Click here to learn about the making of the app.
AXIS Flight School has introduced a new discipline – HFS (Horizontal Formation Skydiving), which is intended for indoor skydiving and utilizes both the belly and back-flying orientations simultaneously. It is therefore related to the horizontal rounds drawn during an MFS advanced event, but with an expanded dive pool in order to facilitate more rounds. These disciplines are a great stepping stone for those with formation skydiving experience and are wanting to explore free-flying. There are two versions to choose from: 2-way and 4-way. Both have been added to the AXIS DrawGenerator.
The 2-way HFS dive pool incorporates some elements from the USPA MFS and Collegiate dive pools, as well as the USIS 2-way VFS event. In addition there are some new formations created by AXIS to further expand the pool.
The 4-way HFS dive pool is an adaptation and was inspired by the 4-way VFS discipline.
On January 4th, 2015 AXIS Flight School created an experimental dive pool for what was then referred to as XRW (Extreme Relative Work). This is a still developing discipline where canopy and wing-suit pilots build formations. In essence, an XRW skydive is a dissimilar formation flight.
The first dive pool developed by AXIS was called XF. The name change from XRW was proposed similar to how RW (Relative Work) was changed to FS (Formation Skydiving); and since CF (Canopy Formation) is already taken, the XF abbreviation was introduced for “Cross” Formation. The first draft only had 3 Randoms and 6 blocks.
Since wing-suit technology has dramatically increased flight performance over the past few years, new formations have become possible. The updated 2020 version now features 8 randoms and 10 blocks dispersed over three classes: intermediate, advanced, and open. In addition, the XF rules have been updated to evolve with the times and practitioners can even make use of the AXIS DrawGenerator. There are now two orientations for the wing suit pilot to fly in:
Back in the day 🙂
2010 – Nik’s first few attempts at Skydive Elsinore.
2011 – Training Camp at Skydive Arizona
2011 – MOAB Boogie.
2014 – Getting a bit braver. Post by Blue Skies Magazine.
2015 – XF gets some exposure on Discovery Canada with first 3-way Night Formation.
Continued fun, experimentation, and introducing the discipline to others.
Over the past three years, AXIS Flight School has been involved in a joint venture with Good Goblin Games to develop a new kind of skydiving app – AXIS Skydiving, available on Google play and on the Apple App Store. The goal was to create an educational tool/reference manual that covers body-flight and canopy-piloting concepts in a fun and engaging manner. Brianne Thompson and Niklas Daniel are the co-founders of AXIS Flight School and have a history of writing educational articles and creating online video tutorials. Bruce Fournier is a talented animator and app developer and fun jumper at Skydive Arizona. Brianne and Nik are the subject matter experts for the app’s content, providing Bruce with instruction and feedback in creating the animations. The purpose of this app was to develop an innovative way for an audience to visualize movement. From the start, the team wanted to utilize a 3D model. This allows the user to interact with a subject of interest in a way that a picture or video cannot provide. It is important that a user can change viewing angles, time, and use tools that can help visualize the body’s interaction with the relative wind. This led to the creation of Woody, a three-dimensional interactive dummy and AXIS’ new official mascot. Woody offers viewers insight by demonstrating specific maneuvers related to skydiving. In addition, each chapter in the app also comes with a detailed article, photos, and links to tutorial videos. Specific maneuvers are quickly and easily located as they are grouped into categories, such as body-flight orientation and transitions. Brianne puts it simply: “This is the best damn skydiving app in the history of the world.”
Playing with Ideas
Accomplishing this would have been difficult to do with most standard developer tools. In order to jump over this first hurdle, the team was inspired by video games, as they are specifically designed to display and animate 3D graphics. With a background developing games for mobile devices in his past and still creating game prototypes in his spare time, Bruce understands the potential and power of such an approach. We quickly decided to make the app in a video game engine called “Unity”. This game engine has grown rapidly in the past decade and is used by small indie developers to big name game studios. Although video game engines are rarely used for educational apps, Unity provided all the tools and flexibility needed for the AXIS Skydiving app endeavor to take shape.
