They are often over-looked by the factory drivers in their speeches. They are yelled at by race officials and race promotors (Well this might just be Cory). They are treated like criminals smuggling high explosives at airports around the world. They spend hours editing thousands upon thousands of photos and videos for the sport they love!
It’s been a while since I last wrote a column for my “Blog”. A lot has happened in the past 6 weeks; both good and bad. The bad was I lost my Father; this was a huge blow to me as I never realized what life would be like without having a dad. The good was, I released one of my best episodes to my documentary series; if there is an epic beyond epic…that’s how epic it is! So this post may come off as either extremely obvious to the point of it being a multi-page cliche … or it might come of as really preachy…or it may actually be helpful to you and your career. It certainly has been for both of my careers.
While a bit of Confidence never hurt anyone, I have been finding more and more people who are successful at a craft, sitting back on their laurels and patting themselves on the back not bothering to innovate or get better at what they do. They become Arrogant; and are convinced that they are the best!
You have to remember that there’s always someone else that can do exactly what you do…only better. As I previously eluded to, I have two jobs; Middle Manager for Ledcor Construction & Cinematographer/Editor/Writer/Producer with 5150 Media Productions. Ok…so that’s like 5 jobs…but I still only count it as two! Even though I am successful at all five jobs, I force myself to continue learning new techniques & technologies.
Are you Self-Aware?
By day, I manage a team of highly skilled IT professionals. On every performance eval I have received as a Manager, one strength that comes up over and over is self awareness. In the business world it’s imperative to know what you are good at and what you’re not good at. Trust me; I know EXACTLY what I’m not good at and this helps me navigate through certain delicate situations in a way that I stay employed. It’s imperative to work equally on improving both your strengths & weaknesses. This guarantees that you’re going to become stellar at what you’re good at and your weaknesses will follow suit. I cannot fathom being a successful leader without knowing, and working around my weakness.
My “Other Job” is producing a documentary series on the sub-culture that is Professional R/C Car Racing. I have applied this same logic to my work in this space as well.
“Your Videos are the best!!!”
I enjoy the recognition and am stoked (a lot) that people like my work, but I also have a bit of a hard time with this statement. The reasons are two-fold. The first reason I struggle with this statement is because I can point out so many flaws in each and every one of my productions. It’s true; I am a perfectionist. It’s been a long time since I had a job-interview, but the last one I had, I got the sense that it was frowned upon when I said that I was a perfectionist. I truly am one however; each episode of “Come Drive With Us” has to be as close to perfect as I can make it. My last episode, the Xiamen Worlds (which I felt was my opus), was re-released because the Narration track just didn’t sound up to my standards. I actually ended up having my Narrator re-record the entire track just to make it right. I suppose this could be construed as CDO (That’s OCD spelled the way it should be: Alphabetical). Most people didn’t even notice that the original track had an issue, but I did.
The second reason I don’t like hearing this is because I don’t want to start believing that they are “the best”. Yes I enjoy watching them and I realize their significance to the R/C Industry but honestly, I am constantly striving to make them better. There is always room for improvement. If you go back and watch my series from the beginning you will see this.
In season 1 I was somewhat “star struck” by professional drivers that I looked up to for many years. Drivers like Tessmann, Drake, Tebo, King, Maifield, Cavalieri, etc. It took me a while to build a rapport with them and once I did, I tended to stick to just interviewing drivers that I was comfortable around. This gave Season 1 a bit of a “claustrophobic” feel. The exception to this was the final episode of the first season. In The Messina Worlds movie I was starting to come out of my shell; and it showed. This is still my favorite episode to date.
In Season 2 I invested in more lenses and hardware to make my footage crisper and smoother. I was also bolder around some of the more intimidating drivers and I focused more on story & long-term plot lines. With less effort wasted on worrying about what questions to ask the best R/C drivers on the planet, I was able to start working more on the technical aspects of my productions which really started to take shape in Season 3. This is probably my favorite seasons so far both from the story telling as well as the styling.
In season 4, I began focusing on more advanced technical aspects of how I shot, edited and mixed my productions. A lot of this came from my spending time with professional cinema folk; and this resulted in me taking a more professional approach. I adopted a picture profile called LOG and making the jump to shooting in Sony’s version of this (SLOG2/SLOG3) was very difficult for me as it was a technique that was way outside my comfort zone. In the end, it was a risk that payed huge dividends as I feel Season 4 is the best looking season yet.
But I still make mistakes; like completely forgetting to interview Spencer Rivkin after he finished 3rd in the 4WD event at the worlds. I blame this on the fatigue factor after 8 consecutive 12 hour days.
