Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marketing . . .

So I'm listening to Studio 360 from December 3 and I hear this audio skit about a couple of guys who have market a movie so aggressively that they realize two weeks prior to opening that . . . they forgot to shoot the movie.

Not the case with Acro Camp, but sometimes it's good to be reminded that, although the marketing is cool, it's the movie that matters.

The biggest release of this holiday movie season is in trouble: nobody remembered to shoot it. A satire by Scott Blaszak, performed by James Babson and Jake Newton.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The (Nearly) Last of the B-Roll

I'm just about done with shooting B-roll for the movie. For many reasons, not the least of which is that the leaves are changing color and are actually about to depart the trees. I got this really nice sequence on Monday after setting up a camera while I preflighted the aircraft for my CAP Form 5.

Here's a time-lapse treatment of the footage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What -2.5G Looks Like

On Lynda's last flight in the Pitts, Don demonstrated advanced maneuvers. Here's a frame grab from an outside half loop (from inverted, push to upright). If Lynda's hair was up on the canopy in here -1G inverted flight, it was plastered there in this maneuver. Don also did an outside recovery from a hammerhead with Michelle, which I think was the maneuver during which Michelle experienced the max negative G of Acro Camp. I think I took a picture of the G meter just for posterity.

The cataloging of Day 4 (17 May) is almost complete. Then I start watching the ground footage, which will be a little more straightforward than the aerial footage has been so far.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crowdsourcing A Piece of the Music

Check out the current episode of Airspeed for information about how we’re crowdsourcing some of the music for Acro Camp! Listen to the episode, download the guide tracks, play or sing, and you might find yourself in the soundtrack of an independent film!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wing Cam footage of Jim's Botched Hammerhead

More slaving over a hot Mac this evening. But eminently worth it. I think I'm about 80% of the way through cataloging the aerial footage.

I found the wing camera version of Jim's botched hammerhead. About the same level of drama as the cockpit camera, but a different angle.

Here's a pretty good frame grab of Michelle and Don in the vertical. The footage is becoming much more Pitts and Super-D heavy with the Citabria only doing two flights on Day 3.

A Taste of The Fun Part

Okay, I couldn't resist. I put a couple of angles of a flight up in side-by-side frames and loosely synced them by hitting the start buttons at the appropriate times. Then I watched for a few minutes.

Suddenly, instead of gritty, disjointed, insider-only raw material, it looks like something that might soon actually be cinematic. It's pretty. The sun wanders over the fuselage. Your eye gets drawn from angle to angle as the aircraft banks rolls or pitches. Oh, man, am I getting excited.

I'm still in the very early stages of editing. In fact, not even editing yet. Just cataloging and indexing and figuring out what I have. Call it Phase 1.

Once I get that done, I'll assemble the video from all of the cameras (usually two or three per flight) along with the audio into multiclips in Final Cut Pro. That way, I can experience all of the multiple camera angles and the audio at once and actually figure out what I like and what the story is. Call That Phase 2.

Phase 3 is still a way off. That's where the parts come together and get dropped into a timeline and actually assembled into a movie.

I think that the amount of fun is only going to increase as this thing goes on. Not that I'm not having fun right now, but I can't wait to get to the later phases and really movie a movie out of this. It's going to take pallets of Sugar Free Red Bull to make it happen, but I'm completely up for that.

And I guess there's this, too: I see and hear stuff in this footage and in the music running through my head that is completely and utterly satisfying. Moments of beauty and truth. Not the bullshit rhetorical kind. No, these are things that happen when you fly that you can't experience adequately because you're too busy flying, but that are nevertheless there. Stuff that's so beautiful, it hurts. And I get to see it in slow motion or from multiple angles and say, "Look! This matters! Pay attention to this! Now that! Now listen to this! Now shout!" And I get to capture it and show it to myself in a cogent way. Herein, ladies and gentlemen, I rationalize and make real to myself things that I've felt since I first read Sabre Jet Ace when I was six.

I suspect that you will like my movie. But it's no longer essential that you do. It's enough for me to do what I'm doing. I've heard people say that this mindset is the proper mental space in which to make things like this movie. If so, great. But great even if not.

The journey continues . . .

