All posts by thedrach

IFMAR Worlds Edit – Day 31

Even though it’s day 31 of the edit, with the exception of a bit of editing on the flight out to DNC I haven’t really touched the IFMAR edit. These past 10 days were purely about my 2nd sequel in the “Come Drive With Us” Series: DNC II.

The only work I did for the IFMAR movie this week was to do a couple interviews with Ryan Maifield and Ty Tessmann asking them a few questions about the Worlds Final; more specifically if there’s anything they would do differently. I also managed to get a critical story straight…and it’s going to be a bit of a bomb-shell ūüėČ

20 Years of DNC

It’s truly amazing to me that “The Dirt” Nitro Challenge was run for the 20th time this year. It’s a real success story and show-cases the marketing genius that Joey Christensen really is. While the race started in Hemet California, for the past 10 years or so (I can’t remember exactly), the DNC has been synonymous with Phoenix Arizona.

My very first DNC was in 2013; I believe that was the 2nd year at Fear Farm; so that location is all I really knew, but I was introduced to a re-occurring DNC Theme…

BAD WEATHER!

The next year, I filmed my 2nd episode of “Come Drive With Us”. The weather that year was perfect so it made for an enjoyable filming experience. I returned (as a racer) for the 2015, 2016 & 2018 DNCs and even though some of these years were grueling, as a fan of this sport, I loved every minute of it. While qualifying at 2:45 am in 2016 wasn’t a highlight for me, I always understood the importance of this event and what it did for the industry as a whole.

“I don’t know why anyone who doesn’t have to be here would come to this race…”

– Anonymous pro-driver

While I completely understand this pro-drivers point of view, I do think there is a very simple answer to this statement:

Because it’s a chance to struggle along side the best drivers in the world for 5 days on an impossible track with equally impossible conditions and to see how fast the pro drivers really are.

It’s not all Unicorns & Rainbows

Philip Mortstedt shooting stills at the 2017 DNC

I absolutely love this race; it’s why I have referenced it over & over in my series. It is the “Anaheim 1” of R/C! So it makes me a bit sad to write this, but this 20th running of the DNC didn’t feel like a DNC to me. Don’t get me wrong, the race was well put together, and Joey and his crew did an absolutely stellar job; especially given all the challenges they were faced in putting on the Nitro Challenge. The Venue was also top-notch. While my feet HATED it, my Camera gear absolutely LOVED the asphalt pits.

Most importantly, this race (IMO) remains as Anaheim 1. There are just a few things that made this 20th running feel unlike any other DNC:

The Iconic Driver-Stand

Yes, this is a thing for me; and it’s most likely because I’m a photo nerd.

Granted, this structure was already gone last year and was replaced by a make-shift “Sea Can” style stand…so even last years DNC didn’t quite have the same feel to me…and maybe it’s the missing “Welcome to the DNC” banner…regardless, the loss of this structure takes just a little bit away for me.

Walking up the stairs of the old Fear Farm stand we were always greeted by the ceremonial “The Dirt” shovel; to our left was the staircase of broken dreams (drivers leaving the stand) and to our right were the hopeful few (drivers entering the stand).

Once on the stand, the track reveal made you realize that for the next 5-7 minutes…

…your life would be hell.

Media Coverage

In years past this race drew in every media outlet in the industry. In addition to LiveRC, the O’Brien brothers & Riccardo Acciari of RedRC would make the trip as would Phil with Arno in tow from Neobuggy. It seems that Phil has moved on to bigger and better things, but it just takes away the grandeur of this race without the full ensemble of media folk. RC Car Action was missing and RC Insider has shut-down but Chris from CircusRC.com was there all the way from France for his very first DNC…but for me it’s just not the way it used to be.

Blown Out Track

“It’s the Nitro Challenge, not the Nitro Easy…”

– Everyone

While the track at every DNC I raced on was challenging, this one looked like the it was on an entirely different level of “challenge” than years past. It was beyond “Character” or “Personality”…I think it was even beyond “freaking rough” as Joe Bornhorst would say. I didn’t get to race at RCToLV when it got blown out; and while the 2016 Worlds looked horrific to drive on, the drivers of this years DNC said it was worse than that. It was so rough in-fact, that it drew more than a few comparisons to the Boulder Nevada Silver State Races of old!

When I shoot a full episode, I don’t race; and quite often I really wish I could have competed. Especially with tracks like the 2016 Southern Nationals track, the 2015 ROAR Nationals track or the Neo Race. I did not get even an inkling of desire to drive this year’s DNC track.

