
tape-based transport and delivery.”
GETTING THE WORD OUT
When Fred Ruckel and his wife talked about building a log home
they looked into taking a green approach. “The cost differential
between a normal log home and an eco-friendly one was not so great,”
says Ruckel, creative director/Inferno artist at New York City’s Stitch
Motion Graphics (www.stitch.net). “We could build a green log home for
less than the median cost of a brand-new house in New York State.”
Although the Ruckels are still looking for a building site, the
progress they’ve already made has manifested itself in the form of a
comprehensive Website and a broadcast project for Stitch.
“We discovered so many cool technologies for the house that we didn’t
want to keep them to ourselves,” says Ruckel. “We wanted to show others
how to do this, so we built a Website, www.greenloghome.com, with
information and links to manufacturers and incentives, all written so
normal people can understand it.”
Then Ruckel got the idea of documenting the story of a couple and their
green log home. “Between Stitch and our live-action production company
Steam Films, our editorial company Refinery and the audio house Sound
Image, we could do it all.”
Steam will shoot the construction with Panasonic DVCPRO HD cameras
recording to P2 media. Four live Web cameras will be stationed around
the building site to capture the work for live Webcam viewing.
“Steam’s Todd Broder, who’s done a lot of reality TV including Extreme
Home Makeover and Discovery Channel’s Eating on the Edge, will direct
the show, and Robin Wilson, who’s highly regarded in the green
community, will be our on-camera talent,” says Ruckel. The Sopranos’
Dominic Chianese will be the narrator.
Ruckel is scripting episodes with segments such as how the wildfires in
Southern California inspired the Ruckels to opt for a metal roof to
enhance safety and lower insurance costs, and how a factory in Brooklyn
is producing kitchen countertops from concrete and recycled glass.
Ruckel’s wife, Natasha, has assumed a full-time producing role for the
“We’re preparing a pilot now and aim to pitch it to Discovery’s new
channel, Planet Green, and National Geographic’s HD channel,” Ruckel
“I’ll be finishing the show on our Inferno at Stitch, with a cool
design package, so it will far surpass the quality of the usual reality