Ethics, Law, and Society Forum – October 16, 2018 – Chad Surmick

Ethics, Law, and Society Forum – October 16, 2018 – Chad Surmick


[ Music ]>>Okay, still a few
people coming in, but we’ll get started here. So, now, welcome
again to another entry in the [inaudible]
lecture series for 2018. Today we have Chad
Surmick, who’s the Director of Photography at
The Press Democrat. He’s going to tell us about how
drones are altering how stories are told visually in
the news business. Next week we will have Ryan
Jenkins from Cal Poly talking to us about the social and
political and [inaudible] and autonomous weapons, many
of which are drones themselves, so these two topics will
go together quite well. So working forward to this, and
let’s give Chad a warm welcome.>>Hey, guys. How’s it going? I’ll be your drone pilot today. My name’s Chad. I work for The Press Democrat. I’m the Director of
Photography there. We just won the Pulitzer
Prize this last year, and we couldn’t be more proud. You know, it’s for something
that we don’t particularly want to win it for, and if we
could give it back we would, but we can’t change
the course of history. The people I work with are
really courageous and tenacious and just amazing,
and I’m just so proud to be part of their world. And part of that world of
covering the fires was drones. And aerial photography
in general for newspapers has
been something really, really important, because it
just gives you a different perspective of what’s going on. It’s not a map, it’s
not a graphic, it’s not a locating thing. It’s something you can
visually, viscerally feel. And when we first started
doing aerial photography with newspapers, it was
all fixed-wing aircraft. So you were in an airplane. You’d have to call up a pilot,
find the time to get the pilot to go fly it, get the right
aircraft to fly the thing, and then find your property or
your disaster scene or whatever that you’re going to fly,
and then once you get there, you’ve got to troubleshoot
the whole thing, fly it several times, do orbit
after orbit, and get back to the airport, get your
film back to the newspaper, process it and then get
it into the newspaper. Then came helicopters
where basically we say, hey, we’re at this scene. Can you get a helicopter
down to the Petaluma River? We’ve got a well trap there. We need some airlift
photography on this thing, because we cannot get
to where this thing is on the banks of the river. So once helicopters became
prevalent in news photography — and even like TV photography,
TV news coverage and radio, traffic reporting,
we could go anywhere. But it was a huge cost. It’s just amazing how
expensive a helicopter is because of all the moving
parts and how much you have to maintain the thing,
and the skill to fly a helicopter is much — it’s greater than a private
pilot or a fixed-wing pilot. So finding that skill set
that can actually hover in the right spot for you to
shoot was really difficult and it was really exorbitant. We would literally go to
other agencies and go, we can pay for this part of
the airplane or the helicopter if you can pay for the pilot
and if you can pay for the hours to do this, then we
can all get together and share the photography
from that particular mission. Then drones came along
and microphotography, micro RC things, so that
changed the whole ballgame, because now we didn’t
need a pilot, we didn’t need an aircraft, we didn’t need a third
person to get our job done. We could just throw it to a
photographer who’s trained to fly a drone and
do the same thing so cost efficiently
and so much quicker. We can literally port this
stuff through Facebook Live and have real time drone
video coming to you at any time we want, as long
as we have a good connection. So part of what I do at
the Press Democrat is — I’m the Director of Photography,
so basically all the visuals that go into the newspaper, the
magazine, or the website fall under my purview, and my big job
is to basically develop stories with reporters and editors
that are visual in nature. We don’t want to be chasing
stuff that’s just going to be a bad photograph,
because no one wants to look at bad photography anymore. People’s visual lexicon,
their vocabulary for visuals has become so much
greater since iPhones have come on the scene and microcameras, because you can have cameras
everywhere and anywhere. So that’s what we
kind of tapped into. So my job is to basically figure out what’s going to
be a good picture? Let’s put our resources there. And most of what we do, good
pictures don’t just happen. Some of them do, but the
majority of them are researched. So my whole mantra is you
need an 80% chance going into that photo shoot
and the other 20% is you to make it successful, but if
we’ve got you at the right time of day with the right people
in the right situation, it’s up to the photographer
to come out with that particular image. And so it’s the same thing
with drone photography. You want to find the right
location, the right time of day, the right light, the
right place to fly it. And what I do, in particular,
is I’ll go to Google Earth and I’ll research the site
way before I even get there so I know exactly the
way the buildings sit. And with satellite imagery now,
it’s amazing what you can get out of the world, just by
