Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Buzzing Headache

By Tom Inglesby

While at the NAB show, we saw a lot of people offering illegal substances. Now, in Las Vegas, a lot of out-of-towners would expect that, considering the town’s reputation. But this was different; these were exhibitors at the show offering attendees a chance to break the law. Considering the number of people swarming these booths, it was a booming business. When asked why they were so interested in something that was illegal, several offered the classic excuse: “Well, other guys are doing it so why can’t I?”

Ah, the allure of the forbidden. And the dealers? Like good entrepreneurs, they pointed out that what they were offering wasn’t really illegal if used in the proper manner. This, of course, was the same comment you hear at gun shows across the country, or from the guy on the corner with a bag filled with OxyContin tablets. Perfectly legal unless you use it illegally.

In this case, the addiction, if you will, has hit a number of big names in our industry. Martin Scorsese, for example, has been known to partake; the results showed up in his recent film, The Wolf of Wall Street. We don’t mean to point a finger at Scorsese; he’s hardly alone. Watch a little TV these days and the commercials that pop up, the bread and butter of so many in our industry, will have images that suggest the producers are hooked on the same stuff.

They want to share that excitement with others so they offer their “stash” to their neighbors, friends, co-workers, others they’ve never met before. And the dealers of these instruments of addiction, the pushers who acknowledge their offerings can be used illegally, but that’s not their problem? They set up shops near schools and offer their product to kids!

Makes you wonder how high these folks can get while acting so low, doesn’t it? Well, legally, they have to be under 400 feet and no closer to an airport than five miles. But that’s when they are operating as a hobbyist; unfortunately, as the dealers should tell you, they can’t be used commercially at all.

Yes, the illegal substance we’re talking about comes with wings, or more often, rotors. These are the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that carry cameras aloft to film everything from car chases to picnics in the park to speeding power boats for commercials. But the FAA takes a different view of flight than a lot of film makers. To them, commercial use of a UAV is illegal, no matter how many users tell you differently. The FAA recently fined a UAV user for providing video for commercial use that was obtained with his aircraft. The case was ruled in the filmmaker’s favor, but the government has appealed the ruling. An independent journalist used his UAV to record footage of a police crime scene and was fined; the station that ran the footage was not and disavowed any responsibility.

The current status of using UAV for commercial purposes is, well, it is up in the air. On June 2, 2014, the FAA said they are considering a waiver from the no-commercial-use rule for seven aerial photography companies. If that waiver is granted, the flood gates will be open. Every cinematographer with a model airplane-loving kid will be rigging cameras to ‘copters.

The rules will be rewritten, perhaps in favor of the cinematographer, perhaps not. But the industry, including the MPAA, will be making appeals on a regular basis until the FAA sees the (camera) light. In the meantime, we hope no accident happens that makes the public – as well as the government – see filming with a UAV in a bad light.

No comments:

Post a Comment