Still an Iconic Event

The weather sucked. The driver stand didn’t have the “Titanic-ish” grand staircase. The track was blown out…

…but the 2019 Nitro Challenge was still an iconic event. This is a race that I will always say every enthusiast of this sport absolutely has to race once in their life. This track, more than any other DNC Track from recent memory, really separated the top drivers from the rest of the pack.

While my first DNC “Come Drive With Us” featured Ty Tessmann winning both Nitro Classes, DNC II will show how Ryan Maifield accomplished this same feat. Of all the Veteran racers, at 32 Ryan continues to impress me the most. He quite literally gave a pants-down spanking to everyone in the Truggy main; in Buggy it wasn’t quite so painful for his competitors, it was still a decisive victory however. Even though he wasn’t the fastest driver on the track (Phend, Ongaro & Tessmann to name a few were all faster), his 94% consistency on this cratered track was unmatched and helped give him the win with a 1 lap cushion. Considering the field that he was competing against this was an amazing accomplishment. Adam’s closing thoughts on this topic are absolutely epic…but y’all are going to have to wait for the episode to see who he called out!!! #Sorry #NotSorry

While Maifield’s wins were impressive, the highlight for me was the 18 burnouts I did with my Hemi powered Dodge Challenger Rental Car! I currently have a C7 reserved for Silver State…but we’ll see if Budget will rent me another car…ever again…

Reno…next year we drag-race ’em!!!

*Photo Credits: Rugspin Graphix & Neobuggy.Net

IFMAR Worlds Edit – Day 19

Given that I’m leaving for the 20th running of “The Dirt” Nitro Challenge tomorrow, I’m not sure how much I’ll be working on the IFMAR edit over the next week or so.

I started editing the first of the footage though.

Like the Vegas worlds, I’m starting this Episode with a recap of the past two years. This episode basically starts immediately after the 2016 IFMAR Worlds ended.

There were some cool shots that just didn’t fit into the end of the Vegas Worlds Movie, so like the 2016 episode, this one will have a significant “Cold Open”. Because the 2016 Worlds were domestic, I certainly was a lot more active at shooting B-Roll for those worlds at various events. I believe I did B-Roll shoots at DNC, Silver State, the Pro-Line Gas Champs and the Worlds Warm Up race. I don’t have nearly as much footage for this one so the lead-up to the episode likely won’t be 20 minutes like it was for the last Nitro Worlds.

It’s still got some great stories though!

  • CJ Jelin’s first race as a Pro
  • Jared Tebo on his future (Closing off theme initiated at the Xiamen Worlds)
  • Ryan Maifield pulling off a trifecta of Pro-Class wins at DNC’17
  • Ty’s streak of bad-luck in 2017
  • First foreign driver winning the DNC’18
  • But wait…there’s MORE!

So I end this week with the “Cold Open” completed. Now I’m starting on the Opening Credit Sequence. I haven’t quite decided on what this will look like yet; sometimes I get ambitious/inspired and do a full-on After Effects motion graphics intro; other times I keep it pretty simple. Since I did a cool intro sequence for Silver State II, and have a really awesome one planned for JBRL, for the sake of consistency I think I have to do something for the Perth Worlds movie too.

Now to send a whack of e-mails to a few music providers to get the licensing process initiated. Going for an Ozzie (thanks Ben hehe) theme with the opening credits music, but I have to deal with Warner Chappell for the first time. I wish I had a PA for this part of the job…hate it!!!

New B-Camera!

After forgetting my Electronic View-Finder for my A-Camera and having to spend $184 to have it shipped to me in Australia, I am glad that I packed my B-Camera. However, it is another full-size production camera
(SONY FS700R); so it made my Carry-On really freaking big. I started doing this for the 2017 season and it hasn’t been an issue until Qantas Airways. They’re real dicks sticklers on the size & weight of Carry-On and made me check one of my carry-on bags which made me more than a little nervous. So I kept my A & B cameras, Laptop & Lenses and let them take my drone and clothes. Worst case scenario, no aerial footage and I’d be filming in my underwear. Fortunately there were no issues with any of my luggage but I had everything with me to successfully complete the production.

At the worlds I noticed that Mat McCallum was filming a video for the all new RCGP series on a Sony A7III. I believe that David Ronnefalk’s official Videographer was using the same camera (could be wrong on the model, but it was definitely a SONY alpha). So when I got home I rented an A7R III to do testing to see if it would work for the Cinematography I do for my series. I ended up doing an internal team video for Ledcor with this camera exclusively and it worked out great!

