Hive Lighting partners

Hive Lighting partners Jaime Emmanuelli, left, Jonathan Miller and Rob Rutherford at their garage work space in downtown Los Angeles. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / July 31, 2013)

Rob Rutherford looked up from his workbench, order receipts and debris from Hive Lighting's products strewn around his laptop.

"The bulbs shipped," he said to business partner Jon Miller. Both grinned.

More bulbs meant more business: new film, TV and commercial sets to be illuminated by Hive's energy-saving plasma lights, which represent a step forward in energy-efficient production.

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Hollywood has embraced the cause of environmental sensitivity. In recent years, the Producers Guild of America and major studios have launched green initiatives that focus on efforts such as recycling trash and diverting props and sets away from landfills.

But it's been more difficult to change the way films are made — with their trucks and generators — so that productions use less energy and curb pollution.

Since incorporating Hive in February 2011, 30-year-olds Rutherford, Miller and their partner, Jaime Emmanuelli, 46, have built a brand around a relative newcomer in production technology.

Plasma lights, more often used in street lamps and medical imaging, breeze past the color-quality problems in LED lights. They last as much as 30 times longer than conventional hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lights — a perk on months-long film shoots with 18-hour days.

Plasma lights can reduce on-set energy usage by 50% and power costs by about 40%, Miller said. And perhaps the most crucial advantage in an industry driven by aesthetics, plasma lights won't flicker, and they cover the full color spectrum while conventional lights lack certain shades.

Jay Hunter, director of photography on Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing," used Hive's lights when the indie film's shoestring budget required the crew to shoot without a generator.

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"They don't replace the lights that are out there completely," Hunter said. "The sun is the best color-rendering index possible, but the plasma lights approach that level of perfection."

When it comes to energy-efficient production, "lighting is one of the last frontiers," said Kris Barberg, executive director of EcoSet Consulting. Her firm advises clients including Honda, Microsoft and Target on how to make commercial shoots as green as possible.

Barberg said she recommends Hive, but "a lot of people just don't care to be in the conversation of responsible best practices on film productions. They just want to get the shot."

Hunter said his decision to use Hive's lights was less about saving the planet than it was playing with new technology while saving money.

"No one's going to give me an award or hire me in another job because I saved the production 1,000 gallons of fuel in the generator and didn't use as many light bulbs," he said.

Shannon Bart, who founded EcoSet before leaving to become sustainable production manager at NBCUniversal, said industry professionals are ready to embrace advancements in efficient technology.

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"It doesn't happen overnight, and new technology isn't always cheaper, but [cost] hasn't always been a complete stopping point," she said.

Bart said spreading sustainability "takes everybody involved — including studios and small vendors like Hive — coming up with great solutions."