sitting at your desktop. You don’t have to have all
this research department. It’s all inside your computer. So the cool part is that
once you get on scene, then you can kind of just
look around and you go, okay, so how are we going to fly this,
how are we going to communicate to our readers what’s the
best visual for this story? So this is where we begin. We’ve gone from airplanes
to helicopters to now personally flown drones. I’m an FAA certified
drone pilot. I’m also a private pilot. Any drone pilots in the place? Do you fly drones just for fun? Anybody at all? You should. It’s really cool. You have a lot of fun with them. So this was the very first
photograph ever taken by a drone that was published in the
Santa Rosa Press Democrat. And this particular story is
about this swath of property that runs through Santa
Rosa where back in the 70s, they were going to
build a freeway, and this freeway was going to
literally go over Spring Lake. They were going to build
a bridge over Spring Lake and it was just going to
be wonderful for everybody. Well, they figured that probably
wasn’t really so wonderful for the ecology of the lake,
so that property was sold off by the state and it’s now become
a development for housing. This is the first time that we
could really show what people could see where houses would
be from here all the way down to Farmer’s Lane. And we couldn’t do this
with a fixed-wing aircraft because we can’t get this low — we can’t do this
with a helicopter. We have to stay 1000 feet
above populated areas. But with drones, you’re all the
way from the ground to 400 feet, which gives you a much more
intimate look at the world. It also just gives
you much more detail, and that vanishing point, that visceral three-dimensional
scene is so much easier to capture with a drone
than a helicopter, because you’re shooting
with a longer lens, which compresses everything. If you guys know anything
about photography, the longer the lens is, it’s
going to compress everything. The wider lens is going
to be more like a fisheye, sort of like your
field of vision. So that’s the very
first picture we took, and this is how it was used in
the newspaper on the front page. So as you know, we have a huge
housing crisis in Sonoma County. A lot of what we
do with the drone, because we don’t have a
graphics department any longer that builds maps that
tells you exactly where in the county this
place is related to roads, we’re using a drone to
basically fulfill that role since we no longer
have those people. And I think it works
really well. So as we go along here, another
big property is this Chanate Road property that has just
been — the county sold it off, it went to lawsuit, it’s now
been — they’re rethinking it. They’ve abandoned their
ideas at this point, but it’s still in
play for housing. So what we do, we’re
showing people housing. So this is a huge property, 80
acres that needs to be developed for housing for people
near a fire zone. Here’s another piece of
property that’s being developed for housing in the
middle of Santa Rosa. This is the old water agency
off of College Avenue. But that’s a really big building
and a huge piece of property. How do you show that to readers? Well, this was a Sunday page. These are all the places
where we want to build housing but we can’t in this community,
which is a real issue for us. So we’ve got the Chanate
Road housing project, the water agency, and then there
was the Roseland Camp Michela, where they had the
homeless for so long. They’ve moved them all out, which now has become
a bigger problem, because they’re all along
our trails and whatnot. So there’s no solution for that, and that’s part of
the housing issue. And so showing everybody just
sort of what’s at stake here, visually, just gets
it in your mind about how a mess this
problem really might be. Then we get to the fun stuff. And we’re like, oh, my gosh, the world’s largest jumpy’s
coming to Santa Rosa. We’ve got to get an
aerial of that, right? And so this thing was
so cool and so big. And what we try and do, like on
this one, the idea right here is to shoot on an oblique, to give
you that three-dimensional feel, but not everything is going
to be a lead photograph in the newspaper
because the kids jumping on the thing is a
much better visual. It gets you so much
more intimate. The kids are having
so much more fun, but that drone shot
gives you the where the hell are we picture. That’s what I like to call it. Just where are we in the world? And that just says the world’s
largest jumpy in the middle of that big concert venue that
they have at the fairgrounds. Another thing that we —
more housing and more — a look at our community. This is Railroad Square with the
train coming into the station. The land at the bottom of the
frame has all been sold off to a development company. They’re going to develop
houses in that as well. So you can see that
as a newspaper, not everything is droneable,
but certain important stories that don’t have great visuals
really benefit from this, because it gives you a sense of
place, it gives you some light, it gives you some
nice descending lines, and then you can just really
tell exactly what we’re talking about. And in that vein, flying