So I bought one.

SONY A7R III Mounted atop a DJI RONIN-S Gimbal

In keeping with my light-weight theme, I also picked up a DJI Ronin-S Gimbal. When compared with my Ronin 1 setup (below), it’s a huge savings in both size and weight. My DNC trip will be the first time out with this new B-Camera setup.

The FS700R Mounted on my DJI RONIN 1 weighs in at just under 20 lbs.

I still might bring my Ronin 1 along to DNC for use with my A-Camera but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it just stayed in the case for the entire 5 days.

If you’re coming to the Nitro Challenge be sure to stop by the Pro-Line Truck and say “Hi”.

IFMAR Worlds Edit – Day 14

Hard to believe I’ve been working on this Movie for two weeks now! Some of you may not know this, but I actually have a day-job completely unrelated to Video Production (for now). I am a manager of an I.T. Team at a 3 Billion Dollar / Year construction company called Ledcor. So all the productions I create are in addition to my day-job. Never the less, as much of my free time that I can spare has been dedicated to this Episode.

I was actually on one of my many business trips for Ledcor, sitting at YVR waiting for my flight home when I finished watching & tagging the last of the footage. Final count is 2,599 shots; I’ve never actually counted, but I think that I typically use approximately 300-600 shots in the final cut.

The Footage

Given the pressure at a worlds and the aforementioned “Challenges” I had on this shoot (I stand by my words), I’m really happy with the footage. The story lines are really good and will make for a compelling episode. I ran across a few shots that I would like to talk a bit about.

Father & Son

The first one is a beautiful moment shared by a Father and Son. This isn’t a new theme for “Come Drive With Us” as I touched on it at Surf City, but I found a new perspective on the Father/Son dynamic. Finishing in the 183rd spot was a youngster named Mica Thompson; he was quite disappointed with his performance; he just couldn’t quite figure out the critical double-triple combination. His Dad, unlike a lot of other RC Dads I’ve come across over my 25 years in this sport, was there supporting him all the way. This shot really says it all:

Statler & Waldorf: Famous Hecklers

Granted the sport of RC is still a “Hobby” for the Thompsons and the stakes aren’t as high for them as other Father/Son teams in the industry. Mica’s dad really did show what the role of an RC Parent should be. Supporter…not the angry heckler. Hopefully as Mica starts to take the sport of RC more seriously, he and his father keep focus and always remember that this is how it should be. The last thing we need in this sport are more Muppets (insert laugh track).

The Incumbent

I saw this shot upon my first walk of the track. I knew the angle I had everything planned out and was ready for the shot. You would think it would have been as simple as waiting for the required Buggy and hitting Record, but I literally tried taking this shot for 7 days! Each time I thought the moment was right, either the driver would take the jump in the wrong spot, or I had the wrong buggy, or the wind wasn’t behaving, or, or or…

I have all but given up on this shot. Until the even Semi-Final, when I noticed that the wind was finally blowing in the right direction. I set my focus and waited for David Ronnefalk to take the Step-Up Jump. Nailed it on the first take; it’s a wonderful Slow-Motion Shot. I did two more takes on subsequent laps, but the first one was the best one.

David Ronnefalk over the Step-Up

I’m not going to Lie; I do wish that there was a Canadian Flag here, and I was tempted to do a midnight swap…but this shot is definitely a keeper. With David being the incumbent IFMAR World Champion, this shot will have a place of prominence in the final cut. It has to! I WAITED 7 DAYS TO GET IT!!!

Detailed Synopsis

I’m sure there are more than a few shots I will come across over the next few weeks that might be blog-worthy, but for now it’s onto the next step. While tagging all the footage, I’ve also been working on a fairly detailed synopsis.

The synopsis for this episode is the most detailed one I’ve created; in point of fact, for Silver State II I dove right into the edit and that one worked out not too badly. I’m curious to see what affect (if any) this will have on the Perth Worlds edit. Today I am still making a couple decisions, like what the opening scene will be, then I’m going to go through the Synopsis again visualizing what this movie might look like. Finally, it will be time for my favorite part of the project…

…THE EDIT!

