traffic-pattern

The new 53VG.com website contains a video overview for pilots flying into the little grass airstrip. There were a lot of different tools that went into making the video. If I were a high end commercial shop, the tools would be very different. However, video work is not my normal skillset and this project had to be done on a shoe string budget. Here is what was used …

Disclaimer: Google Earth Pro ($399/year) supports Movie Maker for creating video animations. The use of Bandicam is a bit of a hack but works if you have enough compute speed.

The project started in Google Earth. I laid out the runway, taxi way, and tree clearings. I then created the four corners of traffic pattern and confirmed distances for a typical traffic pattern and took the opportunity to measure glide distances. Next, I added the flight path. Setting the altitude of different points on the path turned out to be a mess so I decided to just save the work as a KML file and edit the values in a text editor. It worked pretty well. Rather than deal with overlays and information bubbles in Sony Vegas, I  added information text markers. Finally, I created "tours" that sequenced through the elements – showing and hiding the information text and them "flying" a traffic pattern path.

I created two reusable marker points – one out in space and one above the airport. These were used to generate the opening sequence. The "above airport" marker also provided a convenient start and stop point for each video segment and insured consistency. This was handy because it gave me options for how to edit the video sections together. While, in the end, I chose to "fade through black", having a common marker point meant I could have cut the animations together and they would have been seamless.

Recording the animation was the next challenge. If I were a professionally shop doing this type of project often, then the right thing to do is have Google Earth Pro. My next thee ideas were to use the screen recording capability in Sony Vegas, Camtasia Studio, or the Windows Media Codec. They all failed. Each produced very chunky jerky video. After some research, I came to understand that recording Google Earth is a lot like recoding video games – hi resolution, high frame rates, and GPU intensive. Banicam, Fraps, and other screen recorders which target gamers are purpose built for the task. All I needed to do was start Bandicam, target it to the map window in Google Earth, start recording, and click on a tour. Once the tour ended, I stopped the recording. I made three recordings – the overview, runways 03 and runway 21. (total video size ~ 450MB)

There was a bit of luck one afternoon when there was no wind. This allowed me to fly two patterns in each direction sequentially. The four trips around the pattern yielded the necessary video for the "pilot’s eye view". (total video size ~ 3GB)

I loaded all of the video into Sony Vegas. I first sequenced the three animations. Next, I created a track for each of the traffic patterns (runway 03 and runway 21). I had two complete recordings of each flight path so I chose the best of each and added them to the respective tracks in Sony Vegas. I then changes the pan/zoom for the flight footage to make it a "picture-in-picture" with each using the outer corner of the screen – upper right for runway 03’s left traffic and upper left for runway 21’s right traffic.

Timing the flight footage to the animation required finding a significant ground reference near the start and end of each segment; aligning the start mark with the corresponding ground reference in the animation, and finally stretching or squeezing the end mark to align with its corresponding reference from the animation. It wasn’t necessary to have a perfect fit throughout the flight footage as long as most of the ground references were in view with the animation. Once I had them placed and reviewed, I turned on the drop shadow effect and positioned it.

With all of the video work done, I needed something to fill the silence. I needed to avoid ASCAP and other copyrighted materials. This forced me to either find public use media or create my own. Since it was just filler background music, I decided I could sequence my own. I measured the duration for the three segments – the introduction and the two traffic patterns. I then moved to GarageBand on the iPad to make some simple sequencer background music. I spend a few days making some short sequences. I then listened to them off and on for a few days until I had tweaked them and was comfortable (not necessarily ecstatic) with the results. I then proceeded to loop and overlay the sequence to fill the allotted time slots. I exported the audio and brought it into Sony Vegas. The timing was not perfect and I would have liked to go back to GarageBand at least one more time to correct the audio lengths but by this time I had way too many hours into the project. I just aligned the music as best I could. (total audio size ~ 4MB)

It was time to render the movie. I needed the vide oat a few different resolutions. Rather than render multiple times from Sony Vegas, I chose to make one master copy at 1280x720p. This took about 90 minutes. (finished movie size ~ 480MB)

Each of the different sized videos  targeted different uses – iPhone, iPad, and internet streaming. I use Handbrake to generate each of the new movies. My first attempts resulted in file sizes that were too large. After a few different attempts, I finally use the HandBrake option for "target file size". Note: The option was in HB 0.9.5 but is no longer available in HB 0.9.5. Going forward, I’ll need to use the Bitrate setting. (finished movie sizes ~ 480MB, 90MB, and 40MB)

So, that is how I made the airport traffic pattern video. All told, I’d guess there are about 20 hours in this project.