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The ICG Reviews The Latest On Drones At NAB 2016

By: Marjorie Galas

Drones have been a focus point at NAB (and other shows, for that matter) over the past several years.  Fortunately, the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG) held a panel at the 2016 NAB show that illustrated many positive changes taking place in both drone usage and technology.

Entitled “Drones..Opening New Vistas to Content” the panel was moderated by ICG Business Rep Michael Chambliss, ASC and featured Dylan Goss, aerial cinematographer for Team5, Drew Roberts, aerial cinematographer for Wild Rabbit Aerial Productions, Tony Carmean, aerial producer for Aerial MOB and Nick Kolias, aerial cinematographer for Aerial Edge.  The panel kicked off with recent work provided by each panelists, including scenes from “Narcos” where a drone operated by Goss that flew through explosions and an interior shoot of a dance performance submitted by Kolias.

The panel concurred that drone technology is becoming somewhat standardized:  there is no longer extensive competition in unique overall designs.  The drones are also able to handle much heavier loads, such as Alexis cameras.

“Drones can handle lots of shots helicopters do with less risk and cost,” said Goss.  “They also offer a benefit in providing affective work flow on set.”

The panel stressed that the choice to use drones hinges on the needs of the production.  During a remake of “Point Break” a motorcycle chase through the Utah mountains was captured entirely by helicopter.  While drones would have been the crew’s preferred choice: particularly due to the lowest amount of dust they pick up when close to the ground, there was no reliable way to charge the batteries or handle malfunctions.

“Just as with any production, you have to be very mindful of the equipment you choose to use throughout your shoot,” said Chambliss.

The panel also focused on regulatory hurdles.  An interesting point that was highlighted was the change of regulations from country to county.  One has to thoroughly do their homework before planning drone shots when shooting a multi-country production.  In addition to regulations are general safety concerns.  Kolios stressed the concerns sometimes extend to the unexpected.  When shooting a Tecate commercial, a Gold Eagle was featured throughout the shoot.  The preditor saw the drone as a threat and continued to attack the craft.  They had to adjust the shooting schedule as well as projector of the craft:  the crafts don’t fly up in a straight line so making a speady get-away from the bird took a bit of mathematical planning.

New regulations are constantly being developed with the FAA, and most recent changes are underway regarding sporting events.  Due to the capacity and layout of stadiums, there are many limitations to drone usage in these environments.  Likewise, there are limitations to the proximity of drone usage to airports – there must be a five mile radius between the location and the nearest airport.

The panel wrapped by highlighting the next challenges for drone shooting, which include night time shoots and affect weight management that exceeds 55lbs.

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