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 . . .)