James Cameron is Helping New Zealand to Fund Better Film-Making Drones

By Bryan Lufkin on at

Camera-equipped drones swoop and shoot aerial shots for TV and movies with gorgeous Planet Earth grandeur. Now, director James Cameron’s backing a new contest in New Zealand to find drone designs to make the flying cameras even better-suited to Hollywood.

At the C-Prize UAV Challenge in New Zealand, the director of sci-fi blockbusters like Avatar and Terminator said:

“I am a huge fan of new technologies. I am starting to really like drones as camera platforms. Any improvements that can be made to make them more stable and quieter would enable them to be used for a wider variety of world class shots.”

There’s an open call submissions right now, through May 24, for all interested engineers and film-makers, with a winning prize of $50K NZ (£23,900) and help getting their product in front of the right people. (New Zealand’s verdant Shire-scape and progressive laws make it a drone-friendly sanctuary.)

Cinematography drones are still pretty new — despite claims that they are “invading Hollywood” — and there are plenty of technical challenges that need addressing: making them quieter, more resilient against bad weather, and better at tracking small, fast-moving objects to create better special effects.

But there’s a reason they’re appealing to Cameron and other film-makers: they’re cheaper, easy to use, and could be the most versatile, hardest working robots in show business. With a drone, a director could start a shot as a closeup, zoom out from the actor, then go up — and up and up and up — and hurtle the drone through a mountain range or cityscape in hi-def aerial. All as a continuous shot.

So, drones for Koyaanisqatsi 2015. Am I right?


Top image: Getty