Tag Archives: Video

How to Make a Climbing Movie

make_a_climbing_movie

Video is all the rage these days, and thanks to increasingly affordable and powerful cameras, not to mention social media and the mobile web, the barrier to filmmaking stardom is thinner than at any time in the history of planet Earth. If you like climbing and you have a DSLR, there really is no good reason to wait. All you need is a subject (a strong-ish climber and a good route or problem), an afternoon, and a laptop with a pirated copy of Final Cut. That, coupled with the following 10-step structure will help you make a hot vid that’ll get you rich, 100% guaranteed.*

1. Set the scene… - Slider footy of beautiful natural places surrounding the climbing area. (“Footy” is slang for “footage,” if you’re not in the know.)  If you can’t afford a slider, a simple pan will suffice, I guess… but you should really get a slider.

Bonus footy: Grab a time-lapse of sunrise, clouds zooming over crag. 

2. Hi, my name is…  – Sit your subject(s) down in front of idyllic landscape or at least a nice-looking tree. Have them say the following: “Hi, my name is [name], I’m from [location], and I’ve been climbing for [number of years]. Cut interview footage with shots of your climber getting geared up: pulling on shoes, tying in, brushing holds, etc. Pro tip: Be sure to bring your sticks (aka tripod) for rock-solid talking-head shots.

Bonus footy: Have your climber tell the story of how he / she started climbing at a friend’s climbing gym birthday party, or whatever.

3. Introduce the area - Show images of the crag — shallow depth of field always a plus — and splice in close-ups of running water, birds in trees, common insects, and / or grass blowing in a field (this is called B-roll in the biz… hey, you got that slider, right?). Have your climber endorse the area: “[Area X] is one of my favorite places. I’ve been climbing here for [number of seasons], and the routes / problems are as good as anything else I’ve seen. [Something positive about the rock and / or local culture].

Bonus footy: Throw focus (i.e., make the image blurry and then sharp) a bunch.

4. Introduce super rad route / problem - Have your climber say something along these lines: “This one route / problem in particular really caught my attention — it’s called [route / problem name] and it’s about [grade]. It follows a super aesthetic line. It’s really classic…” Etc.

Bonus footy: Have your climber drop some knowledge about the route / problem history: the original route developer / first ascentionist / funny story behind the climb’s name.

5. Capture the struggle - Show your climber trying and failing on the route / problem over and over again. You almost can’t show too much failure, as it simply builds the suspense (“Will he / she send?!”). In a bouldering video, it is good to show the climber falling on every move of the problem two or three times. Have your climber show the camera his / her chalky, calloused, possibly bloody fingers as proof of dedication.

Bonus footy: Show us a real-life wobbler — a fully grown man / woman screaming obscenities, kicking a wall of solid stone, or whipping his / her chalk bag, all because he / she was unable to climb up a rock.

6. Show progress - Show the climber linking sections of the climb, but make sure he / she still repeatedly falls at the crux. We need to taste the excitement of a possible send before it actually happens. At this point, the climber should describe the crux section or sections: “The crux is really tricky and powerful — it involves a [shallow mono-pocket / skeezy knee bar / all-points-off slab dyno to double fist jams]. After that, you get a quick shake and then have to [fight the barn door / make a blind toss to a razor-sharp undercling / execute a full bat hang]. The finishing jug is guarded by [the world's smallest crimper / a below-the-waist lock-off on a completely natural five-mono "bowling ball" hold / a rabid Chihuahua].”

Bonus footy: In the middle of this section, show your climber breaking off a key hold and then shouting, “Shit!” [dramatic pause] “[Sigh…] I don’t know if it even goes any more.” Fade to black…

7. Build the dramatic arc higher - Show your climber triumphantly working through the crux against all odds. If you got the broken-hold money shot in the previous step, make sure to show your climber working out a new-and-improved sequence. A glimmer of hope when everything seems darkest.

Bonus footy: Candid shot of your climber sitting alone, eyes closed in meditative silence, methodically rubbing chalk into his / her fingers.

8. Witness the fitness – Cut to your climber setting out on the route / problem from the beginning, but this time be sure to up the volume on the music track (hip hop or electronic, preferably), to signal something sick is about to go down. Multiple angles (from above, from the side, from the ground) will allow the audience to experience the movement in a sort of 3-D hyper-reality. Close-ups of fingers and toes grasping tiny edges and pockets are key to show the viewer that, No, those are not jugs. Tight shot on the climber’s face as he / she grasps the finishing hold and hoots or yodels in victory.

Bonus footy: Get creative — super-slow-mo or GoPro POV footage add “depth” to your “story.”

