Making of Master PPG 1

The arduous route to a distant goal | Master PPG Page

Order/Information for: Master PPG 1 | Master PPG 2 | Master PPG 3 | Master PPG 4

This is a log of Master Powered Paragliding's production progress, an undertaking of larger proportions than the book, involving dozens of pilots, dozens of sites, hundreds of hours spent on animations and much more. It is the culmination of a passion to share the intricate bits that have been learned by our sports best pilots. By embracing very high production values and animation, it is intended to provide a crystal clear expose on the finer points of making the paraglider do incredible things both with and without power.

The Story of Why Animation

Sometime in 2006 I knew we'd run out of PPG Bibles and wanted to improve graphics in the next edition. One task that took lots of time was showing maneuvers that requiring 3D-style artwork. Mostly turns. So I got the bright idea to use 3D animation software and contacted a fellow who was into it. He showed me some of his work and I decided to go for it.

Wow, there's a lot to learning 3D animation! It was a MAJOR undertaking that would end up being more than I could swallow. I soon realized that the Bibles would be exhausted before my animation skills were ready. Maxon Cinema 4D got put on the back shelf as I concentrated on using my existing 2D tools to finish Edition 2. There just wasn't enough time.

With Edition 2 long completed, motivation struck again. This time it was a pent-up desire to produce a video series detailing the next level of paramotor flying. Who knows why. It wasn't like the book where I had a very definite path. Nope, this just hit me. After watching Phil Russman, the video master, at work for many years, I wanted to try my hand at a higher level effort. This video would be perfect. It's what I wish I had after getting into the sport.

So now, with the scripts written and many of the shots in hand, I'm well on my way. But I've got some very specific scenes that would be best described with animation. My plan was to animate them, and I've done a few, with the Premier's (CS4) built-in capability, there's a lot, LOT more that can be done with a full-up animation Package. Enter Maxon Cinema 4D.

Unlike the book, I have no deadline. Nothing is running out and I'm gonna finish the project when it's good and ready. Plus, I'll eventually put the capability to its originally intended use: print. Originally I hired a very capable fellow to do a paramotor and he did a great job. But I needed to learn the software and wanted something simpler that would render faster in animation. What I ended up with is far more complicated than originally intended but, once I learned the tools, they sucked me right into the wall socket. The prop, for example. You'll see no prop in the animation, only a thrust vector to represent the current thrust. In fact, a lot of the really detailed stuff, like cage lines and fancy metal surfaces, won't be in the animation because it just takes too long to render.

The big thing I've got mostly figured out is animation. That step is time consuming but not as bad as you'd think with a well-rigged model. You can move only one "controller" and the hand moves AND the wing deforms to show trailing edge movement. That's completely unnecessary detail, and may not make it in the animation, but that's what I'm shooting for.

It's been an incredibly intense 4 days learning this thing but, finally, this evening I finished the single biggest challenge. Admittedly, I wasn't planning on doing so much so quick but, once I got going, I just couldn't stop. And there's more to come as I nail down the animating.

Sadly, the animation will add up to about 2 minutes total in various places. But, if I ever do an airspace video, this technology will be the bomb.

Time will tell!

2008-Nov-23 Florida Filming

The production process moves south where we'll be killing two birds...lets rephrase that...where we'll be accomplishing two things at once. I'm going through tandem certification with Eric Dufour and we're getting footage of the process to include in the video series. It won't be much, probably just a few of the 70 minutes but it will be quite useful for instructors seeking to become tandem qualified and maybe interesting to see what's involved. Hey, if a picture is worth a thousand words, think what 30 pictures per second will provide!

A bunch of other shots are planned, if we have time, with Eric Dufour demonstrating certain specific techniques. Most involve using a vehicle, steadicam and Eric flying between zero and 5 feet. Ought to be interesting.

2008-Oct-15 Carnage

Yesterday I was labeling clips from an outing last month and it was kind of fun to relive.

One major part of the project is showing how to handle strong winds, especially for the first video on ground handling. So, on a day with gusts to 23 mph, we took the opportunity. "Tim, grab the camera, lets go get carnage!"

In the Midwest, strong winds mean gusty winds. It's not the relatively steady wind that I recently enjoyed in Galveston or the smooth morning flow over point of the mountain in Salt Lake City. Nope, it's just nasty, especially in the thermal-tormented afternoon. That's when we went out. That's why I expected some carnage. But hey, this is a video about how to handle strong winds so how better to do that than to go out in conditions a bit stronger than the strongest we normally kite in.

