Creator Highlight Month 2022: RedKite
Updated: Oct 31, 2022
No matter our passion, we like to pursue it with dedication. But there always comes a point where learning by ourselves becomes an issue, and it is in these situations where people such as RedKite come into the picture. Someone who is willing to share knowledge and spread it around, allowing others to improve faster than they would have otherwise.
Our third interview for Creator Highlight Month 2022 (CHM) is with RedKite, a video creator and game dev who dedicates himself to making elaborate video tutorials, reviews and showcases mostly for DCS World. I have personally been a fan of his content for quite a while, finding it to be some of the best out there when it comes to creativity and dedication. He also dabbles into retro flight sims from time to time. We had the honor of being able to interview him and have him as a guest in our CHM.
Hello there and thank you for accepting our request. Let’s start right away. Could you please tell us who you are and a brief description of what you do?
Hello! I run a flight sim YouTube channel, that's generally considered by the community as the 'Gold standard' for long form DCS video tutorials, and occasional DCS science and gameplay videos. I'm also a part of a hobby indie dev team, having released 'Pipeline VR' on Steam recently (A pipe building panic/puzzle game).
How did you come up with your name? Is there any story behind it?
RedKite came about because of a beautiful bird by the same name. When i was young it was all but extinct, but thankfully recovered to become a fairly common sight in England. I've a couple living in a large oak tree by my home, which I see each day, to which I owe the channel's name.
How did you get started with flight simulation? Was it an early childhood hobby or did you pick it up as an adult? If it was in early childhood, what is your earliest memory you have of a flight simulator?
Fairly early on in childhood I was exposed to flight sims, my Grandfather served in Coastal Command with the RAF during WWII, so I've always had an interest in flight and often went to see air-shows. 'Chocks away' was the first 'flight sim', which I'd play in split screen co-op with my brother! Another strong memory, is that of the bomber attack quick start on 'MS Combat Flight Simulator' (1) which was my first experience using an analogue joystick to shoot down Ju-88s or He-111s in a spitfire and seeing the bullet marks appear on my canopy!
While your primary focus is Digital Combat Simulator, you occasionally cover retro simulators. Are there any simulators from the past that you would recommend people try?
F-117A Stealth Fighter 2.0, which I covered recently still stands up and provides unique stealth action gameplay, if you can get past the graphics and janky controls. More recently, I'd thoroughly recommend Il-2 1946 especially if you like WW2 pacific carrier operations, something sadly not present in modern flight sims!
What motivated you to start making YouTube videos about DCS: World? In particular, what motivated you to start making long-form tutorial style videos with some variety content from time to time?
I heavily struggled getting into DCS and gave up a couple times initially. This was in part due to being dyslexic, which makes all the manuals a serious labour for me. Videos helped me through that, and I decided to return the favour by producing my own when I noticed a lack of videos of the quality I wanted. I started with il-2 Cliffs of Dover tutorials (although not public) My first DCS tutorial was on the Harrier's Mavericks. It received good attention, including from Matt Wagner! That encouraged me to keep on making them, and also provided me with a means to help cement my own learning.
What is the process you go through when planning out one of your tutorial videos? Do you start by studying the aircraft system or do you like writing down the script first?
It'll usually start out by writing condensed notes on how to work a system from the manual and getting experience using it and special use cases. Then break it down into segments for presentation. Most of the time I'll write a script, occasionally live speaking prompts. Scope is always a difficult one, a lot of viewers try to jump in the deep end and ask for absolute basics to be included (like sensor of interest (SOI), basic HOTAS and aircraft logic). So I try to cover these separately so as to not bog down an already complex topic. Shots I usually come up with on the fly listening back to the video's script, without much fore-planning. All said complex videos can take 10-20hrs or more to make.
When it comes down to DCS modules, do you have any particular preferences for any aircraft? Would there be a module you would recommend to beginners?
Personally I love modern western aircraft; The top spots going to the A-10C II, Hornet and probably the Apache soon! But I do have a soft spot for Cold War era analogue aircraft like the MiG-21, although I don't get on well with the heavily number based Viggen computer!
I'd always recommend you buy the aircraft that interests you the most, not the one that's 'easy to learn' or the 'meta' aircraft for multiplayer. But it comes with a caveat: You need to make sure your HOTAS is up to the job, learning an A-10C on a Thrustmaster T.Flight is going to be a bad time, owing to it's meager button count. The Flaming Cliffs 3 level A-10A or full fidelity F-5E on the other hand would be perfectly manageable. You do have to do a little mental preparation and accept you won't be good at a module day one, it's a commitment to learn in DCS in-depth. Which is where people often fall down, not the aircraft itself. DCS is incredibly complex, not just the full aircraft, but navigating, communicating, fighting and surviving combat on top of that! So you've got to pace yourself to avoid frustration.
When you start studying a new DCS module, how do you approach it? Do you study differently if you know the subject is going to go on a video?
If I'm doing a pre-release preview I've usually only got 1 week, so I'll always learn everything I can prior to access, taking notes. Then do the startup just once, skip to air starts and learn systems people would like to see. I've found this works well for me because I've built up vast knowledge that transfers over from other aircraft. But I'd never recommend this approach to a beginner, not least because you won't have access to developers to talk you through confusion occasionally.
