A new piece of filmmaking gear was just announced that could completely reinvent the complex process of camera stabilisation. It’s currently being tested and endorsed by Vincent LaForet, who’s given us a little taste of what it’s capable of.
The product is called MōVI, created by Freefly, long-time maker of crazy camera-drone equipment and stabilisers. LaForet is presenting a short film and behind-the-scenes video to illustrate its abilities, which consists of a completely custom-made gimbal and 3-axis gyroscope that digitally stabilises the camera (a Canon 1DC in this case). It looks to be very light and portable, a far cry from giant metal arms, vests, and weights that almost the entire camera support world is based on.
Anyone who has ever picked up a camera knows that one of the most frustrating things is getting footage that isn’t shaky. That smooth gliding movement is one of the hallmarks of good production value. At the pro level, stabilisation is the focus of entire companies, like the ubiquitous Steadicam, which provides beastly and expensive equipment to Hollywood, TV, and independent production houses for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of cinema’s most famous shots have utilized this type of gear, such as this iconic Goodfellas scene:
Shots like these are based on a counterweight system, where heavy weights are suspended below the camera, which sits on a low-friction gimble. The new system gets rid of the counterweight completely, allowing the camera person to move around much easier. For added control, the camera’s movements can be operated remotely via joystick.
Let’s be real though — this is very much a professional-level piece of gear that is currently priced at $US15,000, with a $US7500 option coming in the near future. That is to say, out of the price-range of most individuals and small businesses. But the very apparent break with old technology will no doubt trickle down into more consumer-friendly devices as time goes on, and hopefully make those awe-inspiring camera shots possible for anyone to pull off. [LaForet Visuals]
This morning on ABC Radio National was a story about the use of a DroidWorx AD8HL Octocopter in the Mollymook area, NSW back in March/April.
A concerned resident captured the octocopter flying around without a camera attached. Although this is not a breach of privacy as there is no camera, this can still make other people uncomfortable.
We urge operators to please keep in mind the privacy rights of those around them. We always recommend training in open fields away from spectators and far enough away from private dwellings so as not to make residents uncomfortable.
This is a new industry still in the tender stages of formation, and it needs to be protected.
If you would like to learn more about training areas, please contact CASA directly
We thank you for your cooperation, and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to voice them
They were originally designed for military use, and though they certainly have their uses, they also take privacy concerns to a new level.
It's the future of law enforcement, fire fighting and lifesaving, and though it might look like a remote control toy, it's actually a highly sophisticated drone.
While we're used to seeing pilotless aircraft on the frontline of the war on terror, soon anyone could have one - your friends, your enemy, even your neighbours.
According to Civil Libertarian Terry O'Gorman "this is a serious issue, it's the major privacy issue of this century."
And he says forget about taking legal action.
"At the moment there are simply no laws to protect against privacy misuse of drones - none at all."
The only laws covering drones are through the federal aviation body, CASA and those laws relate to safety, not privacy.
So the sky above your home is a free for all.
"I think there's simply a lack of interest. Privacy doesn't command the attention of politicians until one of their privacy gets invaded," O'Gorman said.
So how easy is it to get your hands on one of these drones? You don't have to pay $10,000 – one we found cost just a few hundred dollars from Apple's online store.
It has a high definition camera that streams live video back to your iPhone or iPad, and as for the heights it can reach - well it can easily peer over the highest fences. It's technology you wouldn't dream of having in the palm of your hands just a few years ago.
Flick Durham from Aerobot says drones "should be built by professionals, tested by professionals and not just something that a teenager can put together and perve on the girl next door."
According to Durham no one is regulating what's coming into Australia. Her Byron Bay company is building the drones, with a view to only selling the technology to photographers, reputable organisations and emergency services.
Durham says if used correctly, the pros far outweigh the cons and says his machines will save lives.
One of the drones, the Hexacopter can carry loads up to one and a half kilos, and can be modified to carry just about anything - a GPS tracker, a floatation device, a high definition camera - the sky is the limit.
"The picture on it is so clear, you could easily find someone out in the surf, and even get sharks, which would be really good to spot as well," Durham said.
Capturing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, it's nimble and easy to use, and the average cost is around $10,000.
