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Old March 27th, 2008, 07:09 PM   #1
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Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem

This is a follow up to this thread:

http://dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=109813

which came to a grinding halt as someone else got the job.

However, I went along as an ordinary Joe Public anyway, and came away with a large number of valuable lessons and a decent dose of sunburn to boot.

As mentioned in the original thread, the event was spread over three days, Friday the 21st March being the first day open to the public tho' the air displays were only "practice" for the following two days.

Being just me, myself and I, one look at the huge pile of gear I was thinking of taking along brought lesson number 1 : One person attempting both video and stills with the respective hardware requirements of both simply doesn't work.

So, I kyboshed video on Friday and concentrated on stills. I'm glad I did as the place was a gigantic dust bowl due to lack of rain and every whiff of jet/ propellor wash raised a dust storm of Saharen proportions. My Nikon D80 will never be the same again!

The UV levels in Wanaka really caused some problems, the first being it's ability to penetrate both SPF 30+ sunblock AND clothing with impunity, the second due to the sunblock working as an extremely efficient dust gatherer, thus ensuring that by days end I looked more like a chimney sweep than a photog (with a decent dose of sunburn to boot).

Luckily that night it did rain, hard, which meant that at least on Saturday the dust problem was solved. I thought the 10/10 cloud cover had solved the UV problem too but was proved wrong, as I got nailed again.

I had to make some hard choices as to video gear, as the treck from car to viewing area was legthy and more than one journey was out of the question. I settled for the Canon XH A1, my beutifull FiberTec's and a rucksack with external mic's, cables, mic stand, spare tapes and batteries for everything and a host of other bits and pieces (cleaning stuff etc). With everything on board I felt more like a pack mule than anything else.

Luckily the Saturday was considerably cooler than the Friday, but I had still worked up quite a sweat by the time I made the viewing area. I had hoped to be able to get a spot right on the fence line, but about 10,000 others had had the same idea and beaten me to it, so I had no choice but to set up about 20 feet back in what was at the time a relatively empty part of the viewing area. Within moments of the first aircraft appearing the entire viewing area was standing room only and I was surrounded.

At this stage it was apparent that about 40 percent of the displays were going to be either partially or completely blocked by heads & hats, as the camera lens with the tripod @ max was only about 66 inches off the ground. Lesson learnt: if you can't get above the crowd you're toast. Sure enough, I have at least an hour of perfectly shot HD of the back of heads and hats!

However, the tripod hadn't finished with me just yet. Many of the fly past's encompassed an arc of at least 240 degrees, which meant that those tripod legs had to be either avoided or collected, within an hour my shins were black and blue from colliding with those very solid carbon fibre girders. The choice here was stark - look down and miss the leg (and the target) or prance around the tripod like some deranged ballerina and hope I'd miss the leg or at least if I collected it not fall flat on my face (I have an excellent clip of me doing a header directly across the shot, having collected a leg, tried to regain my balance, pushed the pan bar away, let go of the pan bar etc etc - gracefull, NOT!).

Still the tripod hadn't finished! A number of the more spectacular aerobatics involved the aircraft coming out of a steep dive directly on the flight line (only some 10 metres away) and going into a vertical climb almost directly over the camera position. Yep, you've guessed, no matter what I tried, the pan bar would collect a leg as I tilted up and come to a sudden stop mid climb. Raising the pan bar to allow total vertical tilt even with a leg in the way made the Lanc remote unusable and the bar impossible to use for anything close to level. Lesson learnt: Live shows really need a pedestal support of some sort.

The audio problems with the three hours of footage I shot came as a bit of a suprise but should really have been expected. I had a Senn ME67 on the camera and a ME66 on a stand about 5 feet away pointed vaguely up at one of the PA speakers. As no amount of fidling with levels could keep track of the huge discrepancies in sound volume, I had to set the audio to Auto, which, of course, meant that every time a plane got REAL close I completely lost the PA and most of the ambience as the pre amps shut down. Sounds awefull on playback.

My focus problems I had been expecting, and were, as expected, severe. One lone head/ hat in bottom centre shot was enough to give the autofocus system a nervous breakdown, losing the target completely or wildly racking in and out from one to the other - looks dire on the screen. Manual focus was simply not an option. When I did get a clear shot the system did work pretty well as long as I kept the framing tight, but that caused it's own problems.

Trying to close frame an F111 fighter traversing the flight line from 3 miles out to only 30 metres away then back out to three miles whilst it's doing 1000 kph is an art form I haven't quite got off pat, and I really wish the A1 had some way to limit the zoom range to a max setting, say Z80. Just about anything past that showed so much pan/ tilt judder as to make the shots unusable (this judder shows up due to my inability to kep the target perfectly centered in the frame at such high pan speeds whilst trying to gently squeeze the zoom rocker to keep the zoom smooth and the target relatively close to full frame).


