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!

Herding Electrons and Preparing for Oshkosh

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Audio pre-production for EAA Radio is done! Listen for Capt force’s sonorous voice on EAA Radio at 1210 on your AM dial or streaming at

I spent some time last night working on the initial tracks for Last Pure Thing on the Radio, a new tune that I might or might not release at AirVenture Oshkosk next week. It all depends on how the song comes along this weekend. The song is also a good test bed for learning how to use Pro Tools. I did most of the EAA Radio production using Audacity simply because I’m more familiar with Audacity and needed to bang out the spots to get them to Afterburner Al in time to get them into the rotation.

But Pro Tools is really stinking powerful and I need to spend some time messing with it so I can expand my studio chops. The projects are still going to Scott Cannizzaro for mixing, but it’s really cool to be able to send him something a little more competent. Thus far, I’ve been sending him .wav files recorded analog from my ancient ADAT with an initial clap as a synch signal.

Probably some more studio production through the weekend and then Cole and I leave for OSH in the early morning hours of Wednesday 29 July. I’ll tweet and blog the location of Firebase Airspeed shortly after arrival and try to keep everyone posted about where we’re wandering on the grounds. Definitely going to get out to the seaplane base this year. Can’t believe I’ve blown that off in prior years.

Look for more updates right here!

"Ask Capt Force" No. 1 – How Do You Record Cockpit Audio?

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Here’s the first in a series of answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs). This time: How do you capture cockpit audio?

I use the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (the most recent model of which is available from Sweetwater Sound and other places). I select the 1/4″ input with low sensitivity and the levels cranked almost all the day down (to avoid overdriving). An attenuating cable would also work, but I just haven’t gotten around to finding the right one (which would involve a lot of experimentation and, as long as this setup works and it’s not hurting the MicroTrack, I’m good to go). I plug a 1/4″ guitar cable into the intercom in the back seat of the C-172s that I fly and plug the other end into the left side input of the MicroTrack. At the lowest setting (MP3 format, 44.1 KHz and 96 Mbps), I can get 4-5 hours of audio onto a 512MB CF card (well beyond the roughly 2.5-hour battery capacity of the unit if you don’t use external power). The MicroTrack has a mini-USB port, so you can get auxiliary power using lots of devices available on the net or at your local electronics store or drug store.

Frankly, any recording device will work if you can get the 1/4″ intercom to feed into the input of the device. But remember that there’s enough juice there to drive a headset, so you’ll need to turn the sensitivity way down or get an attenuating cable.

Charlie Thompson also has some good commentary in his February 14, 2008 blog post.

There’s a picture above of the MicroTrack (it’s at the lower right in the picture of the back seat of the airplane). There’s video equipment in the shot, too. I put a bullet camera on the dash and had the actual camcorder in the back seat, too. Haven’t done any video on the podcast and am unlikely to, but it was a cool experiment.

If you want to do video, check out The Student Pilot Journal and contact Greg Summers. He’s the best podcaster out there at recording his own cockpit experiences on video. And the audio quality is excellent. Probably better than my audio-only recordings. Will Hawkins of The Pilot’s Flight Podlog is an excellent videographer and editor and would be a great resource, but he doesn’t currently post video of himself in the cockpit.

The MicroTrack is also very useful outside the cockpit. Here, I’m interviewing USN LtCdr Craig Olson, the Opposing Solo of the USN Blue Angels on the ramp at Battle Creek.

And here I’m interviewing Viper East commander and F-16 demo pilot USAF Maj Jason Koltes at the same event.

Here’s a shot of my remote production setup. The MicroTrack plugs directly into the USB port of my laptop and acts just like any other outboard storage device, so I can bring the audio into Audacity and edit it right there at Starbucks. I had the interview with Maj Koltes posted within an hour of sitting down at Starbucks.

Hope all of this is helpful. Enjoy!