Friday, May 30, 2014

Will Phoenix TV News Organizations be Ready for the UAS Drone Reporters?

Phoenix, AZ—It appears that KTVK-TV has at least for now ended their decades long romance with expensive helicopters.  Pilot/Reporter Bruce “Chopperguy” Hafner’s current leasing contract ran out and has not been renewed.   It appears this will significantly change the way news will be covered in this medium TV market.
For the last nearly two decades TV news has hemorrhaged viewers everywhere and keeping a helicopter on standby with a pilot/reporter is more difficult than ever considering that is any news department’s single largest expense. 
TV news has had to adjust to lost revenue by replacing some news crews with multi-media journalists that write, shoot and edit reports that once involved as many as four or five people.  They’ve made drastic cuts and quality of the news product delivered has sadly declined.  The once glamorous and high paying careers of reporters and anchors are on the ropes.
Replacing anchors with a director queuing up news packages where reporters introduce themselves and stories is an alternative.  However things go wrong with live shots and this can become a visual disaster without a glib anchor moving the audience on to the next story.
Reporting news this way can be done but most often is at the expense of getting the whole story.  You can also argue that the video quality is less pleasing without a top-notch video camera operator. 
It’s very challenging for a multi-media journalist to investigate or even minimally vet the material and people getting coverage or face-time in a news event.  I’m sure that government agencies especially those not performing well with taxpayer money are breathing easier these days. 
The question I have is, what’s in the future?  I’m not sure anyone really knows but for now TV news must roll forward with the resources they have.  Without the cost of a helicopter resources can be reallocated and perhaps a few jobs saved. 
The needed skills of a TV reporter have now changed.   With the advent of inexpensive cameras, video equipment and laptop video editing reporters must know a lot more than simple reporting. 
The newest job is still somewhat in Limbo waiting for possible Federal Aviation Administration regulations.  That should be happening within a few months and that gives news organizations time to find and properly integrate this new breed of reporter. This technology also creates yet another new discipline to learn for TV reporters, Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or Drone piloting
Are the UAS or drone pilot/reporters going to be able to fill the void left by guys like Phoenix pilot/reporter pioneers Jerry Foster and Bruce Hafner?  Perhaps not in every situation like for example high-speed car chases that most often involves many miles of travel.  Hafner and Foster always had the advantage of solid real time communications with police and aircraft control towers.   
Most situations involving aerial reporting contain static shots of accidents, crime scenes and fires.  The UAS drones can easily handle that kind of duty. 
The UAS has other advantages like safer operation in risky weather and functioning at much lower altitudes.  Any TV station can own several of these devices and have them strategically located throughout their coverage area for quick deployment.   That could actually beat the time a helicopter has to travel from hanger to news story even at 120 MPH. 
A UAS can actually broadcast live provided you have additional hardware and a live-truck with operator nearby for that purpose.   However it’s really simple to gather video for news packages in the normal course of events.  If done properly a TV news department can actually offer much more aerial B-Roll style video that ever before. 
As for acquiring the UAS piloting skills they are not nearly as simple as I was led to believe.  Because you’re flying at a much lower altitude you have many more obstacles like power lines, cell-phone towers, buildings and trees to avoid.  As you are trying to avoid these things sudden gusts of wind can add significant challenges.  I’ve even had agitated seagulls attack my drone and thankfully I was able to out maneuver them! 
These UAS all rely on GPS satellite navigation and that keeps them within control range of nearly one mile.  In an emergency simply turning off the transmitter will cause a UAS to return and land in the same place where it took off. 
You must practice emergency landings. Yes. I’ve had mishaps related to pilot error complete with broken propellers but no injuries or other property damage was involved.   Those mishaps are just a part of the on the job training.   I can say that each day my own piloting skills are getting better.  I’m hooked on the two drones I own. 
It does take both skill and hours of practice to become proficient with these amazing drones.   Any journalism student or practitioner should learn this new discipline.  The inherent safety of the UAS and reduced cost to deploy them insures we will be seeing them used by virtually every news organization that uses video.
I think it would be a lot of fun to be the first UAS/drone TV reporter in Phoenix.   You can count on seeing much more aerial video simply because they can do it so inexpensively. 
I can almost see the TV promotions department’s Sweeps ad campaign claiming to have the best drone video reporting ever!
The UAS drones can help TV news during the period while the industry reinvents itself for the next generation.  Undoubtedly the over the airwave broadcasts will soon end as all news is distributed via the Internet. 
Here is some unedited video I shot over a friend's home near Chicago a few weeks ago.  Instead of music you'd have the reporter's voice over.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hollywood has exiled Archie Bunker, Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey

