This is a series of geo-filters I created with Photoshop during my internship at Celebration! Cinema.
This is a Photoshop project I created for my Marketing Internship with Celebration! Cinema. These banners were shown on theatre screens during pre-screenings for thousands of guests. The 1200×1200 versions were used for social media promotion.
Most people have heard of aerial drones, but few know what they’re really capable of, especially in the field of journalism.
Most of today’s aerial drone models come with a mounted HD camera (or allow the user to attach his/her own). The journalistic appeal of this feature is somewhat obvious; Do you want to walk into a violent riot, or would you rather send a drone to fly over the action and get a better angle? Do you want to painstakingly map terrain using complicated software and photographs, or would you rather fly a drone around for 30 minutes to achieve the same result? Ultimately, drones can allow for safer, more efficient and thorough reporting.
Environmental, crisis, sports, weather and war-related journalism could all benefit from using aerial drones, yet their implementation in the field is limited. With this dilemma in mind, I set out to answer the following questions:
- What were the first drones like? How did the technology become what it is today?
- Which of today’s drones are best suited for use in journalism?
- How are current drone journalists implementing this technology?
- What are the issues they’ve faced?
- What does the future hold for drone journalists and drone technology?
Drone Data Visualization:
For this analysis on the future drone journalism, I chose to visualize data by creating both an interactive drone timeline and an infographic comparing drone specifications for journalistic use.
I browsed around on a few different timeline creation sites before having a go at Timeglider.com. It was the best site I found in terms of adding media, links and other data to event entries. I wanted to show the transition between military drone use in the past few decades into modern-day personal drone use.
Although drones are still used for military purposes today (The Reaper drone is pretty terrifying), technology has progressed enough to let the drone into the lives of journalists and hobbyists. This ultimately opens up doors into the developing field of drone journalism.
My Timeglider Timeline can be found here. It’s easiest to set the zoom to about 75% and use the “previous” and “next” buttons at the bottom to flip through the events.
If you click on the event title, you’ll see my text entries about the drone models and the sources I used. Feel free to mess around with the zoom and photo sizes if it helps you visually. There are 9 total entries.
I thought it’d be interesting to compare drone specifications and pit different models against each other to determine which one is best-suited for use in journalism.
With this infographic, I wanted to do something similar to the graphic we looked at earlier in the semester that measured the corruption levels of various countries. I used a similar method by using a formula and compiling weighted variables to make the concept of “journalistic potential” more concrete.
This kind of visualization isn’t perfect because it relies on the creator’s opinion. I had to choose how much weight to give each variable and how each input could be translated into a “grade.” The better the overall “journalistic potential” of the drone, the higher its total percentage was on the stacked bar graph.
In short: “Journalistic potential” isn’t easily quantifiable, so I used my own researched opinion to visualize it.
Future implications: The 5 drones I compared were all recently released (2014-2015) and can give us a glimpse into the future of drone technology. They suggest that future drones could have even longer flight times, wider operating ranges and better camera resolutions. Amazon’s new drones are one example of this. The company is working on some pretty remarkable technology right now.
Here are the steps I took to make my weighted average formula and apply the specifications I researched:
How my weighted formula works: I used an Excel tutorial site to make a simple weighted average calculator (the same kind you would use to calculate your grade at the end of a semester). I filled in the spec categories and their weights and copied this format for all five models.
Translating these specs to percentages that reflect journalistic potential was difficult at times. I tried to use the ranges between numbers to determine reasonable percentages. For example:
- Max flight time between these models ranges from 18 minutes to 88 minutes, so I translated 18 minutes a 50% (a failing grade) and 88 minutes to an 100%. I estimated the rest of the numbers by placing them in between this minimum and maximum.
- Same goes for Operating Range. I translated the maximum 2000 meters to 100%, the minimum 20 meters to 50%, and estimated the rest.
- For price, I made the highest number ($10,000) a 50%, the lowest number ($1,495) an 100%, and estimated the rest.
- For camera resolution, I translated 4k to 100% and 1080p to a 90% rather than 50%. This is because 1080p is still perfectly acceptable in the realm of journalism (although 4k is preferred).
- For “Follow-me” and Live stream capability, I made “Yes” translate to 100% and “No” translate to 50%. Both of these features would be helpful for journalistic purposes. They hurt the journalistic potential of the drone by not being included in the programming.
After assigning grades to the specifications and finding weighted averages, I was able to use the formula to determine which drone models were most valuable in the world of journalism.
