Camera-equipped drones swoop and shoot aerial shots for TV and movies with gorgeous Planet Earth grandeur. Now, director James Cameron's backing a new contest in New Zealand to find drone designs to make the flying cameras even better-suited to Hollywood.
On the website for the C-Prize UAV Challenge in New Zealand, the director of scifi blockbusters like Avatar and Terminator said:
"I am a huge fan of new technologies. I am starting to really like drones as camera platforms. Any improvements that can be made to make them more stable and quieter would enable them to be used for a wider variety of world class shots."
There's an open call submissions right now, through May 24, for all engineers, filmmakers, and aspiring Busby Berkeleys, with a winning prize of $US50,000 and help getting their product in front of the right people. (New Zealand's verdant Shire-scape and progressive laws make it a drone-friendly sanctuary.)
Cinematography drones are still pretty new — despite claims that they are "invading Hollywood" — and there are plenty of technical challenges that need addressing: Making them quieter, more resilient against bad weather, and better at tracking small, fast-moving objects to create better special effects.
But there's a reason they're appealing to Cameron and other filmmakers: They're cheaper, easy to use, and could be the most versatile, hardest working robots in show business. With a drone, a director could start a shot as a closeup, zoom out from the actor, then go up — and up and up and up — and hurtle the drone through a mountain range or cityscape in hi-def aerial. All as a continuous shot.
"But", you may say, "drones! They're scary and misunderstood!" And indeed, in February, a Southwest Airlines flight nearly brushed wings at 4,000 feet with a remote-controlled UAV while descending into LAX. Privacy and safety concerns are one of the reasons UAVs are not studio staples yet. But they will be.
Last September, the Federal Aviation Administration granted some production companies exemption to use the hovering robots, meaning that small flying gizmos in Los Angeles aren't going anywhere.
So, drones for Koyaanisqatsi 2015. Am I right?
Top image: Getty