9. Coming back down - All that training and paleo dieting paid off, so be sure to nail a shot of relieved joy on your climber’s face as he / she is lowered to the ground / stands atop the boulder with arms raised in victory. Interview footage here would include phrases like, “I’m so psyched to be able to climb this [awesome route / rad problem]; it really filled the aching void in my soul,” “That was pretty sick, for sure, but I’m a badass so I never really doubted it would go down. In fact, I’m surprised it took as long as it did,” or, “I’m glad that’s done; now I can eat a burrito.”

Bonus footy: Fist bumps for everyone.

10. And… scene – A few good cuts of everyone packing up their gear and cracking brewskis. Grab that time-lapse footage of the sun coming up and just flip it to create a sunset / feeling of closure. The climber should offer some heart-warming nugget of wisdom like, “You know, sending felt really good, but just spending a day out with good friends is the best part. It’s really special…” Classic heroic journey drama set in nature. It’s in the bag.

Bonus footy: If your video has any sponsors, now’s a good time to put their logos on screen. Go ahead and thank mom and dad for getting you your camera, while you’re at it…

–––––

*Not guaranteed.

 

[Video] Why Plaid? A closer look at the unofficial uniform of Outdoor Retailer

Last August I wrote a post called 50 Shades of Plaid, featuring a photo gallery of the many plaid shirts that attendees of the Outdoor Retailer Show wore. The post garnered an inordinate amount of attention and, as Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 approached, several people asked what I was planning for a follow-up. This video, shot entirely on an iPhone 5, is the answer — a closer look into plaid, the unofficial uniform of the Outdoor Retailer Show and the outdoor industry.

Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2012

The_Stone_Mind_Top10

I started The Stone Mind less than a year ago, in February 2012. In some ways, it feels like I just started. In other ways, it’s like I’ve been writing it forever. At first it was just a way to keep me working with words after I left my job as a magazine editor. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted the blog to be about. I posted product reviews, photo galleries, an interview or two, personal essays, even a short story. As the months passed, things came into their own focus, and now most of my posts deal with climbing, nature (human and otherwise), and Eastern philosophy, and the many ways in which these topics connect, overlap, and inform each other.

In 2013, I plan to explore these topics further, while at the same time reserving the right to strike out in new directions — this blog, after all, is nothing if not an experiment and an act of personal passion.

Before moving ahead, however, I thought it might be nice to take a quick look back at the most popular posts of the past year. Here are the Top 10 (out of more than 100), ranked by page views. For various reasons, these are the ones that have garnered the most eyeballs. There are many other posts that are dear to me on this blog that have received only a fraction of the views. I know time and attention are the Internet’s most precious commodities, but if you like any of the posts listed below, you might consider taking a moment to poke around in the archives, too. Either way, I hope you find something that interests you.

As always, thanks for reading.

–The Blockhead Lord

Top 10 of 2012

  1. How to Spot a Climber in the Wild
  2. Couch Crushers to Widgeteers: 10 Climbing Personality Types Identified
  3. It’s Not Cool To Care
  4. Can You Cold-Brew Coffee With A French Press?
  5. From Chalk to Salve: Crap Climbers Put on Their Hands
  6. 50 Shades of Plaid: The Unofficial Uniform of Outdoor Retailer*
  7. Seven Deadly Sprays
  8. The Rotpunkt Method
  9. RIP Urban Climber Magazine
  10. Master of Movement or: Why Bear Grylls Is Running Through the Desert

*This “50 Shades of Plaid” ranking does not include the tens of thousands of page views if you add up all the separate images in the gallery — with those it would easily be the top post!

[Vid] Aid Climbing 2.0?

Listening to the Marketplace Tech Report this morning, I heard a quick news bite about the suction-cup tech that the University State University is developing for the military. Like the Atlas motorized rope ascenders (which allow “reverse rappelling”)  this promises to make moving in the vertical plane more accessible than ever.

Of course, we don’t climb just to get to the top, and making things easy is almost never the goal, so I don’t imagine this will have much appeal for climbers. Still, with the smooth, sweeping granite faces found in popular climbing zones like Yosemite, could such a suction cup rig supplement typical rope systems and help rescuers reach climbers stuck on the wall? Well… probably not. Still, I wouldn’t say no to a test drive. The real question: can you get inverted with these bad boys?

Along these lines, when are those anti-gravity boots coming to market? I’ve been saving up…

 

[Video] Petzl RocTrip China

Last year, I went to China for the Petzl RocTrip. It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken, mostly because Chinese culture is so different from that of the West, especially in Gétu Hé, the tiny, rustic farming town where the RocTrip took place. As always, Petzl produced an amazing video about the trip. I wish I could say I was more involved with this production. Still, I feel a certain sense of pride working for a company that values and supports such adventures and such artistic endeavors. The video, with its musical integration, is pretty unique in the climbing mediaverse. Check it out:

[Vid] Aerial Video Rig Tracks Sasha DiGiulian Climbing Era Vella

Behold, a new entry on the list of rad shooting rigs allowing climbing videographers to capture the vertical (or beyond-vertical) act in ways they could never quite capture it before.