Our spot was huge so as to allow being dragged downwind with little risk of injury. The techniques worked great but with winds that strong, there were some interesting moments.

Within a half-minute of getting the wing overhead, I got whacked by a huge gust. Up I went. It felt like 15 feet and a half-minute worth of flying. Of course watching the video showed it was only about 6 feet high and lasted 7 seconds but that was still sporty. Tim took his turn on the wing while I took over the steadicam. Same thing. Gusts, long slides during inflations, getting lifted, dealing with collapses. The footage is actually kind of humorous as we go about getting lifted every minute or so. Tim has become quite accomplished at kiting! We recorded it close, far, from different angles, and all kinds of inflating, kiting and deflating methods.

It was good stuff and kind of fun to get. Amazingly, we managed to stay on our feet the entire session.

Here is more coverage of the production process on the "Enterprise Log"

Dec 28, 2008

The script for all four videos has been completed. Yehaaa!

That's a big deal, especially since it's ahead of schedule. Of course "completed" is a relative term because there is editing, reviewing, and tweakings that will morph it significantly after footage is shot and the general changes that are inevitable. Although the vast majority of the shots are being flown for the video, some are not and script will be adjusted for them.

We were stymied on two recent efforts to get to Phoenix to do some taping. Weather first then full flights. The Enterprise will now stay in Phoenix then go right to the Salton Sea Paratoys fly-in, to the dunes afterwards and then back to Phoenix. There is a group of capable and willing pilots there that have offered to help and so we're planning to get a bunch of the necessary footage there.

The scripts vary from 7000 words to 10,000 words each. That means that the videos will vary from 65 to 75 minutes each with extras (flying, music, outtakes, humorous comments by the pilots, etc) likely adding up to an additional 20 minutes each.

March, 2009 update

Animation is a powerful tool that will help show concepts and techniques. It won't replace real footage, of course, but will make certain descriptions easy to convey super clearly. Don't worry, I've also got tons of incredible live footage, including both the most prolific U.S. and British national champions doing some great demonstrations of many concepts and final outcomes.

Below is a video representing an early render of an animation showing a swoop landing. It requires some tweaking and appearance improvements but you can see the capability. Getting to this point has been a monumental undertaking but it will prove extremely valuable in the long run.

Mostly this is a technology demonstrator. Another animation that's been completed flies the cloverleaf, with numbers on corner sticks growing at the time the pilot should thinking about that stick. It's a great example of using the medium. The viewer will first see the cloverleaf flown as a narrator describes the strategies. It will be first viewed from overhead. Then it will be shown from the pilot's perspective with the animated numbers and center showing what the pilot needs to be thinking of. Nothing moves unless it's relevant. I've seen animations that are needlessly busy and nothing is gained. There are some other little animations going on, as it happens, but they're slow enough that nobody notices them.

More will be done to improve the appearance and accuracy of movements but this is a milestone, of sorts.

The paramotor has been simplified so the thing can render in my lifetime. The fancy machine  and wing (see sidebar), which has all the paraglider lines, a full set of brakes, materials and so forth looks great but, when I went to put it in motion, my computers choked up a hairball. I'll still use them but for print application, which was, after all, the original intent on learning this software.


A technology demonstrator. My first production base animation with no textures applied.

Mar 21, 2009: Animation Heaven

Today was major milestone. Major. More last night than today, really, since I got it working at about 1:30am. No, I've got no real cool graphics to show for it, but the capability is enormous.

With Phil Russman pushing me along, I tackled Maxon's expression tool, XPresso, and figured out how to automate the banking behavior of my paramotor. I cannot enthuse enough over this development because of the time it will save and quality it will impart to my animations.

Before, I would have to manually set "keyframes" at points along the flightpath to tell it what bank angle to be at. The problem was, if I changed the timing in any way, usually because of speed changes, those keyframes would all have to be redone. Ughh.

Now the banking behavior takes care of itself. By putting an invisible "aircraft" just ahead of my paramotor, following the same path, I could use its heading to compare with my PPG's heading. Subtract the difference and use as a bank angle. Simple! The XPresso window at left shows just how few steps it takes. And two of those boxes, labeled "Result," are only there to let me debug it.

