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C-Prize finalists to boost NZ UAVs

NZCS, Auckland, 24 July 2015: The winning designs in the first round of the C-Prize Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Challenge have the potential to boost the story telling ability of film makers and propel New Zealand onto the forefront of world UAV technology, says the president of the New Zealand Cinematographers Society (NZCS).

Richard Bluck represents NZCS on the judging panel for the Callaghan Innovation C-Prize UAV Challenge contest.

The first round of the competition asked entrants to present design concepts and the six finalists receive $10,000 each towards producing a working prototype of their design. The final winner receives $50,000 cash and a chance to promote their products at an expenses-paid stand at NAB, the world’s largest screen industry equipment show.

Bluck says the first generation filming UAVs available today are already proving helpful to cinematographers, but suffer from shortcomings which the C-Prize challengers hope to overcome.

‘It’s the cinematographer’s job to capture the images, but more importantly to tell a visual story with the images. That’s why aerial shots are so important. They literally provide an overview of the scene, where the audience get a perspective on the story that can’t be achieved any other way.

‘While helicopters have traditionally been used for aerial shots, it is often not practicable, and this is where UAVs come in, because they are portable and affordable. They put that whole image dimension within reach of ordinary everyday productions, and this is not just in New Zealand, it’s the same all over the world.’

At the moment, the weather conditions have to be good to use UAVs as they can get buffeted about by wind, making a shaky shot. They are also too noisy to record sound from the UAV platform, and it is difficult to steadily and smoothly track and film objects, animals, or people that are rapidly and unpredictably moving about. The C-Prize competition challenged the entrants to overcome these shortcomings.

Bluck says he was impressed by the level of innovation in the 80 entries, which ranged from simpler practical solutions through to radical design concepts created by a wide variety of entrants.
‘Some entries were more unconventional than others and the judges had to be comfortable that the more radical ideas would have a reasonable prospect of being achievable. If they work they are going to be great,’ he says.

‘A lot of entries were from students and faculty of universities, these are people who specialise in research and development. It was great to see people outside the screen industry helping the screen industry get ahead, and while the teams have to be New Zealand based, some of the teams have overseas partners. It is clear that the Kiwis are networking with their overseas counterparts and this is very healthy, because we need to match our own innovative thinking with the technology advances from overseas.’

The first round has been a showcase of ideas, says Bluck, but the challenge will be ramped up in the next round where the finalists’ prototypes begin to fly and have to prove themselves at a demonstration day in November.

About NZCS: The New Zealand Cinematographers Society is the professional association of directors of photography, camera operators, and other camera professionals. Members are responsible for capturing images on productions ranging from the largest feature films to low-budget documentaries.

About Richard Bluck: Richard Bluck NZCS is a freelance Cinematographer based in Wellington. He has been in the film industry for 35 years as a cinematographer/camera operator, director and producer. He is president of the New Zealand Cinematographers Society and the New Zealand Film and Video Technicians Guild. He has worked as second unit director of photography (DP) on The Hobbit trilogy, King Kong, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2 and main unit DP on Black Sheep, Second Hand Wedding, Under the Mountain, Beyond the Edge, and What We Do in the Shadows.

About C-Prize Challenge: C-Prize Challenge was created by Callaghan Innovation who invited New Zealand innovators and entrepreneurs to bring the local screen industry to a new height by creating the next generation of UAV technology.

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