"It's come so far from the first little machine that was made. That would fall out of the sky because it was unreliable equipment, and now we've got big machines above a metre in diameter."
John Bigelow from Security Solutions Magazine says "I can definitely see a use for unmanned, aerial vehicles or drones in Australia."
Managing natural disasters and border protection is where Bigelow sees the greatest benefits for these drones.
"Any application in which you might use a helicopter or a plane can be done possibly more effectively and more cheaply or cost effectively with an unmanned aerial vehicle," he said.
He says every day the technology is becoming more affordable and compact, like a model from the US, which looks like and flies like a hummingbird.
"I think they will be lifesaving devices well worth the investment."
So whether you like it or not, this technology is here and it's here to stay. The only question is who's watching the watchers?
A BYRON Bay company is at the forefront of an emerging technology that is revolutionising aerial videography, photography and monitoring, but also creating ethical and privacy dilemmas for authorities.
Aerobot, co-owned by Simon Jardine and Felicity Durham, is one of just two companies in Australia selling remotely piloted aircraft (although you can buy the technology online of varying quality).
They are a simpler and much less sinister variation of the unnmanned combat aerial vehicles commonly known as drones that have become the weapon of choice in America's war on terrorism.
Aerobot's battery operated drones allow even the heaviest of cameras to be strapped on so aerial pictures can be taken at a fraction of the price and risk involved in hiring a commercial pilot, and often providing much better quality pictures due to the agility of the technology.
Aerobot sells several different models, but the one demonstrated to The Northern Star yesterday at Byron Bay Regional Sports Centre grounds is made of carbon fibre, is 85cm in circumference, has 12 rotor blades, has a motor that operates at 700rpm and can reach speeds of up to 160km an hour.
The machines have an awe-inspiring ability to hover and swoop like something out of War of The Worlds or The Jetsons.
The technology has begun to be adopted for commercial uses with real estate agents and media companies among those already embracing it.
Mr Jardine said they had been forced to turn down over $600,000 worth of commercial work since founding the company in 2008 such was the growing demand for the technology.
He said Civil Aviation Safety Association rules did not allow remotely piloted aircraft company's to carry out such commercial work, instead most of Aerobot's business was in selling drones to photographers and cinematographers and then training them in the technology.
Some voices are warning of privacy and aviation concerns caused by the increasing accessibility of small unmanned aircraft, or drones.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Not so long ago, pilotless aerial drones were the stuff of science fiction. Today, they're at the centre of a technological revolution and authorities are struggling to keep up. Drones were originally designed for military use, but they're now used for everything from aerial photography to search and rescue. As Peter McCutcheon reports, they're creating a whole raft of security, safety and privacy concerns.
PETER MCCUTCHEON, REPORTER: This may look like a group of model aircraft hobbyists. But what's happening here is far more important than playing with toys.
JONATHAN ROBERTS, CSIRO: Some of the aircraft are hobby-style aircraft, the fuselages, but then inside is really smart computers.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: This is an international competition sponsored by some of the biggest players in Australian aviation looking for a new edge in a technological revolution. The aviation industry calls these "unmanned airborne vehicles", or UAVs, highly sophisticated aircraft with GPS tracking, cameras and video.
NORM SANDERS, AEROBOT: It's like television coming along or digital radio or whatever. It is the cutting edge of a brand new technology which can be used for good or evil.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: The dawning age of the drone throws up as many challenges as it does breathtaking opportunities.
TIM PILGRIM, PRIVACY COMMISSIONER: There are issues that this new technology also has the ability to start intruding into our daily lives if it's going to be misused by people.
JOHN MCCORMICK, CASA: Now we're seeing the private individual out in his suburb deciding he'll buy one and he can get it through the internet and we won't even know he's got it.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: UAVs were originally developed by the military, with the US making hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan in its war against the Taliban.
But this technology is being increasingly taken up by civilians. Five years ago the CSIRO set up a special research centre in Brisbane to look at how drones can be put to commercial use. This model chopper is used in trials for monitoring crops.
JONATHAN ROBERTS: There's so many good applications where you really need to put a camera in the sky or maybe some other sensing systems to actually measure things and look at things from an aerial vantage point.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: The CSIRO is also a major organiser of this event, the UAV outback challenge at Kingaroy in south-east Queensland. The aim is to design a drone that can navigate its way through more than 10 kilometres of bushland and farming country to find this dummy, representing a lost bush walker.
