Happy New Year 2018

So I made good on my commitment to finish the first draft of the documentary (Episode 3) on Christmas Day (hey, I’m driven). This early cut comes in at around an hour.

This will be the first documentary that I will have edited using BMD Davinci Resolve 14.1 (I started with 12.5). Resolve has an interesting workflow- not unlike Premiere but different in many ways. Although they require that you use Windows 10, I was able to use Windows 7 SP1 with minimal problems (the refresh on the timeline is slooooow under Win 7). Although today’s generation prefers learning online instead of using books, I highly recommend buying a copy of BMD’s own “The Definitive Guide to Editing with DaVinci Resolve 12.5 (or 14.1) by Paul Saccone. If you work offline like I do, it is an invaluable resource to finding out some of the better workflow options within Resolve. With an excellent feature set and the cost of free, this will be my editor for some time to come.

While I was hesitant to report it, BOTH of my Canon cameras (5D and 7D) have sensor issues which unfortunately marred the footage in my last interview. I am arranging to conduct another interview within the next few weeks. I am surprised at how much a problem these cameras have been. The Canon repair center in Jamesburg has been more than accommodating but even with the discounts they have given me on repair I have paid for these units TWICE in repair costs. And while I am reluctant to switch manufacturers because of the investment in lenses and other equipment I have built around the Canon workflow, it is difficult to put continued faith in the Canon name (for me at least).

Speaking of cameras, in December I did my first recording with a Black Magic Design URSA mini 4.6k for interviews at Princeton. As has been mentioned by other reviewers, its definitely a camera that takes some getting used to- the layout is “unique” to be sure. Image quality is ok (has a slight green tint prior to color correcting) but I definitely recommend having a grip kit to control ambient light.

The new website is still a work in progress – some things worked, some things didn’t and I want it all to work right the first time.

Until the next update…

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Episode 3 – Final Interview for documentary complete

Today I reached a production milestone: The last video interview for the UH-2 Tomahawk has been completed. Aviation author Frank Colucci talked about the history of the Kaman Aircraft Corporation, what happened to the company after the cancellation of the Tomahawk contract and his own opinion on the Tomahawk if it had been put into full production.

For a first time interviewee, he did a fantastic job!

Now the real work begins – animation and editing.

C. Sundiata Cowels interviews Frank Colucci

Producer C. Sundiata Cowels interviews Aviation Author Frank Colucci for UH-2 Tomahawk documentary

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Presenting UH-2 Tomahawk trailer at AHS Forum 73

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for me, having to build a new computer just to edit the interview footage I made to create a twenty minute trailer for AHS International Forum 73.

Thankfully it all paid off.

Roundtable discussion about helicopter technology at AHS Forum 73

Forum 73 round table discussion about the latest advances in helicopter tech from the top execs of Airbus, Bell, Boeing, Leonardo, MD and Sikorsky.

Every year the American Helicopter Society International hosts a forum/trade show to showcase the latest technology and research in all things vertical lift, from Apache helicopters to drones. This years’ event took place in at the Fort Worth convention center, in Texas over a week of lectures, round table discussions, an engineering short course and the exhibit show floor.

Standing at podium introducing my documentary trailer about the Kaman UH-2 Tomahawk

Presenting the twenty minute trailer to my UH-2 Tomahawk documentary during the History Tech Sessions at Forum 73. I was the last presenter on the last day.

This year I presented the aforementioned twenty minute trailer as the last presenter, on the last day of the forum. I worked hard during the course of the week to drum up an audience for a day when most people would be leaving early; as luck would have it, my efforts paid off. I gained a decent sized audience considering what I was up against.

I’ll have a more detailed article for my re-structured website coming in the next few months (hopefully weeks).

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All things wrong with Facebook’s plans to kill smartphone

So by now you’ve all heard Facebook’s plans to replace the smartphone with a camera app for specialized glasses similar to Microsoft’s holo-glasses.  While I’m all for progress that empowers people without compromising their security or dignity, this idea and how it will be implemented gave me room for pause. Let’s count the ways that this is a bad idea.

