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instagrid, camera, ACTION! – interview with Martin Deubel, gaffer in the cinema industry

Today, we're excited to share with you an amazing experience we had just a couple of weeks ago at Beelitz-Heilstätten, an abandoned hospital in Brandenburg, Germany. We were thrilled to see two of our instagrid ONE max being used on a film set! The Berlin-based production company Warnuts Entertainment is working on a film adaptation of the novel Traumnovelle by the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. One of the scenes was set in a dark villa and required a lot of lighting to be set up. In an effort to adopt a greener and more environmentally friendly approach, the gaffer in charge, Martin Deubel, opted to work with instagrid. We had the chance to interview him about the whole process, and we're excited to share it with you today. So without further ado, let's dive in!

Traumnovelle - interview Martin Deubel

instagrid: Hi! First, can you tell us who you are and what you do?

Martin Deubel: My name is Martin Deubel. I am working as a Gaffer and Best Boy in the movie industry. I do features for cinema, television commercials… I come from a long line of preparing for this kind of job because I started as a projectionist in a cinema and worked my way through all the stages and departments to arrive as a Gaffer now.

i: And what does a gaffer do?

MD: I'm mainly responsible for the concept of lighting and the technical development: how you plan stuff, how you spread your electricity, run safe electricity to everyone on set. I'm also responsible for putting together a team of good people who safely know how to work around electricity. I'm the intermediate: there's the director; then there's the cinematographer, or director of photography; and I come next in line, putting the creative ideas of their minds into a technical process that people can work through so that everything is safe and looks great.

i: And you’ve been working with instagrid for how long?

MD: I think instagrid came into our industry 18 or 24 months ago, and that's the first time I heard of them. I noticed them from the start when they arrived at the rental house. Usually you have a large truck, a generator to produce your energy and it runs on diesel. It's not very good for the environment and it's a lot of work to get these things running safely and smoothly for your production. And as soon as instagrid arrived, everyone was happy about it because they have lots of power.

You really can run on 1kW or even an M18 for over an hour, which was impossible before with a battery powered source. It was nearly impossible because earlier you had to use car batteries, mainly two or three of them, so it was heavy. They were not very comfortable to work with. And as soon as instagrid arrived, we were quite happy because they're sturdy and you can just plug in your normal AC socket, and everything runs smoothly. You have just one step for charging and one step for use.

i: We’re now in Beelitz-Heilstätten, an abandoned hospital in Brandenburg. We're in a remote location, so what are the benefits of working with instagrid in a place where you can not have easy access to electricity?

MD: The big advantage of instagrid is that you don't have to carry cables and a large amount of copper everywhere. Because usually you have one power source, like an outlet or a generator, and you have to lay out a cable so the current can run through to your lamp. And this is quite heavy, dirty and takes a lot of time.

Now, if you have a place or a spot where the lamp has to be, very far away from a separate power distribution, you just carry your instagrid with it, you can hang it on the stand – we usually do that – and then it's just one compact unit. This saves lots of time and it makes our work much easier and way more flexible, because you just can say "I have to go there, I need a lamp." You just carry your fixture, your stand and your instagrid and it runs. A bit like magic.

i: And how long does the battery usually last.

MD: That depends.I know with the instagrid you have 2.1 kilowatt/hour. So you can run a 2kW for a bit more than an hour and it's quite persistent than that. With instagrid we do – I would say 2 to 3 cycles per day for the production, that lasted 40 days, and I didn't notice any decrease in the battery life.

And if I have a smaller source, it runs much longer. If you have many, many LED lights, it can run for hours. The biggest energy source that we have today is 1.2 kilowatts, so this runs for almost 2 hours.

And we run our truck. We have all our battery sources, a battery charging station in the truck. And if our truck is far away from any power source, we plug it into the instagrid and we have electricity there for batteries and light to work with, which is awesome.

i: And how would you compare the instagrid to the common combustion generator?

MD: I can not compare them because they‘re two completely different technical and scientific devices. But, the generator in our field is usually a truck. A seven and a half ton truck, and you need driver and an operator. You need to refuel it at the gas station. You have fuses that can blow out and many things that can go wrong.

And with instagrid it just runs because it's charged, and when the light goes off, you know it's empty and you have to change the instagrids and recharge them and use them again. You don't need that much maintenance, you don't need that many degrees from professionals to work them around – because with generators you need an operator who is trained to use it. With instagrid I haven't had any problems safety-wise, they were wonderful and I trust them completely. It's not faulty stuff.

i: And how long does it take the electricians to prepare the set with or without an instagrid? Is there a difference?

MD: Yeah, it usually takes longer. Because you don't need that much cable. You have one line – like ten meters – and that's enough. Usually we have to bring, let's say 60 meters of three phase cable of 32 Amps or 63 Amps, which is alone almost 200 kilograms of copper. And then you need the smaller sockets for the cables that run through a normal AC power. I would say, if you have an instagrid setup, it saves at least 50% of your time. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

I'm quite happy that instagrid made this product because it makes my life and my work much easier and I hope there will be bigger units so I can run bigger lamps with it.

NU KOPEN