Cloud Dancer
Freefall Videography
World Freefall Convention at Quincy August 8 1997
Speaker: Jamie Paul
Seminar Notes by Tamara Koyn


The following material does not necessarily represent my opinions and represents my best effort to capture the material actually presented in the seminar. I do not guarantee that it is error free.

In camera flying, the learning never stops. There are always problems to solve.

Types of cameras include:
1) 8mm and VHS. These are low end camera and are good for playing around. The video is not salable.
2) Hi8 and S-VHS are better in quality. You can sell your material in this format.
3) Digital is the best quality and there is no generation loss as long as you are copying from digital to digital or other analog format.

8mm tape moves slower through the video heads and thus drop out can be more noticeable than in S-VHS. The tape moves through the heads faster in the S-VHS format.

Set the shutter speed to your personal taste. Some people like the effect of stopping the props on the planes whereas others don't like the strobe effect the higher shutter speeds produce.

On your video camera, use manual focus and set the focus to infinity. Bright light especially with a wide angle lens will give you a good depth of field.

A wide angle lens makes camera shake less noticeable. Causes of camera shake include:
1) A helmet that is not snug fitting.
2) You are tense in freefall--When you see your ring sight moving about, this should be your cue to relax.
3) Your jumpsuit has a lot of flap and vibration.

Your still camera should be a wider angle than your video camera. If you crop the subject a little on the video, viewers tend to automatically fill in what's missing because the video shows movement. However, viewers do not have this perception for still photos. In other words, if a part of the subject is cropped, it looks bad.

For a custom fit helmet, it's best to build your own. A custom fit helmet will have less drag. Don't have things sticking out to catch risers and your gear. Consider the mount angle of your camera. It should be mounted level for freeflying or mounted with an upward angle if you are flying belly down. With the upward angle, you will not have to raise your head too much for filming your subjects. Raising your head up causes you to arch more and to fall faster. If your helmet has a secure firm fit, you need only a reference to function as your ring sight. Quick release helmets create an unnecessary risk of losing your camera.

Sighting your camera. Sight it on something at the same distance at which your subject(s) will be during the skydive.

Track with your arms completely at your sides and look directly forward so your camera will not act as a rudder.

Deployment. Deploy while laying completely flat. Holding your head doesn't always work because the force of a hard opening can jerk your hands from doing their job. During opening, hold your spine rigidly straight and keep your head straight with your spine. Do hold your head. A long snivelly opening is not necessarily good as it causes a continuous jerkiness and places stress on the neck.

Jumpsuits. The wings are for maneuverability. You can save yourself from the burble of someone flying under you by reacting quick and putting the wings out more. However, don't try to film straight down on a formation. It is okay to film steep enough that rotating pieces briefly pass under you. If it's a zoo dive, go and play with your suit and your flying. Give people a chance to geek you as you capture faces.--They love the camera!

Wing size depends on your weight and their configuration. Wings attached to the legs pull the jumpsuit legs when the camera flyer pulls the wings tight. Position the arms straight out from the shoulders in order to achieve the maximum wing extension. Putting the arms overhead reduces again the surface area of exposed wing area. Wings can add a challenge to reaching for your toggles (hence you can unclip their anchor points).

A fast falling position is one in which one foot is placed on the knee of the opposite leg with both knees pointing downward. Keep your head back. Don't bring it forward to follow the dive action. Follow the dive action with your head back--This is counter intuitive at times. You can use your lower knee (moving it outward or inward) to make turns.

Camera flying for Formation Skydiving. Determine the filming distance based on your lens type. Too close is better than too far. With a .5 wide angle lens you'll want to film from one body length or so. Frame a cat formation diagonally in the frame. Just tilt your head to accommodate it in your frame.

Big Ways. Don't spiral down to it as this could cut off traffic. A floating exit is the best. If you are diving out after the formation, flip over and use the head-down position from freeflying to reach your slot and then flip back onto your belly. Stay out of the burble. Remember, it's not necessary to film from a steep angle.

Aim your shooting to the center of mass. When your subject is farther away, aim to a point above the subject. As you move closer to the subject adjust your aim to be closer to the subject's center of mass. The reason for this difference is that the location of your eye is actually below the lens of your camera and the difference in parallax is more significant for up close filming. Novice camera flyers do not know their camera frame.

Cleaning up your video. That little extra is what makes the difference between a good camera flyer and a professional. On climbout, think about what you're framing. Don't just look everywhere. Don't start recording too early on jumprun.

Be easy to work with. Give good customer service. Present yourself as a professional. Use your judgment to determine if you are being walked on. Concentrate on quality. Choose your idols.

Ways to get your work published. Shoot photos in addition to your video. They should be newsworthy (a current event or boogie), or be timeless and can stand on their own at anytime. Be sure to use correct focus, exposure, and composition.

Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 1997. Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.