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Shea Laverty

Shea Laverty

Shea Laverty is a freelance writer living in the Texas Panhandle. While well-versed in technology and entertainment, Laverty keeps his focus on energy and the…

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From Black Gold to Silver Screen: Entertainment and Energy's Endless Ballet

Two high-speed hot rods careen down the darkened streets of Metropolis, USA as life-long rivals try to prove who truly is the King of Speed. Engines roar, tires squeal and there are even a few near-misses with the few regular cars that dare take to their speedway. In the end, with exhaust pipes belching flames as both racers push their cars to the limit, the hero prevails and proves that he's the real deal.

Okay, maybe that sounds like every scene from every "Fast and Furious" movie that doesn't involve trash-talking, a garage or Vin Diesel showing off his mysterious low-luminosity bald head. But at any point during that scene, did you sit there and think, "Man, how much fuel went into this?"

To the gear-heads in the audience who said yes, props for your obsession with the details. To everyone who said no, there's no need to be bashful. Movies, TV shows and video games are all about escapism, so mundane details like the price-tag at the pump tend to get washed over. But mundane as it may be, the energy industry is at the root of all things Hollywood.

Take the scene described above for instance. How many ways do you think the energy industry played some role in its production? Obviously, the gasoline used by the cars comes into play. After all, it's the end product in the long line leading back not only to the oil refinery where it was made, but the hole in the ground the crude that went into it was harvested from. But how about the carbon black that went into each set of tires used during production? Carbon black is produced from heavy petroleum products, and frequently used in tires, plastics, inks, belts, hoses and other rubber products. Take into consideration the fuel and tires for transportation of cast, crew and equipment to and from the shooting location and you begin to see just how much fossil fuel alone figures into getting those larger-than-life moments on the big screen.

You might be thinking "Big deal. Movies without car chases don't need lots of fuel or tires." That may be true, but any on-location shoots will still need that transportation. Remote shoots without power-grid access require even more fuel to run generators for the various lights, cameras and other equipment needed for the average shoot. Even if a film is shot entirely in-studio, the electricity to run the sound-stage and all the equipment have to come from somewhere. Depending on the stage's location, any number of energy sources might be in operation to meet the demands of the studio and its host city.

Even in post-production, large sums of energy are needed to run editing suites, ADR sound-studios and computer terminals for the entirety of the studio. Special effects companies such as Industrial Light & Magic also require large amounts of power to run the massive computer systems required to process, render and animate CGI visual effects. Considering ILM is located in the Letterman Digital Arts Center, a 850,000 square foot facility on a 23-acre lot and has 1,500 employees, there's considerable demand for power even for basic necessities like lighting and climate control.

The entertainment industry is inextricably intertwined with the world of energy and energy production, and while it certainly isn't the only industry with such intimate ties. it's certainly the most visible. So when you see that the next big blockbuster has a staggeringly huge budget, keep in mind just how much of that might be going towards nothing more than keeping the lights on and the cameras rolling.

By. Shea Laverty for Oilprice.com


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