Hollywood, CA—Let me begin with a disclaimer.  I don’t suggest for a second that bigotry; hate or genocide should be glorified or be made acceptable in our society.  The fact is these ugly things are a part of our world and writing them out of film scripts is not going to cleanse us of these human imperfections.
Books and films are about the life-changing events on this earth.  By necessity we must show evil, hate, violence, war, heroism, peace and love because these are the human realty. Police investigations go wrong and innocent people are convicted.  Sometime justice happens.  All of these things give us the ability to tell the stories that need to be told. 
We must always try and preserve the truth of the human experience.
The only brave filmmaking soul left that seems to escape the political correctness police is Quentin Tarantino.  However, should Tarantino ever make a film that shows Gays in a less than stellar light he will find himself permanently exiled to the Cornfield.
How bold it was for Clint Eastwood to bring us Dirty Harry in 1971.  That legendary scene where he guns down a gang of African-American bank robbers would never see the light of day in today's Hollywood.  The bank robbers would have to be white to satisfy Hollywood’s PC cops.
Archie Bunker graced the small screen with lots of racial and homophobic insults.  The idea was to give the audience a slice of life for a poorly educated bigot in a modern society.  In the end Archie was very human and just somewhat misunderstood.  The Archie character was just more ignorant than mean spirited.  
Today the Paul Kersey character from the film Death Wish would have to be African-American and his antagonist’s white supremacists! 
Hollywood has created a false Fantasy Land that eradicates anything that would offend minorities or Gays.  I say that telling the truth is always better and perhaps we need more scripts where we extol the contributions made by the minorities we are trying to protect. 
We do see to neglect the real heroes that are Women, Minorities or Gays.  An example of a good film in that regard was Dallas Buyer’s Club.   They allowed Homophobia to be seen and Jared Leto’s transgender character came off as a genuine hero.  Perhaps that film could be made because in the end that film the homophobic bigots looked foolish.  
We must face the facts that Gays, women and minorities can be evil and not be afraid to show that in films.
When we make a film about police work today we reverse the racial demographics of the cities depicted.  That kind of pandering is so overtly outrageous it makes the film a sick caricature of reality.  Sanitizing scripts in the name of political correctness is an affront to art and truth. 
Today’s Hollywood would never allow a scene like this:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Was it Gun Rights or an Epic Government Failure behind the Isla Vista Bloodbath?

Isla Vista, CA—Rather than deal with what really facilitated the savage stabbing, running down with a car and shooting massacre, the usual Leftist suspects seek to politicize the event.  They want to blame the crime spree on the rights Americans have to keep and bear firearms.  Let’s first examine just what went wrong.
This all begins with a failed mental health system and serious medical malpractice.  We used to place mental patients like Elliot Rodger in institutions for public safety reasons.  Modern pharmacology produced wonder drugs that control most disturbed people that exhibit anti-social pathologies.  We’ve emptied out the insane asylums thought our nation controlling them instead with mind-altering drugs. 
Rodger was under psychiatric care for most of his life and had a long history of refusal to take the drugs that would likely keep him under control.  Rodger’s caregivers had a duty to institutionalize their uncooperative patient.  Instead they let his roam free even after they came aware of his threatening behavior. 
The next culprit is the so-called Brady background check required of all gun buyers.  California politicians demanded additional waiting periods to make “doubly sure” that nobody that was prohibited by law could obtain a firearm.   The problem here is that the zeal to protect the privacy of dangerous mental patients sidelined the Brady checks that accordingly failed. 
Finally the police have some serious responsibility here.  Rodger’s family and caregivers redundantly and frantically warned the police of his very real death threats against young women that shunned him.   What the cops did was appalling.
The police had the duty to bring Rodger to a mental health facility for examination by medical professionals.  Instead officers from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff actually chose to play doctor and examine the patient themselves.  Of course the cops did not have Rodger’s substantial medical records to help them make their unprofessional and uninformed medical diagnoses.  
Had the cops simply done their job Rodgers would have gotten treatment and been disarmed.  
One could reasonably argue that even without a firearm Rodger was unstoppable in that he very efficiently stabbed three men to death and then ran four others down with his high performance BMW automobile.  He had three handguns he purchased by falsifying the Brady Background Check forms.  Each purchase was a separate felony that carried a ten-year prison penalty.
There were plenty of safeguards that should have prevented this horrible holocaust.  All of them failed.  Once again politicians want to make Americans defenseless in the name of safety.   The gun rights haters seem to forget we have a Bill of Rights and that the gun bans they seek are simply not surviving various court challenges. 
Perhaps those concerned people need to revisit procedures and laws already in place if they want a real solution.   All the necessary safeguards and laws were in place however the failure at each and every level is mind blowing.
In the next months the families of these victims will hire lawyers and the taxpayers will be in for a huge financial beating over the epic negligence involved at every level.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Das System, a Film Review!

