Drones have revolutionized aerial filmmaking for professionals and amateurs alike. As prices come down, more and more drones are going up, but there are situations in which using a drone can be impractical — or illegal. Cinematographer Rodney Charters, known for his work on the series 24, thinks he has the solution: a telescoping, 20-foot long pole with a camera mount on the end.
The eponymous Charters Pole is an elegantly simple alternative to a drone. Made of carbon fiber, it weighs just under four pounds and collapses down to a minimum length of 3.3 feet for easy transportation. With both 1/4-20 and 3/8-inch screws, it can support cameras weighing up to 1.1 pounds. It is ideal for compact gimbal cameras like the DJI Osmo. With such a setup, it is possible to get results that very closely mimic the stabilized look of drone video — so long as you don’t need to go higher than 20 feet.
But for all its simplicity, the Charters Pole comes with one glaring issue — a price tag of $550. Anyone who has ever purchased a carbon fiber tripod or monopod knows that the material isn’t cheap, but the Charters Pole is of such little complexity that it would be difficult for any low-budget filmmaker to consider it over a basic do-it-yourself alternative. After all, amateur filmmakers have long been mounting cameras to the ends of painters’ poles to achieve the same effect, as DIYPhotography pointed out.
However, it is important to remember the context in which the Charters Pole was invented. In professional cinema production, $550 is a drop in the bucket and is significantly less expensive than the large jibs and cranes that Charters himself used previously. The compact size, long reach, and durability of the Charters Pole will be worth the price for the right user.
For the rest of us, it’s an important reminder that sometimes the simplest solutions yield the best results. If a pole with a camera stuck to it can work for high-end productions, then it most certainly can work for you. It just doesn’t have to be a pole that costs $550.