a drone over the city of Santa Rosa did
not come that easy. We had the drone in our
possession for a year and we had applied for the
waiver to fly the drone for a news organization. And in the time that we
applied for that waiver, they changed the rules that they
wanted people to operate under, and they said, okay,
look, we’re not going to provide waivers any longer. We’re going to put together this
licensing system called Part 107, which is an unmanned aerial
vehicle commercial license. And to obtain that, you have to
take basically a written test that is tantamount to basically
going to a ground school for a private pilot’s license. It’s that complicated with
weather and airport markings and air traffic control
and all kinds of things, because basically
you’re a pilot flying in the National Airspace System. And for the government, for
the FAA to finally open it up, they decided on this
professional track to get people into it. And when we were first
starting off, we called the City of Santa Rosa, because they
were revamping Courthouse Square and we were like, look, no one has seen Courthouse
Square like this. It’s been pulled apart. We’ve closed it off. We’re doing construction. We called the city
attorney and said, hey, we’re going to fly a drone
over Courthouse Square. He said, no, you’re not. And we said, yeah, we are. No, no, you’re not
because we have policies. Well, they don’t have
policies in place. Basically the air space in —
the National Airspace System in America starts from
the ground all the way up. So your grass blades are yours,
but everything from there on up is owned by the
National Government, by the National Airspace System. As a licensed pilot, I can
fly anywhere I want as long as there’s not a restriction
designated by either the FAA or Homeland Security or some
other government agency. So what happened is once we
got this conversation going with the city attorney, he
turned to law enforcement and Captain Craig
Schwartz over at the City of Santa Rosa Police
Department — he’s like their drone
program manager. And he said, you know, Craig,
can they actually do this? He said, yeah, man, they can. This is part of the deal. And this guy’s really cool,
because he’s also a pilot as well, and he’s writing a
master’s thesis on drones. And with that sort of
conflict between the press and the lawyers for the city, it opened up this
whole public trust that once we flew this thing
over — once we did this, that we flew over
Courthouse Square — this is one of our
photographers, and typically you can’t fly over
people, but he had a hardhat on and he’s part of
the flight crew. So once we literally flew this,
they opened up the dialogue for the public trust
of flying drones in the city of Santa Rosa. And literally the
police department, the city attorney got together
and established public safety and public trust rules for
drones for the law enforcement. And without that, they would
not have been able to do it if we did not fly this
flight and push the envelope. And it’s not — you
know, this was one of our very first flights. It’s not very exciting
or sexy or anything, and I’m not that good of
a pilot when I did this, but what it did is it opened up
this door that had been closed for so long and there
was all this mystery about can you fly a
drone over public spaces? Well, yeah, you can,
because it’s part of the public air space. So like I said, it’s just
sort of this innocuous look at this Courthouse Square,
but we hadn’t seen it like this before and you can’t
get this view from a building. And the rolling cinematic
motion, you can’t get that anywhere else, either. So it’s a great tool for
just showing where you are and how your city
is being developed and what’s going on with it. So that opened up a lot
of places for us to go. And let me get back
to — sorry guys. Okay, so — and that’s how we
used that particular image. And again, housing,
housing, housing, housing. We use the drone a lot
for housing, like I said, because we don’t have
map makers any longer. So I’m bringing you back
kind of full circle. So now we’re kind of
getting into things where from the ground you can’t
see this, but visually, man, this is such a great thing. This is a pumpkin patch and
this guy cuts this thing by hand every year, and
it’s different every year, and it’s just a great
visual from the air. And I shot this thing like
a week before the fires, but we were holding onto it
to get closer to Halloween, but then the fires hit. And in the middle of all
this, I also flew a lot of the fire zones, and not
particularly during the actual fire, because number one,
that’s illegal and dangerous. It’s selfish. It puts people at risk in
the air that are trying to fight the fire, on the
ground that are trying to fight the fire, and
it’s just a bad idea. So we kept the drone down, but we did have a
helicopter up the first day. With that said, when this
thing finally did run, we were like a week
into the fires and we had finally just
gotten to Coffey Park, and this was the
first sort of stuff that we flew in Coffey Park. That would be the
first drone shot of the fires that we published. It just happened to fall on the same day we
published the corn maze. So that’s kind of —
that’s journalism, man. You can wait all day long
