First Acro Camp Trailer is in Final Form

The first trailer for Acro Camp is pretty much final! I’m going to start showing it to the aviating public tomorrow at the Great Lakes International Aviation Conference at Easter Michigan University’s student center in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
And this version will likely go out as an Airspeed episode of its own Sunday or Monday.
Can’t wait to see this movie! (Now all I have to do is finish making it!)

Production Update: Return from ICAS, T-38A, Acro Camp Soundtrack, and More

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Okay, I think my head is back from Vegas and ICAS 2010. Great convention, lots of contacts made, and lots of friends revisited.

And lots on the hot plate for the next few weeks. Don, Barry, and I go into the studio on Friday to record parts of the Acro Camp movie soundtrack. I have all of the basic tracks down, but the real magic won’t happen until we’re all together with the instruments set up and the click track begins.

And I’m close to finishing the episode covering the T-38A flight with the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB. With that one, it’s an embarrassment of riches because of all of the great audio and video we captured. It’s no longer an issues of having a long episode. It’s an issue of how to make it shorter and more concise.

Rod Rakic and I will also likely record Part II of the Zero-to-Hero series, covering his intensive instrument and commercial training and me covering my multi-engine rating and DC-3 type school.

And there’s B-17 footage, Huey footage, and other great eye candy still in the can that I need to edit and get out into the feed.

I cant say enough things about this audience. Truth be told, I’d do this for my own benefit even if none of you tuned in. But knowing that there are thousands of you out there who really understand this stuff and care about it makes it that much more exciting. I’ll be channeling you guys in the studio on Friday and gain over the editing desk with the T-38A episode.

Airspeed alive, fuel, oil, rotate, climb, best glide . . . Smoke on!

ICAS 2010: Barnstorming Live

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ICAS is having its first film festival. This evening, producer/writer/director Bryan Reichardt, producer/writer Paul Glenshaw, and musician Suzanne Brindamour presented the film Barnstorming in a new road-ready iteration called “Barnstorming Live.”

To crib shamelessly from the film’s website, Andrew King and Frank Pavliga “steered their planes toward a dark green plot of alfalfa on a dairy farm and landed to take some pictures, just for the fun of it. Matt Dirksen, the farmer, thought he had just seen two planes crash in his field, and went over to investigate. Andrew and Frank quickly made up a story about engine trouble. Almost immediately, they heard the approaching shouts of excitement from two young boys, and a slightly suspicious Matt himself. The past was suddenly reborn. In the old tradition, the pilots treated the boys to their first flights. Matt and his wife invited the pilots to come back someday for a home-cooked meal. The pilots returned the next year bringing a few friends with their own airplanes, and a new tradition was born.”

The film tells the story of the gathering in the context of the ninth such gathering at the Dirksens’ farm. With lots of aerial footage and an emphasis on letting the people come alive in their own words, the film captures the magic of what can happen when general aviation meets the non-aviating public.

Bryan and Paul introduced the film, Suzanne performed part of the music live, and all three did the Q&A afterward.

The film was shot over the course of four days split between two years of the event. Fortunately, the weather was nearly identical each year and, if there are continuity problems, I didn’t see them and they don’t interrupt the story.

With a film of my own allegedly in the can and much editing to do before it’s ready to go, I did more than my share of interrogating Paul and Bryan, both on the floor of the ICAS exhibit hall and at the showing. Paul in particular has been wonderfully forthcoming with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There’s a growing network of aviation filmmakers. Much like the podsphere, these people freely share and help each other out. As Paul is quick to point out, the audience for these films will buy any decent film that comes out. The primary market is a focused and rabid group of the aviation faithful and it would be nearly impossible to saturate that market. There’s room for everyone and more than enough stories to tell.

I’ll be heading home with plenty of motivation to get Acro Camp edited. Don, Barry, and I go into the studio on Friday 17 December to record some of the music. I have everything I need to at least put together the trailer, so I think that’ll be out soon. And I’m sorely tempted to call in sick for most of January to really lower myself into the well. But that’s the kind of thing that makes one extraordinarily lucky, isn’t it? To have a big, honking, wonderful project to work on and people who want to see it when it’s done.

We already know that pilots are extraordinary people. I guess it follows that aviation filmmakers would be more of the same. It’s sure true of these folks.

Acro Grass: Crowdsourcing a Piece of the Acro Camp Soundtrack

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Hi, guys. Lots going on. I’m editing material from a balloon flight, a T-38 sortie, an episode on how to hurl in an airplane, and lots of other stuff. Lots more aviation content coming your way soon. But lets take a quick detour to talk about the movie.

