The Gadget Bag; Being Green
Posted May 1, 2008

During the 4EVER Group’s VIDEO 08 conference, there was some buzz about how to become more "green." When I heard this, I thought it was pretty cool that a group of artists and technical junkies are thinking about the environment. So I came up with a list of things that you can do to help the environment and in many cases, save you some green in the process.

Everyone should already know about compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs are becoming much more affordable, so their ROI (return on investment) is more attractive. While these bulbs save on the electric bill and reduce greenhouse gases, they are not a suitable replacement for all of your lighting fixtures. Because they are fluorescent bulbs, they require a higher spike of electricity to start, so this type of bulb is designed to replace standard bulbs that remain on for periods of an hour or more. In addition, constantly turning these replacement lights on and off will actually decrease their life. So that light in your storage closet is best left an old-fashioned incandescent bulb.Another way to help Mother Earth is to manage your wall warts. Even if you don’t have anything plugged into the other end, they still consume electricity. They contain a transformer that eats power and generates heat (good in winter, bad in summer). Unplug them when they’re not in use. Also keep in mind that keeping them plugged in all the time decreases their life. Many other electrical devices also draw power even though they are turned off.

Instant-on TVs and monitors are big offenders, as are devices that have front-panel displays (clocks) or use remote controls to turn them on. Unplug them when you’re not using them, and you’ll probably see a noticeable decrease in your electric bill—perhaps as much as 15–20%, according to one source.LCD monitors will also save electricity over tube monitors, but in many cases plasma screens and some projection-type monitors use more power than conventional tube monitors of the same size.

Another way of going green is to check the sleep settings on your computer. Those are the settings that blank your screen after a few minutes of nonuse. But did you know that there are additional settings that may further save power? You can shut down your hard drives after a preset period of inactivity. Some PCs even allow a complete sleep or hibernate mode. These are settings accessed through the Windows Control Panel and are called different things on different systems (power or sleep options). A word of caution, though: Avoid using hard drive sleep settings on computers that are used for editing, as inactivity is determined by keyboard or mouse use. If you’re rendering or outputting to tape or DVD, the system will not detect activity and will shut down your drives, stopping your task. Not good if you are on a deadline. These extreme settings are designed for general-use PCs (billing, email, web, etc.) and are better used in those scenarios.

Western Digital has developed a line of "green" drives that conserve power and can save up to $10 per drive for internal drives and $14 per external drive (these are maximum estimates). They may not generate a lot of savings for you unless you have several drives, like in a central data bank. But it’s good to see that manufacturers are working toward cleaning up the environment (in one way or another). For more info on the green drives, click here.

Got old equipment? If it isn’t worth anything, don’t toss it in the trash; some electronics contain toxic material. To find a local recycling center, check out www.earth911.org. Dell and Apple will recycle your old computer with the purchase of a new one (the old system can be of any brand). Staples will also accept used home/office electronics, but with a fee of $10 per item. Old (working) cell phones can be donated to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

How about some "road tips" on saving money (and gas) when you’re on location shoots? Besides the obvious maintenance issues (filters, tuneups, etc), you can get better mileage by doing the following:
Maintaining proper tire pressure (can save up to 8 cents per gallon).
Clean out your trunk—removing unnecessary weight can save up to 6 cents per gallon per 100 lbs. weight saved.
Keep it under 60—every 5mph over 60 will eat up 20 cents per gallon.Go to GasBuddy.com to find the best local gas prices.

There are other things that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Look around your studio. Most things that use electricity generate heat. In the wintertime of cold weather areas, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it saves on the heating bill), but in warm weather these items will create additional heat load on air conditioning systems, thus costing more money to maintain the same temperature. Shut down unused equipment, especially in summer. You can also use recycled paper products. For general office use, recycled paper is available almost everywhere, but unfortunately there is little choice in high-quality paper used for brochures, case inserts, and the like. There is also a CD/DVD duplicating house that now offers recycled paperboard sleeves and inserts for duplication orders.

New Disc Printers
In other gadget-related news (which won't necessarily help you in your efforts to go green in your business), are some new choices when it comes to printers. For those who print their own DVDs and CDs, there is the Recordex StudioJet 50 printer that uses standard HP printer cartridges for huge savings on ink supplies, comes with a 1-year warranty, and will handle 50 discs per load, all for $1,295. It supports Windows XP and Vista (sorry, no Mac support at present) and is available through the 4EVER Group’s online store and other online retailers.

Another new option comes from label-maker company Dymo. Dymo’s Disc Painter prints only one disc at a time, but at $279.95, it may be the perfect printer for the low-volume user. This unit uses a single ink cartridge ($39.95) and will print approximately 100 discs per cartridge, depending on volume of ink used per print.

The printer supports both Windows XP or Mac OS X and can be purchased directly from Dymo or other online retailers like B&H Photo Video.Both units come with bundled label creation software but will also accept images prepared in your your favorite graphics programs.

All-in-One Printer Update
Speaking of printers, a while back I talked about the HP C6180, an all-in-one printer that I had some initial problems with. After a few months’ use, I’d like to give you an update. Since the initial startup issues, my experience with the printer has been nothing but positive, making it one of the better investments that I’ve made in the past year. I’m finding some very cool features such as scanning directly to a PDF file, to a computer, or to removable flash media, or you can fax directly from your computer. Another bonus is having all of these features available to every computer on my network.

The model that I got was the C6180, a mid-level all-in-one, with almost all the features that you could ever want or need, such as the copier/fax/scanner auto sheet feeder, wired and wireless (G) networking, and a multislot flash memory card interface that includes a USB port and can be used in about 10 different ways. Because it is a combination of so many office devices, you actually save on energy because it is a single machine—another plus. There is one negative that I have uncovered. If you use or attempt to use refilled or aftermarket ink cartridges, a warning pops up on the display that first tells you that you will be losing the ink-monitoring function; then it informs you that the warranty will not be honored if you have ink-related problems.

When the cartridges are empty (regardless of brand), printing will cease and the display will note that the specific cartridge that has run out. If one of the colors runs out, you will be asked if you want to print in grayscale, which is a great option to gave if you absolutely need to print something and don’t have a replacement cartridge handy.

Footage Redux
If you are like me and shoot stage events, you probably have a library of footage from all those school events that you've shot over the years you've been in the business. Instead of just taking up room in your studio, you should use them to make money. What I’ve begun to do is offer parents a packaged deal for college portfolios in theater and music (the contents of my library).

For a flat fee, parents get a DVD of their child’s recent participation in these events, with options of adding (with a surcharge) additional footage that they may have. The school I’m working with was interested in providing an affordable service for the parents to assist them in getting scholarships in theater and music (instrumental and choral). The school is not making a profit on this service, but there ought to be some return (and some good will) on my end.

Sports portfolios were also thrown into the mix, except that I do not record (per contract) any of their sporting events. So that service was advertised as available, but the parents would have to contact me directly for pricing and availability.

To get the word out, the school sent out a mailing to families of all 11th graders about this new service. In the week since the mailing went out, I’ve already gotten two calls—just another example of how creating relationships with your clients can benefit you in ways you never even thought of.

Ed Wardyga (wardyga at kvimedia.com), owner of Keepsake Video and KVI Media in Rhode Island, has been producing event video since 1989, specializing in stage productions. He runs the website www.theGadgetBag.net and is the recipient of the WEVA Walter Bennett Service to Industry Award.