The Sea to Sky Cable Cam is a portable camera rig that allows a video camera to travel up and down on rope tracks while an operator controls tilting and panning with a remote control. The Sea to Sky crew has used rigs of this sort to shoot a variety of action sports. Most recently, as you can see in the video below, to follow Sasha DiGiulian up Era Vella a 9a/5.14d in Margalef, Spain. (Unconfirmed: “Era vella” means “old threshing floor” in Catalan, according to one poster on Climbing Narc.)

Big Up Productions worked closely with Matt Maddaloni of Sea to Sky to develop the climbing-specific rig used to shoot this footage, which will be edited into one of the videos of the upcoming Reel Rock Film Tour.

Sasha DiGiulian on Era Vella

Sasha DiGiulian on Era Vella (9a/5.14d) Margalef, Spain. Keith Ladzinski photo.

This isn’t a new invention. The NFL, for example, has been using Skycams for years, but it is an early use in the climbing world. And, of course, due to the hard-to-access nature of rock climbs, it is a welcome addition, allowing for some very smooth, otherworldly perspectives on the act of climbing.

In the past, says Josh Lowell of Big Up Productions, his team has used pulley systems to haul a camera operator up overhanging walls, meanwhile dreaming of an unmanned system that could be operated remotely. So Big Up brought Maddaloni out to Spain to help shoot DiGiulian, and also Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra, who were working a 5.15c project in Oliana together. “It took a lot of experimenting to figure out what worked and what didn’t work,” says Lowell, but he’s enthusiastic about the footage, describing it as “long, continuous, single shots of the best climbers in the world trying the hardest route in the world … the camera silently tracking along with them the whole way.” Sounds good.

Not long ago, I wrote about the use of helicopter drone rigs to produce similar birds-eye shots. We can only assume that as climbing grows, along with demand for high-production-value climbing media, we we see more of these floating and flying perspectives and more of these ingenious techniques for capturing them.

Sea to Sky Cam at Kokanee Crankworx

A horizontal Sea to Sky Cam at Kokanee Crankworx

Of course, fancy shots do not a good video make — ultimately, it is the story and the characters that pull us into any movie. Judging by their previous track record, however, the folks at Big Up and the Reel Rock Tour will not disappoint on this front, either.

[Video] How to Make Iced Coffee that Doesn’t Suck With the Toddy System

Among the many things I’m snobby about, coffee is pretty high up on the list, right next to booze, food, and writing. Coffee, though, is special. I can enjoy a Pabst Blue Ribbon, a meal at White Castle, or a page-turning schlocky sci-fi novel, but I will not stand for bad coffee. What do I mean by bad coffee? I mean Folgers, flavored coffees, coffee brewed (read: burned) in a cheap coffee maker and then left to turn lukewarm and acrid. I mean coffee that’s been watered down, polluted with non-dairy creamers, posioned with carcinogenic sweeteners… the list goes on. But today, I’m going to show you one way to make iced coffee that doesn’t suck: the Toddy Cold Brew System.

A lot of people make iced coffee by first boiling water, then hot-brewing coffee, and then pouring that over ice. This can be done properly (i.e., you must brew the coffee at double strength, as it will be watered down instantly when you add ice), but even then, it leaves the coffee tasting a bit acidic and sour. To make a tastier cup of iced coffee, I learned from my friend JD, founder of the Brooklyn-based Oslo Coffee, one needs to cold brew it. A misnomer, in that it actually takes place at room temperature, cold brewing is basically a long steeping of coarsely ground coffee in water. This method reduces bitterness and and acidity greatly, to the extent that the coffee becomes so mild in taste you can easily drink it without sugar or milk. Cold-brewed iced coffee is very tasty, but also dangerous — you might drink yourself into a state of uncontrolled vibration if given too much of the stuff. I know this from experience, dude.

The method JD used to make iced coffee in the shop was scaled for commercial purposes, but the Toddy is basically a consumer-grade version. The system is stupid-simple. You really could make one yourself were you so inclined to dig up the individual components. Then again, you can spend the extra twenty bucks and save hours of your life if you just buy the Toddy  System straight from the toddycafe.com. It’s also available on Amazon and other online retailers. The full instructions for using the system are here; I’ve based the times and measurements in the video, above, on these. They work well enough, though I haven’t experimented.