I've been mulling over this very idea for a month but the nuts and bolts of XPresso turned me off. Plus, I had gotten a banking formula from someone on a Maxon forum which banked, but not like an aircraft. And it was far more complicated so I figured the task would be above my pay grade. Still I wanted to eventually figure it out because of how much work it could save.

Enter Phil Russman. While going over various aspects of this and other videos, he finally said "lets do it this afternoon." So we brainstormed and pulled it off. Once I figured out XPresso's basic function—how you plug things in and where they went—it wasn't really that hard. I realize there is soooo much more capability but this little bite of success sure tastes sweet!

I'll now cut my development time on new animations by probably a quarter, especially on complicated ones like the cloverleaf since I can tweak speed changes without worrying about banking. I'm not gonna build animations just for the sake of it, but on certain tasks, an animation can make the concepts so clear that there is simply no parallel. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a 3d animation is out of this world.

Thanks Phil, thanks Al (C4DCafe for turning me on to XPresso's possibilities) and to Maxon for making the coolest 3D animation tool on the planet.

Mar 27, 2009: Animation Heaven

I wasn't going to do this but, after figuring out how to automate the banking behavior, it occurred to me that I could automate brake pulling behavior. Yes I know, it's not necessary for the concepts I'm showing, but it sure improves the look! And hey, if I can automate it, why not? There's no more work when building my scenes—I just draw the flight paths, set the speeds and paraman's banking and braking behavior is completely automajic.

This process of enabling your character, the PPG in my case, to animate is called rigging. I've learned an enormous amount about rigging, but still probably only 1% of what I'd need to know for real character animation like they do in movies. It's plenty for for my purpose. After all, my guy won't talk or walk, he's not even gonna blink his eye at you, but he will move brake toggles connected to the trailing edge which will deform accordingly.

1) Figuring out how to best rig everything using just the left wing. Then, when I was happy with the results, I mirrored it to the other side and clicked on "make whole." OK, there's no such button but the rest was relatively easy after I got it working on the left side. 2) After a couple false starts, where both arms reached for the stars, I got it all working as this shows. He's starting a left bank. You can see the his left hand, brake line and trailing edge go down while the right goes up a bit. It's all automated. I just place the PPG object on a flight path spline and say "go." Now I merely have to draw the spline and play with the speed curves. You absolutely cannot imagine how much work has gone on to get to this point!

Another automation I added was leg movement. Again, completely unnecessary but cool. When the pilot gets above a certain height, he goes into the seated position. All automatically. No more more work on my part, it just happens as I fly him around.

Don't expect Pixar here, but it will show EXACTLY the concept I want to teach which has to do with precisely controlling a powered paraglider in ways to make it do what you want, when you want it. Even with an increased roll of animation, it will still amount to no more than about 10 total minutes in 5 hours of primary video (and there will be extras on each disc).

This process is mesmerizing—enabling me to control scenes completely in a way I never dreamed possible. Certain concepts will be crystal clear. Nearly all animation will come in video 3 (inflight precision) and 4 (landing).

An important concept I well understand is not to add anything to the scene if it doesn't further the story. That means that basically, if it moves, it better have a reason. Little bits like the brake movements and leg retraction are natural behaviors that won't detract. In fact, you'll barely see them from most camera angles because I spend well under half the time close up on the pilot and even those will be point-of-view shots where movements will only show the head and hands.

The worst aspect of this process is that it has added probably 300 hours to the total production time. That means that, instead of late 2009, I'm into early 2010 before video 1 (Advanced Ground Handling) is completed. But the final product will be much, much better as a result of all this work.

March 31, 2009

It has gotten out of control but not as bad as it looks. The road and car were necessary for scenes showing energy management. I'll be showing the car going up and down a hill to show the trade in altitude for speed. That will be related to a flyer's change of states, trading altitude and speed, with and without power as values display on screen. But after crafting the scene I couldn't resist putting Eric Dufour on top of the motorhome. Just for fun.

The oval and flight path is from another scene that will show many aspects of precision spot landings. It will clearly show the concepts involved before showing real pilots putting the concepts to use. I've recorded hundreds of actual spot landings from various angles, including the pilots, but there is only so much script. I don't want it to drag. You may want to watch a section again, but I'm trying hard to avoid putting shots in just because they may look cool. An important concept is that, if it doesn't advance the story/concept, drop it.