Unless you’ve just subscribed, you know that the movie, Acro Camp, is in post-production. We’re all awestruck by aerobatic flight. We wonder what it’d be like to fly upside down for the cheering kids.

At some point, you quit wondering, climb over the fence, and go find out. Four pilots. Two men and two women. Experience ranging from 300 hours to 12,000 hours. None of them had a tailwheel rating and none of them had flown any appreciable aerobatics. We took over a Part 61 flight school for five days this spring and those pilots flew aerobatics for the very first time. We loaded up the airplanes with HD cameras and digital audio systems and had cameras roving around the ramp and the pilot lounge to capture the entire experience. And now it’s coming to a DVD player, film festival, or side of a barn near you.

Acro Camp. Go find out.

Principal photography wrapped in May and I have something like four terabytes of content to make into a feature film. It’s Labor Day weekend 2010 as I’m recording this. If you’ve been following the Acro Camp blog at or following me on Twitter as StephenForce, you know that I’ve been engaged in a film editing orgy of stupendous proportions, wading through all of the video and audio that we shot in May. There’s amazing stuff in there, from first tailwheel flights to botched maneuvers (witness the “Immel-Spin”) to formation sorties and everything in between.

I also did one other thing this evening in the studio and I think you’re going to like the concept. Maybe even enough to participate.

The aviation podsphere is one of the most open, inviting, and collaborative places in cyberspace or any other space. Everybody who can make it sits down together twice a year to record a live episode together. Even the Aussies bend over backward to be there, even if only virtually. We often appear on each other’s shows. We get input from audience members and fans and fellow aviation enthusiasts. Sometimes, we even turn the mic over to them. Were it not for Airspeed, I wouldn’t know half of the people that I now call my best friends.

When I announced that I was going to make a movie, I had two instructors, two airplanes, and a vision. I hung my credibility out there and asked you guys to join in. Then I sat back and sweat blood until I got at least four applicants.

I needn’t have worried. I got 51 applications from all over the United States and Canada and an utter embarrassment of riches in trying to narrow down the cast to Jim, Lynda, Michelle, and Paul. People volunteered and came from California, Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Michigan to handle cameras, swap cards, and cover the experience. People flew and drove from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and other places just to hang out.

The film has been a collaborative and social enterprise from the very beginning. So I though I might try getting even more involvement from those of you whose imagination this project has captured.

How’d you like to help out with the soundtrack? Yep. That’s right. I’m going to crowdsource at least one of the grooves on the soundtrack. Here’s how it’s going to work.

As many of you know, I usually write and record groove-based music for my audio and video episodes. Same thing for the movie. Repetitive, groove-based music that sets a mood and is engaging, but rides under the action and augments it without overpowering it.

I came up with a basic theme on my Martin Backpacker guitar about six months ago and it’ll be one of the themes that I use for stuff that happens on the ground. (By the way, I’m planning to have all of the music on the ground be in 4/4 and all of the music for the aerial sequences be in 3/4 or 6/8. Thus, this is in 4/4.) I’m including a bit of the theme here in this episode so that you can listen to it. It’s just a basic illustration of the theme and it’s very imperfect. It’s not the final version and I’m almost certainly going to re-record it for the soundtrack.

It’s called Acro Grass for the moment, mainly because it has a bluegrass feel and the Martin Backpacker guitar sounds very banjo-like when I play it. It’s in the key of D major and the tempo is 116 bpm. I recorded it with the Backpacker with a DADGAD open tuning like I used in Theme from Milliways (which you heard in the First Solo episode in 2006) and The Lake Parker Arrival (which you heard in April of 2008). Both pieces have made appearances in trailers to A Pilot’s Story as well.

I’m including the theme at the end of this episode so you can hear it. If you hear something about at theme that speaks to you and you’d like to contribute, here’s what you do.

Download one of the extended versions from the show notes for this episode at I’ve posted two of them: One with a click track and one without. Each runs a little almost 12 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of time to sit and jam to it and come up with your own additions.

When you’ve come up with your contribution, record it and then send it to me in electronic form. All I need in the early going is an e-mail to with an MP3 or a link to where I can download your file and listen to it.

If I like it and want to incorporate it – or think I might – I’ll likely get in touch with you and get a permission from you to use it. Basically, you’ll represent and warrant that it’s your original work, you’ll agree to indemnify everybody associated with the project against third-party infringement claims, and you’ll grant a non-exclusive license to use your contribution in the movie, in the soundtrack CD, and otherwise. I’ll mention you in the credits and you’ll get to brag that your stuff made it into a movie.

