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NAB 2014 Aerial Videography & “Drone” Overview

Field Trips, Workshops & Manufacturers Make A Huge Splash This Year!

By Jeff Foster | April 18, 2014

Above all the buzz about 4K cameras and monitors at NAB this year, were flying cameras that sounded like large swarms of bees. POV photography and videography have literally taken off in the past 18 months in a big way, and NAB 2014 was just the place to learn more about this rapidly emerging technology... and how filmmakers will benefit from above AND on the ground!

Since the premiere of the DJI Phantom in 2012 and their first show-floor appearance at NAB 2013, UAVs (multirotors: quadcopters, hexcopters and octocopters - commonly referred to as "drones") have become more prevalent in the filmmaking and hobbyist photographer/videographer worlds. From the affordable entry-level Phantoms to massive heavy-lifter multirotors costing tens of thousands of dollars, there continues to be a rapidly growing interest in this technology and everything associated with it.

There was plenty of activity and interest in Aerial Video at this year's NAB show with what promises to be an even larger scene next year with added manufacturers talking about exhibiting in addition to DJI. The field is expanding wider and the technology is getting deeper. What a difference a year makes!

NAB 2014 Aerial Videography Field Trip

Kicking off NAB through the Post|Production World workshops, I was invited to be one of the demo/instructors in an Aerial Videography Field Trip on Sunday and the Workshop that followed on Tuesday after the show opened.

The Aerial Videography Field Trip sold out in the first couple weeks that the posting went live. It was capped at about 50-60 attendees (a bus full) that were taken from the Las Vegas Convention Center out to a little "ghost town" an hour away called Nelson, NV, where a lot of photography and filming is done to capture the various replica buildings and vintage cars/props that speckle the landscape of this historic mining area.

Photo by Steven Holden

Photo by Mannie Frances

Once the group arrived, there was an overview given by the event manager Mannie Frances from VASST with a guest demo of a heavy-lift multirotor used in motion picture production (pictured below). And there had been several "stations" setup in advance and everyone was divided into smaller groups and rotated through the stations throughout the day.

Photo by Robert Keeran

The first station was manned by instructors from UXV - Unmanned Aerial University where attendees got some preflight schooling and hands-on flying experience one-on-one with the instructors. With an impressive team that brought a lineup of gear for attendees to take their first flight, they showed patience and professionalism. Instructors were Jerry LeMieux, Mike Ferguson, TJ Diaz, Andrew Baker and Paul Aitken.

Photo by Mannie Frances

In my station, I handled the overview & introductory segment to show various entry-level craft like the DJI Phantom 2 Vision and flying basics, plus safety and FPV capabilities with the DSLRPros Cine Phantoms. I covered items such as the type of gear I use for various flying conditions, preflight checklists, safety checks and battery management. I had a separate receiver and 7" LED Field Monitor on a stand where the group could view the FPV feed from the GoPro while we had a pair of goggles passed around for everyone to see what that experience was like. There were so many great questions raised and experiences shared in all the groups that the day literally just flew by!

Photo by Robert Keeran



Photos by Brian Ramage

There were two other stations manned by members of the DSLRPros team showing FPV and Monitoring Equipment with Jeremy Weiss plus a lot of pro gear brought in by DSLRPros and LA-based DP, Leigh Hubner with his custom S800 and S1000 rigs on display.

Photo by Mannie Frances

Photo by Robert Keeran

Photo by Steven Holden

We then ended the day by gathering everyone around the water tower for a group shot from the air by Leigh Hubner shot on a great fly-by, which he's posted for public view on Facebook here. (NOTE: this link may not work for everyone)


Photo by Robert Keeran



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JR3D: | April, 23, 2014

The potential is really going to prove to be interesting.  And, there is so much more to it than the technology (which in itself is fascinating).  The tools are the beginning.  As this particular part of the industry grows, we will likely see changes and new developments and workflows. 

How quick it “takes off” (in every sense of the phrase) will depend on many factors, not the least of which will be the political.  Worldwide, new laws and regulations will come into being as a result.  In the United States, for example, the FAA does not yet permit the use of these for any commercial applications (meaning mainly digital cinema and television image capture).  They will.  The pressure is too great for them not too.  I am sure, however, that such license will be regulated.  The details will affect all operations.

Of concern to many are the safety aspects, which were touched on in the article.  Several things can be, and should be, done to safeguard the people on the ground against accidents.  There have been accidents already, one operator suffering severe facial lacerations from a UAV.  The pictures shown do not indicate any shielding of the props, which, in a sense, are flying circular saws.  While a shroud around the periphery of each prop may seem to add weight, it is minimal, and, designed correctly, can actually enhance control of the craft.  My own work with ducted fan props many years ago, indicated real advantages in addition safety, especially when operating in windy conditions. 

Like the operation of cranes and other potentially dangerous equipment on and near production sets, the real key to safety will come in the form of safety training and rules for operators.  As this technique grows, this should and likely will become an important part of production school programs and product manufacturers’ guidelines.

Operated safely, these multirotor craft will provide unique POV’s that will enhance the creative producer’s storylines, permitting camera positions and moves that would be impractical or impossible by other means.  This will be especially evident in stereoscopic 3D productions, where the visual impressions can be so potentially dynamic that no one has ever seen them before, not even from a conventional people-carrying craft, like a full size helicopter.  The small size results in such low inertia that moves are possible that will be absolutely mind boggling.

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