Blog Post by Mark Berry / Producer & Director for Gray Digital Group

The craft of telling visual stories differs from other disciplines in that it is forever married to the advancement of technology. If a writer possesses the necessary talent and vision, it makes little difference whether he uses Microsoft Word or a Quill pen and powdered ink. Visual storytelling is different. As technology advances, new horizons are opened up. New tools give us new ways of better constructing the narrative we hope to convey. This being the case, we are always on the lookout, keeping a watchful eye on the digital technology market. Technology creators realize this, which has naturally led to a world where digital video tools are perpetually burgeoning. Every day now it seems like a ground-breaking, tradition-shattering tool arrives on the scene. This comes with both good and bad attributes. As content creators, we must be intentional about not focusing too much on which tool is the most provocative, but which one practically and tangibly contributes to the story we are telling.

A lot of things are happening in the digital world, and fast! When DJI released the “Phantom” drone in January 2013, they forever changed the landscape of digital video. Video footage that use to cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars was now available to anyone that could afford the drone and a GoPro camera. It seemed like everyone had a drone in the sky, filming everything from scenic landscapes to fireworks. It wasn’t long before we acquired our own drone, the Dji Phantom 3. Admittedly, our excited got the best of us as well. We filmed anything and everything, sometimes for no other reason than to have an excuse to fly (which is fun enough on its own, let alone obtaining amazing footage).

After using the Drone for several projects, we began to take note of how it can add production value to our work. At first, we saw it’s obvious aesthetic potential. There is just something about aerial video that looks good. It has in innate ability to demand one’s focus, grabbing attention on footage that otherwise might not seem that interesting. While this is all well and good, and more than justifies having a Drone, there are other more dynamic applications.

Homes of Hope is a local client of ours that helps provide affordable housing to low income families and individuals. However, to say that is all they do would not just be an understatement, it would simply be wrong. The unseen effects of their work ripple through our society in numerous beneficial ways. I have met many of their “graduates” and they’ll be the first to tell you that affordable housing is barely scratching the surface. These are people with diverse backgrounds and challenges, but have all benefited from a better life trajectory, all thanks to Homes of Hope.

These are real people with real struggles who were willing to put forth the effort, and Homes of Hope was willing to meet them halfway. I could easily dedicate this entire blog post to the transformative effects Home of Hope has had on our local community, and still not cover all the bases. In the end, that’s the point. In order to even vaguely understand the full impact of Homes of Hope, one must take a bird’s eye look at all they have done. This is where we have found the absolute best application for the Drone. How else could we capture the sprawling neighborhoods, the community Barbecues and the scope of housing construction? It was these questions and these projects that we realized the Drone has far more to contribute than aesthetic trimming to a video. This was a situation in which the use of the Drone was actually broadening the scope of our narrative, giving us new creative freedom to fully tell the Homes of Hope story. You can’t see Homes of Hope at eye level, you must journey to the sky in order to understand the heights they have reached.

This past week I had the privilege of filming the demolition of some condemned properties in Greenville. Homes of Hope will soon be replacing the condemned houses with new, livable houses. As I was flying the Drone back and forth over the site, I couldn’t help but realize the symbolic nature of what was happening. Even though a physical house was being destroyed, a rebirth was taking place. I was reminder of the many Homes of Hope graduates I have met, who were intent on dismantling the destructive habits of their old lifestyle and making way for the new bright future ahead of them. Whether it’s with the freshly painted houses, or the glow of a graduate’s face when they get hired to their first full time job, Homes of Hope is changing the face of our community. It’s a story worth telling.