American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 16

Drones have become an indispensible tool for capturing
compelling aerial imagery.

Welcome to Shot Craft, AC's new section for emerging
cinematographers, focusing on tools, techniques, and
tricks of the trade.

I

Learning to Fly
By Patricia Thomson

Last year, brothers Corey and Ian Bracone - a Local 52 grip
and a Local 600 focus puller, respectively - joined the throngs
taking advantage of a Federal Aviation Administration gamechanger. Under the old regulations, one had to be a licensed pilot
before applying for drone-pilot certification. No longer. As of
August 2016, Part 107 of the regulations governing small
unmanned aerial systems (UASs) requires just an aeronauticsheavy written exam, opening the door to serious drone hobbyists
like the Bracone brothers, who have since started their own business - New York Action Unit - and, with the requisite FAA certifications, have become Local 600 UAS pilot/operators.
Local 600's West Coast division now has around 100 certified drone pilots, while the East Coast has about 20. (FAA restrictions on flying in New York City's congested airspace play into that
discrepancy.) Michael Chambliss, a technologist and business
representative for Local 600, is bullish about the future of drones
on movie and television sets. "This is really a new vernacular
within the language of cinematography," he says. "It's a development similar to the Steadicam that opens an entirely new kind of
shot."
As a new specialty within the motion-picture industry, it's
suffering some growing pains. One evolving area is the question
of who operates the remote head on dual-operator heavy-lift
drones - the gimbal operator on a specialized aerial team hired
specifically for the shot, or an operator already on the production?
16

August 2017

"The decision about who should operate a specialty shot
is always up to the cinematographer and the A-operator," says
Chambliss. "Currently, the common practice is for the pilot and
drone camera operator to be a team that are brought in for the
shot. There are a lot of reasons, starting with the variety of equipment; a lot of it is customized." Even when it's not, a drone's
controls and "personality" take getting used to. "On traditional
flight heads, the joystick controls are very refined; we don't tend
to push a full-scale airframe to the same extremes or find that a
lens change materially alters the craft's flight characteristics," he
points out. "The smaller the craft, the more flight performance
changes with different lenses and bodies." An aerial team knows
how their various drones will react. Like Steadicam, drone work
can be very spontaneous during complex sequences, with pilots
filling in the blanks as they execute a shot. Flight teams develop
their own shorthand language. "It's 'Fred and Ginger' doing the
dance routines," Chambliss says.
But there can be pushback from production. "On most
shows and sets, the cinematographer would rather have his guy
operating the remote head on the camera, and you'd just hire a
pilot," says Eric Fletcher, technical chairperson of the Society of
Camera Operators. "Camera operating on a drone is very similar
to camera operating on a Technocrane. A camera operator is
hired for very specific reasons: They know how to tell the story
and how to operate the camera, and they make the cinematographer comfortable. You get two guys walking on set, saying,
'Hey, we're here with the drone! What do you want us to do?'
That's a little unsettling to a cinematographer."
Fortunately, the choice isn't binary. Max Tubman, director
of North American operations for Gryphon Dynamics - as well
as a pilot and co-founder of Steam Machine Aerial - prefers to
integrate these approaches. His ideal aerial team comprises a
drone pilot, a gimbal operator and a gimbal tech. Once on set,
his team brings out wheels. "They're very familiar to a lot of
people," he says. "The gimbal tech will go to the A-camera op
and say, 'This is how it works. Would you like to operate?' Sometimes they'll say 'yes' and slide into the role, and other times
they'll say, 'I don't want this to be on me, because I've never done
it before.' But we always offer. Eight or nine times out of 10, a
camera operator says, 'Let the gimbal tech operate the camera.'"
That ratio is likely to change as more operators get handson experience. Forward-looking camera operators would be wise
to familiarize themselves with drone heads, whether or not they
want certification. (Only the pilot in command needs a license.)
But new pilots should be prepared for a fluid, confusing
regulatory environment - and perhaps some advocacy work.
Current regulations leave many practical questions unanswered.
"What the FAA told me is, 'We establish a baseline. Your industry
is free to create higher standards as you might see fit,'" says

American Cinematographer

Photo courtesy of Vertical Images.

SHOT CRAFT



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 9
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 10
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 11
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 12
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 13
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 14
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 15
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 16
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 17
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 18
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 19
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 20
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 21
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 22
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 23
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 24
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 25
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 26
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 27
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 28
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 29
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 30
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 31
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32a
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32b
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32c
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32d
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 33
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 34
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 35
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 36
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 37
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 38
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 39
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 40
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 41
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 42
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 43
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 44
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 45
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 46
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 47
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 48
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 49
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 50
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 51
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 52
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 53
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 54
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 55
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 56
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 57
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 58
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 59
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 60
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 61
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 62
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 63
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 64
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 65
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 66
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 67
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 68
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 69
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 70
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 71
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 72
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 73
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 74
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 75
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 76
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 77
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 78
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 79
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 80
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0719
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0619
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0519
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0419
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0319
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0219_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0219
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0119_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0119
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1218
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1118
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1018
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0918
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0818
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0718
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0618
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0518
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0418
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0318
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0218
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0118
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1217
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1117
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1017
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0917
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0817
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0717
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0617
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0517
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0417
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0317
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0217
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0117
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1216
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1116
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1016
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0916
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0816
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0716
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0616
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0516
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0416
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0316
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0216
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0116
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1215
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1115
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1015
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0915
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0815
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0715
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0615
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0515
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0415
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0315
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0215
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0115
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com