Ground School Sequence Rough Ideas

Mucking about with the new Mac Book Pro and Adobe Premiere CS6.  No explosions yet and both Will Hawkins and his tiki god re safe from injury so far.  I thought I’d celebrate with a little bit of a sequence from the film.

This is an initial idea for the ground school sequence, including the parachute packing with Todd Ames.  There will be more of the ground school after this, including the campers trying on the chutes and climbing around the aircraft.

Before anybody gets excited and gets out their Harvey Weinstein scissors and their notes, I know that the sequence is too long and doesn’t move as quickly as it should.  This is as long as this cut of the sequence will be and it’ll get a lot shorter and snappier.  There are also issues with the camera angles and I haven’t cut in the reaction shots or other stuff that needs to go in.  Additionally, Cam B malfunctioned horribly during the first two days of the shoot and that camera had Don’s mic running to it, thus you’re hearing everything through Barry’s mic.  Plus, this is a lo-fi export to make upload and download easier.  Like I said, lots of futzing to do yet.

But you guys have waited rather patiently and I thought that it might be nice to let you look over my shoulder as I start to mess with ideas.  Future uploads will be tighter and snappier and higher-resolution.

In the meantime, be assured that I’m well and truly into it and looking to have much more up soon.

 

Switching Horses Midstream – Stupidity or the Mother of Invention?

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Most people will tell you that it’s insanity to change machines and editing platforms in the middle of a feature film project, right?  But that’s exactly what I just did.  And I think it’s going to make all the difference.

I’ve been editing the film on a Mac Book Pro that I bought in 2009 or 2010.  It was a state-of-the-art machine at the time, with a 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM.  I was running Final Cut Studio 3, which includes Final Cut Pro 7.  But Multi-Cam never actually worked (which is a pain when you have up to four cameras per aircraft) and the spinning beach ball of death (“SBBOD”) or the slowly-crawling render bar spent more time on my screen than is conducive to the creative process.

So I finally decided to drop money I don’t have on a new setup.  And it turns out to have been more than worth it.  The new rig is the current state-of-the-art Mac Book Pro with a 15″ Retina display, additional NVIDIA processing to handle it, 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, 16GB of 1600MHz memory, and 512GB of PCIe-based flash storage.  It screams as fast as any Mac Book available without Frankenstein mods.

Will Hawkins, the jerk that make me think that I could make a movie in the first place (love you, man!), talked me into getting Adobe Premiere CS6 and migrating to it from FCP 7.  He explained that one can export FCP projects as XML files and then import them with Premiere and that the process is pretty straightforward.  It turns out that he was on the mark as far as I can tell.  The lead image for this post shows one of the flight sequences in FCP 7 on the top and the same sequence in Adobe Premiere on the bottom.  It took me 30 seconds to export the XML from FCP and another 60 seconds to import the sequence into Adobe Premiere.  Nice.

The translation isn’t exact.  But it’s not different in any materially adverse way that I’ve discovered yet.  And I can always go out to Cali and beat Will’s head in with one his own heathen tiki gods if I find out later that there’s some massive discontinuity that I’ve missed.

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Perhaps the biggest advantage of Adobe Premiere is that it displays widely differing video files (MOV from the big cameras, M4V from the GoPros, etc.) without any need to render first.  I can even flip the video from the Pitts hand-hold camera 180 degrees and Premiere just displays it that way – no rendering required.  This is especially important when you’re trying to align someone’s lips with the cockpit audio track and you need smooth video to do it and you don’t want to wait 20 minutes to render enough of it to start making intelligent guesses.  (And then render more of it when you guessed wrong.)  Even if there are discontinuities and I have to develop different workflows, the time that I save rendering and the maintenance of creative momentum might save Will.  And his heathen tiki god.

So here’s what’s up going forward.  I’ve already made XML files out of all of the sequences that I think I’m going to need and tried out a few.  Next, I’ll probably put together a few clips to toss out on Facebook and otherwise so people can see that stuff is moving forward.  After that, I’ll import all of the other sequences and begin putting together pieces of the movie.

AC Logs

Concurrently with that last piece, I need to reserve a weekend and take over the board room at the office and spread out all of the film logs and make some decisions about larger sequences, the overall organization of the film, and what’s going to go where.  I can also start writing some of the narration and figure out what connective tissue I’m going to need.

The new hardware and software were a bullet that I didn’t want to have to bite, but I can already see that they’re essential to the way forward.  Being able to play with the sequences will be essential going forward and I have the tools to really move forward with that process.

 

Head-Down and Editing

Steve checks in . . .

The holidays are over.  The tax year is over.  The December deal-rush at the office is over.  Time to go head-down again on the film!

Sequences are beginning to come together.  And I’m reviewing some of the older sequences and realizing that I’m going to need to cut rather savagely to keep the pacing.  During principal photography, every moment looked precious in the viewfinder.  And, frankly, most of them were.  But I’m supposed to be more pro now and really boil down the story to its essence so we get a movie that even non-pilots will like.

It’s kind of interesting, having watched a lot of documentaries over the last couple of years and begun to develop my own sensibilities about pacing and other elements.  I purposely watched a number of documentaries about topics in which I was only tangentially interested to try to get a sense of how someone outside the core audience would feel about the edit.  I watched Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (chess) this weekend and, earlier this year, stuff like Special When Lit (pinball) , Big Rig (truckers), and Indie Game (video game developers).  Game Over was way too slow and discontinuous.  Big Rig didn’t do anything to make me care about the drivers.  Indie Game was great because it was well-paced and I cared about the protagonists, even though I don’t give a hoot about video games.