Woody was created and animated in a 3D animation program called “Maya”, which is
also used by major video game developers and movie studios. Created entirely from scratch, Bruce did not use any downloadable or royalty free elements. This is where the team decided on what Woody was to look like and any other accompanying gear he might use such as a rig, canopy, and more. Creating the correct and engaging visuals proved challenging. The original idea was to have the app feel like a textbook come to life with Woody jumping off every page. However, the first few drafts were aesthetically boring and uninteresting. After multiple redesigns, the team settled on a look that can be described as stylized minimalism. Through the process of trial and error, the team learned that “less is more”. Avoiding elements that can confuse and distract the viewer, AXIS wants you to see only the bare necessities and what is relevant.
Bringing Woody to Life
After Woody took shape and was finalized with Maya, he was then imported into Unity to breathe life into his movements and appearance. There were some unforeseen challenges in the animating process where the team had to think outside the box. Referencing pictures and videos of a particular action is helpful, however the team had to take a different approach when applying standard animation techniques to skydiving. This is because realism and accuracy of execution is the backbone of the app. Animators typically reference the ground and analyze the position of their subject’s feet. Doing this literally grounds the character and guides the animation process. Woody always being in the air however makes the animation process difficult since there is nothing to ground him in reality and is just one of many hurdles we had to overcome. Bruce: “ Animating Woody was a unique challenge compared to the usual way I animate. Most other animations of a humanoid character I can much more easily reference by physically doing silly things myself like jump, run, and crawl around to get the feel of how something is suppose to look. I just hope no one else is around at the time to watch me make a fool of myself. Pictures and videos of someone else performing the action is always very helpful but this also came with its own problems compared to the usual way I animate. When referencing a picture or video, one of the first things I do is look at the ground and see where the person’s feet are positioned. Having this initial point of origin helps guide many things down the line for the whole animation. For skydiving it is literally not grounded. It also doesn’t help that this is an educational app and the animations in particular have to be accurate. Depending on the project you know you can fudge some things and as long as it looks cool and somewhat believable to the average end user it gets a pass. Big name movies and video games do this all the time. We can look at one of our favorite super heroes Iron Man as an example. It may look really cool when he is flying but in reality he would be crashing into the ground if we think about the real physics of how something is flying.”
Though Nik and Brianne help Bruce with the animation of movements, Bruce spends most of his time working on the app by himself. Working on the project part time, around five hours per week over three years, Bruce has spent more than seven hundred hours in front of his laptop!
Teaching Woody to Fly
Bruce: “At first I simply tried to read AXIS Flight School’s articles as a guide to the animation and reference pictures as best I could. I am also a novice skydiver compared to someone like Nik and Brianne and figured I could at least have a slight idea in my head how it should look and feel. Long story short, the first batch of animations came out a little sloppy. We later found the best method to make animations is to have Nik and Brianne sit in with me where I do all the technical computer magic and they describe in detail how Woody should look and occasionally Nik or Brianne have to look silly for me to reference from.”
Nik: “It was a fun and challenging process to teach Woody to fly. Since Brianne and I
coach full time, there was no difference in our approach. AXIS is fully aware that there are many ways to perform a particular maneuver. Models and analogies are always limited in their descriptive power. Choosing a method and focusing on tracking the movements of joints is one effective method of getting a concept across. Of course focusing on joint movement alone is not the whole picture. Timing and body tension are impossible to relay in an image and even video, that is why every chapter in the app has an article to help cover these aspects.”
Brianne: “In order to get the most realistic and accurate representation, Nik and I always started at Woody’s core and worked outward. Since we did not have a net or tunnel walls to reference, we needed to keep a close eye not just on Woody’s body movements, but how he moved through space. Without a reference we frequently used masking tape as a place holder on the monitor we were working on.”