and have a great picture that you want to run really
big and have some impact in the newspaper, but
the news overruns you and tragedy just takes a hold and that’s kind of
where we were. So what I did is once the TFRs
were lifted in Coffey Park — Coffey Park was still
underneath Class Delta Airspace. Class Delta Airspace is
controlled airspace by the tower in Santa Rosa at the airport. And you cannot fly a drone
in Class Delta Airspace without a waiver, and
a waiver takes 90 days. Well, did I know this fire was
going to happen 90 days before? No, not at all. So what we had to do was make
a case to the local FAA office in Oakland and tell them,
look, we have a licensed pilot, a privately licensed pilot,
a drone licensed pilot who will fly this —
we want 10 minutes, we want this altitude,
we want this. It’s for the newspaper, it’s
for this, it’s got to be done. And they saw our point
of view and said great, you have 10 minutes, no longer. Anything else we’re
going to bust you guys. So we flew it as quickly
as we possibly could, and it just so happened
that when I was flying that, Captain Craig Schwartz was
down there, the drone pilot for the cops in Santa Rosa, came
up and shook my hand and said, man, you guys opened
up the door for us to fly drones and
all this stuff. So it was really a cool little
moment just to jump in there. And after everything we did,
we literally had the thing on the shelf for a year, got
through the waiver process, they cancelled the waiver
process, then we went through the drone
training process of getting a Part 107 pilot, finally getting the
thing flying. We get the — the fires come
to us and we just go crazy. I was there for maybe 10
minutes, and this is the content that I was able to
pull out of there. It’s just amazing. It’s just like a bomb went off. And you can’t get this
from a helicopter. You can’t get this from a plane. It’s so much lower and
so much more intimate to really see the cars that
are burned up and the sheds and the outline of
people’s houses versus just these
blocks of gray. And that’s how this one was — this is a Sunday Page One
of how are people going to get back into Coffey Park? This is before they even had a
plan of cleaning the place up, rebuilding or anything. It was still just stuck
in limbo, waiting for them to clear the toxins and whatnot. This was Fountain Grove. They had flight restrictions
over Fountain Grove for the longest time because
they were battling the blazes off in Sonoma, and they were
flying air tankers basically over Fountain Grove
into the fire zones. So Fountain Grove was
shut down for, man, it was like three weeks
after the fire started, so it took us a long time to
get in there, but once we did, it was just amazing the
devastation that we saw. Because Coffey Park is
something that you can see from one vantage point
— this, Fountain Grove, you have to drive through
all these hills and it’s just so amazing how far
out and spread out all these homes were
up in Fountain Grove. I really didn’t have an idea
of how many really were there. This is Rincon Ridge. This is like the first place that got scorched off
of that ridgeline. And this is where we used —
we used a photo page to wrap up the Fountain Grove coming
back to clean up their homes. And so basically I have
photographers shooting from the ground and then I
would shoot the aerial stuff. And this is just a comparison
of where we were at one point in the fires, the very
first couple weeks. And then this is how we use it. As part of the — we’re trying
to compare the Tubbs fire to Hanley fire way back. It kind of burned the same
thing and this is just a visual to help along with that. One of the really amazing
stories is these fire islands, these houses that survived when nothing else did
in this environment. And even though it’s
a dramatic picture, it’s what’s happening
inside the homes that really is what we’re
trying to tell people about. This is just to tell you what
these people went through. But this is a man
who has Alzheimer’s and that’s his caretaker
who lives in the home. There’s no one else left
in that neighborhood. It’s just those two. And this is their life now. This was the very first home
built back in Coffey Park, so we’re kind of transitioning out of the fire into
the rebuilding. But this was literally the very
first home that was completed, and this is how we did it. We did a rebuild section
in the newspaper — we’re doing it every month. We’re continuing it through
the first of the year to give people one place
where they can go to find out what’s happening and
what’s up with insurance, what’s up with this
place, what’s up with that, and it’s a really great resource
for people who are trying to get back on their feet. More — so as we go along here, Coffey Park basically
starts building homes, Fountain Grove starts
selling off lots because everything’s toxic. So every single one
of these lots in this cul-de-sac was
sold off by their owners. No one’s going to populate
that who lived there before. They don’t want to come back. And this is part of the story
that we’re trying to tell, that people just are
not going to return. Again, these are like — the house on the right
survived the fire. Everything else burned
down around it. They’re trying to rebuild
