The movie, Rotor DR1, is a story about a 16-year old boy who becomes separated from his father during a worldwide viral outbreak and finds a drone that he believes can help him reunite. One of the interesting facets of the movie is that a real drone co-starred in one of the critical roles of the story. Is Rotor DR1 the beginning of a new class of actor – the “autonomous performer”? Before film makers rush to the RC shops to construct their models, they need to consider a few things as Director/Producer Chad Kapper points in a recent interview with the Drone Radio Show.
- Building Character – This won’t matter much is if your autonomous performer is just smashing into things or being blown to pieces, but if you’re interested in developing a memorable character, then the question you have to ask yourself is whether you can get enough performance out of a drone to build up character. “I didn’t want cartoony faces or anything like that”, Kapper says, so a key challenge is creating a storyline and scenes that will bring the autonomous performer to life.
- Sensitivity – Autonomous performers can be really sensitive to surroundings. Take cold weather, as Kapper describes, “We were shooting in very, very cold weather at times. I mean it was like minus fourteen I think on our coldest day, and it kills the battery. You could fly for like two minutes and you’re done.” That’s a lot of batteries if you’re making a feature length movie.
- Reliability – The challenge of getting actors to show and deliver a performance is not new, but getting an autonomous performer to show up and not crash into anyone is a more of a challenge and requires a special touch. “We were very lucky to have Eric Monroe. He’s probably one of the best Heli-pilots that I know. He’s just locked-in; I know that he’s flying and it’s not going to crash. And he didn’t crash once through the entire film. So to have Eric, and be able to get through the whole film without him crashing, even for a really good pilot, is a feat. So that helped a lot.”
- Safety – Related to reliability is the elevated need for safety. A character driven film means real actors are interacting with the autonomous performer in some manner. Kapper acknowledged the safety concerns of his autonomous performer around actors, especially the young actors, “A lot of times, we could compress the shot by using a long lens, and it would look like the model was closer to them than it actually was.”
For all directors, building character, environmental sensitivity, actor reliability and safety-on-set are not new. But the rise of autonomous performers will further challenge the creativity and resourcefulness of some directors even more.
Hear the full interview with Chad Kapper here:
The Drone Radio Show podcast is a show about drones and the people that use them for business, fun and research.