XB-1 First Flight

Boom Supersonic

Locations

  • Mojave, CA

You've never seen so many windmills at one time. The desert is known to be a particularly sparse place, but driving into Mojave is striking not so much for the "Rider on the Storm"-meets-"A Horse with No Name" desert vibes as for its forest of its seemingly randomly splayed, hypnotically rotating, white electric "trees." Strangely, it's somehow peaceful and menacing in the same moment. So, while the name of the desert may contain the Yuman etymological seed "aha," meaning water, the experiential "a-ha!" moment upon arrival is all about one of the other four elements: wind. 

Now, let's say you decide to fold up a sweet paper airplane, or, if you're feeling a little more Mary Poppins, dust off an old kite. One thing you'll discover right away is that wind is equally friend and foe. There's no flight without airflow and lift, but the same shifting ingredient can also send your toy into a spectacular crash. And when your toy is a multimillion-dollar prototype jet 10 years in the making, as it is for Boom Supersonic, your tolerance for wind is significantly less than it is for your average Scotsman or Chicagoan. 

If, on the other hand, you happen to be holding a camera with a 1000mm lens on a $20,000 tripod, you're much more concerned with subtitles of light than zigzags in the surrounding breeze. Of course, every video production crew is familiar with the dreaded words "weather pending," but meteorological contingencies reach fantastically new heights when waiting patiently on a runway in the desert at 4am. 

Documenting the first test flight for Boom's XB-1 – the miniature version of their future supersonic commercial airliner, Overture – was unlike any production La Storia has ever undertaken. Consider the following (fair warning to all producers, you may want to avert your eyes and skip this part): nine cam-ops stationed around a highly restricted airfield; mandatory mission briefs for all crew that could be called at any moment during the day; potential for litigious action with serious legal repercussions for any leaked recordings, photos, or social media posts; travel and lodging logistics for crew coming in from LA or staying 30 minutes away in the unpredictably curious town of Tehachapi; a minivan going 100mph with the doors open; a purple chase jet flown by a Top Gun pilot who goes by Geppeto; a 5-knot crosswind margin that means inevitable – and wholly unknowable – delays in a production schedule that involves multiple high-speed taxi tests prior to flight; and to top it all off, a 24-hour window to turn around the edit.

In total this project spanned six months from the initial pre-production work began, three weeks in Mojave for production, and pushed the envelope for every step from concept animatics to spinning off multiple deliverables from the hero video.

Here are a few things that go without saying: supersonic jets are fast, the wind is invisible, and creating video content to document something that is grounded (no pun intended) in both of those things involves as many moving parts and changes in direction as the dogfight scenes from the original Top Gun. And like that movie, it also happens to be just freakin' cool. 


 
Anthony Atwood and Kaden Colby: Creative Direction
RC Walker: Managing Director / B Cam-Op
Molly McKinney-Walker: Executive Producer
Fredo Jones: DP / A Cam-Op
Chris Calnin: DP / A Cam-Op
Chris MacDonald: 1st AC
Dillon Stucky: Drone-Op
Sam Windell: Drone Assistant
Matt Segler: Chase Plane Cam-Op
Matthew Zlamal: B Cam-Op
Alden Blake: C Cam-Op
Connor Gaskey: Gimbal Cam-Op
Chris Svoboda: E Cam-Op / DIT / Senior Editor
Steve Paschall: F Cam-Op / Sound Design
Diego Rodriguez: Assistant Editor
Brandon Lim: Still Photographer
Renz Dimaandal: Photo Assistant
Darren Martin: Photo Assistant