Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 02 2014

Guest Column - A New Perspective: Aerial (Drone) Video and Photography for Events

Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, MS
Convention videography has been used frequently over the past several decades. Cameras are used to interview speakers/exhibitors/event leaders, to record and stream/rebroadcast event proceedings, to record highlight shows at incentive meetings to show everyone involved during the final banquet what a great time they had, for exhibitor webcasts and much more.

However, the camera perspective has been pretty much unchanged. Typically, tripod mounted cameras have been used in fairly static shots. This is about to change dramatically.

I recently saw first-hand at the SITE Texas Technology Summit at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya what I believe will be a significant breakthrough: aerial video and photography for events.

Aerial Cinema is achieved with remote controlled, multi-rotor helicopters (sometimes referred to as drones), fitted with professional HD photo and video cameras, held by image stabilizing mounts known as gimbals. These rigs afford angles and perspectives never-before possible. Multi-rotors start at about US$1,500 for a basic fly/point/shoot model with an 1100 foot range up to more than US$25,000 for a long-range (up to three miles) professional system with separate controls for the camera and flying controls for the pilot.

Here are examples of a variety of drone event footage:

Additonally, this technology can be used for a completely new view for virtual site inspections as has been done by Freeman for the Omni Hotel Dallas:

I spoke with Sam Stanton of redbutton.tv and BUZZair whose company created the first video above. redbutton.tv has been involved with convention photography since 1988 and he is ebullient about the new enhancements that aerial cinema provides. He has a number of observations and suggestions when considering using this technology for your event:

  • Use a company that has experience in this area, don’t be their guinea pig! Ask for a client references and a video portfolio. People are rushing into this new field and lots of newbies abound. Make sure they are experienced before you hire them for your event,
  • Carefully check on the provider’s insurance coverage. There can be significant liability issues. The company should have at least 1 to 5 million dollars insurance coverage.
  • Produce many short videos (30 seconds) of the event and activities rather than one long, edited video. Stanton sites a YouTube statistic that you lose 1% of your audience every one second.
  • If possible, provide these short videos shortly after being recorded (within 30 minutes) as a link to the event participants. Encourage the participants to post the links to their social channels -- “post and boast” about what a great time is being had at the event. This can significantly broaden the social footprint of the event.
  • When shooting outdoor group activities, provide GoPro cameras (very small, rugged, waterproof video cameras) with lots of different mounts (i.e. mountain bikes, surfboard, helmet mounts, etc.), to the event participants. This point-of-view footage can be edited into the videos for another great perspective.
  • A professional camera team should notify the venue and other significant players when multi-rotors are planning to be used. In this case, you always want to ask for permission rather than forgiveness.
  • One significant caution is that this is still in the wild-west stages of development. The FAA has yet to fully weigh in on the topic and significant restrictions may be coming. Stanton recommends that a commercial multi-rotor certification and safety program should be established to insure that who you may hire is qualified to pilot the aircraft safely.
In the meantime, watching the aerial videos these amazing aircraft provide, gives me hope for the great new options on how event photography and videography can be improved by this new technology.

About the Author

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He can be contacted at his extensive web site: Corbin Ball Associates – Meetings Technology Headquarters and followed on Twitter: @corbinball.
©2014 Corbin Ball