A Reasoned, If Not Droning Response

After a week of phone calls, emails and posts by angry and threatening drone people, I have to say I've come around. My opinion has changed about drones and the video I posted.

My initial intent was to make something visually interesting. To tell a story, frightening as it may be. I think it worked. And you guys are really mad about it! 

I know many multi-rotor pilots and almost all of those pilots are responsible and meticulous. They don't take risks and safety is always on their minds. They maintain their investment in hardware, carry liability insurance and constantly practice their flying skills to be better pilots.

But the funny thing is, they all seem to know that one day some idiot is going to fly a drone into an airplane and make big news. They all seem to know that one day someone is going to throw a prop and drop a heavy rig on baby in a park. They dread that day.

But the last thing they want is to embrace some sort of license or regulation that might prevent this actual thing from happening! 

So my video, simulating that very thing, has become a surrogate event for something likely to soon happen. It has uncorked this pent-up expectation and sent a large number of drone hobbyists and professionals my way to vent their anger. Read the YouTube or LiveLink comment sections. "YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF THE DAMAGE YOU'VE CAUSED!!!", reads about 40 emails in my inbox right now. (Most have more exclamation points, but you get the idea.) Maybe they are right. Maybe I don't understand.

You guys are so concerned with the public's perception. But you knew this was going to happen. Now it has... Only it hasn't! It's not real!

Perhaps we have the ability to make sure it never happens without having endangered anyone?

I flew RC planes many years ago. In those days, I had to join a club and pay $75 a year for a club license that insured me in case my 20 pound, fixed-wing toy smashed a car window, or gave a fellow pilot a concussion. I had to read a short pamphlet and take a test about the rules of the air and of common flying sense. I co-flew with a more seasoned pilot on a buddy-box until I could take off and land responsibly by myself. And I could only fly it in unpopulated areas or designated RC fields. Most of you respect your hobby like this still. But some don't. 

So, this outraged response of the drone community (excuse me, UAV community, as I have been corrected more times than I can count) has changed my mind. I now believe that some sort of regulation like this going to be necessary. You have to take a test and qualify to be able to drive a car or fly a plane. Why not some sort of qualification of your ability to fly a heavy piece of carbon fiber with spinning blades around civilians? Why not have visible registration numbers or RFID to keep multi-rotor pilots responsible and traceable to the aircraft they've purchased? The people who treat this as a business will not be the problem. Those pilots are self-regulating and playing by similar rules already for their own safety and those around them.

And it's likely not the hobbyist who buys a micro or a Parrot or Phantom will cause anything more newsworthy than a black eye or chopping off Enrique Iglesias's fingers.  

It's the guy who buys the biggest, most expensive toy he can find - one he has no respect for, nor skill to fly - who accidentally kills someone with it. He will be the guy that changes this argument forever. It's that guy who is going to ruin your business and ground the industry, not my visual effects shot.

So maybe all of the professional UAV people who 'can't believe the damage I have done' should reconsider. You're basically saying, "I wont kill anybody, but if someone else does, that's not my problem.!" But it will be. Get on the right side of this now.

After all. This wasn't real.

No one was hurt.

The real thing has not actually happened....

Yet. 

 

Drone Hits Airliner

 I mean that really got out of hand

I mean that really got out of hand

Lately, I've been looking for little videos to make with no budget, an iPhone and some CGI. After shooting this footage of NYC as we were climbing out of Laguardia (thanks FAA for finally letting us keep our phones in airplane mode during take-off), I thought it might be a challenge to make something go by or even strike the wing. This is the same air corridor that Captain "Skully" ditched his Airbus A320 in the Hudson after a double bird strike, saving all on-board. 

But I chose to make a drone zip past instead of a bird and tear off a section of the winglet. 

Below is a short breakdown of the shot.

So as the internet has figured out, despite it being on the same YouTube page as "There's a Spider in my Ear" and the company name on the wing...

Watch Gotcher Now!

If you have about 3 minutes, I would really appreciate, (I think you will too) a viewing of my short film, "GOTCHER".  Not really horror, but certainly horrific. Not really comedy but certainly darkly comedic. It cannot be labeled, but I promise it will haunt your dreams.

Gotcher stars Michelle Davidson, Darren Kennedy and Davis DeRock. It was shot by Andy Romero.

