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
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
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
Sadly, the animation will add up to about 2 minutes total in various
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
March 31, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
2011 Aug 22 Final Edits
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.
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
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.
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.