And, if I can pull it off, I’d love to do something like put a picture of you up when your part is featured while the music plays during the credits, along with a notation of the instrument you play and what you fly. That would reveal some of the people who made the music to which the audience has been listening throughout the film.

In any case, I’m not in a position to pay for your contribution. That’s kind of why I’m calling it a contribution. I’m already about $10,000 into the project, not counting the hundreds of hours thus far. In the exceedingly unlikely event that the movie actually recoups its production costs and I can start paying people for their stuff, I might tickle your mailbox with a little something. But no promises. Don’t count on anything.

Some other notes of importance. What I’m looking for are short sequences and snippets that I can loop or otherwise incorporate into long and varied amalgams of the general tune appropriate to dropping into the film at strategic points. I’m not looking for a complete 11-minute opus that runs alongside, or incorporates, the track that I’ve provided. Don’t make a career out of it. Just bits and pieces that I can remix and assemble. Musical Lego blocks.

You don’t need to go into a fancy studio and you don’t need top be running Pro Tools to make this happen. Any reasonably good recording that’s on pitch and in time will be fine. Even if all you do is listen to the guide track in your headphones, play along while recording, and then send me the good parts, that’ll be fine. I’ll take it from there.

By the way, I got the idea from the Playing for Change videos. If you haven’t seen them, please hit YouTube and watch a few. And contribute money to Playing for Change for the work that it does. My favorite is Stand By Me. It starts with street musician Roger Ridley in Santa Monica, California and then dissolves to Grandpa Elliott and Washboard Chaz in New Orleans and then to other musicians around the world. None of them had met in person at the time, but the guys who made the videos put the parts together in post to make a cogent and beautiful presentation of the music. I want this tune to come together along those lines.

And note that each of them just listened to the guide track in their headphones and played. Use Pro Tools if you have it, but the musicians from Playing for Change did just fine without it. You can, too.

There’s no guarantee that your music will be used at all. And, if it does, I might twist and repurpose it in strange and beautiful ways, whether by adding effects, pitch-shifting it, increasing or decreasing the tempo, cutting it, augmenting it, and what have you. As with the Acro Camp campers and IPs, you’re going to have to trust me.

When you submit your stuff, do it in an electronic file. WAV is preferred. High-resolution MP3s will do in a pinch. Make it high and dry with no reverb or other effects. If there are multiple instruments, separate them one per file. Don’t send a mix unless it’s to illustrate a particular thought about placement or some other element and you’re sending the separate instrumental track as well.

The following things strike me as potentially interesting to include. (Not essential, but they’re what I’m hearing in my head when Jeb Burnside isn’t in there.) Wordless female voice, something like Enya or Cirque du Soleil. Strings like violin, viola, cello, or bass. Flute or whistle. And banjo. And, if you can make it work, trombone. Kent, this means you have to play in four sharps, but I think you can handle it.

I suppose that this is also a good time to indulge one more fantasy here at Airspeed. That fantasy is that Bela Fleck, Chris Thile, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor, Jordan Rudess, Tony Levin, John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, or Alex Lifeson listen to the show. Or that someone who knows the foregoing gods of musical motor skills listens to the show. And that one or more of them shoots some tunage my way. C’mon, guys! I’d almost take that over an opportunity to land a crippled 747 with the STS orbiter on top of it.

Anyway, here’s that theme: Acro Grass. Extended versions for use as guide tracks to record your bit:

With click track:

Without click track:

Tempo: 116 BPM
Key: D maj

Acro Camp Post-Production Goes to the Streets!

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Lots of time lately cataloging footage from principal photography of Acro Camp in May. I have about 2/3 of the aerial footage from Friday 14 May cataloged and indexed. And I’ve even mated some of the multi-camera parts with their respective counterparts.

That day was one of the more intensive flying days. And it had some of the best weather of the camp. Thus it’s taking a long time to get through, but it’s well worth it.

I’m planning to take the editing process out on the road and edit the film in public so people can see how the sausage is made and maybe become a little emotionally attached to the project. This film is going to live or die by word of mouth and social media, so getting the buzz going by doing things like this makes sense. Ad least it makes sense in the somewhat crazy calculus of social media.

I’m planning to be at The Workantile Exchange at 118 South Main in Ann Arbor all day on Saturday,. If you want to see how the project is going (and check out a great coworking space while you’re at it), give me a call at 248-470-7944 and I’ll hook you up. Maybe get lunch or something.