They are all in the 74-84% cumulative range, but the DJI Inspire 1 comes out on top with an 84% grade for journalistic potential.
Interviews with Drone Journalists
I managed to connect with Rachel VanGilder and Matthew Schroyer over e-mail last week to ask about drone journalism. The e-mail exchanges are attached below.
Rachel VanGilder is a Umich alum working at WOODTV8 as a senior digital content producer. She directed me to an FAQ page regarding WOODTV8’s recently purchased drone: Drone 8 (a model DJI Inspire 1). Most of my e-mail’s questions were answered in this previously-conducted interview by Kyle Underwood, Drone 8’s main pilot.
Matthew Schroyer is the president and founder of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, an international organization that builds drones for journalistic purposes (including weather, environment, disasters, sports and more.) Schroyer was extremely enthusiastic and informative about drones, even taking the time to send me a thorough reply to my questions. He writes on FAA regulations, his organization’s goals and the future of drone journalism.
Rachen VanGilder Exchange:
Significant quotes from the Kyle Underwood FAQ Interview:
“As restrictions are relaxed and costs come down, commercially operated drones will become more common news gathering tools.”
- Underwood shares my belief that drones will be increasingly implemented in news outlets in the years to come. He didn’t speak on potential consequences of drone use for journalism (probably because of his passion for this technology and the work it allows him to do).
“I think [Drone 8] is going to be a great help to us in terms of visual storytelling.”
- We discussed in class how visual journalism is becoming more prevalent than print and how the millennial generation places greater value in concise, visually-engaging storytelling (rather than columns of text). This is a result of evolving smart phone technology, social media and countless other factors.
- The fact that Underwood was excited about this switch to a more “visual” style of news indicates the strength of the visual movement. It seems almost inevitable that this trend will continue as drone technology develops.
Matthew Schroyer Exchange:
My favorite quotes from this interview:
“[Other drone engineers in 2011] were making platforms that could image perhaps 100 acres of land in a single flight, and doing this on relatively small budgets. The utility of something like that — in a journalism context where you could prove certain things were happening on the ground — was very appealing.”
- The fact that this much land could be digitally visualized in one flight is remarkable in itself. Moreover, this was happening in 2011, when personal drone technology was in early stages of development. It seems Schroyer really capitalized on this opportunity to apply this technology to journalism.
“If the public is going to trust us with flying machines, we need to be responsible with them. In addition to the news, case studies, and rulemaking assistance, we have an ethical code which we expect our members to follow.”
- This is a point I would’ve easily overlooked. According to Schroyer, the drone journalist/public interaction is a “two way street.” If the FAA is going to loosen its regulations for commercial drone use, then drone journalists have an obligation to conduct reporting in a non-disruptive way. The PSDJ’s ethics code is clearly-defined, and it’s obvious that the PSDJ wants the public t0 feel comfortable with news drones in the sky. The more comfortable the public is, the easier it will be to access the full journalistic potential of this technology.
“As far as impact is concerned — that is something we have noticed. American news organizations have fallen behind the rest of the world in developing drone journalism… there’s a lot of innovation going on, [but] it’s just not among the major news organizations who would benefit the most from drone journalism. That is primarily due to the pilot’s license requirement.”
- Schroyer explains that, without a pilot’s license, it’s pretty much impossible to conduct drone journalism as a big news outlet. The US (a country that partly prides itself on technological innovation) is falling behind simply because of operation rules. In my opinion, this is a ridiculous reason to hinder progress. It makes me wonder how deeply drones would be embedded into journalism today if these rules had never been so strict.
I believe that drone journalism has a promising future. The field is still young, the technology is improving at an impressive rate.
Amazon (Amazon Prime Air), for example, sees the value in drone use for shipping purposes. They claim they will soon be able to “deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones.” (From Amazon.com).
Simultaneously, drone companies like Parrot, DJI and Bluefin compete to release new models in fast-growing tech market. This market’s players are fueled to put out the most advanced, most appealing model for the lowest possible price. The more sophisticated and feature-packed the drone model is, the more appealing it will be to potential customers.
Who are these customers? Pretty much anyone with a spare $1,500-$2,000 can be a personal drone owner, including solo journalists. Add a pilot’s license to that price tag, and minor/major news outlets can enter the user base as well.
