Drones enhance student perspective through aerial pictures

Drones provide a new perspective on campus moments and offer the opportunity to capture life in a unique way.

The University Communications department at John Brown University uses two drones for their marketing campaign.  Julie Gumm, director of university communications, said they first made the push for a drone during 2014 and 2015 while they redesigned the website.

Kaitlyn Thompson, media production specialist at JBU, said the drones have made the marketing at JBU distinct. “At first it was just the cool factor because drone video was fairly new but now as it’s become more common place it’s just shifted to getting some cool shots,” Thompson said.

“I’ve looked at what other colleges have and one, JBU’s [marketing video] is better and two, it seems to me other people don’t know how to edit drone footage and make it look consistent with other footage they’re using,” Thompson said. She blames lack of resources for the poor quality of other university videos.

Thompson produces all the video content for marketing purposes and donor relations. Additionally, Spencer Theobald, a sophomore Digital Cinema major and a certified drone operator, works with the drones.

Theobald has flown drones for four years now. His drone work began as a hobby, but now he flies his drones almost exclusively for work. “I am part of making the videos you see on the TVs,” he said. Theobald makes films for the cinema department, takes shots for senior film projects and flies the drone for the university communication department.

Theobald said that shooting for JBU is different than for other employers. “When I’m shooting for real-estate I have a timeslot for when I’m there,” he said. “I also have them watching me so I have to explain everything that I’m doing.”

At JBU, however, he has more creative freedom and more time. If he needs a shot of a sunset, he said, “I’ll just wait until sunset and if that sunset doesn’t look good I’ll wait until the next sunset the next day.”

Thompson said, “It is hard because there are things where it would be cool to get drone footage, but it just wouldn’t work.” For example, you can’t really fly drones inside, or, if you can, it’s difficult footage to get.

They have shot some handheld indoor pictures with the drone for the sake of consistency. Gumm said it was like they were pretend flying the plane.

They also take into consideration the rules they must follow. “There are so many rules the FAA gives out. You have to keep them in the back of your mind while shooting,” Theobald said. “You’re not supposed to [fly over] stadiums, crowds or airports. There are a lot of rules like that.”

Theobald said that while you can’t fly over stadiums and crowds, you can fly around them. This is how he gets shots of the soccer field. “It gets kind of complicated,” he said.

Thompson said that one of the unique challenges of shooting drone footage is that people start looking at her when she starts filming. She said, “I always feel like I’m on a stage whenever I’m flying the drone.”

For a hobbyist, Theobald recommends safety above all else. “[Flying a drone] is so fun but it’s just a matter of keeping all those rules in mind while you’re doing it.”

Thompson also said safety is an issue as she has lost some fingernails to the fan blades, “It’s a dangerous piece of equipment and you have to treat it with respect,” she said.