How Drones Are Changing The Way TV Shows Are Produced

drones

Get the shot!  Get the shot!  We’ve all heard the phrase from directors or from TV producers alike.  The idea is to have the timing, skill, and technology to do whatever possible to get a particular shot before the opportunity passes.  Part of this means being able to maneuver the camera into a precarious position.  That’s why, in the past, TV shows, following in the tradition of movies, have used booms, cranes, helicopters, and Steadicams mounted on the shoulders of actors to get the right angles.

Here’s where the top production drones come into play.  They’re small and compact and designed to stabilize cameras and get shots that are hard to get otherwise.

And production crews in the TV industry have taken notice.  While it’s estimated that drones were used by roughly only 10% of TV production crews in 2015, that percentage seems to be rising, and that’s not counting their use in shows that use drones as characters or as the stated concept.  Production crews aren’t the kind of people to throw undo skepticism at drones, since they are always looking for something that will save them work or money, or, more importantly, get them that great shot.

With helicopter costing crews roughly 25K per day–and up–a price tag of 3 or 4 thousand a day for drone aircraft looks pretty good.

drones-airplanes

But in terms of storytelling itself, unmanned craft have been used, in their early days, largely for action shorts and for anything requiring a low aerial vantage, or a moving shot in relatively close quarters.  For example, The Mentalist put a drone aircraft to work on its 2015 season finale, shooting a man running through the woods, which, with a helicopter would be distant and drained of much of its drama, and for a dolly would probably require some torturous chainsaw labor. (This was the first U.S. use of a drone in TV production, coming immediately after the FAA allowed drones’ use).  Some of the chase scenes and moving panoramas in Narcos were shot with drones as well.

Drone News is Good News

It’s exciting for fans of drones to hear about some of their cherished TV series using drones in production.  It will be happening more often, and it will be fun to try to identify drone shots while watching.  But while the percentage of production crews using drones is still modest, it’s TV news crews that are clamoring for the help of drone aircraft.

In fact, rather than being slow to recognize the value of a hot new technology, TV producers were waiting for guidelines to loosen before they could use the drones how they wanted to.  In February, former head of the FAA’s drone office, Jim Williams, told the AP, “every TV station in the country wants a drone, but they can’t be limited to the middle of nowhere.”  However, the laws he referred to, which essentially measured how close drones could get to people, were loosened in July of this year, and went into effect in August.

The new regulations flatly remove any distance requirement from people, stipulating only that they be under cover in case of a crash.  They also remove the requirement for a flight path, meaning that news outlets can now blast the drones out toward breaking news.

CNN recently did just that, bringing back compelling footage of the horrible destruction caused by a Baghdad suicide bomber.

For television news, the closer-than-a-copter trait is even more crucial than in television production.  What you can see, in the context of television news, means nothing less than your perception of the news and events.  So using the unmanned craft for coverage of fires, riots, demonstrations, etc. is tremendously valuable.  Robert Unmacht, of iN3 Partners, a technology-focused consultancy firm says using drones “will be absolutely essential to all broadcast journalists.”

One of the most spectacular non-fiction feats involving drones came a year ago, and it teamed the DJI Inspire 1 with Maria Stefanopoulos, production manage of Good Morning America.  The program not only flew the Inspire into an Icelandic volcano, but streamed it live.  The footage captured oozing lava, and the Inspire got so close that some of its equipment melted.

Theoretically, a clip like this could be used in science classes for years to come, and is of educational value to the curious everywhere.  However, ABC doesn’t mind admitting that they did it largely for the “wow” factor.  Frankly, that’s what’s going to drive the use of drones in any television context.  It’s likely that the more cool things that various TV news and information shows do with drones, the higher the pressure will be.  How this serves the news-seeking public is a question for an essay on journalistic ethics, but the development is great for lovers of drones.

What Course are TV drones on?

We’ve seen, in the last year, that the FAA is ever more accommodating toward the television industry.  In general, one no longer needs a pilot’s license to operate a commercial drone, which demonstrates a definitive loosening on the part of the FAA.  There’s no reason to expect anything but clearer sailing for drones in the upcoming years.

One imagines that both scripted series (particularly dramas) and non-fiction programming like nature documentaries, news, and sports, will develop in their reliance on drones at a nearly equal pace.  Will we be seeing an explosion in shots that hover over a character or track her through corridors?  Will we see even more shots that travel I circles, an aerial version of the diner scene at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs?  What will be interesting will be seeing to what extent the “because we can” effect drives what we see and to what extent other cinematic principles and preferences rule the day.