IFMAR Worlds Edit ‚Äď Day 7

I pretty much finished reviewing the media coverage of the worlds last weekend. Found some really good stuff that I TOTALLY forgot happened! My pal Daniel “Coogs” Cuglietta also pointed me to a VLOG by Lee Martin & Chris James that shared some really good insights also. Check it out; it’s a pretty good:

…although…I don’t think its name is applicable…

Lee Martin Sending it at the Xiamen Worlds…pretty sure this one needed a marshal…

Since last Monday, I’ve been watching the footage I shot at MORBC. There are definitely some gems here.

5150’s new DJI Mavic II Pro at Pinnacles Park in Western Australia

For many CDWU shoots, I walk away from it disappointed with my Aerial shots. I think that just might have been because of the budget drone I was using (Free isn’t always better). Just prior to the Auzzie Worlds, I purchased a DJI Mavic II Pro and am super happy with the shots! Especially the Hyper-lapse shots I took of the track.

2,944 SHOTS!!!

Over the years I’ve developed a nice clean folder structure that works for me; it makes it easy to find clips when I need them; even if I’m outside of my editing suite (Adobe Premiere). Given the volume of shots that I tend to take whilst on a CDWU shoot; having a clean folder structure is crucial.

This part really sucks…

While my A & B Camera’s both have the ability to manipulate the naming of clips slightly, they’re still not overly descriptive.

CDWU_P5_0120.mov

This is an example of the file names coming off of my SONY Cameras. While this naming convention helps me during the cagaloging process, the only thing I really know for sure is that this clip is from the 5th practice round. I have no clue whatsoever what the contents of this clip is. So before the edit can start, I need to give this clip a good name. This way, if I need a shot of various drivers wrenching, all I will need to do in Premiere is filter for ‘Wrenching’ and every single shot of this type will come up.

Saturday P5 – Tanner Stees Wrenching

Turns out this was a shot of Tanner Stees wrenching on his XRAY Buggy.

1 Down…2943 to go…

No Pain…No Shot!

As I’ve been going through, and calaloging all my footage I’ve come across a few shots with some stories behind them. I suppose I’m known as being a bit crazy when it comes to getting the perfect shot. My fellow media pals have often said

“You’re Insane!”

And they just might be onto something.

At most IFMAR Worlds I tend to get in-field shots during all practice rounds as well as the all warm-up sessions in the qualifiers. This would not be allowed at these worlds; which I’m fine with. What this did mean however, was that I would be getting shots of the top drivers that I would be covering, who were on the track with…shall we say…lesser drivers.

I really wanted to get a shot on the opposite side of the Step-Up as it had a perfect angle on the jump as well as the Driver Stand. The catch was…my back would be to a double jump on a corner. I hunched over so that if I did get hit, my Camera would be fine.

The good news; I got my shot!!!

The bad news…it took two Buggies (one in the shoulder and one to the ribs) to get the shots I needed of all the top drivers from this angle…

Anyways…I’m about halfway through Cataloging; next up will be creating a synopsis of sorts and then the edit really starts…

*Feature photo credit: NeoBuggy.Net

IFMAR Worlds Edit – Day 0

Now that I’ve got the Silver State II release behind me, and have finished a quick edit on the Mike Reedy Heritage Video for the Reedy Race, it’s time to focus on the next project. I’ve decided to start a blog of sorts on the edit of the IFMAR World championships which were held in Perth, Australia last November.

I truly love the IFMAR worlds…especially when it’s a 1/8 scale year! For me, as a fan of the sport of R/C, the excitement of crowning a world champion for the next two years is hard to beat. Plus, I have access to all the drivers, not just the North American ones thus, IFMAR events are my favorite stories to tell.

The shoot at these worlds wasn’t exactly memorable. 45 minutes into 25 hours of travel I realized that I forgot the view finder (EVF) for my A-Camera. Fortunately I packed my B-Camera which has basically the same quality as my A-Camera so it would only be a minor inconvenience until I received my EVF kit it in the mail on day 2 of the 7 day shoot. Next crisis was blowing out two tires on my POS rental car, then I got hit by two buggies while filming, the live broadcasting company turned out to be a bunch of douche bags and MORBC really had no clue how to treat accredited media…

…even with all these issues, this was a very fun Worlds. Over the course of this 7-day shoot I still managed to capture an amazing event. Once the dust settled, and the nitro fumes subsided, I had 2,944 shots!!!

So where do I start? Well, on Day 0 of this edit, which I am going to assume is going to last around 6-weeks, I am adding all the media coverage and race reports from RedRC.net and from NeoBuggy to my SharePoint Portal. I also go through all my notes I took at the event, and add pertinent content to my site. Once I’ve got everything uploaded…I start reading it…all of it.

