Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rocket Videos: Tape v. DVD

This post describes the Point 39 Productions LDRS XIX (on VHS tape) and the ROCKETS Magazine/Liberty Launch Systems Red Glare IV (on DVD) videos.

Point 39 Productions - LDRS XIX

Ever since leaving LDRS 19 (held July 1-4, 2000 near Orangeburg, SC), I had been awaiting Point 39 Production's video with breathless anticipation. LDRS 19 was my first national launch and was the venue for my Tripoli Level 2 Certification. As word leaked out that the video would also contain coverage of the SmallBALLS experimental launch (Whitakers, NC), I really became pumped! Although I haven't flown at Whitakers, the Whitakers field is a frequent haunt of many members of my club, the Maryland/Delaware Rocket Association.

When the box arrived, I carefully inspected the contents. As with previous Point 39 videos, it came with in a sturdy box and had the write-protect tab removed. The latter seems like a trivial detail, but I have lost other commercially produced videos to the presence of this tab mixed with young children (of course I would never accidentally record over a coveted rocket video).

Over the last couple of videos, Earl has also thrown in a small extra to whet your imagination. This year it is a piece of wire from an actual Saturn V Checkout/Launch Computer. Although I personally do not value this too much as a souvenir, it does demonstrate the extra effort that Earl puts into his videos. I will not provide a recap of the launches (see scans). Instead, I want to focus on the video's production attributes. (Well, you really HAVE to see the flight of the Freedom Phiter on "O" power, a 1/6 semi-scale Mercury Redstone made of plastic and flying on "J" power, Redemptive Power built in a week of scrap materials and flying on experimental "N" power, etc, etc, etc)

I believe the Point 39 videos are the best rocket videos around, but this year Earl has really outdone himself. He has a new digital editing system and the results are just phenomenal. There are tons of special effects on this tape, including video fades, overlays, insert "windows", scrolls, pixelization, mosaics, scrolling and spinning text, graphics and the list goes on. Among the best of these are the video windows that show an interview with a builder while the rocket is prepped in the main screen, and the textual sidebars that show rockets stats prior to launch (builder, rocket name, engine(s), weight, etc.).

As with the LDRS 18 video, Earl makes use of his "pad-cam", providing up-close-and-personal footage right at the pad. Thus, many of the launches are shown in 3 views: ignition at the pad, ignition and early launch from a ways back, and the entire launch from countdown through touch down. With his video editing equipment, Earl has also added slow motion footage. This stuff is great! I loved the slo-mo views of ignition, especially on the experimental flights at SmallBALLS. I hate to admit it, but the slo-mo is even better for CATOs and prangs! (My apologies to those fliers.)

ROCKETS Magazine/Liberty Launch Systems Red Glare IV

This DVD set documents the Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association’s (MDRA) Red Glare IV launch that was held April 18-20, 2008 at the Higgs Farm in Price, MD. The set includes two DVDs. One holds 1.8 hours of video and the other has a slide show of 600 photos. The DVDs are organized by launch day and have chapter marks to enhance navigation. Both have an audio track in Dolby 5.1. Here’s a teaser video, the Rockets’ video page and MDRA’s Red Glare IV gallery.

The Friday and Saturday launch days each begin with a flyover of the launch site by a video RC plane. They then jump right into the smoke, fire and noise! The video work is excellent. Bob does a great job of tracking the rockets from boost through landing. The videos include insets of on-board video where available. Source’s include both fliers and Rockets’ own ‘duct tape cam’. This little device is pretty cool. It’s pretty small and records video and audio onto digital media.

Some of my favorite flights include:

* Dan Michael’s 3/4 scale Patriot on an N2000 and four M1315’s – just a few N-s shy of ‘P’ impulse! This bad boy flew and recovered nicely.
* The drag race between Neil’s Cat’s in the Cradle pyramid (N4000) and Debra Kolom’s upscaled DC-Y Space Clipper (N3500). The DC-Y’s pucker factor was 100% as it came in hot.
* Kevin Mitchell’s Superstars space plane on an N3800 sparky.
* Stephen Bayek’s 2-finned spin-stabilized rocket on an M1297. This was 6” diameter and flew a second time in a drag race with his 4” and 3” versions. I’m still dizzy!
* And last but not least, my buddy Don Brown's upscale LOC Starfighter on a K695R. Don flew it a second time with airstarts, but this flight didn’t make the editor’s cut.

Point 39 Productions used to be the gold standard of rocket videos (I don’t know if Earl is still in business). ROCKETS’ DVDs lack some of their features such as multiple angles and pad cams. However, let me tell you how much better DVD media is when compared to VHS tape. (Naw, I don’t have to tell you.) The DVD allows a lot more material so the flights don’t need to be edited down and the navigation capabilities are really nice.

The slide show is a nice addition and compliment to the video. Rockets has a really good camera that captures clear stills throughout a flight. On the down side, they are in a video slide show and the better resolution photos are not available directly. I think it would be nice to have at least reduced resolution stills in .jpg format also (reduced, so people who want large copies will still order them).

Finally, the turnaround between launch and video product is much better with ROCKETS. It seems like I waited a year for some of Point 39’s work.

I am very pleased with the video and think it is a good value. I give it a 4 out of 5 on the Earl Cagle scale. If Red Glare doesn’t excite you, I highly recommend you pick up a DVD of a more local launch, LDRS, or BALLS.

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