Perhaps this is where journalism is heading. Perhaps the visual age (which has caused a drastic drop in total journalist jobs) will end up opening doors for journalists with drone experience. Perhaps, far into the future, universities will offer hybrid majors that combine engineering and journalistic practice. Perhaps future graduates will be able to say, “I just got a job at a big news outlet as a drone journalist.”
I’m confident that drone use in journalism will continue to rise. With an eventual lift on harsh flight restrictions and the help of people like Matthew Schroyer, drone journalism has a chance to flourish.
Story idea: How will the use of drones and other unmanned technological recording devices impact the world of journalism in the future?
Which two media forms will you use?
- In addition to my traditional blog post, I will utilize data visualization on the development of drone technology. I’ll include a visually appealing timeline with images of drone prototypes over the years, price points, specs like battery life/recording time, etc.
- I’ll also try to conduct a poll with Umich students asking them a few questions about privacy concerns involved with drone journalism. I’ll ask if the pros outweigh the cons and other questions regarding unmanned technologies in use today/future predictions.
- WOODTV8 (news anchors/production team)– my local news station in Grand Rapids. They utilize in-air resources like helicopters already, but the budget for those is fairly large. I can ask them if they’ve thought about using drones and what the pros and cons might be (see questions below).
- Drone Companies: The people responsible for designing and releasing different drone models.
3 questions you will ask in the interviews?
- Have you noticed implementation of unmanned recording devices (specifically drones) in the news today? How effective has it appeared to be so far? What stations have you seen utilize them? Do you have future plans to implement them at WOODTV8?
- I know you have a helicopter(s) for aerial coverage, police chases and the like. Do you think using drones would be easier? Or has the technology not come far enough along yet? Is it even possible that, one day, drones will replace human journalists? Does this thought scare you?
- Do you think that any privacy issues will arise with the use of drones? As far as journalistic consent goes, what are the current policies and what would have to change if drones were implemented on a regular basis?
To Drone companies:
- What do you think about your technology eventually being used for journalistic purposes (if it hasn’t been already)? Does it make you nervous? Do you anticipate public backlash or controversy from news outlets using your product to record video? If so, why?
- Do you think drone technology has a stigma society today? Often when I hear of people that own drones, I think of the government and rich people who want to show off. Is this just a stereotype? Who makes your target customer base? Are there plans to expand this target market in the future?
- What are your assumptions about drone technology in the next ten years? What areas of society will they be used in besides journalism, simple leisure and the military? Elaborate as much as you can.
Additional info that will be useful:
- Dronejournalism.com seems like the main resource for contacts and updates regarding the use of drones in the news. There are also plenty of sites that sell drones, and these sites have customer service teams that are more than willing to answer questions related to their products.
- Sites like Wired.com focus on the latest technology and post articles on drones all the time. These sites target an audience of early adopters and innovators who value revolutionary new technologies like drones.
- YouTube videos. Drone reviews, prototype runs and the like are scattered all over YouTube. These videos give us a clear idea of where the technology is currently at and what the future holds.
Leonardo DiCaprio is known primarily as a Hollywood actor (one that’s still on the hunt for the elusive Oscar award), and because of this, his devoted role as an environmentalist is often overlooked.
DiCaprio began his environmentalist efforts in 1998 by founding the LDF (Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.) It currently supports over 65 organizations and has awarded over $30 million in grants. Its mission is to “support innovative projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction, while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities” (from leonardodicaprio.org).
Leonardo DiCaprio’s personal Instagram page caters its content to this mission. While other celebrities post pictures of themselves in expensive cars and clothes, Leo utilizes his fame to spread awareness about endangered species and sustainability.The page has over 1.7 million followers.
DiCaprio recently hosted a 2nd LDF Gala in St. Tropez, France where he gave a speech and raised $40 million for his foundation. With celebrity connections who are wealthy themselves, DiCaprio has capitalized on the funding opportunities at his disposal.
“I want to get some of the wealthiest people on earth to focus on these issues because it’s becoming pretty dire” says Leo in this interview with Gayle King. For him, it’s not about just “picking a cause” to throw his money at. Environmentalism is a legitimate passion and belief for the actor.
Another significant project DiCaprio involved himself in is Virunga, a documentary about forest rangers in the eastern Congo who regularly risk their lives to protect the last living mountain gorillas. These gorillas are under threat from ecosystem destruction and relentless poaching. Leonardo served as one of the executive producers and teamed up with a crew from Netflix to capture the action.
