The F5`s First Jet Pack Flight

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The F5`s First Jet Pack Flight
behind the scenes
Excerpt from Issue 7 - February 8, 2016
F5’s First
Flight
By Stefan Wiesen
Director of Photography
The jet pack took its first flight as a
military project in the 1960s. Incredible
Flying Jet Packs tells the story of these
flying machines. The audience will get
to know the pioneers of the jet pack
flying era and the present time visionary
engineers who help stuntman Nick
Macomber achieve a record-breaking
flight at the end of the film.
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The documentary was written and
produced by Pip Gilmour. Amy
Rankin was the Associate Producer.
It premiered on July 19th on the
Smithsonian Channel. Click Here for
the show’s webpage: Incredible Flying
Jet Packs.
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F5’s First Flight
We shot several water jetpack
flights from a boat, a jetpack
flight and a rocket launch in a
hot and windy desert – I never
experienced any significant
camera-related problems
with the F5.
Ms. Gilmour and I have worked together on
different projects in the past and I was excited
when she contacted me about “Jet Packs” back
in 2014.
I had just purchased a Sony PMW-F5 and I
thought it could be a perfect fit for this project
due to a high quality, but manageable 10bit
codec, HFR capability, good value, good
ergonomics and a good EVF. I prefer the OLED
over the LCD EVF. I mostly shot the project on
lightweight PL Canon zooms CN-E 15.5-47 and
30-105, but it was great to be able to swap the
mount in seconds (without screws) and use
some EF specialty glass at times (macro, very
long lens etc.)
Locations included Denver, Washington, D.C.,
San Francisco, Houston, Black Rock Desert
(NV), Newfoundland (Canada), and Miami.
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We shot several water jetpack flights from a
boat, a jetpack flight and a rocket launch in a
hot and windy desert – I never experienced
any significant camera-related problems with
the F5. The camera and lenses were easy to
carry-on when traveling. The crew size was
very small, so the light-weight, low-power
consumption and smaller form factor was an
advantage. I’m a big proponent of having an
actual camera on my shoulder vs. holding it
in front of me. I really like the ARRI broadcast
plate which offers plenty of adjustability so
different lenses can be used without sacrificing
proper balance. Due to the lightweight camera
body the center of gravity is quite forward
when using lightweight PL zooms and a matte
box. For documentary gigs I prefer a VCT14
plate solution since I can quickly change from
tripod to shoulder-shooting without adding/
taking off parts. This is very important to me.
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F5’s First Flight
I never experienced any issues
with restored clips. The XAVC/SxS
workflow is a robust system.
We didn’t have a dedicated DIT or data
handler, but shot long interviews often.
So we accumulated a lot of footage
at times. XAVC™ really offered a great
codec solution for us, since it’s a good
compromise of size and quality. Around
100 MB/dec is very manageable with 128G
SxS™ media and offers 10bit recording
which I consider important later when
grading the footage. Of course XAVC is HFR
capable which was also important.
happen from time to time during recording
due to a loose battery connection or when
pushing a battery to the limit with many
added accessories.
I never experienced any issues with
restored clips. The XAVC/SxS workflow is a
robust system. We shot in HD Slog3 XAVC.
I used a Rec709 LUT for EVF viewing, my
onboard Transvideo Rainbow HD monitor
and a wireless feed to a director’s monitor.
I really appreciate the “restore” function
after a sudden power loss, which can
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F5’s First Flight
We accompanied Nick on a location scout the
day before his flight when he measured the
roof surface and structure, figured out the flight
route and possible “emergency” landing spots.
Being up there really made us aware of how
risky this flight would be. Nick would have to
fly a perfect circle around the building to land
exactly where he had started – knowing he
had fuel for a maximum 30 second flight! No
parachute on board and it was quite a windy
day – especially up there on the roof! We had a
camera in a helicopter and an additional camera
on the roof, plus the jetpack and Nick’s helmet
were equipped with GoPros, of course. I had
my F5 on the shoulder for last preparations,
“famous last words” and the start and lucky
landing. We found out a few hours later that the
Jet Pack flight had made it onto all major news
networks that day including our crew.
The climax of the film features Go Fast Jetpack
pilot Nick Macomber flying around a 45-story
downtown hotel in Denver. We had spent a lot of
time with Nick beforehand showing him working
on or testing his equipment and discussing
strategy with his partner Troy Widgery at the Go
Fast headquarters in Denver.
Nick is very diligent and detail-oriented when
it comes to his jetpack setup. Frequently he
completely disassembles and re-assembles the
entire machine since his life depends on the
perfect flow of fuel and the perfectly controlled
combustion of it. We spent a lot of hours in
Nicks’ workshop often not able to interrupt his
process when filming, because it would distract
him. Most of that was shot on the shoulder so I
wouldn’t get in his way.
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