We hope you like it enough to inflict it upon (share it with) a friend or two.  Enjoy.

<<<DON'T SCROLL FURTHER BEFORE WATCHING>>>
<<<behind the scenes discussion and spoilerage below>>>

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The origination of this short came from playing this silly trick on my kids. "I got your nose!" It occurred to me that kids actually believe it for a time. Those little minds actually think you are capable of taking the nose from their face. And that concept through an adult perspective is just terrifying. So the Gotcher man was born. 

The short was shot over two days in Kansas City on the Arri Alexa. We thank the Unity Temple on the Plaza for letting us use a meeting room and apologize for setting off a building-evacuating fire alarm. (if you're reading this, yes that was us)

Their are many visual effects in this short you might not notice. The Reagan/Bush election sign, the big wheel, the long hallway at the end are all VFX additions and manipulations. But the main effect that is as plain as the nose on your face is the digital nose removal. The technique comes from our experience doing gory shots on the television shows Fringe and Breaking Bad.

Tracking marks were used on each face so that we could isolate and recreate the head movements relative to camera. These motions were then applied to six unique nose cavity models created for each featured character. 3D modeling was done using Lightwave 3D. Many layers or passes were rendered with shaders representing diffuse and specular lighting, bump and normal maps, cgi based skin and photo mapped skin surfaces. 

And finally, like a well cooked meal, these ingredients were then baked or composited together using Blackmagic Fusion.

The entire project took a couple days to shoot, and about 3 weeks of editorial and post production.

 Even 3 year old Luca Belle got tracking marks to the face.

Even 3 year old Luca Belle got tracking marks to the face.

 Davis DeRock eyes his prize. Prosthetic noses by Jason Fraiey at Golem Workshop.

Davis DeRock eyes his prize. Prosthetic noses by Jason Fraiey at Golem Workshop.

Robot is a Girl's Best Friend

We are getting close to shooting a big, bad, spec PSA short film called Bully Mech.  

On the surface it is the story of a scared little girl befriending a giant battle-mech. But peal away some layers, and it is a powerful anti-bullying message.

Stay tuned for more updates  on this one soon.

I think I have something in my ear!!!

A warning, this is a little disturbing. 

I went swimming at Lake of the Ozarks last weekend and got a super painful ear infection. Totally blocked ear canal. Tried to use my phones camera to see if I could see anything.  Found this!

Gross isn't it?

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Okay. So, yeah. I don't really have a spider in my ear. I did have a hell-of-a case of swimmers ear and that was the inspiration.

EarSpiderWireFrame.jpg

To everything turn, turn, turn...

So as we head into the summer months of 2015, there is change in the wind. As you may have heard, I recently decided it was necessary to layoff my talented artist staff at Branit FX. 

Eric Bacus, Sean Joseph, Aileen Murray, and Linden Stirk have all grown to be capable artists I would trust with any shot. With some luck, I hope we might work together in the future again.

It is bittersweet, but such is the flavor of the visual effects business these days. A job you love, but an economic system that does not love you back. So as more and more television post production follows tax incentives to Canada, I decided it was finally time to tighten the hiatus belt in order to ensure the ability to fight another season. 

This sort of hiatus lay-off is the norm for most VFX companies. Network shows end in May and pick-up again in August with no promises or contracts. Keeping a full crew over these dry spells has been an minor miracle over the last nine years.

But make no mistake, I am still here, Branit FX is open for post production business, and we are preparing to staff up this fall on a couple of very interesting projects.

Until then, as this new page and blog imply, I am officially pushing my production and post production knowledge into another realm. The directing and creative development of vfx and non-vfx material.

I am currently in the search for a partner in representation, and open to offers to get more "at bats" behind the camera.

My New Meeting Room

About 50 yards from my office door in the Crossroads of Kansas City is a building that has had a hard time finding a long-term tenant. I think the building, the neighborhood and a suitable business have finally found one another.

In the last 3 weeks I have had nine meetings at the Up/Down KC. It is a throwback 21-and-older gaming bar with plenty of places to sit and talk.

Between meetings this week, you may find me there playing Tron or Defender. Should I find it ironic that of the usual crowd, I am probably one of the few who actually played most of these games in their day.