Cassini Probe

One skill I definitely do not have is video editing and composition. It’s both a skill and an art-form, really: the cuts and camera moves, the sound, transitions, framing, timing – it’s much much harder than stills, for me. So I mostly do stills.

In honor of the impending death of the Cassini Probe I hopped into Elite Dangerous and took my explorer ship and did a flyby around Saturn. The latest version of Elite has added an impressive new “free camera” that you can switch back and forth so your controls either move the camera, or the ship (or if you have someone else who can move the camera, then you can try to fly)  Flying at a slight off-angle 3rd person view is not easy, when your muscle memory and reflexes are trained to first person simulators.

That’s all a roundabout way of saying “I don’t think this is probably a very good video”:

I love the in-game sounds in Elite, which is why I didn’t do an audio overlay of Sniff and The Tears’ “Driver’s Seat”..   Someone who really knew how to do videos would probably listen to that track a few times, put on their headphones, and then synchronize their piloting and maneuvers to the music, or something cool like that.

Some stills:

Imperial Cutter What Me Worry? on flyby


M/V Longshot on Saturn Approach

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With respect to in-game sounds in space: the growling is the ship’s frame-shift drive, hull vibration, and the “boom” is the shockwave dropping from supercruise (which is a mcguffin for light speed/high speed that makes the game not totally boring) into normal space. The game still has the annoying “sounds of other ships flying by” even in a vaccum, but they’re so good, I don’t care. There are so many violations of reality, to make a game like this work, that you may as well just throw your hands up in the air and enjoy it. Imagine how un-fun it would be to make the 4000light-second run from Sol to Saturn at realistic speeds, like Cassini did?

I play at 3840 x 2160 resolution, so this is brutally down-sampled. The source video footage for all of this was about 17gb. Honestly, that’s overkill so I down-sample it and throw the full resolution away. It’s painful but otherwise I’d be eating hard drives like they were nachos.

For someone like me who grew up playing ASCII art games like Peter Langston’s EMPIRE and Avalon Hill’s Tactics II, graphics like this are incredibly addictive. I remember the first good graphics I saw, which was a flight simulator running on an old Perkin/Elmer machine, and nowadays we can casually play around with stuff that’s so good it was unimaginable when I was growing up. I call that “progress.”   And we build all this amazing stuff and the result is: Twitter. Oh, well.

The first still is of the imperial cutter What Me Worry?, taken on my first trip around the Sol system last winter.


  1. says

    I loved that game!
    Never played SubLOGIC. But, heh, remember MIcrosoft Flight Simulator 1, with the plane engine sounds made by triggering the on-boar speaker? It was good for its time.

    I feel like I’m a total nerdwipe posting pictures from a game, but love this stuff and thus the commentariat must, too! Or you will be made to love them! Or something!

  2. Kengi says

    Yeah, the MS Flight Simulator line was/is a classic. I even enjoyed the brief incarnation of “Flight” a few years back. Finding the daily aerocaches was a blast and a good reason to fire it up each day, even for a little bit.

    I never tried Elite Dangerous (but remember the original it was inspired from). I spent some time with EVE Online several years back. It really did hone your spreadsheet skills! A friend actually won an in-game photo contest in EVE which I helped him compose. I also got a kick out of the Borderlands series in co-op. Recently, though, I haven’t been inspired enough for any particular game beyond spider solitaire or keeping up with the NYT crosswords.

    Something will come up, though. It always does.