The next step…watch every single shot, catalog it and add META data. That’s a task for another day. For today, it’s a refresher course on everything that happened in Perth.

*Feature photo credit: Kai Jaeger

COME DRIVE WITH US – SILVER STATE II

It’s finally here! Pro-Line Racing & 5150 Media Productions are very happy to present Come Drive With Us – Silver State II.

It’s been a rough few years in this industry; Companies being sold, others going into financial restructuring or disappearing all together! Tracks closing all across the United States, including RC Tracks of Las Vegas. This one hit us hard because of all the time we spent there in 2016; it was a hard blow. No one will ever really know what happened, and it was hard to make heads or tales of the ‘he said / he said’ around it’s closure…but it was a blow for the industry. Then there was the social media fiasco caused by he who shall not be named…It was just blow after blow for the sport loved by so many.

With RCToLV closing, most of the industry just assumed the Silver State Race was dead too. So when the news hit that Joey Wolters Christensen was taking it over again, it started a buzz throughout the industry. We were really looking forward to this race and he knew it would be more like a really big high-school house party right out of the 80s (hence the sound-track I used). This race did not disappoint, and it was exactly what the industry needed.

Join Charlie Suangka as he tells the story of this amazing event.

Confidence not Arrogance

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.

#TooManyCliches #Sorry #NotSorry

 

 

Come Drive With Us – The Xiamen Worlds

Pro-Line Racing & 5150 Media Productions are proud to present the latest installment of the ‚ÄúCome Drive With Us‚ÄĚ Series: The 2017 IFMAR Worlds! These 1/10 scale worlds were held in Xiamen, which is on the South Eastern Coast of China, and the event was absolutely amazing.

Unless you don’t really follow the sport of Profissional R/C Racing, you likely already know that Ryan Maifield won both the 2WD & the 4WD events at these worlds. But it was no easy path for him. In-fact, after the first practice day, many thought he just might rage-quit. This race had it all: man-made rain, Mad Max, the worst spec tires ever created by man, crazy conditions, and of course, a double world champ for only the 4th time in IFMAR history!

This was also a very special race, not only because we witnessed Ryan winning his first world Championship, but because we were able to see Dallas Mathiesen in his element for one last race. This would be his final off-road world championship. Dallas would pass away only a few short months after the worlds.

Rest in Peace Dallas. You will be missed!

This episode is once again Narrated by Mike Garrison and features appearances by Ty Tessmann, Kyle McBride, Bruno Coelho, Dustin Evans, Zeke Ballinger, Lee Martin, Ryan Maifield, Scotty Ernst, Jared Tebo, Ryan Cavalieri, David Ronnefalk and the winningest driver in R/C History…Masami Hirosaka.

We hope you enjoy this episode; it was an epic edit!

Image Gallery

  

  

 

 

  

“Should I Shoot in 4K?”

Someone recently asked me if I film in 4K.¬† My answer was “nyes“. That’s right. “Nyes“.

First of all, I feel that if you have the media available to you (both on location and back at your home base), you should shoot as much of your production on 4K as possible (if not all of it). For my client work, unless they specify otherwise, I shoot exclusively in 4K. I usually go a step even further and shoot in RAW. If I could shoot beyond 4K I would; but I currently I film on the SONY FS7 & FS700 and I just don’t have the budget to shoot on RED. Yet.

As many of you know, I do a lot of run-and-gun work on my various Documentary projects. And yes, I shoot parts of my various series in 4K; but the bulk of the footage is still 2K. As the name would suggest, Run-and-gun usually means that I pack as light as I can. A 256GB XQD Card for my FS7 will only hold about 45 minutes of 4K footage. 4K Raw will require approximately 1TB for roughly 18-20 minutes of footage. Shooting exclusively in these resolutions means I would have to bring a stack of removable Hard-Drives with me. Not overly appealing.

According to my metrics, over half of my traffic coming to my YouTube Channel is from Mobile devices. In-fact, only 24% of the views are actually watched on a TV, and I rather doubt anyone watching one of my films on an iPhone or a computer screen will notice if it’s presented in 2K or 4K. Thus, I deliver it in 2K, so filming in 4K doesn’t really get me anything in the here and now.¬†With each shoot I am shooting more and more in 4K.