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jim's Botched Hammerhead in the Pitts

Think Acro Camp is all about beautiful and coordinated flying? No-sir-ee bob!

In this outtake, camper Jim Rodriguez botches a hammerhead. Ugly, ugly, ugly!

But how are you going to learn how to do it right if you don't do it wrong every once in awhile? And, perhaps more importantly, you're going to botch a maneuver every now and then. You might as well see what botched maneuvers look like and learn how to recover from (and eventually laugh at!) them. I can't think of another IP or airplane that I rather have it happen to me in. Jim is in great hands with Don and the Berz Pitts.

Folks, Acro Camp is about real people who are a lot like you hanging it out there on the edge and getting a good snootful of what's up there. It's a genuine story of transformation and growth. Botched, beautiful, and otherwise. I can't wait to share it with you!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tech Frame Mosaic Proof of Concept

No, you're not going blind. It's just that I think I have enough tech frames now to do a quick prof of concept for the DVD note card. A "tech frame" is a frame from the raw footage, usually from the very beginning or the very end of the sequence. It usually shows the tech starting or stopping the camera, but it sometimes also shows the interesting goings-on immediately before or after a flight.

In any case, I started grabbing these from the very beginning with the thought that I'd find a use for them at some point. And how about this? We use them in mosaic form as a background for the blow-in card in the DVD case. One mosaic of the tech frames for the technical notes and one mosaic using camper frame grabs for the explanatory stuff and credits.

Pretty cool, eh?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Movie One: My Own Little High-Speed Taxi Test

Hey! Who's that guy in the black Ford Escape out there on the taxiway? Is he authorized? Is he talking to ground control?

As a matter of fact, he is!

This frame grab from the rear-facing camera on the Super D on Day 2 of Acro Camp shows the vehicle from which Director of Photography Will Hawkins was shooting takeoffs out rear window while I drove and talked to ground control on the radio and Jack Hodgson rode along as safety pilot in the right seat.

With an airport taxi diagram gaffer-taped to the dash and a paper trail months in the making, we were cleared to go hurtling down Taxiway Delta between the threshold of Runway 27R and Taxiway Juliet about 3,500 feet west doing up to 80 mph paralleling the Citabria and the Super D on takeoff.

If you ever though you felt out of place at a party or other occasion, try driving around on a taxiway in an SUV in the busy movement area of a Class D airport. It's like one of those walking-around-in-public in-your-underwear dreams, only it's not a dream and yet it's okay on this one special occasion.

I submitted a plan ahead of time to both the FAA and Oakland County months ahead of time. I had brand new batteries in my Sporty's handheld radio. I briefed the profile until I was sick of it. I even had the current ATIS when I checked in on the frequency at Victor Row. But that's what you do when you want to make some art out there in the movement area.

We only made two runs, but they were fun and we got some usable footage out of it. And it was a lot of fun using the callsign "Movie One" on an ATC frequency. After the first run, ground even cleared me to "back taxi on Delta" to the threshold to film the other aircraft.

"Back taxi." In my car. Yeah!

The only sticky bit was that the word about us hadn't quite gotten to the fire department on the field. The otherwise friendly guys who drive the big lime-green trucks saw us blazing down the taxiway and had a minor freakout. Understandable, of course. What would you think if you sawan SUV tooling around on the taxiway at high speed chasing airplanes?

If I could have convinced myself that they weren't armed, I might have entertained the notion of jumping out of the vehicle, pointing wildly at the sky, and yelling something about how my ex-wife had just made off with my airplane. But nah. I still hold out the possibility that I might need those guys at the fire station someday. And I want them to think kindly of me if I ever do.

Anyway, Pontiac ground assured them on the radio that we were authorized to be out there and we even pulled into the station afterward to have a meet-and-greet and explain what was going on without little enterprise. We even made some new friends after everybody's heart rates subsided a little.

Lots and lots of firsts doing this movie. I had a ball. And I'm getting to re-live it as I go through all of the footage. My only regret is that we weren't running a couple of cameras on Movie One . . .

