Acro Camp Sneak Peek 04: With Friends Like These . . . – Video Episode Show Notes

Despite the aggressive schedule around here (glider training, trying to find a new acro ride, doing really cool legal work for the best clients on the planet, etc.), I managed to get some time this weekend to do some editing on the movie.  The result is this sneak peek, “With friends like these . . .”

The campers at both of the Acro Camp shoots were very collaborative and supportive of each other.  But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t at least a little laughter with (okay, at) each other when stuff went wrong.  And stuff is bound to go wrong when you’re learning to fly an aircraft whose center of gravity is behind the mains.

In the course of logging all of the footage, I’ve noted when both IPs were in aircraft and noted opportunities to synchronize the conversation across both cockpits.  Usually based on ATC calls or radio communication between the aircraft.  This was one such pair of sequences.  I loved the big bounce on Jim’s wheel landing and I loved the reaction that it got from Barry and Lynda.  I lined them up this evening and voila!  Tailwheel magic!

I’m actively working on putting together more time to get the film edited.  It hasn’t been easy, but I’m making some real progress.  Watch this space and the new Acro Camp web page (in development) for more news and updates!

Acro Camp Sneak Peek 02 – Formation

These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch by subscribing to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. Or just click above to watch the episode through Vimeo. It’s all free!
On the third day of filming for Acro Camp, Don Weaver and Barry Sutton decided to do a formation flight out in the practice area. They gathered the Pitts and Paul, and the Super Decathlon and Lynda, respectively, and briefed the sortie at Pontiac. The Super D departed first and the Pitts followed shortly thereafter.
This sequence captures the join-up and two passes.

Editing is coming along well. Believe it or not, I think that I’m going to be able to complete the whole thing with nothing more than a Mac Book Pro and an array of outboard hard drives. The ultimate shoestring movie from beginning to end.
But still a beautiful movie! Just look at some of the near-golden-hour lighting in this sequence!

This sequence was a lot of fun to edit. I synched up all of the cameras and audio so that you get to hear all of the people in each of the aircraft all simultaneously, including both the radio transmissions and the intra-cockpit communications.
Everybody has his or her fears. Paul Berliner, the high-time airline driver, was fine with all of the acro, but was not at all comfortable with formation flight. He was a trooper and agreed to do the flight. And he stuck it out all the way through both passes. But I’d be lying if I said that I thought that he enjoyed it.
That’s a great deal of what Acro Camp is about. Confronting areas of discomfort. And exploring one’s envelope, whether mentally, physically, or otherwise.
Side note: Formation flight, like aerobatics, is not for the untrained or unfamiliar. Both Don and Barry have prior formation experience and they were on the controls of the respective aircraft during the entire formation sequence. And, although the footage looks in places as though the aircraft are pretty close, that’s an effect of the lenses and the aircraft kept a healthy buffer between them. Especially, you’ll notice, where Don rolled inverted.
Do try this at home. You’ll be a better, safer, more competent pilot. It might even safe your life someday. But do it with an experienced instructor in a capable aircraft and in compliance with the regs. And ease into it. You don’t have to be ready to fly wing for the Thunderbirds after your first flight.
The movie is on track for release later this summer, so stay tuned. More information about post-production and release coming soon. Stay subscribed to Airspeed and check out the Acro Camp website at

Acro Camp Debrief with Don Weaver and Barry Sutton

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here: . Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

After the props stopped turning for the last flights of Acro Camp, I took Michelle Kole back to Detroit Metro for her flight back to California. While I was gone, DP Will Hawkins sat down instructor pilots Don Weaver and Barry Sutton to debrief after five days and 41 sorties.

This is the audio, essentially unedited, from that debrief.

Neither Don nor Barry had done a camp as intensive as this in some time. Both were ready for some rest. But both remained energetic about what happened at the camp. Each felt that he had made a difference in each pilot’s life and flying skills. Each was impressed at the transformation that each pilot experienced.

Will initially planned to ask questions to keep the conversation going. In fact, all he had to do was say “So how did it go?” and adjust the camera once. These guys laid a rope 25 minutes or more long that was every bit as poignant as anything that any camper had to say.

It’s a privilege having guys like this with whom to shoot a movie. And, for me personally, it’s amazing that I get to go fly with each of them with some regularity.

Stay tuned for an announcement about Acro Camp II. It’s tentatively planned and don’t be surprised to hear a casting call go out some time in the next few weeks!