In addition to body-flight concepts, the AXIS Skydiving app also features canopy handling drills. As canopy parts and elements are very intricate in nature, AXIS turned to its canopy sponsor Performance Designs. Since accuracy is the backbone of the app, the team wanted to ensure that the depictions and animation of a canopy would be realistic as possible.
PD was able to provide a 3D mesh of one of their products – the Sabre 2. This was instrumentally helpful, but Bruce had to go to work on building a version that could be joined with Woody. Bruce: “Building a functional container with a canopy was one of the most difficult things I ever had to create. There is so many little details and functions that most people don’t realize. There was now three layers of complexity at any given time: 1) Woody by himself, 2) A container that freely moves and morphs accurately on top of Woody along with the function to show if it is open or closed, and 3) Lastly a canopy attached to the container that also functions from real world inputs like pulling your toggles or rear risers. Like the animations before I really couldn’t fudge anything since this was an educational app where accuracy is the most important aspect of the entire project.
The rig I made is a mix of three different rigs. I used several reference pictures of Vectors and Curvs, along with my own Mirage that I closely studied. The first attempt I made at
building a canopy on the other hand wasn’t bad and in most cases I would have been happy with it and moved on, but again this is an educational app and there were too many small mistakes that a real canopy would not have. A lot of 3D animation work is studying the environment around you that most others don’t notice. It can be a scary though if you have a lot of the basics down of how something is supposed to work but it just isn’t quite coming together.
Just because I have an accurate looking canopy now there was still a lot of work to be done in order to make it work in our app. I first had to delete a lot of geometry. This does make the canopy look a little more blocky with jagged edges, but building stuff for a game is a huge tight rope dance between what will look good and what will actually work with no slow down. The computer or in our case limited mobile devices have to process everything in real time. From there I have to texture the canopy so it isn’t just grey. Then I have to rig it. This means I have to build a skeleton for the canopy and lines. This might sound a little strange but you have to think of how the canopy is going to move and bend for our needs. I place several “bones” that have “joints” and this dictates how the canopy can actually move. After making the skeleton I then make special controls so I can more easily create animations instead of moving one bone at a time.”
In addition to featuring top-notch animations, the app also includes some useful tools to jumpers of all kinds. Calculators to determine: exit separation, reserve repack cycle, wing loading, and a canopy size orientation guide. Formation skydiving competitors can benefit from an adjustable count down times with audio cue, access to dive pool images, and a performance analyzer.
The AXIS Flight School team is excited to have launched their innovative new app and is looking forward to watching it grow and evolve. As motion-tracking technology is not available to the team, each maneuver that Woody performs is hand animated and requires many dedicated hours of screen time. There are limited copy and paste features available in this work process. This means each animation is created nearly from scratch even as the app is updated with new content on a monthly basis. Bruce: “From developing other projects over the years I have learned that it is best to try and make everything as modular as possible. That way I can take out and plug in just about anything much more easily instead of redoing everything from scratch.”
“Thank you for downloading and subscribing!” – The AXIS Team
Fly Smart. Train Hard.
Over the past 3 years, AXIS Flight School has been working with Good Goblin Games to develop a new kind of skydiving app. Featuring Woody, an animated and interactive figurine that helps demonstrate body-flight and canopy-piloting concepts. In addition, the app features many more useful tools for everyone from the casual jumper to instructors and competitors.
Being competitors at heart, Niklas and Brianne do their best to improve on a daily basis. This applies not only to competitions, but also their business and life’s work – AXIS Flight School. AXIS has gone through an incredible online transformation, which could be called a “Cyber Grand Re-opening”. These changes have been taking place behind the scenes for over two years.