the house on the left. This was just a where are
we now three months later. Up to the upper right corner,
you can kind of see Coffey Park, upper right about a
third, back in there, that kind of gray spot. And that’s how we used that. And again, this is just
sort of a comparison of where this neighborhood
was right after the fires. This was the spring
— just the spring. I haven’t shot this in a
while, but just the difference. And nothing’s being
built in Fountain Grove. So that’s kind of where my
coverage for the still end of the drone stuff ends. The thing that we found is that
the drone’s great for video in certain storytelling
situations, but we’re finding it more
valuable for still photography, to give us these scene setters and these dramatic
destruction type things. So let me take you back
to the first kind of stuff that we did shoot
with the drone. What I did is I shot Coffey Park and Fountain Grove
and posted video. And what I do — just because
we’re literally working 17 hour days trying to get
this stuff out. I would just throw
it onto YouTube with no video production. I mean, no production, no sound,
no production value whatsoever. A DJ near Nashville, Ken Heron, he’s like a drone pilot guy
who’s really an advocate for Part 107 to do drone flying
right, picked up on my videos and cut this one for us, and
this just gives you a sense of what we did — where’d
you go — during the fires. [ Music ] It’s still really hard to watch. The building with the America
— the United States of America in it, that was my son’s school. That was Hidden Valley
Satellite School, and he was a kindergartner there
and he lost his class and had to move to another school. So I live at Chanate and
Hidden Valley’s sort of right in that area, so it
was real close to us. My family did leave in the
middle of the night, no warning. I woke up smelling smoke
and told them to leave because I could see fire and
I knew we had to go to work, and that’s what we did. As we went through the
anniversary, I had this desire to be able to show
what was there before and what’s there now. And we didn’t have the
footage of Coffey Park or really Fountain Grove to do
that, but what I did find is that Google Earth is
an amazing program that if you take
the sensibilities of aerial photography and drone
pilotage and data processing and storytelling, you
can do stuff like this, where you can combine
databases to see the rise and fall of a neighborhood. [ Music ] So we have — this is
what it looks like now, and then you’ll see it
more back from a year ago, just before the fires. [ Music ] The scene was so big I couldn’t
figure out a way to film it with conventional drones,
so satellite imagery and their 3D imagery is
what we came up with. [ Music ] A lot of lives changed that
night in a matter of hours, and that’s just still — I
had no idea that it was — I mean, I’ve driven through
there and you can see it, but putting it all
together in one flight, and we basically just flew
Fountain Grove Parkway and around. Because everything’s hidden
by trees and some gullies and the terrain hides it all. That one blew me away that we
could basically take these two databases to combine them
and see exactly what happened in a neighborhood a year later. So then — I just
want to leave you guys with this one last video. It’s not all doom and
gloom with the drone. My whole purpose
with this is yes, we’ll cover the housing
crisis and yes, we’ll cover natural disasters,
but I really want to be able to figure out a long form
way of telling stories with the drone and
the drone only. So shortly after the fires, I
filmed this thing just to get out of the rut of
looking at fire imagery and to find something really
uplifting and beautiful about Sonoma County, and
I came up with this idea to match a quote that’s
always been a favorite of mine from Amelia Earhart that
is you’ve never seen a tree until you’ve seen its
shadow from the sky. So this is kind of what
inspired this video. [ Music ] So that is what we do with
drones at The Press Democrat, and my goal is to do more
stuff like the vineyard and not so much terrible
things like fires. And to do more long form
storytelling like that was more of like a photo study
of a vineyard, really, in the visual terms of
moving photography and audio that leads you into certain
feelings and whatnot. The last thing I’m going to
tell you guys is that the rules for drones are changing. The Congress just authorized
wide sweeping changing rules. The biggest that people
are really upset about is if you fly a drone
commercially or even privately, you have to have a privacy
policy that people can check into about how long you
can keep your footage. It basically comes down
to privacy concerns. They’re going to ask you for a
policy of how long you keep it, what you’re going to be
doing with that footage, and where it’s going to go. So we’ll see if that
actually comes to fruition. The one caveat in all that is
they lay out all these rules about privacy, and then
there’s this one line that says if this is being — if the
drone flight is being operated under First Amendment
considerations, then they’re exempt from
any privacy policies. Because journalists
have basically — are entrusted with
the public trust and our ethics basically