Acro Camp Soundtrack Studio Session

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On Friday, Barry (“Bernie”) Sutton and Don (“Seawall”) Weaver and I went into The Soundscape Recording Studio in Royal Oak, Michigan to do some work on the soundtrack for the upcoming independent film, Acro Camp. (Check out

This is a continuation in part of the crowdsourcing of Acro Grass, the bluegrass-flavored basic theme that we’re using for the film. We walked in with two versions of the tune. The first is the same version that I put out there earlier this year for people to use as a backing track for contributions. It’s an acounstic riff in D at 116 bpm. The second is an electrified version, also in D at 106 bpm with the electric guitar mostly clean and with a 563 ms delay to sound a lot like The Edge (guitarist for U2). Lastly, I did a very basic riff in 3/4 that, if you don’t play a G# or other notes that would capture it into a specific key, lacks a tonal center and is both cool and annoying for the same reason.

I sent Don and Barry links to just the basic tracks in MP3 form the week before and let them listen to them prior to coming into the studio. Uncharacteristically, that was the extent of my actual musical performance. I didn’t play anything in the studio. The idea for the session was to capture Barry and Don’s performances.

I brought in my drum kit and Tim (the engineer) supplemented it with a nice Sabian cymbal (I want to say that it was a 16” or 18” V Crash from the Vault series – Very nice as a ride, crash, bell, or otherwise with a lot of different sounds depending on how you whack it) and his vintage floor tom.
Don brought in his keyboard kit, which consists of both a really nice fully-weighted keyboard with lots of internal voices and an external box with yet more voices. The piano sound modeling is excellent.

The session started with Don and Barry just jamming together to the acoustic version of Acro Grass. I synched up one camera run so that I can put the actual board mix together with the video and use it for an extra on the DVD. Mostly floating the camera around the room. I’ll just run it continuously and intersperse footage from the camp for the parts where I’m moving the studio camera around in between float and other shots.

Once Barry and Don did the initial jam, we went to actually recording. We did them one at a time with each of them playing ideas over the courts of one or two ten-minute takes. It took about four hours, including tech setup, to get everything down for three different basic themes.

Now the drill is for Tim to bounce everything down to individual WAV tracks and shoot them to me on a data DVD. Then I’ll take them all and listen to them to pull out the parts that I like to create a sort of library of Barry and Don’s best themes, bits, and pieces. I’ll them put those in where they seem best and come up maybe a half-dozen variants of each theme to drop into the film at appropriate times. I’ll probably also add in some guitar, mando, banjo, shuttle-pipe, and other stuff as the mood moves me.

And that’s to say nothing of the music that podcast fans have been contributing over the last few months for the original Acro Grass theme.

Bottom line, I have enough raw stuff captured now (video, audio, and music) for the entire film. All else is gravy and improvement. And it also means that I have a boatload of both audio and video editing to do if I want this thing to be released in the spring in time to do Acro Camp II, as I’ve tentatively planned.

The studio session was a complete gas. It was Barry’s first time in a studio environment. Don is an old hand at recording and has played on several album projects. Both of them really seemed to enjoy it. It was my first time in a studio session in which I didn’t actually play and just functioned as producer. Much as I like to play, it was a good experience for me just managing artists and getting good performances out of them. And Tim is quintessentially pro as always, bringing his musical sensibilities and technical expertise together to support a truly organic process.

Luck is the meeting of preparation with opportunity. Both converged in good measure at The Soundscape last night. I’m very lucky.

Airspeed Video Episode – Spins with Barry

There are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch the episode in the viewer above or by clicking here: Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free.

It’s time for another video episode!

I wanted to go up with Barry to do some acro to condition for the T-38 ride that happened on the 13th. Unfortunately, the Super D is no longer on the line at Oakland Flight Academy for financial reasons, which leaves only the Citabria. And the Citabria, not having a constant-speed prop, is limited to spins as far as acro goes. (And, even if we flew it fully acro, we’d be limited to positive-G maneuvers anyway.)

No problem. Spins are plenty fine to stimulate my vestibular system.

And, as long as I’m flying, it make sense to take along some cameras, if only to shoot B-roll for Acro Camp. This time, I took up a three-camera system so that I could show not only the view of the cockpit but the control inputs and an unobstructed view of what’s ahead of the airplane.

And it was a chance to try out the Multiclip functionality in Final Cut Pro, which is perfect for this kind of parallel-track editing (three cameras and an audio channel).

Like it says in the intro. DO try this at home. It could safe your life. Or at least improve your confidence in dealing with unusual attitudes. But be sure to do it in a duly certified airplane with a qualified instructor and in compliance with all of the regs.