Mistakes will always happen, it’s a matter of how to over-come them. I have absolutely no intentions of slowing down my innovations both from a hardware perspective and from a how I use the hardware. This drive to better myself is not limited to my production company; the same is true for for my day-job as well. Constant innovation will help your work to stand-out and be original. And do your best to be original. No one likes a copycat or a Fraud.
Never Stop Re-Inventing Yourself!
My point in all of this is you need to keep moving forward and improving what you do if you want to not only succeed; but to stay relevant. Maybe try to Re-Invent yourself?
While hard work and results should get you everywhere, you need to first be self-aware so that you know what your weaknesses are so that you focus all your hard work into the right areas.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get whilst on a shoot is
How many hours of footage do you have to go through?
This question always catches me a bit off-guard as I honestly have no clue how many hours of footage I actually take. I could tell you how many individual shots I have, I could even tell you how many shots are still outstanding on my check-list, but as far as duration, I always find this questions odd. Yet, it gets asked at every shoot I go on!
Because I didn’t go film-school nor have I taken any courses on how to film Documentaries I never really know if my methods are “Best Practices”. I constantly struggle with insecurities around my process; for all I know, I could be doing things completely wrong. Regardless, I’m going to take you on a trip with me to give insight as to how I plan, film and edit an episode of “Come Drive With Us“.
For every shoot I go on, there is a high degree of planning; and I’m not talking about logistics…even though that is something I have to do as well. No, I’m talking more about planning the shoot itself. Who I’m going to focus on; common interview questions to enhance the plot, trying to get the promoters to hook me up with the same quality of filming spots at the venue as LiveRC (I never do), etc. For me, this is no easy task as I am a one-person team so I definitely have to wear multiple hats.
While I tend to let each event tell it’s own story, more often than not, there are themes going into the shoot that I know will need to be covered. In some cases, there are shots that I want to take and I know exactly where they will appear in the production. The 2016 Worlds was a prime example of this. I knew that the opening shot would be the late Dallas Mathiesen handing the winner the IFMAR trophy. To build up suspense, my plan was to NOT reveal the winner but rather the focus would be on Dallas. Even though I had this shot planned out months before had I literally seconds to setup for it and execute it. Did it work? Beautifully! The opening sequence for “Come Drive With Us – The Vegas Worlds” was exactly how I envisioned it months before hand. I like to think that in a live setting this is no small feat.
The opening shots for my “Silver State II” movie coming out later this summer were also planned well in advance of the episode. I will leave you in suspense as to what that is going to look like though.
Because the location shoot is so physically demanding, I tend to prep interview questions as well as a comprehensive shot-list before the event. This way, I don’t have to worry about missing anything. This shot list does tend to change slightly leading up to the event with any new story lines that I hear about or when I hear about attendees cancelling, etc.
Lights, Camera…WAIT I’M NOT READY!!!
While I’ve had some shoots that are thoroughly enjoyable, like working on my “Pros & Cons” Documentary. For the most part, the actual shoot is the part I enjoy the least.
To me, the shoot is more like running a marathon than filming a movie. After the first day I tend to be running on pure Adrenaline. And most “Come Drive With Us” shoots are no less than 4 days long. The 2017 IFMAR Worlds in China was an excruciating 8 days of filming!!! Fortunately, I love the pressure and do my best work under these conditions. As I mentioned before, I tend to make relatively comprehensive check-list before the shoot. As the event progresses I make my way through this list ensuring I have each shot covered.
But a large portion of shooting an event documentary cannot be planned. I tend to follow the story-lines as the event unfolds. With each plot line that is revealed by the participants, I have to make sure I have accompanying B-Roll. But what exactly is this mythical B-Roll??
In film and television production, B-Roll is supplemental or alternative footage inter cut with the main shot. So what this means is that as I am shooting a doc, as participants in my film mention certain topics I need to make note and ensure that I have a shot that I can include related to this topic. B-Roll tends to make up well over half my total shots. It’s a never ending struggle to shoot these supplementary shots.
At the Silver State Race, one of my featured drivers, used to be a professional bull-rider. As luck would have it, there just happened to be a rodeo taking place in an adjacent building. So after putting my Producers hat back on to momentarily to sort through the logistics, and then my PA hat to make arrangements…my director hat to plan the shots and finally my cameraman hat to do the work…I found myself shooting back-stage among wild animals and “Cowfolk” at my first ever Rodeo!
Given that I’m a huge Steven Spielberg fan it doesn’t really surprise me that the Edit is my favorite part of the process; it is after all Mr. Spielberg’s favorite as well. For me, it’s when I finally get to see a return on all the time I have invested into a production.
The first thing I do is watch every single shot, catalog and add meta tags to each shot. This helps me get a really good idea as to what the story-lines are and with the tagging, it makes it very easy to find the shots I need once I start the actual edit.