The film has won over 47 international film awards and is considered one of the most gripping documentaries to be featured on the service. I recently streamed the film and can affirm these claims. You don’t have to consider yourself an environmentalist to get absorbed in the vivid jungle imagery and valor displayed by these rangers. As long as you can recognize the value of species protection, your time with Virunga will be well-spent. Here’s a link to the trailer:
While acting is Leo’s original claim to fame, his environmentalist efforts continue to make significant impacts. His celebrity status serves as a launch pad for his conservationist desires and has enabled him to raise millions towards saving the planet.
A recent article from technologyreview.com gives us a glimpse at a newly discovered chemical process that sucks CO2 from the atmosphere and turns it into carbon fibers and oxygen.
We as a human race have been damaging the atmosphere with carbon emissions for over a century. The surge of the industrial era and subsequent increase of fossil fuel use has brought these emissions to staggering levels.
While this sequestering technology may not be able to stop people from using gasoline or other fossil fuels, it can produce nanofibers made of carbon.
As it turns out, the production of these fibers has multiple advantages, some of which benefit the atmosphere:
- Carbon fibers are strong. They’re used for aerospace and industrial construction projects as well as automobile manufacturing. They’re even stronger when interwoven on a microscopic (nano) scale. This new process can yield nano-scale fibers.
- Carbon fibers are lightweight. Whether you’re trying to get a rocket into space or take advantage of increased fuel efficiency on the highway, carbon fibers can lighten your load without compromising strength.
- Carbon fibers are conductive. On a nano scale, even more so.
Manufacturing potential aside, it’s important to note that by existing in nanofibers, the sequestered carbon can no longer exist in the air. It cannot damage our ozone layer. It cannot further encourage global climate change. It is simply sucked out and converted to a solid material.
The process itself is somewhat technical, but is more stable, less expensive, and more useful than other carbon fiber production methods. Lithium oxide is first dissolved in lithium carbonate. It then combines with atmospheric CO2. Running voltage through this combination yields O2, carbon and more lithium oxide. The process can then repeat.
A final, staggering statistic: using this method on a larger scale could “remove enough carbon dioxide to make global atmospheric levels return to pre-industrial levels within 10 years, even if we keep emitting the greenhouse gas at a high rate during that period.” – Mike Orcutt, writer for Technology Review.
This means that we could see the current spike in the emissions graph descend back to levels observed in around 1900. 100+ years of damage could be reversed in under a decade.
Demand doesn’t yet seem high enough to put this new technology into practice, but it breathes hope into the concept of a restored atmosphere. This is our planet, after all. We have been damaging it. Now we have another tool to fix it.
A short video from Discovery Channel explaining the process:
CoolClimate, an environmentalist network at the University of California, Berkley, has created a series of ongoing projects that emphasize a reduction of carbon emissions on various scales. Their site focuses on visual appeal and features polished, immersive interfaces for users to experiment with. Site visitors can compare their individual/household emissions, toy around with the site’s interactive maps, and ultimately educate themselves about how the US is contributing to climate change.
While exploring the site I discovered CoolClimate’s Interactive Carbon Footprint Map. It allows the user to see how many metric tons of CO2 an average household emits per year for any given US county. Users can pair this data with their individual carbon footprint results to see if they emit more or less carbon than average.
I found this visualization to be extremely effective. Zooming, panning and comparing colored map pieces was much more entertaining than reading a list of figures; it also gave me a better image of the damage we are doing to our atmosphere. The areas with less emissions show up green, the areas with more appear red. We as viewers can immediately notice which areas of the US are controlling their emissions and which areas need to reduce them. All we need to do is use the colors.
Although this data has been carefully collected by county and assembled in a user-friendly way, there is still room for improvement on this map. Users can’t search for counties, they can only zoom in and float their cursor over them to observe the data. White areas on the map represent counties CoolClimate does not yet have data for (western states like Utah are missing a lot of data).
Despite these negative aspects, we can consider the map a mostly-complete work in progress. It allows users to easily observe carbon footprints by county and compare their own footprints. Not only did I leave the site more educated on the magnitude of US carbon emissions, but I also left with a desire to reduce my own footprint. This was CoolClimate’s purpose for using data visualization and, at least for me, it proved effective.
I found NPR One to be an unpolished, experimental radio app with a tremendous amount of promise. As I pulled up the radio screen I was immediately reminded of Pandora (the music discovery platform). The “interesting” button mimics the “thumbs up” on Pandora, the skips perform the same functions. I won’t turn this into a comparison review, but I think it’s interesting to note the unmistakable similarities:
The advantages of NPR One? I didn’t encounter one advertisement and could skip as many stories as I wanted. Pandora has ads that cover 90% of the album art and even audio ads in between some songs. I think ad-free is a good move for NPR.