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Fine Day's Cataloging

Another fine day of editing here at Airspeed Studios. I got most of Day 2 (15 May) cataloged and ready to link up with alternate camera angles and the cockpit audio. And I found several of the Easter eggs that the cast left for me. Like this shot of Jim Rodriguez and Don Weaver giving the thumbs up, er, down, er up.

The tech frame evolved when Roger Bishop gave in to the ham that's in all of us and gave the camera a wave. Being a guy with a true sense of lighting and composition, I'm sure that he couldn't resist stepping out into the near-perfect lighting of one of the early flights of that day.

A nice shot of Paul and Barry in the vertical. Do I need a further reason?

Nicholas "FOD" Tupper stopped by and I got him in the frame of the rear-facing camera on the Super D.

Paul "Gump" Berliner mugs for the camera during a Pitts ride later in the day.

Watching Day 2 Happen

I've been spending most of today going through the video from Day 2 of Acro Camp, namely Saturday 15 May. Beautiful sunshine in the morning with high cirrus clouds (much like you see here) that gave way to a high overcast toward the evening.

Above you can see one of my favorite shots of Paul Berliner. It's not going to surprise me it Paul ends up being the favorite camper of many who see the movie. I haven't even watched these flights with the audio synced up, but I can just tell from watching Paul and the IP that Paul is having a lot of fun and that both of the IPs really enjoy flying with him.

Acro Camp Production Outtakes - Surfing the Pitts Breeze

Here's footage from the Hero cam on the Pitts moments after startup. First Barry, then Steve, then Rod decide to surf the prop blast of the Pitts. This is from Saturday 15 May, Day 2 of flying.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shooting B-Roll With Don

Don Weaver and I headed out yesterday so that I could fly a few instrument approaches for currency in a C-172 and so that he could head over to Ray Community Airport to do some dual in the Acro Camp Pitts S-2B. I took along a GoPro HD Hero and stuck it in the airplane to get B-roll footage of Don flying the Pitts. Pretty day out there and we got some good shots.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Acro Camp Cameos

As fun as going through the actual Acro Camp footage can be, I needed a break from it this evening. So I started going through some of the footage that I shot at various airshows this summer. I wanted to get footage of a number of professional aerobatic pilots so that I could intersperse them throughout the film as cameos at appropriate moments.

As I've gone through them, I've become pretty excited about some of the interviews and other footage that I've captured. Everything from the Pitts S-2C to the A-10 to the F-22. Here, to whet your appetite, are a few frame grabs that I captured.

This just gets better and better as I build the film in my mind. It's really beginning to come together.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Yet Another Cataloging Session

I spent a little time today cataloging video and audio from Friday 14 May, the first full day of flying at Acro Camp. I got through all of the non-Panasonic footage and about half the audio. Fortunately, I'm finding that the various Out of 20 video sequences, something like eight are mated up with their sister sequences from the same flight. And I have the audio mated up with several sequences as well. I sure wish that I had used a clacker board for a lot of these, but it turns out that it's not going to be as hard as I thought it would be.

I went through some of the footage from David Allen's ride with Don Weaver that evening and it got me really lonely for the Acro Camp experience. I e-mailed Dave the frame grab above. He e-mailed me back saying that we could probably get away with shooting the next one without actually having the first one on the can. And then went on to suggest that some folks would show up for subsequent Acro Camps regardless of whether there was a movie attached. Ever wonder why people gravitate to Dave? That's just one of the many reasons.

That Friday probably had the best light of any day at Acro Camp. The frame grab of Michelle Kole and Don Weaver above is an artifact of that. Just gorgeous sunshine and even some high cirrus and low scattered to serve as a background.

Next, it's the panasonic footage from the 14th. Hoping to have that done this coming week and then I can move on the cataloging the subsequent days of airborne footage. Once that happens, I'll be able to stick it all in multiclips and really sit down to watch it all. This is the scut work phase. It only gets cooler from here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Most Fun Ever Had by a Human

I've been working my way through the footage from Friday 14 May, the first real day of flying for Acro Camp. I've been working mostly with the wing-mounted and other exterior camera footage over the last week. But, this evening, I began going through some of the footage from the in-cockpit cameras as well.