supersede that policy that we’ll do the
right thing with it, and that you will have access
to it because it’s a newspaper and it’s basically
public in that regard. That’s it, man. That’s the drones at
The Press Democrat. Any questions? Anything at all? How to get there,
how not to get there, what to do, what not to do? Anybody?>>So how long did
it actually take you to get your license to fly?>>So what I had
to do is I — we — there were two roads
we had to go down. The first one was the
FAA had to authorize us as a commercial drone
pilot agency to fly. Well, they figured out that
they had 400,000 applications. They couldn’t possibly process
all of them, so they said, okay, we’ll make new rules. We’ll make people take a test and then we’ll give
you your license. And that test is basically a
ground pilot school license for private pilot’s license. I’m already a private
pilot, so what I had to do to get my license is I
had to take my log book into a flight instructor,
show him my license, show him that I had a
biannual flight review, which means an instructor flew
with me over the last two years, and then I had to
take a safety course. Then the instructor looks
at all that and goes, okay, yeah, that’s real. Then he sends it in to the
FAA and they approve it. The other way is you just take a
test at a Sylvan Learning Center and they send you the
license if you pass it. And it’s a pretty
extensive test. You only have to get 70% right, but truly once you’ve taken
this test, you have 80% of the ground school
to be a private pilot. And that’s what they’re
trying to do. The way I was trained
as a private pilot, I know what that
guy’s going to do because he was trained the same
way I was, assuming he’s going to follow what he was trained. People are being trained
all different ways on drones and they’re trying to
bring that into line. So now what’s going to happen
is even with hobbyists, they’re going to make you take
a test before you can fly your drone, and they’re going to make
the manufacturers install these tests on the drones, communicate
back to the manufacturer that you’ve done this, and
now all their paperwork has to be available to the FAA. So things are going
to be changing. Like the drone I fly,
this is the Phantom Three. This is three generations old. This has no collision avoidance. The only thing it has, it has
two sensors that will keep yours from dropping into
water, but that’s it. Everything now has sensors here
and here and the FAA is going to require all drones to have
these anti-collision avoidance systems built in them. So this thing’s going to be
obsolete probably in a year, once they enact those rules. So we’ll have to upgrade,
and everyone will have to upgrade their
drones to [inaudible]. Yes?>>How much is one
of those drones?>>So literally, like this,
the Phantom Pro Three, you can get one of these
now, because they’re two or three generations old, they’re like 800
bucks for that thing. A really decent drone with
all the bells and whistles, you’re looking at about — if you’re not doing
like the movie making, if you’re just doing the stuff
we’re doing, about two grand. But the Phantom Four Pro Two, is
where a lot of people are going. They’ve got the Mavics,
a little bit smaller and a little bit more portable, but the sensors aren’t
quite the same on the Pros. What everyone’s waiting
for is the Phantom Five, but that’s like this
rumor mill kind of thing. So you’re like, well, geez,
where do I spend my money, where do I spend money? I’m always the guy who wants
to buy one or two models back because all the bugs
have been worked out. You don’t have to worry
about updates constantly, and it’s a tried and true model. You get it at like half the
price so you can basically learn and do whatever you do and
then move up to the next grade, is sort of the way we do it. Any other questions?>>If you’re interested
in getting a license, the JC has a really good
class that will prepare you for the exam, kind of
over-prepare you for the exam, and also give you some
flight time on drones. It’s fantastic. We’re trying to get a class
like that here at Sonoma State, but we have different
regulations, which is preventing us
from doing some things, but we’re also getting,
I think, six drones — not these, but a different
company, that’s being gifted to the University here,
and they have the full collision avoidance. I did a test flight on
them a couple weeks ago and I was trying to crash
it and it was impossible. I mean, I was trying to run
it into myself and buildings and trees, and you just
can’t not fly that thing. That thing mostly flies itself. And it has an okay camera. It’s not as good as that. It’s fine. But it’s a great
platform to kind of learn how to do this stuff. We’re going to be having
a bunch of those available that you’ll just, as
students, like if you want to, you can think of a
project you need it for [inaudible] you just
go check it out and –>>That’s great. Yeah, the thing I found out,
because we did a symposium at the JC about how can you
work drones into a curriculum, and the thing that people
like, oh, drones are going to be the next biggest
thing in the world. You’ll be able to make all kinds
of money and it’ll be great. Oh, it’s awesome. Well, the reality is,