The AXIS website has always been packed with lots of useful tools and information. In order to make the site more user friendly and to keep up with the times more than a facelift was needed. In fact, we started over. Major improvements include a color coded menu system which is easy to navigate, condensed information on every page, and not to be overlooked – The AXIS Skydiving Repository. Here we developed a digital sorting system that categorizes all or our articles and reference materials for faster recall. Now users can search for categories such as solo skills, canopy, camera, and much more to find what you are looking for.
In addition, AXIS Flight School now uses sig.ma, a platform on which you can keep track of accomplishments, IDs, licenses, merits, etc. in a digital form. This allows us to send merits to students who have demonstrated their proficiency to our AXIS Coaches™ and acknowledge their achievements. Available Merits are displayed at the top of each web page, and their colors correspond to the new menu system.
If the number of inquires USPA Headquarters has been receiving on a weekly basis is any indication, this year’s National Skydiving Championships at Skydive Arizona is going to be the biggest ever. Here’s some basic information for those interested in competing:
Registration: All competitors, including alternates and videographers, pay a general registration fee of $50. In addition, there is an event entry fee, plus the cost of jumps. Event entry fees are calculated based on the estimated number of participants sharing fixed costs; therefore, more entrants in your event results in lower cost per competitor. Event fees are as follows:
Jump prices are based on fuel prices; if the price of fuel goes up $1 per gallon, jump rates go up $1.50. If current fuel prices remain stable through October, then the price per jump is as follows:
Here’s a sample calculation: You enter both FS 4-way and 8-way. You’ll pay the $50 general registration fee plus $150 for two FS events, plus $480 for jumps ($24/jump for 10 rounds for two events). Total cost is $680.
Registration is open from the beginning of the official start of Nationals until 5 p.m. the day before your event starts. At approximately 6 p.m. the evening before your event, meet management will announce the draw and hand out individual/ team numbers and assign jump order (you’ll get a copy of the draw).
Skydive Arizona has created a 2012 Nationals Event Page with basic meet information and FAQs. Look for a dedicated Facebook page sometime in September. You can go to Skydive Arizona’swebsite now to check out the DZ’s amenities, aircraft, lodging, food, rigging, transportation options and a motel/lodging list.
Here’s the schedule for Nationals:
Write firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions; see you there!
Skydiver’s Competition Manual Gets a Makeover!
USPA’s Competition and Communications staffs have been hard at work on a major, long-overdue overhaul of the Skydiver’s Competition Manual—not only implementing the many changes that went into effect at 2011 and 2012 USPA Board of Directors meetings, but also completely reworking the manual into a format similar to the one used by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and the International Parachuting Commission. As new chapters (formerly sections) of the SCM are completed, they’ll be posted on the website for free downloading. The complete SCM will be available in early July.
Source: News Update from the United States Parachute Association (Web Newsletter)
At AXIS Flight School we meet jumpers from all walks of life. Be it a Student who just received their A-License, the Weekend Warrior, and the Hard-Core Competitors. No matter what your experience level, each license has strict rules regarding proficiency and currency. Since we encounter question about retrains all the time, I thought it might be a good idea to highlight some of the information here:
“Returning skydivers require thorough practical training in the following subject areas:
a. aircraft procedures
c. exit and freefall procedures
d. canopy control and landings
e. emergency procedures
USPA A-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within 60 days should make at least one jump under the supervision of a currently rated USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating altitude awareness, freefall control on all axes, tracking, and canopy skills sufficient for safely jumping in groups
USPA B-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding 90 days should make at least one jump under the supervision of a USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating the ability to safely exercise the to safely exercise the privileges of that license.
USPA C- and D-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding six months should make at least one jump under the supervision of a USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating the ability to safely exercise the privileges of that license.
Students who have not jumped within the preceding 30 days should make at least one jump under the direct supervision of an appropriately rated USPA Instructor.
DZ policy: Students/Non Licensed jumpers who have not jumped within the last year will need to take a full FJC ground school training. Recurrency jumps to be determined at instructor’s discretion.”- USPA SIM.
Please click here to view this article on the USPA’s Parachutist website.