I need to cut.  But this is the fun part.  And I’m having fun.  It’ll get hard again soon, I’m sure, but I’m actually stitching stuff together that’s really beginning to look like a movie and I can see where it’s going.

*****

Quick update on the Studio 360 thing.  If you listen to the show that aired this past weekend (featuring Culture Shock 1913), the teaser for next week says that the show will feature some of those who have a project to complete in 2013.  The teaser has audio snippets from some of those who called in to talk about their projects.  The last voice?  The one that says “. . . and I’m resolving to get it done in 2013?”  That’s your humble producer/director/editor/bottle-washer!  It’s from the pitch that I made a week or so ago.  No idea whether the show will include anything about Acro Camp.  It seems like the featured folks would be interviewed, the show drops on Friday, and I haven’t received a call.  But who knows?  I really respect the show and it even inspired me to make a run at a MacDowell fellowship.  Any mention – a piece of the recorded pitch, an interview, whatever – would be great.  And no mention at all is also fine.  But it’s perfectly fine to be as pumped as I am to have spent two seconds in the ears of the Studio 360 audience.    Fanboy?  Yeah, I admit it.

 

Acro Camp 2: Days 1 and 2


It’s Day 3 here at at Ray Community Airport, where we’re filming Acro Camp 2. Day 3 is a built-in break day so the crew can catch up with ingesting video, look at the video we’re shot to date, and rest. The campers are also resting and either hanging out at Ray or otherwise amusing themselves. Kevin Copeland is here with the Northwestern Michigan College Super Decathlon and he’s flying with crew members today.
We’ve captured a lot of material. We’re flying a Pitts S-2B (pictured above inverted with Don Weaver and Mary Macdonald), a Citabria, and a Super Decathlon.


David Klein and Barry Sutton flew a long sortie yesterday toward dusk to give David a better idea of how tailwheel operations work. They headed over to Romeo, where the winds were more favorable, and wrung out the aircraft. Afterward, they returned to Ray and mixed it up a little with Don Weaver in the Pitts. Don was out flying smoke for B-roll and David and Barry weaved back and forth through the smoke trail.


David Allen had a great flight in the Super Decathlon. He began with the Citabria in Day 1, and then flew two Pitts sorties early on Day 2. Dave wasn’t very happy with the way he flew and how his tummy was treating him in the Pitts, but he had a lot more success when he went out later in the day to fly some Super D.


Denise Isaacs is a trouper. She wrung herself out both days and we pretty much poured her out of the aircraft and into a bucket when the props stopper turning for the day. But she’s always standing there by the airplane with a parachute on when it’s her turn to fly. And she’s picking up maneuvers pretty quickly now.


Don Weaver filled up the smoke oil tank on the Pitts and took it out solo at twilight. He flew some spectacular acro for the cameras and we’ll be able to use some of that in the film. He also mixed it up with Dave and Barry in the Citabria and both aircraft landed to thunderous applause of cast, crew, and locals.
We’re resting up today and we’ll be ready to rock tomorrow morning for Day 3. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in to Ray Community Airport 57D and see us!

Airspeed Announces Acro Camp 2 Cast

After a long and difficult process (made even harder by the outstanding number and quality of applications), Airspeed has announced the cast for the second installment in the Acro Camp series of documentary feature films.

Mary Macdonald is a web developer from Santa Cruz, California. She is a private pilot with 250 hours. She is also known to some as “Ruby Riptide” of the Harbor Hellcats, a roller derby team in the Santa Cruz Derby Girls league. She is the only camper who has a tailwheel endorsement, but she has never soloed a tailwheel aircraft or flown in a tandem aircraft with a stick. Her influences include airshow performer and aviation entrepreneur Amelia Reid (who taught such luminaries as Sean D. Tucker and Rod Machado).

David Klein is an instrument-rated 400-hour private pilot from Palos Verdes Estates, California who flies his C-182S for business over California, Arizona, and Nevada. He began a career in technology services in 1983 and later started his own enterprises in 1993, which he continues to operate. Aviation runs in Dave’s family. His father was an airline pilot for Western Airlines. Dave himself is passing along the love to his 17-year-old son.

Denise Isaacs received her private certificate in 2009 and has accumulated 120 hours of total time. She lives in Connersville, Indiana, where she is an accounting and personnel manager for a family business. She has had one aerobatic flight in the Grayout Aerosports Pitts S-2C. Her father, who is a pilot, is one of her greatest supporters and mentors.

Cornelius Funk is an 8,000-hour commercial pilot and antique auto dealer from Snohomish County, Washington. Corny has time in such diverse aircraft as the Douglas DC-3, the Convair CV-240, the Lear 25, and the Cessna 310. He has flown cargo and just-in-time logistics for private firms in Central and South America and in Asia at various times, as well as flown charter and air taxi in the northern United States and remote parts of Canada. When not flying, he records and performs using experimental musical instruments that he fashions himself.

These cast members (“campers” if you will) will journey to Ray Community Airport (57D) in late August to fly their very first aerobatics on camera as producer/director Steve Tupper, director of photography Will Hawkins, and others attempt to capture the experience.

Watch for more updates as pre-production continues!

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.