like, really you need to have another career
and the drone will be part of your career. So I’m a photojournalist
and a drone pilot. You’re an archeologist
and a drone pilot.>>Right.>>You’re a construction guy —
a geologist and a drone pilot. It’s just going to be part of your discipline
that you’ll learn. It’s just like photography. Like photography’s now
inside your pocket. It’s coming your way
now, the same thing. And the thing about DJI and
the drones, they’re putting in geofencing, so they
will program your drone, and you cannot fly into
airspace that’s restricted. It will just stop you. It will know where
it is GPS-wise and it will stop just right
there and you can’t hurt anybody or anything except yourself. So it’s amazing the technology
that’s coming our way. The government has
contracts with DJI and basically transmitting
data from your drone to law enforcement and they
can now, it’s part of Congress, they’ve put it in
new legislation that they will have
these weapons that will take your drone
and either fly it away from the scene or bring it to
them or crash it all completely. And it’s coming our way, because
they’re done with assassins or down — was that Venezuela?>>Venezuela, right.>>Where people fly drones
and blow them up with C4.>>Yeah, exactly. While we’re on that
subject, maybe — I’d like — this is one thing I
really wanted to talk about today is the upcoming
FAA appropriations bill which, inside of that, I guess
just a mundane kind of here’s some money
for the FAA, but inside of it is a vision
allowing law enforcement agencies to, on their
discretion, take out a drone either with
these things you’re talking about or with even
just a shotgun, right?>>Right.>>So one thing I
want to talk about is that from the news perspective,
like one interesting application of drone in the news recently
has been no photography is allowed in the detention
centers or the people taken on the border that some
photojournalist figured out a way to get drone
footage of that, right?>>Right.>>So now if this appropriations
bill comes into being, this will have a First Amendment
impact in that the guards at these facilities could
just shoot the drone down, and therefore, we don’t get to see what our tax
dollars are being used for.>>Right, they’re leaving
it up to law enforcement on the scene to make a decision.>>Right.>>And there’s no —
there are no guidelines.>>Yeah, no judge,
nothing, right? It’s just some guy that –>>If they feel it was –>>An officer with a
shotgun just decides.>>Right. If they feel it’s a
threat to their operation, then, you know, they have that
right now to do that. So you’re right. That will probably be
a couple court fights over that one, I would assume. CNN is the only person
that I know of that can actually fly drones
over people, and they’ve been on the forefront of this. I would assume they’d be
the first to jump in line.>>Right.>>Kind of thing, but you
know, it’s us little guys, we can only fight once
the big dogs get in and start helping
change legislation, so then we just have
to follow the rules.>>Right. Yeah, so
it’s going to be, what you’re saying is
basically going to be up to the big media
corporations. They’re going to have to do
something where they get shot down and then it
has to go to court.>>Right, right. And what it comes down to
is was our photography more for the public good or was
their investigation more for the public good and
the judge has to decide that and transparency. And if you’re a public agency,
how much do you need to — how much information do you
need to provide to media and to the public versus how
much can they keep secret?>>Yeah, and then next
week we’ll hear more about systems not
much bigger than that that can be quite
lethal and this is sort of the balance, the fear. Like how do we protect ourselves
against these coming swarm of weapons, and still carve a
space out for legitimate news?>>Yeah, because the Santa Rosa
Police Department are looking at micro drones, for basically
flying into a hostage situation, being able to fly into a
room, observe it quickly, turn the thing off and they’ll
know exactly where everything is and where everybody
is, and you can pour that into everybody’s device and you’ve got battlefield
awareness like that.>>Right.>>It’s just amazing.>>Yeah, yeah. That’s right, and — yeah, so
they can do quite small, right? They can fly within an interior.>>Yeah, we’ve been
playing with some of these, they call them tiny
drones or micro drones, where they have a TV
transmitter on it and you fly it with goggles or a
display of some sort. But the signature
on that TV signal is so strong it actually knocks out
the Wifi in the room as well.>>Oh, wow.>>So it’s like a
dual purpose device. You know, a little MP going on. It’s amazing.>>Wow, yeah. That’s really cool. That’s very interesting. Any other questions? I’ve got more. I can keep you busy all day.>>The capability of drone
photography has drastically enhanced the public’s
understanding of these stories. Do you think there’s been
a significant difference in the public reception of them?>>I think so. I think because they can — everyone expects a drone
photo now, or a drone shot. Any commercial you
watch is going to have a drone shot in it. Any TV broadcast
that has to deal with big natural disasters