I've created a complete environment, "Nylon Island," that includes a bridge to another little Island. When I do the energy management stuff, paraguy will fly along the road which is next to a beach. It's all quite engrossing. It even has a piece of Australia. The road surface came from an overhead picture of the coastal highway at Aries Inlet. It's been adjusted to look good when tiled.

I've also figured out how to paint the wing using the more advanced "BodyPaint" tools. It looks WAY better. That better understanding prompted me to revisit the fancy paramotor (pictured above in right column) which I've now improved both the geometry and the textures on. It will be used for the final render. Oh boy. When I mated it to the wing and guy moving his arms and legs, it did take a long time to render a few seconds. Such is the price I'll pay!

For now I'm doing all the animation work with simple primitives so that I can get the motion right then I'll drop in paraguy. It will take my desktop computer probably a week's total time to render everything when it's finally finished.

OK, back to work now.

April 5, 2009

While reading the script for video 2 an idea popped up. It required a close in camera view of the risers zooming out and turning slowly with things happening as it goes. Simple things, mind you, but there would be no way to get the effect using live action in any way that I'm capable of doing.

Enter animation. Again.

The scene lasts 7 seconds. And if you want to really see the detail of it, you'll have to hit the pause button. But it will look cool!

Of course this is all extremely time consuming because I'm having to create a full, accurate set of risers complete with trimmers and speedbar. The pulleys, clasps, twisting lines, etc., all have to be modeled and textured. Let alone the fact that I'm still learning the software somewhat as I go although my tutorial-to-work ratio now balances heavily to work. This is an incredible program and the more I learn, it seems, the more capability I discover.

Water, for example, is much improved as is the sky. My original version looked terrible. These latest implementations are much, much better. Not that such things are critical for training but it just looks better and makes for a more refined product. The animated flight scenes all take place on an island I've created, complete with a road and bridge for the energy management scenes. See the sidebar pictures and notes.

Hopefully I'll get my first complete production animation done in the next two nights. You'll love the risers!

May 23, 2009

Boy have these animations come a long way. Several production-ready pieces are done and I've moved to the next phase which is actual editing. First is the "4-minute promo" which will let me tweak workflow, improving methods that will grease the process of doing 4 separate 70 minute videos.

But animation is tantalizing. And every now and then, something comes up that I hadn't planned on animating but cries to be done. The airport scene is a good example.

Video four (Landing Mastery) has a brief piece about flying at airports, including their patterns. That was originally going to be done with 2D graphics and Photoshop using pans and simple 2D animation. Not any more.

I couldn't help myself and created an entire control-tower airport which I placed on the Island. Aurora airport, KARR, is also where I plan to shoot some live scenes of launching and landing from both from its control tower and pilot perspective. But those will go in "Airspace For Ultralights," a video that I hope to do after Master PPG. But why not have a piece of it here? So it will be. The scene included is from that airport and the control tower is closely based on the tower at Aurora, an airport that I've landed my PPG at twice now.

Part of the animation allure stems from a practical issue--all video editing is done from an external drive. When I'm traveling I can't have that plugged in or it kills the battery too quickly. The script is done so what can I do? You guessed it, animate. Given how powerful a tool it is, the time will be very well spent.

One of the production animations that has been completed explains the effects of wind as it relates to ground reference turns. Phil Russman will have a detailed piece on his Beginner Series but I have a brief, yet effective, treatment of it for purpose of helping pilots fly low-level ground reference maneuvers like the cloverleaf and others.

OK, enough fun—back to work.

Aug 30, 2009

Having complete access to a full-reflex glider has allowed us to capture some of the specifics to show differences. There's not that much, really, but we've got enough footage to properly support the script. Filming was done with a Dudek Plasma wing. Differences in inflation, wingtip steering, and kiting.

Recording of the script should start within the next month. Projects will be completed in order so the first video, on kiting, will be completed before beginning the next three.

Nov 17, 2009

An enormous amount has been completed including animation and narration recording which is nearly complete for video 1 and will hopefully be completed by early 2010. One of the most significant accomplishments is getting many of the requisite animations done and the basic parts of others built. That has been an enormous undertaking, as time consuming as actual shooting.

