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.

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.

Technical Shakedown Flight with Don

Don and I took the Super D up this afternoon to shake down some of the electronics. First flight for the ContourHD camera outside the cockpit and first use of the new attenuating cable and the new M-Audio MicroTrack II for the digital audio.
We started off by flying some basic acro with me standing in for the camper in the front. Not to dwell, but I sucked as usual for the first time out. 10 minutes of acro and I was done. I even turned the hammerhead into a negative-G humpty-bump before dragging it back into hammerhead territory.
I will say this for myself. Even though it was the first acro flight of the year, I was very relaxed and my attention remained wide and mostly situationally aware. In the balked hammerhead, I didn’t freak out. I think I basically said, “Well, f*ck,” and just relaxed until I could figure out what the airplane wanted to do and then got the nose back down. There’s a big difference between disappointment and freakout. I think I understand the airplane a little better, at least intellectually, and that’s helping to give me a better perspective from which to learn.
I have a very cool ride scheduled with the Air Force later in May (think G-suit fittings and helmets and egress training . . . ) and I have precious little time to get my acro tolerance back before going.
So back to the flight. The camera mount worked like a champ. Here’s one of the better frame grabs. On an inverted 45-degree downline.
It turns out that the ContourHD has no idea what to do with the prop and just artifacts it all to hell. The footage over the nose is well-nigh unusable. It looks like black boomerangs floating down the prop disc. I think we’re going to have to either point the camera straight ahead so it doesn’t see the plane at all or point it directly sideways at the cockpit to give a view of the camper and the IP. I don’t think there’s any setting that we’d be able to use to avoid the artifacts. It’s just not within the camera’s abilities to handle the prop.
Bummer, but not catastrophic. We’ll figure it out.
We put it down in Romeo to switch seats and let Don take the aircraft up solo to really wring out the exterior camera. In reviewing the footage tonight, I’m of the opinion that, if the camera was going to come off at all, it would have come off during Don’s routine. I think we’re good and can be confident with the camera mount.
I have yet to review the audio, but the battery in the M-Audio MultiTrack II was fine and easily covered the whole 1:24 of the flight. I set it to record in WAV mode at 48KHz, as Scott Cannizzaro suggested, so we’ll see how that sounds.