Director Marc Bauder with Screenwriter Dörte Franke
Los Angeles, CA—I’m a frequent visitor to events put on by the arts arm of the German government.  This time it was at the renowned Goethe-Institut across the street from the Screen Actor’s Guild where I’m a member.
They had a real treat for me lined up.  A screening of a film called Das System and a Q&A with the director Marc Bauder and one of the two screenwriters, Dörte Franke.  Afterwards there was a meet and greet reception. 
The film was a real thriller.  It interposed East Germany’s dark past with modern day corruption.  The unintended protagonist is a 20 year-old boy, Mike Hiller, played by Jacob Matschenz.  Later in the film, through cinematic magic, Hiller returns to play his presumed father, Rolf. 
The young Hiller who survives as a petty criminal,  is sought out by a wealthy fellow, Konrad Böhm played by Bernhard Schütz.  

Böhm is somewhat on a mission to mentor the lad into a "better" life of wealth, intrigue and corruption.  Complicating this mix is the boy’s concerned and suffering mother, Elke Hiller, wonderfully played by Jenny Schily. 
Böhm’s job is that of a professional extortionist/lobbyist who uses embarrassing information from old GDR-STAZI files against bureaucrats to steer government business to unqualified contractors that pay him generous commissions.  

Personal conflicts are present involving Mike’s mother who clearly wants the best for Mike.   Some past secrets move this terrific and easy to follow story along.
The story is well told and an ensemble of great actors working under Marc Bauder’s capable direction brings this unusual white-collar crime story to life.  
If I have a criticism is that this terrific film was not made in English for a wider audience and a chance to compete in the Oscars for more than Best Foreign Film.  English is the default language that bridges the Germans, French, Italians, Spaniards and others.  
Frankly I don’t understand the reluctance of American audiences to learn great languages like German or even watch a sub-titled film. 
If you get a chance to see this film it’s well worth the price of admission! At least buy the DVD!
I see a great future for the young director and screenwriters involved with this film. 
Below is a trailer for the film however unlike the film itself, it’s not subtitled:


Lies and a Cover-Up Now Surround the Killings Committed by Elliot Rodger as Leftists Shamelessly Use this to Promote Their Political Agenda.

Isla Vista, CA—Elliot Rodger was under the outpatient care of a psychiatrist.  His cadre of mental health professionals allowed Rodger to roam free despite his numerous and very public threats to harm innocent women. When they finally tried to intervene it was too little and too late.

Rodger had steadfastly refused to take his prescribed anti-psychotic medications.  Instead of institutionalizing Rodger his keepers knowingly let this time bomb walk our streets.
Rodger’s family repeatedly did all they could to warn police of the very real danger.  We’ve yet to hear their repeated 911 calls they made in effort to get police to have Rodger picked up for a 5150 psychiatric hold and examination.   Police finally contacted the troubled lad and then simply failed to actually investigate and do their job.
California has some of the most onerous gun bans and restrictions found anywhere in the USA.  No sale or transfer of any firearms can take place without waiting periods and comprehensive background investigations of the purchaser. 
The Santa Barbara Sheriff, Bill Brown falsely and outrageously claimed to the media that the sale of and subsequent registrations of three 9MM handguns to Rodger was lawful.  The fact is Rodger lied on the BATFE gun purchase #4473 forms about suffering from mental illness.  More importantly California’s Department of Justice failed to flag and prevent Rodger’s gun purchases over his serious mental health disqualification. 
Each of the Rodger’s three lies on the #4473 form should have resulted in felony arrests and the penalty for each violation would put Rodger away for 10 years in federal prison for each purchase!
When the massacre began, Rodger used simple knives to murder three young men at his apartment.  Next Rodger used his BMW as a deadly weapon to maim four other people.  Finely he used a gun to kill two young women and a man.  A gun was apparently Rodger’s last choice to use as a weapon.  

The laws that effectively keep the non-permitted, law-abiding people from carrying guns did not stop Rodger.  Gun laws never stop criminals.  There was no knife or automobile prohibition and the three dead stabbing victims or those run down by Rodger's car are no better off.  
Of course the political Left is again using this preventable deadly crime spree as an excuse to demand more unconstitutional gun bans despite the fact that California authorities simply did not enforce the laws already on the books. 
California politicians made the entire state a Gun Free Zone.  That assured Rodger that nobody could effectively resist his deadly crime spree.  Thankfully in two separate cases the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has recently shot down the state’s ban on concealed weapons.  Soon intended victims or other lawfully armed citizens will be able to stop armed maniacs like Rodger. 
The victims of Rodger’s violence including his own parents have a lot of people to sue over this horror story.  They have a huge medical malpractice over the failures of Rodger’s cadre of Psychiatric professionals.  They have a equally huge claim against the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department for their failure to take proper action on the frantic efforts of Roger’s father and others warning them of the pending massacre.  Last but not least,  California’s Department of Justice must be brought to book for mistakenly approving the illegal firearm transactions. 
Yes, officials have a lot to hide right now as taxpayers are sure to be paying millions to anyone victimized by Rodger’s rampage.

In the end we must remember that this maniac was stopped by armed men and women risking their lives to protect us all.  Yes, guns save lives.