I am working with Phil Russman as an adviser and his input will make the product much better. In fact, it already has. Plus, Phil is producing a new video series for learning powered paragliding that will be an enormous asset both for new pilots and instructors. It will cover everything from first sight through being competent to fly independently, including animation to explain difficult concepts. It will be an invaluable asset to anybody, especially those just starting in the sport.

Jan 14, 2010

A week ago the editor crashed. What's worse is how it crashed, seemingly taking some of my work with it. Alas, the information is still there but these things do slow you down. This editor (Adobe CS4) is a high-end program that doesn't like being run on a low-end platform. A new computer was planned for this project but I put it off as long as I could, knowing that they only get better, faster and cheaper. The time has come--a new fire-breathing laptop is on the way.

In the meantime I've been working feverishly on the many animations that are coming along VERY nicely. 80% of the animations, about 3 minutes worth, have been completed for video 1, (Advanced Ground Handling) and I'm now working on those required in video 2 (Advanced Launching). About two of 6 minutes have been completed, including a new Trike that, in spite of it's several hours of creation time, only appears on screen for about 12 seconds. Oh well.

The script for video 1 has been recorded, processed, and placed on the timeline. I now know the running time: it will be a bit over an hour and 25 minutes. That is a surprisingly arduous task requiring many repeats. Music beds will be added after all the video has been laid because there will likely be changes along the way. Always are there changes. Something that I didn't include and just after getting all the video laid decide needs to be included. Such is the process.

The script for video 2 is being recorded right now and should be done by the weekend.

New green-screen material has been delivered and a better looking fully-functional simulator has been setup so I can show the finer points of riser setup, including reflex wings, without distraction. The whole point of using green screen is to minimize distraction while showing details. It allows replacing background with a neutral scene so the viewer's eye goes only to the subject at hand.

Feb 13, 2010

Read the previous entry (Jan 14) to appreciate the next paragraph.

A week ago the editor crashed. But this time it was the human, not the computer program. Yup, the software (yours truly) took on a camper while doing a kiting demo near Yuma, Arizona.  The only upside is more time for a few weeks to focus on editing.

A new, much more powerful computer has been added expressly for editing and animation, and progress is being made nicely. As I write this, a resource-intense animation is rendering. It will take it a third of the time as my previous machine and, overall, everything runs much, much better. I was pushing my previous machine way too hard and it puked--sometimes you just gotta spend the money.

A few scenes are making me laugh and I love it when things come together. Man does that feel good. Now it's just a matter of plowing through the timeline one chapter at a time. There are 11 chapters on disk one and not very many animations, most of which are already done. These are extremely simple and brief. The beginning of each video starts with a review of concepts that a few experienced pilots may need brushing up on -- pitch, roll, yaw axis, aspect ratio, chord, flat and projected wing size and wing loading. Yes, they are basic concepts but, since they're used in other descriptions I wanted to make sure there was full understanding.

It's fun making the animations and now I've gotten reasonably fast. Some of them are actually made for a beginner series planned by Phil Russman. This video just touches on them but his series will spend the requisite time on concepts for new pilots just entering the sport. These advanced series expects the pilot to know the basics of kiting, building a wall, inflation types, etc, so I don't describe those in any detail.

OK, enough of this...back to work.

Feb 26, 2010

It just never ends. Today saw many hours poured into creating an animation that will be used in video 3 for a portion on the cloverleaf. Mind you, competition is a very small part of these videos, but the cloverleaf is our premiere task and warrants appropriately coverage. Sometimes you build something, run it, and it just doesn't work as in it just doesn't look right. That's what happened today. Fortunately, I was able to get it looking good and will test it on some unsuspecting victims. The results of the test are either "ahhhh, I seeeee" or "hmmm, what was blah, blah, blah?" in which case I go back to work.

Just the process of recording audio takes longer than you'd think. If there's the least little mistake, you restart the paragraph or sentence and keep going. Then afterwards, it gets sliced and diced so all the good parts remain, then any noise gets removed, then it gets compressed to control levels.  That audio is imported into the animator where everything is timed to coincide with the narration. Rewarding when it comes together, but extremely time consuming. Thankfully, there's only about 12 to 20 minutes of animation total planned for videos three and four, less for two and even less for one.

I've also been studying for my real job for which I'm going to training tomorrow. We're getting a significant upgrade to our flight displays and navigation over the next few months and there's a lot to know. Plus I've got my regularly scheduled sim ride so I've been into the books (mostly the PDF's, actually), boning up on stuff.