I've decided that no human has ever had more fun flying aerobatics (or doing anything else) than Paul Berliner. I could tell that he was smiling from the wing cam footage, but the in-cockpit cameras really tell the story. There are even times that I can hear min shouting over the engine noise on the ContourHD camera (and I don't have the intercom audio synched up yet, so it's strictly ambient sound for now). The frame grab above is Paul's reaction to his very first loop. I think they heard about it in the tower back at Pontiac. Without the need for the radio.

It turns out that Paul has a G-face as well. In fact, I think it's the same as his zero-G face. Here's he's pulling up for his second loop. Paul pulls a little less hard on the loops than Jim, but not much less. He got nice round shapes out of the loops that he did. I can't tell whether Barry's helping, but I suspect that it's mostly Paul.

Michelle also got up at the end of the day for some pattern work in the Citabria. I discovered some issues with the ContourHD shutter artifacting when the prop shadow falls across the pilot's face. It's a little like skinny horizontal Venetian blinds. But it's almost worth it when you get sun angles like this one.

I'm still having a good time with the extent to which the IPs seem to pay attention to the camera. Here, Barry gives a thumbs-up just before taxiing.

I understand that there were some pretty good conversations in the cockpit, as well, and I'm just beginning to get around to going through the intercom audio. I think I'll do that once I get it synched up with the video. I'll put together a multiclip for each flight and then watch each flight all the way though one camera angle at a time. It'll be time-consuming, but it's really the only way to get the whole story and identify all of the most interesting/compelling/beautiful moments.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cataloging, Taking Notes, and Jim's G-Face

Hey! Bet you've wondered where we've been! All over the place, to be honest. I've hit several airshows, toured the American Champion plant, and been to Beale AFB capturing footage, and other stuff for the movie.

With the airshow season winding down here in the northern part of the United States (or at least the northern part of the midwest), I've begun to have time to really sit down and systematically go through the video and audio that we captured in May. Tonight I got all the way through Jim Rodriguez's first flight in the Super D with Don Weaver on 14 May.

The flight went 0.9 Hobbs and consisted mostly of stalls and spins and then a couple of rolls and a couple of loops - Jim's first. The lead frame grab here is from just after the first real spin had become fully-developed.

The thing you don't get in the frame grabs is the vertigo-inducing effect of the sun whipping by every couple of seconds and the shadows tracing an ever-tightening ellipse around the interior of the cockpit. I'm noting a few of those for a montage sequence for the trailer.

Here's Jim on knife-edge in the early part of the first roll. Nice view outside the cockpit. These shots are from the ContourHD that I mounted on the right side of the cockpit. There's a Panadonic on the left side, too, but I ran a redundant Contour on the first few flights before I needed to mount one out on the wing. Given the shake that the Panasonics inexplicably developed during principal photography, it's good that we ran the ContourHDs in parallel in the early going.

Here's Jim at the top of his first loop. Again, the stills here don't show the whole story. The first loop was decidedly stop-sign-shaped. With the stall horn sounding in the middle of the second quarter. But he got it around!

By the way, if I'm criticizing as I go along, it's not mean-spirited. I didn't do much better (and, in many ways I did worse) than the campers when I flew this stuff for the first time.

Do you have a G-face? Jim has a G-face. This is Jim's G-face. Check out his neck and jowls. That's were I feel it most and, especially when you see it in motion, Jim gets the effect there, too. And it's accentuated by the extent to which Jim pulled. This is most of the way around the back of that same stop-sign-shaped loop and he's cranking about 4.5G to get her pulled up level.

Jim took the little white bag seriously. As did all of the campers. I'm pretty sure that he was the camper who least needed to worry about it, but there it is under his shoulder strap as he's egressing from the airplane. Just one of the reminders that this is a new thing for each of the campers and that the experience was full of the strange and unknown.

I continue to be amazed that these people showed up and flew their hearts out for this film. We had all of the issues that you might expect in a first project. There's some blown footage and some missed audio. But I've long since established for myself that we have more than enough material to tell a compelling story and to really turn some people on to aerobatics.

The cataloging is ongoing and I'm whittling away at it. The harder i work on the completeness of the cataloging, the easier and better the actual assembly and editing is going to be.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Michelle Kole's Epic Spin

Here's a sample of some of the great footage that we captured with one of the outboard cameras. This is a GoPro HD Hero mounted on the right wing strut of the Super-D and pointed more or less straight at Michelle.

