Washington, D. C., area, and we both shared a love of airplanes and
aviation history. In grad school, where I earned a masters in history, I really
got excited about WW I history and, about this time, began building
WW I RC models. When the team received a grant to help get the film
started, Paul called me and I became part of the team.
PRACTICAL SPECIAL EFFECTS
Working with full-size aircraft is great when they’re available because
they can do one thing a model can’t: contain a human being. So for
ground sequences, it was crucial to use full-size aircraft, especially when
people were in close proximity. But most historic and replica aircraft are
not allowed to do aerobatic maneuvers—the risks are just too great.
So the modern approach to solve this problem of stunt flying is to use
computer-generated images (CGI) and models. Besides its expense,
there is something very “digital” about CGI imagery that we wanted to
avoid. We will film flying airplanes. So this is where the models become
critical because they are able to perform stunts with impunity—no huge
insurance costs and no potential risk to human life.
Using scale aircraft is not without challenges, however. To do it well,
the aircraft have to fly in a scale fashion, and that means much more
slowly than most RC pilots fly. So airspeed and altitude metrics become
critical. An aircraft may look like it’s flying very slowly and about to stall,
but airspeed will tell you it isn’t. And due to the inherent shortcoming of
line-of-sight flying, depth perception, and silhouetting, first-person-view
(FPV) cameras have become very important. To pursue an RC airplane
accurately during a dogfight sequence, you really need that from-the-cockpit view looking toward your opponent. ;is poses di;culties
because small FPV cameras used for flying are not of film quality. To
get the required high-definition footage, we needed to use cameras like
the GoPro HERO, and all of this equipment had to fit inconspicuously in
ON MY WORKBENCH
I am currently building a couple of movie models. ;ey are a 1/3-scale
Nieuport 11 and a SPAD S. XIII, and they’ll have a few important criteria.
Left: Drone pilot David Brow chases
a BUSA Eindecker flown by a club
member at my flying club. Getting
close and staying just close enough
is the trick here.
Below: ;e cockpit of my 1/4-scale
Nieuport 11 is fitted with a removable
deck that serves as a platform for
a GoPro camera. ;e movie plane will
have a similar arrangement to this but
with a greater emphasis on what the
camera will see.