This is where I think my process differs quite a bit from other documentaries. I say this because at this point, I still have no script; I won’t even have a high-level synopsis yet. In-fact, I think I break even more “rules” by starting to play around with the edit! I will place all my pre-planned sequences here, create the opening credit sequence and start working on the trailer(s).
After about a week or two of this I have a really strong sense as to the story I want to tell. At this point I stop editing and spend the next month writing a detailed synopsis which eventually turns into the script. The next time I open up Adobe Premiere, I will pretty much have the final script in my hands and I power through the edit. As the edit comes together, the script does have a tendency of changing. Usually it’s only minor but on one occasion I was so unhappy with how the cut flowed that nearly started completely over. AXIALFEST was the project in question; and stating over was a great decision as this is one of my absolute favorite episodes!
It’s at this point that I start to work on the score as well; for me the music is one of the most important pieces of the production. I tend to use as much music from AudioJungle.net, Shock-WaveSound.com & WarnerChapelle.com as their prices are within my reach for the budget I have to work with. Frequently I pick a piece of music that I have to seek out licensing for. This isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s a matter of e-mailing the artist directly; other times it’s a matter of working with their labels.
At this point in the process I spend a lot of time on something that I am sure most viewers of my films take completely for granted (Except maybe for Jeff Johnston).
Coloring. It’s not fun; but it is so crucial as the images coming off my camera are shot in what is called SLOG2 (For indoor shoots I use SLOG3) which makes the image look very flat and washed out (left). Footage shot using this method comes out amazing in post (right) and gives me a lot more options when I do the color grading. This really is a complex topic that really deserves it’s on series of posts; after-all, people spend years in school to learn how to do this. I could not even begin to do it justice in a solitary paragraph with the occasional run-on sentence.
Now that I have what is close to the final cut, I give my good friend Mike Garrison a call, and we record the Narration. This process is an absolute blast. Both Mike and I have a lot of fun with this part of the movie. Pretty much as soon as I’m off the phone with Garrison, I start plugging in his audio.
It’s at this point that I can sit back, and finally watch the end-to-end cut. Occasionally I make a few tweaks and call Mike up again for some pickups; but for the most part, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After an average of 250 hours it’s time for the release. Because “Come Drive With Us” is a YouTube Series, the fan-fare around the releases are sorely lacking.
There’s no Red Carpet.
There’s no release party.
Screaming fans aren’t lined up.
There’s only a nerdy Star Wars super-freak posting links to said movie on various social media pages, sending out press releases to media outlets, responding to some of the comments, waiting to see how long the token 2 dislikes take this time and then moving onto the next episode.
As many of you may already know, I am a Star Wars freak; a super freak even! As a result of this, I have always made it a point to put at least one Star Wars related “easter-egg” into each “Come Drive With Us” movie. Here they are!
Come Drive With Us ’14 – The Reedy Race (Blu-Ray):
The Death Star makes it’s first appearance in the series (17:10). This was only in the Director’s Cut of the Reedy Race found on the 2014 Blu-Ray box set.
Come Drive With Us ’14 – The Nitro Challenge (Blu-Ray):
Another easteregg found only on the 2014 Blu-Ray box set is Boba Fett (07:35).
In addition to the famous “Wilhelm Scream” in the opening credits sequence, Boba Fett is seen loitering about the AKA pits.
Come Drive With Us ’14 – The Cactus Classic:
The Millennium Falcon’s first appearance in the sereise (10:40)!
Come Drive With Us ’14 – The Messina Worlds:
If you look close you will see Steve the Trooper cheering Stormtrooper (29:39).
Come Drive With Us ’15 – Silver State
The piece of junk is back! This time, it’s being pursued by Slave 1. (03:25). We also played homage to the famous trench run (24:26).
Come Drive With Us ’15 – The Neo Race:
The famed “Death Star” makes it’s second appearance in the series (39:22)!
Come Drive With Us ’15 – The Chico ROAR Nats:
“No no no this one goes there that one goes there right?” (05:26)
The easter-egg was a bit more subtle for the ROAR Nats and was limited to the re-use of a famous line from “The Empire Strikes Back”. Unfortunately for Ty, he has taken on the role of Chewbacca the Wookie. This line has been used in other sources as well. Season 1 of the ABC hit series “Lost” featured it as well (Exodus Part 2).
Come Drive With Us ’15 – The Shootout
Another much more subtle easter-egg is the Imperial Probe Droid (08:13)from the Hot-Rod Hobbies Shootout Movie.
Note: The shootout video had to be taken down because the anthem that was played live caused a copyright strike. We’ll be uploading a new version as soon as we have some time!
Come Drive With Us ’16 – The Texas ROAR Nationals
This one (51:55) was only picked up on by the most astute of Star Wars Fans. THX1138 was the name of George Lucas’ first feature film.
