Watch: How '60 Minutes' Filmed an Impossible High-Speed Drone Swarm
60 Minutes nearly abandoned this story about military drones because they couldn't figure out how to film it.
If you were asked to film a swarm of objects not much bigger than an iPhone 6+ flying erratically at 50mph, how would you do it?
If you're already scratching your head, don't feel bad. So was the team at 60 Minutes after they were granted permission to film a military test of the cutting-edge Perdix drones flying in autonomous formation above the Mojave desert.
His reaction to trying to film the tiny drones was, "What? No way. I can't do this."
At first, cameraman Ron Dean was sent to do a practice run, filming just two of the drones. "My lens couldn't get close enough," said Dean in this behind-the-scenes video. "It wasn't a long enough lens."
It seemed so impossible to film that 60 Minutes nearly abandoned the shoot entirely. That was until the decision was made to bring in Rudy Neidermeyer, a professional golf cameraman with experience filming tiny, fast-moving objects (namely, golf balls).
Essential to successfully capturing the drones was Niedermeyer's kit: a Sony 4300 which is described in the video as "a new 4K camera that basically runs 490 frames per second." The camera is tethered to a PWS-4500 4K server, which is able to slow the footage down, allowing viewers to appreciate the minute details.
But even with his experience and specialized camera, Neidermeyer's reaction to trying to film the tiny drones was, "What? No way. I can't do this."
However, Niedermeyer's experience prevailed. By starting his shots very wide and tightening in as he became increasingly comfortable anticipating the drones' movements, he was able to capture some incredible footage of some very fast—and very small—objects.