About the only thing that was a (relatively) resounding success was the exposure. I set it manually with about 1/3 back/ heads/ hats and 2/3rd sky, meant the clouds/ sky were about 5 stops overexposed on a pure sky shot but the planes were nigh on perfect. Nice to get something right!

Will I do it again? Maybe, if I can resolve most of the problems shown up this time around. Out of the three hours shot I reckon I've got about 10 minutes or reasonable video, which is not a lot for such hard work. If I can't resolve them I might just go along for the show and buy the DVD!


CS
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Old March 27th, 2008, 10:20 PM   #2
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Nice read Chris and very familiar, it's another world shooting airshows.

Couple of things I do now. If possible, look for some high/raised ground and stake the claim early, I'd rather stay well back from the front line as aircraft taxiing past crowds adds interest for the punters.

Take offs, landings and taxiing, use the tripod. I was shown a neat trick for take-offs, bring the tripod legs in so you can step around them for smooth 180d pans, this needs to be practised....a lot.

Zoom back a tad to see the fleeting scenery; this looks good for fast jets taking off and you're going to have a hard time keeping those even in frame.

F-15s, 16s and the like are going to distort big time on afterburner, let it happen, I've found folk expect it and it adds to the drama. The drama of hoping your hearing will recover that is.

I don't use headphones, you're either getting it or you ain't. The largest range of levels you'll ever have is at an airshow. I use a RODE SVM on the shoe, it has a 10db pad you can just flip it in at a seconds notice.

For some big slower aircraft that have long runs on take off, lock the tilt off and let the plane lift out of the frame. Invokes a nice smooth even pan.

Most ground stuff on airfields/shows now, I have a B+W graduated ND filter on the lens so I can actually see detail under the wings.

For flypasts and aerobatics, shoot with a shoulder mount away from the crowd and if possible within range of the PA. Watch out for copyright music.

Let the plane fly out of frame every once in a while so you can dissolve to another shot in post.

BTW using black 'Cling' low adhesive tape, I cover over all the A1 controls I'm not using, to keep the dust out. Call me paranoid but I can still remember the horror and terrible shakes I got when a TV tech once showed me the inside of a news cam. That's where tape dropouts come from.

Support gear: over the years I've pared it down to, water, energy bars, battery, another tape...earplugs and sunscreen. And a large plastic garbage bag to throw over the rig in the breaks.

The night before I pray for no rain, light scattered cloud and no wind, especially no wind.

Cheers.
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Old March 28th, 2008, 12:24 AM   #3
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Thanks Alan.................

Unfortunately, the only "high ground" available was owned by a local farmer, who had done a deal with one of the campervan dealerships here in NZ.

He owned a flat ridge about 800 metres back from and completely parallel (?) to the airstrip and way high, the entire ridge was a line up of campervans and people, if I had but known I may have given it a try, but that may have been just too far away.

The rest of the airport and environs was/ is as flat as a tack.

Somehow some other campervans had been allowed to get insde the viewing area (about 50 of them) and the roof of a suitably modified bus/ van there would have been perfect, again, if I had but known and been suitably equipped. Not something to do lightly, with the event only ever every two years and nothing comparable here anywhere.

Quite what the crew of the chosen video team were shooting from is a complete mystery, no matter where I looked they were not in evidence - no towers, cherry pickers - nothing. One fly by from a chopper and that was the only sign of their presence.

I'm wondering if they took any other footage on the days of the event at all. I can't believe they didn't but that I didn't spot them is a miracle.

Yeah, I tried the lift the tripod trick but things got so unstable on the rather uneven ground I had to put it back down on the spreader again, my shins are still recovering.

Anyway, still working out the bugs and looking for answers to the problems, but thanks heaps for your input. Don't suppose you've got an answer to the "UV transparent spf30+ and clothing issue", do you?


CS
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Old March 29th, 2008, 06:24 AM   #4
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Any chance of seeing some of your stills, Chris?

Via http://www.dvinfo.net/gallery or by attaching them directly to this thread?
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Old March 30th, 2008, 12:51 PM   #5
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I was wondering how you would get on. I'm up in Whangarei.
Thanks for the breakdown... very informative. Cheers.
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Old March 31st, 2008, 01:00 AM   #6
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Hi all.......

No sooner asked than done (sort of!) - piccies I mean.

A pretty thorough review of the stills was another lesson learnt - "er, remember how to use the stills camera when you've hardly touched it in months" type thing.

Whatever, nothing too exciting here, and I apologise up front for the crud on/ in the lens, as I said earlier, I got pretty well hosed with wash during the day and much to my disgust it looks like some of this is "IN" the lens which is a bit of a worry (I wasn't changeing lenses so that's not the problem, hopefully).

Did a quick trawl through the Picassa library and compiled a small batch that were almost passable, exported them to a library folder, then used Photoshop to batch downsize them to a more reasonable size. No touch ups even attempted so take 'em as they come.

