TV stations have been using helicopters to broadcast images from the air since 1958. And since then, stations have been marketing and advertising their choppers as part of their news brand. And as the aircraft have gotten more high tech, so have the promos.
Today, KTLA is the CW affiliate in Los Angeles, but in 1948, it was the first television station west of the Mississippi River.
Estimates of television sets in Los Angeles in 1948 ranged from 350 to 600.
News photography from a helicopter has come a long way since then.
In the early days, camera operators often had to shoot out the window, or in some cases, the door was removed as seen in this promo from Cleveland for WEWS’ Chopper 5 Action Cam.
Eventually, news choppers came equipped with gyro mounted cameras which can be controlled from inside the chopper, and the pictures from these cameras are rock steady, sharp, and smooth.
Of course, marketing a station’s helicopter became important, not only for the benefits it provided to the viewers, but also for the station’s brand.
In major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and New York, just about every TV station had its own helicopter, and so that meant each station had its own chopper promos.
In New York City, this two-minute video from WNBC says its chopper is the future of news.
There are so many claims made in this promo — most advanced in the world, the fastest, and now quitter with whisper mode technology — it’s hard to tell if the promo is legitimately from the station or some sort of parody.
Not to be outdone, WCBS had its own chopper promo touting some of the same options featured on the WNBC chopper.
Meanwhile, when one chopper isn’t enough, only one station in New York City has two, WABC.
Tomorrow in Part 2, a student brings a news chopper to Show and Tell, and other news chopper promos. Plus, are drones putting news helicopters out of business?
NOTE: I was inside WDSU’s chopper with a photographer, Glenn “GT” Taylor, one morning trying to get beauty shots of New Orleans. It was cold and one of the doors had already been removed.
Because of the way the wind was blowing and where the sun was coming up, it was determined the other door of the chopper needed to be removed.
The pilot dropped the chopper on the levy next to the Mississippi, jumped out and took the door off and threw it in the weeds. There were two guys fishing nearby and I can still remember the look on their faces.
I asked the pilot if he was afraid they would steal the door.
“What would they do with a helicopter door?”
We came back to retrieve the door later and it was right where he threw it.