"Making Of" Preview: Acro Grass Studio Session

As many of you will remember, Don, Barry, and I went into the Soundscape Studio in Royal Oak in December to record material for the soundtrack. Among the ways in which Acro Camp is unique is the fact that the soundtrack is being entirely written and performed by the cast, crew, and fans of Airspeed and the movie

I supplied the basic guitar track and set up the session. I also brought in my drum kit, which The Soundscape supplemented with a sweet vintage floor tom and the cymbal you see at on the upper right of the kit. Don brought and played keyboards.
As I’ve been editing the footage, I’ve been grabbing snippets and laying them down on a sequence that I shot while Don and Barry were loosening up and just jamming to the guide track. Mainly to cover up the camera movements, but you can attribute some fillaking genius to it if you like.
I had Tim capture everything raw at the console in realtime and give me the audio in parallel tracks. I then combined the tracks, did a rough mix, and synched it up to the video.
The thought is that I’ll put this and some other material on the DVD as one of the “making of” extras.
Everybody’s a little off in this performance, but the whole Idea was simply to capture lots of bits of performances that I could loop into the mix to create something that’s an amalgam of lots of different people. You’ll recall that we’re crowdsourcing a great deal of the soundtrack and any given contribution is likely to find itself torn out of context and placed in a new position among the other contributions. These elements are no diferent. I still have no idea where they’re going to end up in the final product. But it’s going to be fun to see how it develops.

Sneak Peek 02 – Formation

Here’s another sneak peek of the movie! This is from Day 3 of Acro Camp. It covers the formation portion of the sortie. Three cameras in the Super-D and two on the Pitts, along with cockpit audio and engine sound from each.
If the Mac Book Pro can handle this, it can handle anything!

Sneak Peek 01: Jim Rodriguez’s Hammer-Spin

The editing is really coming together! Above is an example of some of the footage and audio that we’ve been working on. It’s a sequence showing Jim Rodriguez’s “hammer-spin” in the Pitts with IP Don Weaver. Jim figured out the exciting way that a Pitts doesn’t need as much forward stick at the top of a hammerhead.
We’re editing our heads off whenever we can to get the film out this summer. And the music is coming along well, too. Ace audio guy Scott Cannizzaro just dropped an early mix of his take on Acro Grass and it’s stellar.
More news as it happens!

Filming Performer Cameos: The Starfighters


Production has been off lately because I’ve spent waaaaay too much time in and out of the hospital getting some issues with my leg taken care of. Nothing that’s going to goof up my medical certificate or anything, but massively inconvenient. A bacterial infection in my calf that later developed into an abscess and required surgery to go in and take care of it. But I’m walking around just fine and the doc says that the surgical would is healing well. I can fly all the acro I want, and that’s a good thing.

But there’s an upside. I really wanted to get more cameos by airshow performers for the film, but ran out of 2010 airshow season and didn’t expect to be able to get any done in the 2011 airshow season before the editing was complete. The delay associated with the leg problem has meant that post-production now overlaps with the earlier shows of the 2011 airshow season, so I can get some more performer cameos.


I got down to the Valiant Air Command TICO Airshow at Space Coast Regional Airport (KTIX) on Friday as the guest of the Starfighters. Starfighters, Inc. operates the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter in many roles, including flight training, flight test, threat simulation, and photo chase. The company is a substantial player in commercial space activities, in affiliation with NASA and otherwise.

Although the Starfighters haven’t done airshows generally since 2008 or so, they perform for the hometown crowd at Titusville each year.

I took advantage of the opportunity by interviewing Mike “Bloke” Robinson and Rick “Comrade” Svetkoff planeside for Acro Camp. David Allen, who did a lot of work on Acro Camp, and who runs The Pilot’s Flight PodLog and Other People’s Airplanes, helped out massively with the shoot.


I also got some great B-roll of the aircraft and the crew, both to drop into Acro Camp and to use in an upcoming Airspeed episode. The aircraft is really photogenic and makes some amazing noise. For a Cold War aircraft, you’d expect the airplane to be old and creaky. But not so! The airframe, manufactured in 1963, just turned 3,000 hours and the engine has seen only 48 hours or so since LMOH. And we had low-angle natural light pouring into the hangar, which provided a pretty dramatic look to the footage.


In other news, I brought all of the ground footage for the film on a hard drive down south with me. I’ll be here with my folks on Jekyll Island on the coast of Georgia through Monday and I’m hoping to have the time to get the rest of the way through indexing the footage while I’m here so that I can start putting together rough-cut sections. It’s going to go pretty quickly once I get to that point.

I’ve seen some of the rough cut sequences that Will Hawkins has put together for A Pilot’s Story and they’re stellar. He’s way out ahead of me. I need to catch up. We have a wager. Whichever of us releases his movie first gets a shot of Jeremiah Weed. The second-place finisher gets . . two shots of Jeremiah Weed.

Post-Production Update


It’s been a great couple of months, although without a lot of visibility for you guys, so I thought I’d toss up a quick update about how post-production is going.

I’m through cataloging all of the flight footage and about halfway through the ground footage. I’ve been putting up screen shots through TwitPic as I go and I’m including a few of them in this post. Be sure to follow me (@StephenForce) on Twitter for more updates as we go. The photo stream is available at http://twitpic.com/photos/StephenForce. Additionally, I’m post5ing video snippets in my Vimeo account and you can see them at http://vimeo.com/user2085678/videos.


In January, I put together the first trailer for the film and debuted it at the Great Lakes International Aviation Conference. Immediately after that, I settled in to edit the T-38 episode of Airspeed.

The trailer was an obvious priority. The T-38 episode not so much unless you understand that I remain very new to Final Cut Pro and the Mac operating environment. I needed to get the T-38 episode out so that I’d have a showpiece to send out along with proposals to military units in order to set up media flights for the 2011 season of Airspeed. And it worked wonderfully as (relatively) short project on which to try out and develop my FCP chops. I made a few mistakes in the early going of the T-38 ep that would have required a lot of re-work had I made them in the middle of a feature film and I’m glad that I made them in the T-38 ep and not in the movie.


The near-term goal is to finish cataloging the ground footage and then get a rough storyboard of the movie put together. As with any imperfectly-captured story, there are gaps that I need to fill in. I’ve resolved that I want to do as little narration of my own in the film. So, where I need explanation, I’ll probably get Don and Barry together sometime in March to shoot some interviews and commentary. I’ve been making notes of the places where I need some commentary or explanation and I’ll try to feed Don and Barry the circumstances from behind the camera and let them fill in the gaps.

I also need to get the music edited and produced so that I have a good library of stuff to lay under the images. That can wait some still, but I need to get it done.

Then all of the excuses will be out of the way and I can really assemble the movie. The T-38 episode ran about 49 minutes, which I realized at some point is just under half of the running time of Acro Camp. It’s beginning to dawn on me that, once I get all of the logging and planning and prep done, this movie is really going to come together quickly and it’s going to be a lot of fun when it does.

Stay tuned for more updates.

The First Trailer is Out!

The first trailer is ready to go! We’ll be showing this at the new-media/social-media booth at the Great Lakes Aviation Conference in Ypsilanti, Michigan this Saturday 8 January. If you’ll be in the neighborhood, please stop by, say hello, and find out more about the film!

Soundtrack Session with Barry and Don


Barry, Don, and I went into the studio last night to record for the soundtrack. Full blog post over at the Airspeed website.

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.
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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.

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.

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.