  1. RADIATION – with deregulation being the name of the game, and the mega-corporations penchant for making things cheaply at the public’s expense, I’m not sure there will be any oversight into how much radiation will be absorbed into a person’s frontal lobe while wearing these glasses. We are talking about a direct stream of data, minute by minute to your face and a very high bandwith. There has been very little talk about the connection between cancer and smartphone/cellphone usage but you can purchase anti-radiation cases for your smartphone. It will be interesting to see if the manufacturer’s even address this issue or wait 20 years until people start to die off and claim ignorance.
  2. DOUBLE VISION – We’ve already been made aware of how viewers were manipulated during the election and how they are continuously victimized by companies who use browser prejudice to reward some consumers and punish others by displaying information to whom they deem worthy and not worthy. Now imagine that power in an augmented reality setting. With the decades worth of data that corporations have been compiling (and selling) on citizens they will be able to manufacture reality in real time specific to the consumer; likes, dislikes, sales, discounts… and falsehoods. Which brings me to number three…
  3. REALTIME NEGATIVE FEEDBACK – With facial recognition getting better by the day, the potential to reinforce negative stereotypes, in real time are frightening. Imagine wearing the Camera App glasses, seeing someone who is “different” from you and in just a blink of an eye, faster than you can register, a negative image is overlaid into your vision. You would be confused and wary of the person and wouldn’t know why – but the foundation for this kind of negative feedback would be laid.

Doom and gloom? I don’t think so. This tech roadmap is coming from a company that routinely abuses its trust with its customers, and is run by an executive who, claims he is all about “transparency”, yet sues his neighbors to acquire more land in an effort to attain more privacy. Go figure. And if in ten years the tech does become available, read the fine print. You may be giving up more than just your smartphone.

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Presenting the VTOL Model documentary at AHM&EC

Last December I presented the VTOL Model 49 documentary to volunteers at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center. You can read the story here:


While I didn’t make any sales it did open the door for future presentations.


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Episode 3 – A day at Piasecki

Wow! What can I say? It took almost a year but last Friday I was able to finally get an interview with Fred Piasecki, Vice President of Technology and Chairman of the Board of the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation! He talked about Piasecki’s interim gunship proposal, the Pathfinder II and some of the problems involved when engineers must alter existing designs to meet new requirements.

Future iNCITE! interviews Fred Piasecki of Piasecki Aircraft Corporation

Interviewing Fred Piasecki, Vice President of Technology and Chairman of the Board of Piasecki Aircraft Corp

A photograph of the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation sign

The Piasecki Aircraft Corporation plant in Essington, PA

After the interview, he took me on a tour of the plant where, lo and behold, they have the actual Pathfinder II in storage! An amazing experience in seeing this piece of American aviation history that has been largely forgotten.

So, what’s next? I’m still tracking down other possible interviewees and there is still a mountain of computer animation and motion graphics that I have to climb. But for now, this is definitely a good base camp to be in.

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Episode 3 – A day at the museum

Two camera recording of pilot Jim Plamquist

On location at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, interviewing UH-2 Pilot Jim Palmquist.

Production has begun on the “second” episode (which is actually episode 3) of the Designed For Battle series. Shot on location at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center in West Chester PA, I interviewed H-2 pilot Jim Palmquist about his experiences in flying the Seasprite as a basis for comparison with the UH-2 Tomahawk. Also, I am pleased to announce that Vietnam Veteran Chuck Howard has also returned to discuss his experience in the UH-1 Huey and helicopter flight dynamics. There will be further updates on the new spin off website exclusively for the series in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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Episode 3 update – gathering footage from all the right places

Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone! Episode 3 is moving along quite well; I spent the weekend sourcing footage from the National Archives to fill in the blanks in the timeline and replace a great many still photos.

Unlike the story of the VTOL Model 49, this story deals with an actual prototype and not a concept. As a result I won’t have to create as many 3d animations (over 200!) that I did before. Right now my tally is coming out to around 60 3d animations and possibly just as many motion graphics segments.

Also, since this story deals with an actual prototype- detail, textures and lighting have to be spot on. Cycles with PBR shaders this time around!

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Episode 3 – Camera back in action

Received the 5D Mk II back from Canon Service Center and its working like a charm now. Still arranging interview dates and locations with interviewees.

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Episode 3 – The dreaded Error 22

In the midst of prepping my HDSLR rig for upcoming interview recordings, my Canon 5D Mk ii gave me the dreaded “Error 22” message. The remedy of turning the unit off and re-installing the battery did not work.

A quick browse on duckduckgo led to the information that “Error 22” has something to do with the mirror assembly. Average repair price, converted from British pounds would run about $450USD. Ouch.

Today I dropped off the camera body at the Canon Service Center and thankfully, the tech on duty Regina, discovered that the camera only needed a gear replaced. Total cost? $200USD. Less Ouch.

Looking to add some additional interviewees to the line up by mid-October.

The Naval Helicopter Association has been an amazing resource and I am looking forward to working with them on future projects.

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