Michelle pulled off a great seven- or eight-turn spin. Nice and stable (you can watch where the horizon intersects the frame). This angle gives a real sense of the world rotating.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Tech Frame

Going through all of this footage, one of the things that strikes me is an element that you probably won't see in the film. It's the first frame of most of the sequences shot by the airborne cameras. It's almost invariably one of the crew staring into the camera at the moment he pushes the button to start up the camera. It could be me. Or Roger Bishop. Or Will Hawkins. Or David Allen. Or even one of the Acro Camp IPs.

The shot above is from a quick camera test in the hangar. Roger and I were configuring a GoPro HD Hero to go hang on an aircraft. Probably checking video settings and making sure that the camera liked the SD card that we'd put in it.

Most of the time, the first frame is one of us either leaning into the front cockpit or standing there next to the wing strut, sometimes with the prop turning. It's lighter or darker out. It's this or that aircraft. We're more or less tired-looking. We're more or less anxious to get the camera on and the flight launched. But, in every case, it's a testament to the commitment and dedication of this crew.

Somewhere in the DVD extras, I'd like to do a string of the first three seconds of all of the Hero cam sequences. Or maybe use that for the menu background. And I'd like to take a series of first frames and use that for a border on the packaging.

This to me is a series of artifacts of the amazing amount of effort that everyone put into the film. Especially the techs. 18 or 22 -hour days. Constant technical challenges. Unpredictable sortie timing. Two or three aircraft out there on the ramp that might launch at any time. And getting all of this stuff safely offloaded onto hard drives.

And the quality of the people who gravitated to this project. Unreal. Can you believe that Roger Bishop took time out to come up and help out with this? Or that Will Hawkins jumped in to be DP? Or that David Allen, the most enthusiastic guy in all of general aviation, poured heart, soul, blood, and bile into this like he did?

In case you were wondering, the luckiest schmuck in all of aviation, filmmaking, and many other endeavors is the guy sitting at this keyboard right now. Holy shit, did we do a wonderful and special thing last month!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Jim Rodriguez Gets Shirt-Tailed

We expected that all of the instruction at Acro Camp would be dual. But it turned out that two of the campers actually soloed in taildraggers. And Michelle Kole soloed both the Citabria and the Super D.

Here's a frame grab of IP Barry Sutton tripping Jim Rodriguez's shirt tail after his solo in the Citabria.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


This is the first in what will probably be an occasional series of screenshots and other stuff that I find as I go through the footage.

Don told me during the camp that he had discovered some FOD (short for foreign object damage or stuff that can cause it - usually pocket change, the occasional mobile phone, etc.) in the cockpit during a flight with Paul on Day 3. I just happened upon the footage about 14:00 into the flight. Don rolls inverted and sees the FOD just above Paul's head. He taps Paul on the head to get him to move a little and then snatches it in this frame grab.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's Next . . .

Just a quick note to let everyone know what’s going on.

Yeah, we’ve been (and gone) a little radio-dark of late. A lot of that has been catching up on sleep and attending to various other responsibilities that have gone wanting due to the our devotion of energies to the film project. And one or more of us had coverage opportunities in associated with the other media hats that we wear that essentially came immediately on the heels of the film shoot.

So here’s what’s going on. All of the aerial footage is not off the cards and onto a hard drive and backed up. We’re still extracting footage from the big cameras on the ground and I expect to have that done in a few days. We’re also cataloging the still photography and paying attention to the other media that various people shot and are providing to us.

The next task is to sit down and watch and log all of the footage. I’m guessing that we have something in excess of 100 hours of footage. Much of it is from the ground cameras. And much of it is from up to three cameras per aircraft going at once. And the airborne footage will require synching up the audio with the video elements.

Then we start figuring out what the stories are. We have several anecdotal story lines that we think will be key, but we need to be sure that they’re borne out by the video and audio so that we can show the audience what happened. We really want to have this thing be free of narration and to speak for itself and it’ll take a thorough inventory of the video to be sure of what we have.

