VIDEO: My First Flying Lesson – 8 September 2015


In my latest video production, I can be seen taking to the skies above west-Berkshire, during an introductory flying lesson.

This film’s existence owes itself, really, to the fact that the people who paid for the flight (the experience voucher was an eighteenth birthday present) were unable to come and watch. Showing them on video how I got along would be the next best thing.

The film also becomes the latest in a series of my YouTube uploads, depicting me trying out some exciting new experience. I think this kind of video works well, especially when the experience in question is something that the viewer has likely not themselves tried: they share with me in the sense of novelty.

The logistics of filming proved altogether easier than recording the helicopter flight I took in April. The Aero Club were far more relaxed in terms of their access to the airfield, and Dad – armed with the trusty old Sony HandyCam, wheeled out of retirement once again for this production – was able to get decent footage of my take-off and landing.

Inside the plane, I recorded the action on my friend Jay Brickell’s GoPro. My reason for borrowing his camera, despite the fact I own my own GoPro, was that his is a later model (a 3+ vs my 2 HD), so it handles continually varying colour and exposure far better. I’d also borrowed his suction-cup mount, although he’d failed to supply the necessary clip which allows the camera to sit in the cradle! Fortunately, I was able to borrow one from my own bag of GoPro spares and accessories, and assembled the rig in the back of the car, en-route to White Waltham.

I suppose I could have set up my GoPro as a second minicam inside the cockpit. Certainly, if I were doing this film professionally, it would have been good to get a separate stream of footage from the front-seat, especially with its visibility of the controls and its wide panoramic views. Not doing this, though, comes down to my fundamental need to keep the pilot playing ball. He would have been well within his right to say ‘No cameras’, particularly given the potentially dangerous nature of the skies. If he suspected I was not paying attention to his instructions, and instead – in his eyes – I was messing around taking pictures, suddenly the friendly film you’re trying to make becomes very difficult. I think it was wise, then, to turn up with only one minicam and mount.

The sucker-cup, even with my clip, proved far more difficult to attach than I’d hoped. Despite my assurances to the pilot that I’d be able to just clip it in place and leave it be, in fact I spent a significant part of the flight hand-holding it in order to get the footage I wanted. It proved next-to impossible to get the lens pointing in the exact direction I wanted — even once I’d worked out the sucker action, it had a limited range of angles that could be achieved without an additional screw-on attachment (an attachment I’d deliberately left in the car). Nonetheless, once back, the footage from this camera proved invaluable, and turned out far better than I had feared.

After my flight had finished, I returned to the 1950s clubhouses where my pilot and instructor, David Coe, issued me with a certificate. This enabled a nice conclusion to the video: me walking out of the building, beaming with pride, clutching said document. I got this shot on the second take — the first was quickly abandoned when I realised a couple had followed me out of the door, resulting in visual distraction as they amble purposelessly along the pathway behind me.

We also filmed the opening piece-to-camera (PTC) at the end. In hindsight, the walk-off was wrong — for continuity it should have been to the right, not the left, as I then walk back on from the left. Adding location filler shots in between, however, covers this.

Great care was taken to avoid continuity errors in the two shots showing my opening of the gate. Dad at the camera reminded me: “Right hand down, look to the left, then left hand shut the gate behind you.”. Regrettably this care did not extend to the cutaway we recorded of the certificate. Whilst we made sure my hands were in the same place as they appeared in a freeze-frame on playback, in the original PTC they had been in this position for less than a second — far too short for a meaningful close-up.

The other disappointment when filming was the sudden moment I realised I couldn’t find the radio mics in the back of the car. On a windy airfield, and especially with a fidgety ‘presenter’ like me, it’s essential the sound can be recorded as close to source as possible. Short of cutting any in-vision links and doing it all as a voiceover (Dad’s suggestion), I was forced to rely on the camera’s built-in mic. To be fair, it performed rather better than I was expecting, and some basic audio tweaks in the edit got rid of the worst of the background noise.

An upbeat instrumental backing track (taken from YouTube’s ever expanding royalty-free audio library) and a detailed script combined with good footage and a lot of luck, to create a great record of my first ever flying lesson.

I am grateful, as ever, to Dad for his help with the filming, but also to my girlfriend Kristen, for whom this was her first experience of the making of ‘an Andrew Burdett Production’! She tolerated my obsessive filmmaking whilst, frankly, being left to chill in clothes that were hardly suited to standing around outside for half an hour. I love her very much and am grateful for her patience.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.