My rib recovery is nearly complete given that today I was doing pushups and even survived a sneeze. Life is good!

June 3, 2010

Finally, significant progress is being made on final output. I'm on the timeline and getting it all together. As of today, 28 of 93 minutes are completed.

That's huge!

Up until last month there was zero completed minutes. I was writing, shooting, narrating, and building animations. Now it's coming together which is soooo much more enjoyable.

Just this morning I put finishing touches on chapter 12--a chapter that, I must confess, wasn't even in the original script. But it was ooooh soooo much fun! In 3 minutes it shows how to do paraglider kite skating. NOBODY, of course, is ever going to actually do such a thing but it does show techniques, in mildly humorous fashion, that are covered in the video's meat and potatoes chapter 10. Like other chapters, I use slow motion and graphics to show clearly what is being done and why so it still has instructional value. Seeing this stuff in action is so much better than reading it in a book. This short chapter could be scrapped if screenings suggest but, judging from reactions so far, I doubt it.

Chapter 9 is about 10 minutes and Chapter 10, yet to be started, is the main course at 30 minutes. Hopefully it will go a bit faster as I continue to improve my efficiency with the tools. Maybe I'll finally realize one of my goals--to be finished with video 1 by summer. The ticking of summer's short clock is banging loudly in my head.

I finally bought the new computer necessary to make my editor (Adobe Premiere CS4) happy. It's a fire-breathing Dell with 1920 pixels of display and reasonably fast-for-a-notebook speed so I can work on the road. My former computer was not up to the task and, after losing work to an editor crash, I had no stomach for trying to coax more life from it.

There's more about other taping we've done here on an "Enterprise Log."

Aug 8, 2010

This is a big moment: Chapter 10 is now cut together. Some finishing touches remain and a few "black holes" await filling, but that will take only an hour or so after the scenes are shot. Base titling and scoring will be another couple hours but this is a milestone.

Chapter 10 is the meat and potatoes of video 1, "Advanced Ground Handling." It's where we show numerous techniques for handling multiple tasks on different wings and conditions--it's where all the cool stuff happens. It's also, by far, the longest chapter of the video at 49 minutes. The other chapters vary from 3 to 8 minutes each for a total running time of about 95 minutes. Chapters 1 through 9 and 12 are completely done including all titling and scoring.

I've been begging off of numerous flying trips and web updates while working on this thing and that will, no doubt continue. Plus, work on edition 3 of the book must start soon so it's important to be done with this video before running out of books. Having two major projects in process at the same time would NOT be fun!

Aug 14, 2010

Today was the first day that all 15 chapters have been placed on a timeline. THAT IS ENORMOUS!!!

Running time is longer than I hoped and few clips are longer than 10 seconds. There are tons of graphics, other pilots, cool scenes from all over the world and a lot of material on ground handling paragliders. Scoring remains as does a very view scenes, less than 40 seconds worth, have yet to be shot. I hope to get those in the next week, possibly out in San Diego.

Total time is 1:42 One hour and 42 minutes. I'll be reviewing the whole thing with others in order what, if any changes or cuts are called for. There's still some nitnoid steps to final production, but the light at tunne's end isn't sounding a horn.

Sept 9, 2010

It's been an intense few weeks. As I neared completion the desire to keep going shot up, causing the hours to blend together in a sleep-forgetting fury of work. There have been numerous nights where nabbing 4 hours was a struggle.

In late August I went out to Point of the Mountain to spend some time with Bill Heaner, first to review the video for suggestions and then to shoot anything that we could do improve it. Boy did we improve it. Bill did his parabatics climbing and general playing around, showing off incredible finesse with deft handling of difficult kiting. He is the pole-climbing king! Plus, we were able to shoot a bunch of scenes that improved on what I had already done.

The next day it was off to San Diego where my video mentor, Phil Russman shared more suggestions. Good ones. Hard ones. "Cut" he said. Let me tell you, after putting hours into each scene it's tough to do but, of course, he was right and cut I did. 4 minutes bit the dust although a very-valuable 2 minutes was added. Same thing with Phil, also an excellent kiter and flyer--we went out to Torrey Pines and shot some really cool scenes including one where I wanted to show a pilot getting lifted then letting go of a riser and why it's important to do so. Don't you know, Phil wound up getting lifted so high he decided to NOT let go and got in the same exact situation that I was warning against. He walked away from what happened but it could have been nasty. And of course I kept recording the whole thing. You'll see it.