I also found it convenient to have the news readily available on my phone. Instead of being in a car or on my laptop (my usual sources for news), I could listen to stories on my walk to class or the library. I could multitask. The app ran smoothly and never crashed. This convenience is invaluable, particularly to my age group. With classwork to complete and the transportation and social activities involved in university living, NPR made a smart move with the implementation of simplicity.
There isn’t a comments section on NPR One, which I also think is a plus. I believe in the preservation of source-backed, legitimate journalism and can’t tolerate some of the rumors and uneducated lies that anyone with a phone can spread on news sites. I find comfort in NPR’s support of this. I also like that stories are easily sharable via iMessage, Facebook and other outlets.
As much as I enjoyed the simplicity and design of NPR One, there are some significant downsides. For one, it may be too simple. Even Pandora, an app made for music discovery, has more customizable search options than NPR One. the entire profile page looks like this:
The semi-useless sleep timer and donation buttons basically scream, “Someone please develop this page into something useful!” It seems like we could see improvement on their profile system in the future.
There’s no way to view a list of categories and check off the ones you like. All that exists is a list of recent stories and an open-ended search bar. There isn’t really a “top stories” page, just a constantly-updated list to sift through. Another criticism: some of the headlines aren’t even formatted for the app; they’re cut off with “…” until you actually start playing the broadcast.
As far as tailoring to my interests, I’d give NPR One an above-average grade. I tried to click “interesting” on stories about technology, science, US domestic policy and a few other categories.
NPR actually featured the woman who voices for Siri. She explained the different dialects and sheer amount of words that she had to pronounce to make Apple the leader in voice recognition and playback. She also explained the neglect of street-name/location recordings and how the technology isn’t foolproof yet. In short, I love learning about technology and I loved hearing this broadcast.
Next a story focused on gun control in the US was featured. I learned that just over 1/3 of Americans have guns in their homes and that there are 300 million total firearms in the US, gun deaths are down 40% since the 90’s, etc etc. Recent shootings were then brought up and an informative debate followed. This became the pattern for my half hour with NPR One: listen to the broadcaster introduce the guest(s) and the topic, and then receive and process the info that followed.
I enjoyed almost all of the stories I heard in this half hour. It may be that I find numerous news topics interesting, or it may be that NPR One’s algorithm is actually a reliable one. I couldn’t reach a conclusion on this; however, I determined that for an experimental application catering to a modern, media-savvy audience, NPR One has potential to preserve news radio’s legitimacy and relevance. I would definitely experiment with NPR One again and dig deeper into its algorithm. How does a smartphone app know what news I like? In this case, simply because I touched the “skip” and “interesting” buttons during stories that piqued my interests.
Conclusions: I was impressed with NPR One and would use it again. It has a simple Pandora-type format with breaking news content. It’s adapted for the modern age, although lacking in additional features and development. Considering this is one of (if not the only) app of its kind, I applaud NPR. This is a step in the right direction for journalism.
Today I got the chance to sit in on a presentation on the recent history of renewable electricity in Ontario, Canada. The speaker, Professor Ian Rowlands of the University of Waterloo, gave his presentation with emphasis on the policies and politics involved in Ontario’s renewable energy implementation. I found out about the event from the PlanetBlue site under “Events.” The exact event page can be viewed here.
I think the tweeting process went pretty smoothly; however, I found that getting exact quotes and fitting their context into tweet-length phrases proved difficult at times. Also, some typos and other grammatical issues were ignored in an effort to keep up with the presentation. I actually had to re-create my twitter profile for this event since I haven’t used twitter in over two years. Because of this, I was a little out of practice. This also explains why hardly received any favorites or retweets (I currently only have 2 followers).
Here are my tweets from start to finish. All quotes are from Ian Rowlands.
my most favorited/retweeted tweet was this one:
Someone most likely discovered this tweet from the #climatechange hashtag and agreed with what Rowlands had to say.
If I were to go through this live-tweet process again, I would definitely want to include photos and more hashtags. I did a decent amount of research prior to attending the presentation, (including reading through Rowlands’ profile on the University of Waterloo site) but in the future I’ll have to take some photos and utilize more of twitter’s capabilities.