And here’s another thing: other technologies.  For example, the Flyboard, from Zapata Racing, is a water-powered hoverboard.  But Zapata now has a prototype for Flyboard Air, which allows the visually-arresting feat of a user standing on the board and hovering dozens of feet above the water.  Filmmaker Michael Maher, writing for Shutterstock, speculates that this wonder could be used for shots in which the user is holding a camera. It’s hard to see what advantage this oblong, manned craft would have over drones, unless it’s price.  But the concept is worth noting—other technologies could come along to give drones a run for their proverbial money.  In fact, makers of drones might develop even smaller relatives of their creations that couldn’t be considered drones, per se.

But, for now, drones are hotly sought-after, particularly by news crews.  Here’s something to consider.  Game of Thrones is just one TV series that has found its set bombarded by drones whose users wanted to get footage of the shows as they were produced.  What better advertisement for the machines?  Even if the shows’ crews were annoyed, they had to be impressed with the capabilities of the small, unmanned aircraft.  Perhaps they’ve already begun putting them to use in their shows.

Gilmore Girls Revival Details

gilmore girls revival rory sookie

There are plenty of questions about the Gilmore Girls revival and quite a few answers floating around the Internet. One of the biggest questions centers around the cast and characters who will be returning on the new series, and for the most part it looks like quite a few important characters will be coming back—plus of course the main characters. Aside from the obvious Gilmore Girls themselves, Lorelai and Rory, all of Rory’s major boyfriends will be seen in the new addition to the series. Recently an interview with Ventimiglia was conducted. If you didn’t already know, Ventimiglia played the role of Jess, one of Rory’s previous love interests. Jess played a rather hardcore, leather-jacket wearing lover-of-words. The two parted ways in the sixth season, after which Jess went on to his new life and Rory returned to Logan. Ventimiglia expressed his great enthusiasm at rejoining the cast of Gilmore Girls and reprising his role. There were no questions about returning to the show if he was ever given the opportunity to do so.

gilmore girls revival

Many details regarding characters in the show—including Jess—are being kept secret so as not to spoil the upcoming episodes. It is known that Gilmore Girls will start back up years later after the characters have matured and aged somewhat. According to Ventimiglia his character Jess would be returning to Stars Hollow in order to “accomplish” something, but exactly what he is to accomplish is yet unknown.

Ventimiglia also stated that fans likely won’t be too surprised by how Jess turns out and develops over the years, as it is very in sync with his character. Ventimiglia himself said that he was not surprised by what he discovered about his character. He also stated that he could appreciate Jess for who he was. The new Jess will be in many ways the same old Jess from the previous Gilmore Girls. He will still have the endearing sarcasm that was characteristic for him—although he will likely be changed in some aspects, underneath it all he is still the same smart aleck that he was from the very second season.

He is still something of a “badass,” according to Ventimiglia, who also says that Jess always had a “heart of gold” despite being a misguided troublemaker.

gilmore girls revival alexis bledel and rory

Ventimiglia said that when he walked away from Gilmore Girls on April 18th of this year it wasn’t all that difficult. He attributes this to the fact that he keeps in touch with people and many of his friendships go beyond his career as an actor. Ventimiglia said that rather than saying “goodbye for good” it feels like he is just saying “I’ll see you around.” Of course, this is very encouraging to those who hope that the Gilmore Girls revival is just getting started, and is only the first of more seasons. Although this is certainly not yet confirmed, the future might be hopeful for those fans of Gilmore Girls. Either way, fans are more than excited to embrace the new episodes that have been filmed. When you sign up for one of the AT&T U-verse Packages, will be able to watch all the episodes of the Gilmore Girls revival.

Is Apple TV Right For You?

apple-tv-available-titles

Apple TV is essentially a little black box that you plug into your computer. From here you are instantly connected with hours of entertainment in up to 1080p HD. You can enjoy live sports, the latest TV shows, an endless selection of blockbuster movies, the news, and more, all in high definition on your television set. You can even manage your photos, music, and other content from your Mac or iOS through AirPlay.

You can choose from a range of new releases from iTunes, where you can rent or buy and even go behind the scenes through iTunes Extras. With Apple TV you can go beyond iTunes, however. You can also enjoy the programs from HBO, Netflix, and Hulu Plus. Apple TV gives you a world of entertainment accessible effortlessly through you fingertips. Channel surfing is a thing of the past and you never have to be out of the loop at work or school with the hottest new events and TV shows.apple-tv-itunes-store-access

On Apple TV there is something for everyone. Whether you like reality TV shows, staying up with current events, crime dramas, movies, or cartoons for the kids, everyone in the family will be happy. Most families have at least one sports fan, and he/she will be completely satisfied with Apple TV too. Apple TV has clips and highlights from big names everyone knows like NBA, ESPN, NHL, and MLB. Live games are also available so that you can be on the same page as all of your friends during important sporting events.apple-tv-youtube-app