Finally, once the changes were made, incorporating the new shots and suggestions, it was time to make master discs. The DVD was done in predictably short order but I didn't yet have the Blu-Ray burner. It arrived on Sept 7 and, after agonizing for many hours with a number of glitches and other problems, I got it working perfect.

On Sept 9 at 12 noon or so, I slipped the priority envelope into a USPS slot and drove off. I've said many times this project feels like I'm birthing a baby, well, the delivery is complete, trunk and all.

The photo just above is yours truly, enthusing on the phone with John Black about having it ready to send off. He suggested snapping a picture of the moment. I know, kind of silly, but it's a really cool moment.


Jan 24, 2011

Master Powered Paragliding 2: Advanced Launching Begins.

Master PPG 1 is now selling. Finally, money is going the other way, and way more than I expected. For the last few years I've just spent, spent, spent--pouring time and money into these projects without any return. Of course that's typical and I do enjoy the process for the most part. But anything like this involves necessary tedium. Sometimes the graphics require frame-by-frame adjustments, or animations don't work, or I want to make it do something I don't know how to do. Blah, blah, blah.

Video 1's success is helping make it worth all the blood (there has been some), sweat and years. So now I'm diving into videos 2 through 4. Here's where they stand.

The narration is done for all remaining vids--that's a big deal. Of course there will be changes, but getting the narration recorded is like getting the building framed. Everything else is built on it.

I'm now on the timeline for video 2. That's means I'm cutting it together, adding appropriate video and graphics to support what's being explained. It's time consuming because of all the footage I have. As efficient as going out to shoot specific scripts may be, that's not how it always works. I go to Australia, for example, and shoot whatever's there. I got some great stuff and it's labeled as accurately as I can but still there are a lot of shots that you just have to back and look at. Partly it's because I want the footage to be visually compelling, not just telling. So if I'm describing the difference between low and high hook-ins, I find a cool looking shot where the pilot is skiing along the water, stop the action, and put graphics on top of that. It's more fun for me, it's more enjoyable for the viewer.

Plus, I enjoy doing some stuff just because it adds to the excitement. Like having the pilot/paramotor swish up close off the scene before adding the graphics. Put a little swish sound in for good measure. Things like that add panache. Use them sparingly, quickly and without emphasis. A viewer should never notice an effect. Subtle but fun. That's part of what makes doing a project off this size fun, though--making that happen.

I've learned from video 1, too. People commented that it's too fast paced. And I can see that--my goal was to include a lot of material without wasting the viewers time. I'll stick with that goal but give the viewer a half-second to pause every now and then. I've made some minor changes in the titling graphics, too, that will make it a little easier to read.

3 minutes are done on video 2 and I'm now at a stopping point where the next 3 minutes are animation. The basis of those animations are done but I've got to put them together. I'll import the narration into my animator then build it exactly to match. Very time consuming but very instructional. You probably already understand these concepts but the animation will bring them to crystal clarity. I'm off to my real job, flying 737's this afternoon, but tommorrow in Tuscon I'll be an animating fool.

Lastly, I'll be shooting some needed scenes over my 10 day Odyssey from Phoenix to the Salton Sea, hanging with the Australian clan and getting high-level pilots to do cool things. Ought to be fun. I'm finally making it to Mo's fly-in for the first time. I flew the Bonanza out there once (with Mo and Tim along) but have never paramotored from there. It's a nice runway for the airplane--I can't wait to try it on the paramotor.

Master Powered Paragliding 2 nears completion

Last night I dropped the last clip into the last piece of instructional timeline. There are a mere 3 scenes that must be shot but this means that the instructional portion is essentially done.

The remaining scenes relate to Chapter 7, Tandem operation in high winds and I hope to get those recorded with Mo Sheldon this Sunday. If only Phoenix will cook up some highish winds; or at least enough wind to show the technique. Tandem is a tiny part of the video that most pilots will obviously want to skip over but, for those aspiring to teach, it would be a helpful adjunct to their Tandem Instructor clinic.

The closing and ending credits need to be done but that should go pretty quickly -- it's all the diagramming, finding the right shots, temporal shenanigans, animations and graphics that take so long.

Scoring will take probably a week.