Then comes the editing and assembly of the material into the rough cut. Think months away. And think getting a lot better with Final Cut and the other applications that come with it (e.g. color correction, stabilization, etc.).

Much of the dust remains to settle before we’re in a true orderly post-production mode. But, once we get there, we’ll have the opportunity to put out a couple of teasers and continue the process of getting people excited about the picture. Stay tuned here for more information as it becomes available.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Principal Photography Is a Wrap!

Have you seen us lately? Wow! Neither have we. That was a pretty intense week. But we’re proud to tell you that principal photography of Acro Camp wrapped yesterday afternoon.

I haven’t tallied up the sorties or hours or other information, but we captured a really broad range of subject matter, emotion, perspectives, and drama. All four campers performed amazingly. Each surprised him- or herself and the IPs in many ways. The acro was amazing. And, unexpectedly, we several of the campers got in solo tailwheel flights.

The ground school was outstanding. Don and Barry walked everyone through the local geography, safety considerations, how to use the safety systems, how to get into (and out of) the aircraft, and what to expect on the acro sorties.

The film crew was unbelievable. We ran this thing really lean. Crew at any one time ranged from two to five. We were up in the pre-dawn most of the time and rarely hit the rack before midnight. Whatever it took so get the video in and downloaded and everything ready for the next day.

Anyway, this evening, it’s more backup and extracting video from the shoot and starting to think about the editing process. Once we have all of the footage saved in at least two places and secure, it’s time to start watching it and extracting story lines. And there’s the music and other stuff to compose and record. We don’t yet have any solid idea of when we’re thinking that the thing will be out. The best we can say at the moment is that it’s more than one Christmas away but less than two Christmases away.

Thanks again for your support and well wishes. You don’t work this hard for this long without having a lot of encouragement from folks like you. We really appreciate it.

Now it’s time to crash on the couch and get such sleep as it necessary to be able to see clearly to do the editing.

Invertor et vomens! Smoke on!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Acro Camp is a Go! (With Date Shift: Ground Thursday 13 May and Flight Friday-Monday 14-17 May)

After several days of agonizing over the weather progs, talking to Don and Barry, and retaining a meteorologist (and nearly retaining clergy) we made the call this afternoon: Acro Camp is on!

With a minor adjustment . . . Thursday is looking like a wash. Thunderboomers, 60% probability of precip, likely low ceilings, etc. Yuck. But big flyable windows seemed to exist for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And Monday. So we slid the camp one day back. Ground school will be the afternoon/evening of Thursday, 13 May. Flight days 1-4 will be Friday-Monday 14-17 May.

We think that the adding the Monday flight day will give us a better chance of getting good footage of everyone and maximizing the opportunities for everyone to develop and grow on camera as much as possible over the course of the camp. Most of the campers will simply slide with the schedule. One can't because of prior commitments, but we'll try to get that camper up on Thursday for some pattern work in the Citabria if it lifts a little. And we think it will at some point

In pre-production news, Don and I went out Sunday evening and flew the camera and audio solutions for the Pitts. That was the only big issue that I had hanging over my head. Todd and I spent a big chunk of the day last Sunday at Berz Flight Training going over mounts and I was 90% sure that we were going to be okay. But I don't like flying a tech solution for the first time in production. I really wanted to go out and fly the solution now in pre-production.

Boy, is it ever going to be cool. The cameras worked beautifully. Great images. Both on the flight with both Don and me and on the flight where Don flew some smoke for the heck of it. I think we'll angle the main camera down a little if we do another solo flight with Don. But everything is looking good otherwise. Good framing, good tech checklist, and good images.

If you plan to stop by and see us during production, please bear in mind the new schedule. Flying Friday to Monday. And read the What to Expect If You Show Up post from a few weeks ago before showing up.

If the weather is less than what we're looking for and we're running out to fly between gaps in weather systems, we're going to be aggressively turning the airplanes. It'll look like a stinkin' NASCAR pit lane out there on the ramp. And we might ignore you more than you (or we) would like. Please be assured that we love you and are eternally grateful for your interest. But we're making a movie and we'll mercilessly mow you down where you stand to get to a returning airplane to help turn it around. Would you really want us any other way?

