Due to Corona/COVID our winter break, our “no jump time” was longer than usual. While we are still waiting for our DZ to open up, we should use the time to prepare ourselves in order not to do a complete cold start after such a long layoff. While there is a lot of advice how to prepare yourself and your rig, I want to focus on the camera equipment today. No matter if you just film the jump with your buddy for fun or if you film a world record attempt, the camera needs preparation.
First thing we should think about is the battery. In many cases the camera was lying in some corner or closet since the last jump of last season. Nowadays Lithium based rechargeable batteries hold their voltage for quite a long time. However, loading them completely and then let them film out of your window for at least half of the regular battery run time, is a good test for the battery. Some cameras have a software built in to check the charge condition, that gives you the remaining run time of the battery (I don’t mean the little battery icon).
In the non-skydiving time I “misuse” my video and my photo camera. The little GoPro is the perfect tool to be hidden somewhere in order to film a prank on a friend. I use the Sony 6300 to take pictures in the studio or while traveling and hiking. In all of these cases, I – of course – use different settings than for skydiving. So set your cameras back to your skydiving setting now. The idea to do this in the morning at the DZ turned out to be a stupid one at least once to me, as things might get hectic faster than you think and all of a sudden you are in the first load.
Test your whole setup. Put your helmet on and film something. Some people got the new Corona no haircut hairstyle. With a tighter sitting helmet this might result in an unpleasant surprise as the helmet fits much tighter or aims at a different point when you are using a marker on your googles as an aiming device.
Test all your cables and indicators by shooting some footage. Does the bite switch still work or did some humidity that go in through a small damage spot, cause some corrosion over the long layoff?
Check your helmets cutaway system for correct operation. Because a camera helmet without a cutaway system is almost as stupid as a skydiving rig without a CYPRES. Train to cutaway your helmet. We (hopefully) all do handle checks in the plane in order to train our haptic memory. Include your helmets cutaway system in the handle check.
Having 4400 + jumps, I am still nervous if I jump after a longer break. So revise you camera procedures and try them a few times. Build up haptic memory on finding the switches and other controls. If you have done this on the ground several times, there is one less point to be nervous or worried about on your “first” jump.
Being in lockdown due to Corona meant in some countries that you were not allowed to leave your home. And I can tell you, the call of the fridge was loud and I was weak. Does your camera suit still fit you? Do you still have the full range of motion in a tighter suit? Is it in perfect condition or does it need some stitching? Do the quick releases for the wings work smoothly?
Check your ditters. The non-rechargeable batteries may have died during the long layoff. Good ditters like the ones from L&B I use, give you a waring tone on startup if the batterie is low. A battery you don’t have to check is the one of your CYPRES. However just for my peace of mind I start it ones during my season preparations and watch it counting down. Mostly to see, if the CYPRES informs me about the next service, so I can plan ahead.
Last but not least: format all memory cards before you go to the DZ. Some of the non skydiving winter footage might end up in the wrong hands. 😉
Be safe and have fun.
Skynamite Cameraman Ralph.
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