JONATHAN ROBERTS: This challenge is actually targeting search and rescue and that's seen s a - most people I talk to, in fact everybody I talk to, thinks that's a very good use for unmanned aircraft.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: But it's not only scientists and boffins interested in this new technology. In northern New South Wales, a small company is trying to make some money out of it. Aerobot imports parts and assembles drones with mounted high definition cameras. This octocopter retails at just under $10,000.
Who buys this sort of thing?
FLICK DURHAM, AEROBOT: Well, a lot of TV/film professionals, photographers. Mining industries are trying to get into it, as well as search and rescue, fire brigades. The life savers are going to be using them.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: But there's a catch. Very few people in Australia, only 24, have permission from the aviation regulator CASA to use this technology commercially.
JOHN MCCORMICK: Our current regulations work on the fact that there is a difference between someone using something for a private purpose and someone using something for a commercial purpose; that they're gonna take photographs, sell those photographs, that sort of thing.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: A near miss between a model aircraft and a passenger jet at Perth airport three years ago shows why CASA is concerned. The incident was caught on the drone's video camera. But pressure is growing on CASA to open the skies to smaller drones.
How difficult is it running a business like this under current CASA regulations?
NORM SANDERS: It's impossible.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: Norm Sanders is a pilot, former Australian Democrats senator and adviser to Aerobot.
NORM SANDERS: CASA has no idea - nobody in CASA has any idea about how to operate one of these things so they just put in this blanket rule which stifles this growing industry.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: A quick search on YouTube shows how fast this technology is being taken up and how far consumers can push the law with computerised flight goggles and high definition cameras.
Now this is the latest toy drone to come onto the market. It just costs a few hundred dollars, but it has the sorta technology that would've seemed science fiction 10 years ago. It streams live footage back to my iPhone. It has a computer on board which automatically stabilises the whole thing. And to land it is simple; I just push a button. Goes back down.
For its part, CASA admits the genie is out of the bottle.
JOHN MCCORMICK: So I think what's happened here is we've seen an explosion in the number of vehicles that are available. As I said, the internet, access to relatively cheap vehicles made overseas, predominantly in China, that's happened very, very quickly. I don't think anyone foresaw that.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: The head of CASA John McCormick says the regulator is now looking at introducing a weight limit to make it easier for commercial operators to use smaller drones.
JOHN MCCORMICK: Because of the plethora of small vehicles that are available now and their capabilities, that most probably is impossible for us to enforce. So we have to more or less address reality. There's no point us writing a regulation or an order that we can't enforce. That's just bad law.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: And another area where the law may need clarifying is the right to privacy, with the paparazzi using drones for celebrity shots in the French Riviera and possibly the recent topless shots of the Duchess of Cambridge. And the controversy is coming closer to home.
TIM PILGRIM: Well we're starting to hear of some cases. There was one in New South Wales where someone went to their bedroom window one morning and opened up their curtains and found there was a drone with a camera hovering outside their bedroom window.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: The Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner Tim Pilgrim says our current laws may need updating.
TIM PILGRIM: If an individual is using one, say, a neighbour or someone in your street, many of the laws we have don't apply to the activities of those individuals. So, we need to take stock of the surveillance laws that may exist in the states and territories and have a look to see whether we think they're going to provide an appropriate level of regulation.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: Back at Kingaroy, the focus is not on privacy, but on how far the technology can go. Several manufacturers of larger drones, Lockheed Martin and the Boeing subsidiary In Situ Pacific, are keen observers, looking to expand into the civilian market, starting off with searches and patrols in remoter areas.
ANDREW DUGGAN, INSITU PACIFIC: We'll build trust with CASA and with other air space users and bring it back into more short-notice, more immediate type scenarios where we can really extend the technology of the limits of what it's capable of.
PETER MCCUTCHEON: Surf Lifesaving Australia is planning to soon send drones on test patrols over Queensland's North Stradbroke Island. And the release of regulations for small drones later this month will give some insight into just how fast the technology will be coming to a neighbourhood near you.