We're going to make a magical thing over the next few days. I love this cast. Amazing people, every one. I love the IPs. I've flown with each and have the utmost respect for their instructional skills and their ability to carry the message of GA to the masses. I have a crackerjack crew. Will Hawkins. David Allen. Rico Sharqawi. (Need I say more?) Roger Bishop (new media and social media's Enoch Root) is slated to hang out, advise, and rock out. Jack Hodgson is going to cover it.'s Rod Rakic is planning to stop by. You're going to follow it.

We're prepared. We've even done everything we can. The rigs are tested. the equipment, beverages, and knick-knacks are staged. We've even done all we can to deal with uncontrollable factors like the weather. Just watch us now.

Are you excited? I'm excited!

Speed and angels! Invertor et Vomens! Smoke on!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Re-Packing the Acro Camp Parachutes with Todd Ames

I spent a little time out at the Aviation Station at KPTK (the home base for Acro Camp) last night with parachute rigger Todd Ames. Two of the chutes that we’re going to use were coming due for their re-packing and I wanted to get an idea of what the guts of a parachute look like and how the repacking process works.

We set up tables in the hangar and then Todd performed the repacking. I filmed the process for the movie and shot stills as well.

One of the cooler parts was actually deploying the chutes. Todd pulled one for the camera and then laid it out, inspected it, and re-packed it. Then it was my turn to pull. You stick your thumbs into the D-ring and pull straight out from your body. The pilot chute is spring-loaded and it fires the pilot chute about eight feet away from you. The pilot chute then drags the main chute out from the container.

The lines are rubber-banded in alternating courses and they deploy evenly as each loop slips out of the rubber bands. Clearly, a lot of though goes into the design and into the packing process.

The repacking process consists mostly of a close inspection of the lines, the canopy, the container, and the other elements of the chute. Some items are inspected initially when the chute is laid out on the table and other inspection elements occur as you’re re-packing. It’s fairly regimented, just like a preflight check or some cockpit procedures – a flow that most pilots would recognize and appreciate. And Todd pulled the manuals from the Internet to make sure that the pack sequence was according to the manufacturer’s spec.

And here’s the particularly interesting part. Obviously, most chute aren’t deployed between re-packs. That means that, as a rigger, your pack job is going to be seen in close detail by the next rigger. If you thought that pilots were critical of each other, you ought to hear the stories about riggers. Some riggers can identify a previous rigger’s pack job just by looking at it. And, if you screw something up and someone else repacks that chute after you, you’ll likely hear about it from the subsequent rigger.

I like that sense of professionalism and the willingness within the rigger community to self-police. I hope I never have the need to deploy an emergency parachute. But, if I do, the experience last night gave me a lot of confidence in these vital safety systems.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tech Pre-Production Continues

Among may personal quirks, I have a particular way if identifying when an upcoming event is getting pretty darned close. From the bar exam to vacations, to other really important stuff. Yesterday, I came home from the store and put a gallon of milk in the fridge. That gallon of milk will still be good after principal photography for Acro Camp is complete.

Pretty cool, huh?

I spent the morning and early afternoon over at Ray Community Airport with Todd Yuhas of Berz Flight Training crawling all over the Pitts to investigate camera mounts and audio setup. I think we have the camera setup resolved and that the Pitts is good to go. I was a little worried prior to today because a quarter or so of the footage (and – because the introduction of the Pitts will be an escalation point in the film – some of the most important footage) will be in the Pitts and that needs to work. But I think that we have out ducks in a row and are good to go with the airplane.

Todd and I also spent some time walking down the hangar rows talking to people. I got to sit in a Waco that’s in the middle of rebuilding and see other really interesting aircraft. I continue to believe that Ray Community Airport is one of the best airports in the country. It’s everything that the Harper’s Field of my imagination was at the beginning and now Ray actually informs my vision of Harper’s field. It’s just that cool.

So, anyway, with less than 10 days do go, I think that we’re about ready. A couple more test flights to verify technical setups, some hauling of tables and chairs, some icing down of tasty beverages, and lots of other last-minute stuff. But we seem to be getting pretty close to ready. (Whatever “ready” means . . .)