I think I can now say that it should be shipping by October, almost exactly one year since the completion of video 1. Hopefully Video 3: Inflight Precision won't take as long, especially since some of its animations are already done. Same with Video 4: Landing, which will have a fair amount of animations, some of which are already been built, and it's only 64 minutes long.. It took almost three years to do video 1, One year for video 2 and hopefully will take only about 8 months to do video 3 and 6 months for video 4.

2011 Aug 22 Final Edits Complete

As of last night the final edits are done including the credits. That's huge. Tonight (Monday) I'll get the encoding going and should finish that up Tuesday afternoon and overnight. On Wednesday, Tim Kaiser and I will screen it with corrections to follow. On Thursday I'll head out to San Diego where Phil Russman is going to go through it. The following 3-day work trip I'll make corrections and then do one more screening. Then it's on to authoring the DVD, making a final working copy and sending that off for replication and printing.

Although I have all the shots, there are couple that I'd love to get. Sadly, the weather didn't cooperate to get the tandem shots I wanted in Phoenix but I did get them in Chicago. One more shot I might try to get, mostly for fun, is with Lance Marczak on his TrikeBuggy Blackhawk.

I think it's safe to say that, barring catastrophe's (like a computer crash), that I'll be shipping by October.

Exciting times!


1531 Thursday, Mansfield, OH. I just laid down the last piece of music on an otherwise completed project. Screaming complete, I now move on to authoring the DVD.


Should be out for production by next Wednesday if everything goes right and ready for shipment by the second week of October depending on production schedule. While I've obviously never had a baby, this is how I envision it feeling emotionally.

Sent Out For Production

This is an amazing feeling. The baby has been delivered and I'm in recovery. That is, Master PPG has been sent off to the production company that will turn the disc and artwork into Hollywood style shrink-wrapped, slimline cases. If everything goes right, I'll have these gues ready for sale starting the 2nd week in October. The moment that I get the shipment and test a sample, I'll start taking and shipping orders.


In Transit

Skid marks. That's what I'm looking forward to seeing on Tuesday when the full shipment of DVD's is now scheduled to arrive. Providing the truck doesn't crash, the DVD's are watchable and the creek don't rise, there will be one full skid of Master PPG 2's here and I will start taking orders. Thanks for your interest! Sorry I didn't want to take pre-orders but it helps keep Jeff in a less-stress state.

Also, I did a trailer for Paramotor Magazine to show at Coupe Icare in France and now share it here.




1. I've figured out how to paint the motorhome. Plus terrain has been improved without slowing down the rendering too much.

2. A screen shot showing the culmination of 5  ten-hour days sequestered behind the computer learning 3-D software. Everything in the scene was created using various "primitives" and molding them using a bunch of strange-sounding tools.

3. The next day some improvements were made. Subtle, to be sure, but still noticeable. Too bad this thing turned out to be too much to render.


This is what I originally created to use in the final output. Then I went to animate it. Each frame took 45 seconds with all the materials turned on. At 30 frames per second, that's untenable. Part of the reason is my photo-realistic background which is based on Salt Lake City. Point of the mountain is behind the pilot. I figured out how to use Digital Elevation Maps to create terrain then overlaid satellite images. All cool, but quite unnecessary, too.

What will probably make the final cut is what's shown in the frame with the Enterprise in it.









April 5, 2009 Update

1. This wing and man, complete with full-detail risers, will be used for some closeup shots and, when I finally get around to it, print media.

2. Welcome to the island. Video three, Inflight Precision, has a brief description of energy management and how it relates to the movement of a car traversing hills. Ergo the need for a hill. And why not a bridge?

Projecting it over the landscape would have been easier but not nearly as cool! Same with the tunnel. I could have just curved the road around behind the mountains and out of view, but no, couldn't resist doing the tunnel.

Lastly, check out the water and sky. They're dramatically improved from earlier versions. The water was so bad I never put it on the log.

Lets not talk about render times. At this point, with my computer, and the stuff I've got planned, it will take weeks to render the 10 total minutes of planned animation. I have learned about optimizing polygons but need to learn more!


May 23 Update

Flyer Phil buzzes the control tower at my animations airport. It's runways and tower are modeled after the Chicagoland KARR airport at Aurora, IL.

There's a small piece of video 4, Advanced Landings, that talks about flying at airports.

© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!