Learning properly without time pressures I'll always work myself up doing lots of notes, learning basic flight and weapons before hitting the hard stuff. I build up 'cheat sheets' with instructions on each task condensed without explanation to reference once I'm flying. The very process of making these notes is a big part of helping you remember it.
You did a great video showcasing the T-45C mod by VNAO. Have you tried any of the other high fidelity community mods?
I'd meant to cover them both by now, but sadly time doesn't permit me to. I've flown the MB-339 a tiny bit, and the A-4E a fair amount. I do love the terrain avoidance mode on the A-4E, very impressed they managed to model it, although i find it rather tough to land on a carrier well! Nearly on par with the full fidelity modules you can buy. If I could afford to commit more time to YouTube I'd happily cover them, but life gets in the way! With 'review' videos being one of the most time consuming to make.
Is there anything you would personally like to be added to DCS World?
A lot of DCS's core is very outdated; AI 3d models, AI behavior and general quality of life features are what I'd like to see the most (such as afterburner detent setting, Radio integration, weather, interactive startup checklist kneeboards, FLIR) Outside that, an overhaul of air refueling with basket and boom physics would be great, being one of my favorite skills. That and a dynamic campaign engine because I hope it will bring in lots of AI and mission optimisations, to allow for a greater focus on player driven mission planning and co-operative play.
There are many DCS World campaign previews on your YouTube channel, but Raven One seems to be the only campaign you’ve recorded from start to finish. What was it about this campaign that piqued your interest?
I'd read the Raven One book prior, which had gotten me into it. I'd been meaning to start doing campaigns generally, so this was a natural progression into it. In the past I'd struggled greatly to produce worthwhile 'let's play' videos, scrapping more than a few, being unhappy with the quality of commentary and or flying. I was finally starting to get comfortable doing it by the time Raven One released. I've got my eye on more than a few campaigns I want to play through on the channel in the future!
Did you have any contact with Kevin Miller, the author of the Raven One book or with Baltic Dragon while doing your Raven One series?
Indeed, I have talked extensively with both. You'll also spot Kevin Miller in the comments on a number of the Raven One videos! Kevin was very kind in regards to feedback on my carrier landings and provided me with a lot of tips, critique and praise on my performance around the boat. He was very impressed with my Case 3 recoveries during the campaign, and was plenty happy to tell me off when i did something wrong! (like crossing the catapults by mistake on the clearing turn after launch) I'm very thankful he took the time to watch and talk with me. He put both me and Baltic to the test with the bonus 'Working the Wake' multiplayer mission; doing attack patterns which was a good laugh to play in multiplayer with Baltic Dragon. Kevin rather enjoyed being able to see his creation brought to life in DCS, along with the little cinematic extras I did. So much so, you might just recognise the voice of a certain British exchange pilot in the next DCS Raven One Campaign!
What kind of flight sim gear do you own? Any interesting stories behind any of them?
I've picked up a lot of gear over many years and reviews! My Force Feedback Microsoft Sidewinder 2 holds a special place, being a technology sadly lost to patent trolls today. It was for the longest time my go-to stick for flight sims prior to DCS. The physical feedback and variable resistance was awesome. A Viripil WarBRD, CH rudder, and Thrustmaster Stick/Throttle make up the core of my current setup. With WinWing and Total Controls providing auxiliary panels and TM MFDs on monitors. I also make use of a WW Orion with Hornet handles occasionally. My WH Throttle has the Delta-sim slew stick mod, and in general I've 3d printed realistic switch toppers for many controls. I took up 3D printing as a hobby this year, and produced my own modifications and button boxes for my flight sim setup. Including an inline button box for my Viripil desk mount, designed and made myself. Taking advantage of the empty space in their design, filling in some gaps in my controls. I intend to design and build a radio panel (like those found on the A-10c II) some time this year.
My setup is a little ram-shackle with a mixture of old and new pushed together, and even a few bits of cardboard propping things up! With two 10 slot powered USB hubs hooking it all up to my PC! I'd love to build a proper sim pit one day, but my computer needs to remain suitable for office work too. Recently I've been 3D printing the freely available Authentikit Spitfire Mk. IX parts which i plan on building soon! Which is really exciting, being a scale replica of the controls set, so keep an eye out for that!
We saw that in a couple of your videos you show VR footage of some modules, which headset do you have? Do you prefer flying in VR or with head tracking?
I own both a HTC Vive and Valve Index. I immensely prefer VR flying, however despite owing a Nvidia 3080, DCS just doesn't run VR at an acceptable level of performance for me. So I stick to TrackIR. This works out better for videos too, as VR is not great for viewers. In IL-2 great battles I'll usually use VR instead, owing to better performance. But most of my VR use is on room scale games. I really can't wait for the coming optimisations and vulkan support, hopefully they'll make VR worthwhile in DCS for me, as the sheer immersion and extra sense you gain is not only great fun, but helps improve your flying precision greatly! Although I'm not 100% sure I'd ever fully replace TrackIR as it's just so much more convenient without the extra setup and encumbrance.
We would like to thank you once again for accepting our request to interview you. Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?
YouTube has been a massive time sync over the years, I'm really proud of what I've achieved for the community, and honored to be held in high regard. The YouTube algorithm hates long form high production value content. So all the support from everyone in the DCS community, has made a huge difference to the channel's success and is the reason it continues to exist despite YouTube's demoralizing ecosystem. Thank you Everyone!
About the Interviewer
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034