The planes are, er, planes, natch. Everything I shot against cloud was a scrub as I kept forgetting to set the exposure compensation (there are times I really do loath this camera - used to be sooo simple on my Canons!).

The Catalina is in RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) colours and belongs to a mob somewhere here in NZ.

The reason there are so many piccies of it is that it was possibly the most visible plane in Wanaka both during the show and the following three days (and, lets face it, if you can't get a decent picture of a lumbering Catalina you might as well hang up yer camera!).

It was doing "joy rides" for paying punters from the airfield, out to and around the lake, coming back up the long edge then returning to do a "touch and go" actually on the lake. To do so it had to come in real low over the main drag along the lake front just a stones throw from the township. One or two of those shots I think are taken from a bar on said front where I was enjoying a glass of "the amber nectar" after a hard day getting yet more sunburnt.

The one shot that involves zero planes is taken from "sort of" the other end of the lake, looking back in the direction of Wanaka. I was up there with an old friend of mine from Tasmania, who had come over to catch the air show - he was utterly blown away by the spectacular scenery of the entire region, and Tasmania ain't no slouch in that department in it's own right (and he isn't all that easy to impress, I can tell you).

Just a quick return to that Catalina story.

We have a place right in Wanaka. I spent a good deal of time there over the summer, and duly reported to "the missus" that I was experiencing a serious case of "penis envy" as a result.

Every second vehicle seen (and that's a lot in summer) is a hulking 4X4, towing a zillion dollars worth of high speed/ comfort/ maintenance speed boat/ cruiser/ ocean liner to go play on the lake with.

I felt quite put out.

So she bought me one for my birthday.

It was 5 inches long and came from a toy shop.

She said "Hook that on the tow bar and you're good to go".

On the last day & last flight of the Catalina before it left for wherever, it didn't do a touch and go, it actually landed. Taxied (?) to the beach and they had a party on board, surrounded by a flottila of said zillion dollar boats and shed loads of people. Photo opps all 'round and heaps of laughs.

Had to return home to say the boat just wasn't going to cut it. Needed a float plane.

Boy, did I get a strange look.


Enjoy!


CS

PS. Just realised the max. 8 piccie limit. Will get the others in the subsequent post.
Attached Thumbnails
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Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_08720003.jpg   Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_08850004.jpg  

Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_08990005.jpg   Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_10020006.jpg  

Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_10620007.jpg   Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_10880008.jpg  


Last edited by Chris Soucy; March 31st, 2008 at 05:03 AM. Reason: Duh!
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Old March 31st, 2008, 01:04 AM   #7
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And a couple of others..........

Text in previous post. All and any questions welcome.

CS
Attached Thumbnails
Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_11050009.jpg   Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_11240010.jpg  

Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-dsc_11400011.jpg  
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Old March 31st, 2008, 02:44 AM   #8
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Ain't NZ fantastic!

We were down to Queenstown Easter a year ago to some friends daughter's wedding (filmed it for them). They have a place at Lake Hayes, though the wedding was at a church right at the end of the Queenstown Airport runway, looking down Frankton Arm. We then drove up to Christchurch on the Monday which was simply a perfect day - dropped into Mt Cook on the way. Stunning.

I got video of para/hang-gliders going off Coronet Peak with not a bit of snow in sight, yet about two weeks later the whole of the area was totally locked up in snow with just about everything shut down for several days. There was a photo in the local Wellington paper taken from where I filmed the paragliders and everything - and I mean everything - was snow!

Also got some great shots of the Shotover Jet, and the Earnslaw from the top of the Gondola...both of which I put in the wedding film along with the paragliders. Just had to show some of the spectacular scenery of the area as a prelude to the wedding for all those non-kiwis who would get to see the video.
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Old March 31st, 2008, 02:28 PM   #9
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Beautiful, spectacular -- thanks for sharing these. The wife and I have long ago pledged to visit NZ if we're ever able to get away long enough to go halfway round the planet... I think this spot needs to be on our to-do list when we get there.

Nice to see a flying Cat, great shots all around; plus the Warhawk and Corsair. I was fortunate enough to catch a Mustang, a Fort, a Mitchell and a Libby in flying condition at Dallas Love Field a short time ago. Did not get to see the B-24 fly this time though. Will post those pics shortly...

Thanks again Chris!
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Old March 31st, 2008, 03:01 PM   #10
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Don't mean to hijack Chris Soucy's thread, but couldn't resist putting warbirds in company with each other...
Attached Thumbnails
Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-mustangfort.jpg   Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-mitchell.jpg  

Warbirds over Wanaka - Post Mortem-liberator.jpg  
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Old March 31st, 2008, 03:20 PM   #11
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Great piccies Chris...........

Think we'd make a pretty mean team if we ever got together.

You'll have to organise that "half planet away" trip sometime soon.


CS
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