There are of course a few instances where¬†¬†always shoot in 4K. If you’re like me and are delivering in 2K here are some “best practice” I have adopted around shooting 4K:

Interviews

I tend to shoot all my interviews in 4K. If you have limited media on your shoot you can shoot what I call a “Formal Interviews”. in 4K and the “Drive-By” interviews in 2K.¬† If my terminology has you confused, I have two classifications of Interview:

  • Formal Interview: No, this does not require a tuxedo. This is a planned interview where the setting is completely controlled. Time is allocated for set decoration, blocking/framing, rehearsal, etc.
  • Drive-By Interview: This is a completely random interview that happens in the heat of the moment. These have virtually no setup time for blocking/framing of the shot etc. Basically, this style interview is the polar opposite of the Formal Interview.

A great Example of this was the opening interview with Howie in my “Pros & Cons” doc. When I shot it, I had Howie basically in the middle of the screen; but because it’s a 4K shot and I delivered in 2K, I was able to zoom and position Howie into an appropriate quadrant on the screen without any loss in quality.

“Bayhem”

Only the most astute film folk will know what “Bayhem” actually is. As far as big-budget Hollywood films go, it could very well be the worst thing that has ever existed. Here is a great YouTube Video describing exactly what it is:

For documentary work though; I think Michael Bay’s style is absolutely AWESOME! For the work I do on “Come Drive With Us” and a significant amount of my commercial work, I admit it…I truly love using the Circular Camera move There are three criteria to successfully pull off this shot.

  1. The shot needs to be a bit telephoto. I don’t use anything less than a 50mm lens for this shot. Optimal would be a 105mm.
  2. It needs to be smooooooooth.
  3. High Frame-Rates are advantageous to sell the shot.

Given the first two criteria, I always try use my DJI Ronin for this shot. The Ronin, is essentially the poor-man’s Steadicam‚ĄĘ. By using tilt sensors, and a 3-axis Gyroscope, the Ronin electronically stabilizes the camera. I can do pretty much anything, within reason, and my Camera will remain steady.

Image result for dji ronin fs7

But sometimes, I see a perfect opportunity present itself and I don’t have time to run to the media center to grab my Ronin setup. What I do in these situations is I switch over to 4K and shoot it free-hand.¬† I do my best to be smooth, but the footage inevitably comes out a bit rough. While criteria #1 indicates a zoom factor, I do back this off a bit. Remember, that this is only a usable technique if your source resolution is higher than your delivery resolution.

The next step is usually something that is frowned upon by the community, but because my source image is larger than my delivery target, 99% of the reasons NOT to use this technique get thrown out of the window. I use WARP STABILIZE! Gasp!

Warp Stabilize will digitally steady the shot. It does this by cropping and adjusting the XYZ axis of the shot to compensate for camera movement. Last year I traveled to Xiamen China to film at the World Championship of R/C. I decided to travel a bit lighter than usual (plus insurance was insane), so I left the Ronin at home. Here is an example the “Bayhem” circular shot I did completely free-hand:

Again, this shot was a free-hand performed with no mechanical stabilization at all. If I had the option to go grab my Odyssey 7Q+ equipped FS700 that is always attached to my Ronin, I will do so. Mechanical stabilization is infinitely superior every single time. But if I don’t have that opportunity, this is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

When I need a bigger lens

Sometimes I just need more zoom. In “Come Drive With Us” when I am filming a Nitro Powered Car from an elevated position, it’s nice to have the option of zooming in even more if I need to. This also lets me be a bit less aggressive with the zoom factor thus keeping the depth of field a bit wider. A good example of this is this short clip from “Come Drive With Us – SikCross”.

Following these little cars can be tricky, and with a high zoom factor, it’s pretty easy to loose track of the Buggy being followed. So I put a mild lens on the camera; no more than a 105 and I will do any required “Zooming” in post…with no loss in quality.

I have previously stated that I do have RED envy; I would love nothing more than to have the ability at shooting at 4K (or higher) with virtually any frame-rate at my disposal. But for right now, I’m a budget Filmmaker and I’m committed to the SONY platforms. These techniques have helped me increase the quality of my product. I hope that some of these techniques help other budget Filmmakers out there until they take the leap into more Cinematic quality cameras…like RED.

DANG. I NEED A RED!!!

 

How I do What I do…

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“.

Planning (Pre-Production)

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!!!

From front left: Nick McQuick, Howie Miller, Thaimu Turray & Cory Drachenberg

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!

The Edit

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.

The Premiere!

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.

But I absolutely Love it!!!


Photo Credit: Rugspin Graphix