Come Drive With Us ’16 – The Southern Nationals
Boba Fett makes another appearance (24:15). This time; he’s just hangin’ outside the track entrance.
Come Drive With Us ’16 – AXIALFEST
There were two Star Wars easter eggs in this episode. The first was the Wilhelm Scream. For the second one, we felt that no 3D Animation added to the production could possibly have topped this shirt (08:33):
Come Drive With Us ’16 – The Vegas Worlds
For the finale of the 2016 season we figured it was time to bring back Steve the Trooper (37:30). By the look of his walk…he’s been enjoying Vegas just a bit too much!
Come Drive With Us ’17 – PNB
Master Yoda was so intrigued by the idea of a Race with 1080 entries that he just had to come out of exile to take in the spectacle (25:47).
Come Drive With Us ’17 – Surf City
In a flashback sequence it turns out that not only did Yoda check out PNB…but Vader did as well (02:04)!
Come Drive With Us ’17 – SikCross
The Death Star is always looking for another planet to vaporize (08:40).
Come Drive With Us ’17 – The Xiamen Worlds
I can’t remember where it is….but I know there’s one in there somewhere…
Come Drive With Us ’18 – Silver State II
Entertainment capital of the Galaxy now (32:20)!!!
Due to the low pro-driver turnout we will not be shooting at “The Dual” this weekend. We will be swapping this event out for “SikCross” which has more of the top-level drivers confirmed as attending.
While we were all looking forward to capturing the uniqueness of “The Dual” all those involved in this project felt in the interest of storytelling that this event, while one of a kind, could not hold up to expectations.
We apologize for this “12th hour” cancellation and we look forward to seeing many of you @ SikCross in September! The rest of our schedule is locked in:
Pro-Line Racing & 5150 Media Productions are proud to present to you the story of the 2017 Psycho Nitro Blast.
This season started out with so many changes; Maifield switching to Mugen; Tessmann to XRAY; so we decided to theme this season accordingly. Change is everywhere in this industry; even at the event level. In years past, DNC has been considered the largest Nitro Race in the world. That just might not be the case any longer.
This is the story of what could very well be considered the largest R/C race in the world, and unlike other large events…it is run in 3 days!
The talented Mike Garrison Narrates this episode of “Come Drive WIth Us” and we hope you enjoy it!
Special thanks to Mike Garrison, Adam Drake, Tanner Denney, Joe Bornhorst, Mark Santa Maria, Jerome Treignier, Eggroll, Rob Theissen & the Noise Therapy band, the Tessmann family, everyone at Pro-Line Racing and last but far from least, Dave Leikam.
We’re happy to release a short trailer for our upcoming Psycho Nitro Blast Episode of “Come Drive With Us”! This was by far one of the most difficult shoots we’ve ever been on and so far we’re really liking this episode. Look for it to drop some time in Late June…or…
So I have been getting inundated with the question “When will the DNC video drop”. Well, I have some potentially bad news, my goal at DNC was:
To practice new techniques using a brand new color profile called SLOG2
To get used to using new 2K/4K external RAW recording device called the Odyssey 7Q+
To see if a 4K production is feasable for shooting a feature length doucmentary at a race
To test out what a Champaing Bottle Cam is would look like and if it is feasable
As you can see, my goal was not shooting an episode of “Come Drive With Us”. I did gather a lot of very usable footage that will absolutely be used in future “Come Drive With Us” episodes as B-Roll shots, but there will not be a stand-alone DNC video this year. I’m not totally conviced that it’s time to start shooting “Re-runs”. Yes, each year DNC offers new and interresting challenges that result in brand new story lines, but there are just too many events that I still want to capture.
Video produciton is NOT my day-job so I only have time enough to do four episodes of “Come Drive With Us” per year. I do have some exciting productions coming out very soon; in April I am launching a new series to help promote my channel a bit; it’s called “Legends of R/C” and I am kicking off this new series by focusing on our industires very hard working Meida Guys (LiveRC, NeoBuggy & RedRC).
The first “Come Drive With Us” for the 2017 seaons shoots in April at the Psycho Nitro Blast with an expected release date of June…ish…
Click here to see our complete shooting schedule for 2017!
Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that David Ronnefalk won the 2016 IFMAR Worlds held in Vegas last October. But that’s only the end of the story…and to be honest, the final wasn’t all that exciting. What was exciting is seeing how we got to that point.
There is simply so much that goes into just competing at the top level at an IFMAR Worlds event, that if we just told the story of the winner…we would be out of a job. Events like Silver State, the Worlds Warmup, the Pro-Line Gas Champs, the Neo Race and simply just pracice at Revelation with “The Drake” all contribute to telling the amazing story of the 2016 Worlds.
This is the final episode of the 2016 Season is once again Narrated by Mike Garrison and he truly hope you enjoy this episode of “Come Drive WIth Us”.