Making the Master PPG series is a roller coaster but we’re enjoying the ride

If you’re only gonna make $5/hr at the job you better enjoy it. And enjoy we did.

This production is a labor of love, to be sure, and strangely, I’m finding that I enjoy the process as much as the flying. It’s far, far different from being on the other side of the camera and I have Phil Russman to thank for having some idea of what’s needed. Not that I’ll ever rise to his level, but the final product will be a lot better as a result of what I’ve learned from him.

San Antonio

Dru Stuebing of San Antonio was kind enough to host Tim and I for a stop on the Enterprise’s westward tour. He’s got a great little slice of life nestled along a river bend that’s scenic enough to be used for weddings. In fact, that’s what they do there. Handy that the launch is about 200 feet away.

1) Tim ran the camera on a tripod for several shots. 
2) Dru getting ready to re-launch from an adjoining field after landing to make a motor adjustment. 
3) Dru flying eastward with his ranch in the background.

Taping Master PPG has become my big focus and so, besides just visiting and flying with Dru, we got some required shots. A lot of effort is merely trying to get clear angles on technique execution to make it obvious. Getting multiple angles, especially point of view shots and closeups on one side, will allow cutting back and forth during the editing process.

Unfortunately, an entire scene can be recorded only to find that it doesn’t “work”. Sometimes, creative editing can rescue it but other times it just needs to be reshot. We had a couple of those. Oh well, try again. One cool aspect is that I can frequently edit together my desired outcome that evening (usually while rolling down the highway) to see how it flows together.

The winds and turbulence didn’t cooperate very well here but we did get some useful material, probably about a minute’s worth at most. Given that these videos are for advanced techniques, the turbulent conditions worked in our favor. There is no better way to show, in detail, how to actively fly than to capture it smoothly and close up in conditions where it’s really required.


Wow. This was one of our most productive sessions to date for videos 2, 3 and 4. From the wide open expanse of McCartney field (a local Phoenix flying haunt) we crossed off a bunch of shots from the list of those required, especially for wheels. These will enable us to show concepts clearly, even more so with added graphics. See series updates here.

The first afternoon, Adam Bell turned out to be an exquisite target for helmet cam shooting, able to execute demanding flying tasks in predictable fashion. I was able to stay close and pick my angle. Being able to communicate was critical to our success. Some of the work was to show maneuvers, how they’re flown and exactly what input is required to make them work. I need predictable, sometimes steep but mostly smooth, precise, flying for this. Wild doesn’t work. Adam was just the ticket and did yeoman duty. This footage, shown at various speeds and sometimes with overlaid graphics, will help tell the story we’re looking tell.

Others contributed, too. Tim Kaiser pulled a perfect light wind reverse, captured with a steadicam that shows the detailed hand, body and wing movements necessary for pulling it off. Ennis Zamji and Eric Brown also contributed to some of the requisite helmet cam shots. Some of the planned scenes didn’t work out but we’re going to work on those next week when Phoenix round two shooting commences again.

The next morning dawned cloudy and smooth. Mo Sheldon emerged from his little cot tent cold and coffeeless but eventually became operational in time to do some trike flying. We had a camera mounted on the trike and used his van to shoot out the back, then the side using a steadicam. Those shots earned a “wow.” It was a nice piece of flying, driving and filming with Mo doing everything, including the requested mistakes, perfectly. On one flight he did different than I asked but the results were even better. Mostly it involved capturing the nuance of wing control while inflating and taxiing both into the wind and crosswind. The footage came out great.

I didn’t even do any flying this morning but rather concentrated on making sure I got what I needed. In fact, the only time I did spend in his trike was driving it around with the steadicam getting point-of-view footage.

We had a lot of fun, too. Gotta be since this obviously won’t be a blockbuster. It’s not a beginner series so it’ll have even less mass appleal in our massless little sport. But it’s something I’m passionate about. We all are. Everybody who has contributed to this thing, and those who will in the coming months are passionate about the sport. Their help is immensely valuable and I appreciate it. I think all the eventual viewers will appreciate it.

It was a great time among quality people.