In this fast pace and changing world, especially with all of the important and historical debates and events taking place this year, having your go-to news is also important for many people. Apple TV enables you to watch CNBC News, Sky News, Bloomberg TV, ABC News, Wall Street Journal Live and of course The Weather Channel. Everyone can get their ideal entertainment needs met with Apple TV.apps-apple-tv-interface

Apple TV also has fun and smart capabilities which allows you to do a lot more than just watch movies, TV, sports or the news. With AirPlay you can wirelessly play videos, pictures, and music from your Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad on your television screen. Guests can also use AirPlay to connect to your Apple TV and with iCloud you can store, watch, and share content with your family.apple-tv-image3

Do people like Apple TV? CNET gives it an editor’s rating of four stars and a user review of three and a half stars. Overall CNET gives it 8.3 out of 10. With all of the Apple TV’s outstanding capabilities it is not the only little black box like it on the market. Roku is reported to have more content sources like Amazon Instant and others. What does make the Apple TV stand out is its AirPlay features. If you own other Apple devices like one or more iPads, iPhones, or a Mac, then Apple TV might be an amazing choice because you have so many other options. You cannot wirelessly connect to devices through Roku.

The Latest in TV Technology

xczxc

TVs have been taking the world by storm since they became the primary source of news and entertainment in homes in the 1950s. Just a few decades later, in the 1990s, over 98% of American homes had a TV set. Today, new technology is being invented regularly to raise the bar for in-home entertainment standards.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

samsumg-releases-suhd-tv-ces-2015

This year, brightness is a big deal. In 2014, there were televisions that offered an “amazing” 750 nits of brightness, which was a big step up from the 400 nits most had come to expect. Now, there are many manufactures creating televisions that exceed a thousand. This jump is a big deal in the TV industry and proposes even sharper images for a more life-like experience.

HDR televisions are still a little ways in the future as they are being perfected, but tech gurus are expecting to one day have complete HDR systems on the market. This will mean a change in how shows and movies are filmed in order to take full advantage of the dynamic range these televisions would offer. Basically, by using local dimming technology, an HDR TV would bring out the whites of a picture while keep the blacks as black as possible. In the end, this will result in a dynamic and a truly amazing presentation.

With contrast ratio being one of the most important aspects of picture quality, many are keeping their eyes on Dolby Vision as TV lovers around the world anxiously await the arrival of such life-like televisions.

Quantum Dots

quantumn-dots-explained

Also known as “nanocrystals,” quantum dots are tiny particles. When supplied with energy, the dots glow a particular wavelength of color based on their own size. In 2013, Sony experimented with the technology with their W900A television. They used quantum dots and arranged them in a tube. A blue LED light was used to light up the screen, and the blue light also acted as an energizer for the red and green dots, which created a full, rich color spectrum on screen and fantastic picture quality. QD screens far exceed the quality of HD technology.

OLEDs

OLEDs, or “organic light-emitting diodes,” hold the title to producing the highest-quality picture so far on flat-panel displays. But, manufacturers are still in working with the technology and currently, any TV with an OLED display is too expensive for the everyday household. In fact, many TV manufactures have already stated that they will be focusing on 4k LED displays instead as OLEDs have so far proved unreliable and expensive.

uv-test-oled-v-fluorescent-lamp

This isn’t actually bad news for the industry of TV tech, as 4k displays can actually match the quality of an OLED with proper manufacturing and good settings. Sony and similar brands have announced they will be experimenting with the color gamut of their upcoming makes and will likely be employing QDs or similar means. Their attempts have the goal of solidifying color and making the pictures more dynamic. Many have already introduced their curved-screen TVs to the market, but the advertisements do little to explain the technology, which has many consumers (unaware of the purposes) disliking the idea and misunderstanding the purpose of the new screen shape.

With more experimenting and proper marketing, along with a model introduced at a lower price point, 4k TVs cool well be the new standard for the television industry. Leaders like Samsung have kept their plans under wraps, but from what we’ve seen so far this year, we can only expect an increase in picture quality and better models in the years to come.

Declining Trends

With all the talk of new technology this year, there are also some declining trends in the world of television. Most famously, plasma screens are being continuously phased out. At a much slower rate, so are 1080p displays. While the HD trend won’t die overnight, OLEDs, QDs, and other technology will soon be making its way into the consumer marketplace and increase the standard of picture quality.

plasma-in-a-plasma-tv

Recap

2015 has already seen a lot of changes and interesting developments in the world of TV tech. We can only expect more to come in the next few months as manufacturers silently compete to be the innovators in the new age of television. While it’s unlikely any OLED screens will come on to the market anytime soon, there’s a good chance that makers like Sony and Samsung will take advantage of quantum dot technology and pioneer television into the new standard of picture quality.