is going to have a drone. It’s just part of your
visual lexicon now. You expect to see it. It’s just part of what you’re
going to see and you expect to see it, and it’s
part of your, I call it the visual vocabulary, but your lexicon of
what you can see. But yeah, when I first
brought the drone out, I just expected everybody to go,
whoa, dude, what are you doing? Privacy. No, people
are so curious, they’re like, oh,
that’s so cool. You’re with the press? Oh, that’s great that
you’re doing this. And I have only had one
person have an issue with me because it was an abandoned
building and she didn’t know if I was supposed to be there. But once we had a chat she
was like, oh, I get it. And so it’s being a good drone
pilot and making good decisions that keep our name
good in the community. It’s when you do bad things
that put a block on everybody. It only takes one person to do
that, and it takes a long time to build it all back up again. But our operating procedures
are no, we do it right so that we can do
it again tomorrow. And that’s the deal.>>Yeah, like the trick
that the guy who teaches it at Santa Rosa Junior
College does, he just puts on like a vest.>>Yeah.>>And that stops everything. Everybody just assumes
you’re a professional.>>Just like this.>>Yep.>>If you have that on
your back, no one’s going to [inaudible] think
you’re official. And then you all hear
[inaudible] official for the FAA, but you know,
that’s sort of not a gimmick, but at least it gives
you an idea — it gives people an
idea that you’re legit, as long as you’re legit.>>Right, right. And I think there’s a
lot of fear of drones when you see them
flying overhead.>>Well, yeah, and the thing
is, I’m not going to fire it up in here, but the thing sounds
like a bunch of angry bees, man. When that thing’s flying around, there’s like this visceral
natural primal man thing where you’re like bees, what? And so you’re just
kind of running around going what, what, what? But it’s — once you
get it far enough up and there’s enough
construction noise going on, you can’t really hear it. But man, that first hundred
feet, it’s pretty loud. So they’re trying to
change props here. They’re molding props and
getting quieter props, and quieter engines
and longer flight time so that you don’t have
to bring it up and down to put batteries in, that you
can fly for an hour and whatever and just stay on station
and not bug people. I think that’s the biggest
thing for me is that the noise of it is really off-putting,
and it’s the one thing that I really have to watch out because people definitely
have a reaction to it. But yeah, the quieter
they are, the better.>>All right. So I have one, my last kind
of important question to ask, which is how do you —
how has your role changed? What I’m noticing is
newspapers are kind of turning into magazines and TV
stations and everything, like all media is
collapsing into one style. So maybe you were trained
with still photography, probably, I’d assume, right?>>Right.>>And now you’re moving
into basically having to learn how to shoot movies.>>Yes.>>How has that changed you?>>Because everybody has a
movie camera in their pocket, we’ve got to keep up with
social media and Facebook and YouTube and all
these things. And so 10 years ago
we made a commitment to train our photographers in
video production and that’s when we were shooting on
eight millimeter tape, or the little dudes, before
there was digital anything, before they started
porting this stuff into your phone,
into your camera. So we literally would
take a day and do video and specifically go find video. Now it’s just this expected
part of what we do in terms of Facebook and YouTube, but
it’s not a production value, because what we found is
you can work all day long and have a really cool what
we call a talking video that has a lot of
emotion and people talking about a certain subject
for 20 minutes. No one’s going to watch it, man. They just don’t. The consumption —
the time for people to consume things has changed. It’s so much shorter now. So anything that we can get up
there that has just a quick hit that gets you the
visual of flying through the burn
zone, 25 seconds. We’ll just post that. We may or may not
have music on it. We do a lot of live Facebooking so that we don’t have
the production value, it’s just you can see the
raw video as we capture it. So it’s all content. We just call it content,
whether it’s for the web, for the magazine, for the
newspaper, for whatever. We just collect the content, then we start just
splitting it up in portions. This goes to the magazine,
this goes to the website, this goes to the newspaper,
or all three of these go to the magazine,
website and newspaper. So we pick and choose, but we consume everything
we possibly can and then go from there. Whether it’s stills,
video, audio, and there’s no video
really without audio, because your video really
depends on audio to move people, and we just — a lot of times
we just don’t have time to make that production value work,
so we just throw it up there and let other people take
care of it for us sometimes.>>Excellent. All right, so I think we’re
out of time now, so –>>Thanks guys. This was fun. [ Music ]

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