When you cold brew a batch of coffee in the Toddy system, it makes a large carafe of concentrated liquid. Unless you’re a hardcore addict, you must water it down before you drink it. The concentrate can be stashed in the fridge for a week or two. You can also heat it up in the microwave with respectable results — it’s certainly not as rich or complex as a hot-brewed coffee, but if you’re sensitive to acid, it’s much easier on the stomach. When it’s hot, I’ve noticed Toddy coffee tends to have a more herbal, tea like flavor profile, which might turn off some coffee drinkers, especially those used to dark roasts. According to the packaging, you can also make iced tea with the system, but I have not tried this, as tea is not my thang.

The video is both a way for me to communicate the use of the Toddy system, which I dig, and to practice the complex arts of shooting and editing video. Like most things on this blog (or in my life, for that matter), it’s an experiment. If you have comments or questions, please leave them below. I <3 your feedback.

[Video] Corey Rich – Deep North

This very cool video, set in far northern Alaska, features photographer Corey Rich and was shot almost entirely with Nikon D7000s. Amazing what can be done with a relatively affordable camera (and three pricey lenses…).

After you watch it, you should check out this post in which Corey shares his thoughts on the new Nikon D800 and why it has him psyched. I should be getting mine any day now (fingers crossed).

Telling A Story With Video — A Work In Progress

To practice rapid-fire shooting and editing, I made the above short video of my fiancée, Kristin, at work on a new painting. Kristin earned an MFA at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art, in Philadelphia. Today, she works full time as a graphic designer, but tries to get some painting in after hours. Like me, she faces a constant struggle to remain creatively active, but I think we have both managed to find a tolerable balance. It’s better some weeks than others, but, as always, it’s a work in progress…

I took the basic order for the shots from a handy little article by University of Florida Journalism Professor Mindy McAdams. She describes a simple method for capturing a scene in just five shots. I’m fairly certain she didn’t devise this method (I’ve heard of similar approaches from other sources — in fact, there’s a nice BBC video on the “five-shot rule” here), but she does a nice job explaining it.

If you decided not to click the link, I’ll distill McAdams exercise here:

[In the case of a subject who is relatively stationary and using her hands]

  1. Shoot the hands up close (tight)
  2. Shoot the face up close (tight)
  3. Pull back and get a shot showing hands and face together (medium)
  4. Shoot over the shoulder (medium)
  5. Shoot “something else,” typically from a wider perspective

In making the short video above, which would typically be  just one scene in a longer documentary-style piece, I considered this approach and tweaked it a little based mostly on my own gut. I do not believe in any hard and fast “rules” about communicating, whether it be via video or the written word, or any other form or medium. We can get our point across in many different ways, and strict adherence to rules or formulas, although it can save time and effort, is a good way to bleed the life out of a story. That said, starting with a solid understanding of the basics is really a must for any aspiring creative.

As you can see in the stills below, I used more than five shots, but the basic ideas were covered:

1. Close-up of hands at work.

2. Medium shot showing hands and face (notice I skipped the suggested tight shot of the face — that comes in later).

3. Vertical pan on the painting. Again, this is not in keeping with the suggested five-shot order, but I felt it made sense to show the piece up front, for context.

4. Back on track, here’s the sometimes-tricky “over the shoulder” shot. I think it works well enough.

5. Because mixing paint was the first tight shot, I figured it would make sense to do a second, this one focused on the act of painting. I like the precision with which Kristin paints.

6. This shot falls between tight and medium, in my estimation, but it’s probably closest to what McAdams identifies as “something else,” a creative shot that adds visual interest to the edit. Kristin was interested to see it, as she didn’t realize she held the brush so high up. “It looks like Japanese brush painting,” she said. It’s her favorite shot and mine.

7. Here, I decided to go back to the face (what would be the second shot in the McAdam’s method). Not sure why, really… In retrospect, it may in fact have made more sense to put it up front.

8. A quick cut to an even tighter face shot. If I could lose any of the shots in the piece, it would be this one, as I don’t think it adds any information that shot No. 7 didn’t already convey.

9. To close out, I decided to give the contextualizing wide shot, which is how McAdams suggests finishing the a sequence. It’s not the most interesting image, and informationally it overlaps with the pan in my third shot, but I like how it gives a sense of scale — this is quite a large painting!

In the end, I used nine shots instead of five, although I’ll admit that for this very basic sequence, eight or even seven would have sufficed. I have shot and edited much longer, more complex videos, but as I’m self-taught, I try to go back and brush up on basics regularly. Like a lot of media makers in the digital age, I learned quick-and-dirty at the U of Hard Knocks. Without going back and practicing fundamentals, it’s easy to get caught in a big project with shaky foundations.

Always curious to hear what rules of thumb you use when telling a story with a video.