Cut the Chopper, Cue the Drones?Posted: May 8, 2011
A few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with my friend and former co-worker, Matt Grant, now a reporter in Fort Myers, FL. We were marveling over the latest push in newsrooms towards iPhone or laptop live shots. Matt and I both spent our last few years in small markets where this sort of thing would have been a game-changer, not just for our stations but for our careers. Small-market reporters are lucky to get a photog once a week, much less a live truck. (I can just hear the pained laughter of all my MMJ friends out there.) Now, you need neither. Just a smartphone with Ustream or Skype, point it at yourself, and you’re set to go live from anywhere with WiFi or a 3G cell signal.
So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this article about a CNN reporter who bought a basic consumer grade drone, equipped it with a cheap HD camcorder, and sent it to get a birds’ eye view of the storm damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. For less than $600, he completed a task that would usually take a helicopter, pilot, and photographer to accomplish. The reporter achieved a new, distinctive look; and his shots captured the state of the up-close destruction better than the sky views we usually see. (Here is a generic chopper shot, managing to make chaos and destruction look boring. Yawn.)
I’m not suggesting that helicopters can be totally replaced (case in point), but I am saying that a lot of their functions could be done with a drone cam. Imagine tighter overhead shots with better control. Aerial closeups for natural disaster sites, fires, and events with massive crowds. All controlled by a photog or reporter’s iPad. We’ve already sacrificed a bit of quality for iPhone live hits, so why not? The sky’s the limit! 😉