The title says it all. It’s also a blatant rip off of the former TV show also called How It’s Made that lived on Discovery Channel. This is because, well, simply put: I have no original names for a new feature like this. The thought of thinking of some clever title or play on words is not something that I am interested in doing right now. Especially as I write this at 5:30am inside terminal five of the shittiest airport… Errr, I mean Los Angeles International Airport. So, because of these very reasonable excuses that literally anyone can understand and relate to (cough, I am being lazy, cough), I have settled on the unoriginal and blatant rip off of How It’s Made. And, with that, you now know how the name for this feature was made. I hope you enjoyed this article and come back some other time when I decide to write something else sarcastic and unoriginal. Good day to you.
Okay, I am back. Did I fool you? Yes? You are a liar! You knew I couldn’t stop myself from writing ramblings of a mad man. So, I will continue. The idea behind this new feature is to breakdown all kinds of different projects we work on: whether it be a vurbmoto project, Red Bull MotoSpy, Red Bull Imagination, outside client projects, and more. Our objective is to show you how it’s made (the unoriginal title kinda makes this point feel redundant). Between myself and Wes Williams (never heard of her), we will take turns at writing about different projects. However, most likely, it’ll just be me writing all of these articles because Wes can’t even open up and read an email I sent to him three months ago because, apparently, get this… He’s busy. Doing what? I have no idea. To my knowledge, the jackass is washed up and just hangs out in a rural part of Idaho handing out free potatoes to the locals in hopes they’ll accept him as one of their own. Okay, guy. But, really, can you read my email? Or, at least send me a text and tell me how much you love me? I just need to know I am needed and loved. Is that too much to ask for? I’ll take you to Sizzler for an all-you-can-eat salad bar and frozen yogurt.
Now that I’ve completed my personal diatribe (it was all a joke, people), I suppose we can get into the meat of what this feature is about.
Side bar: I just utilized 400 words talking about absolutely nothing in an attempt at humor and wasted so much of your time. Damn. I’m sorry (Chase is pissed he has to proofread my articles because they often hit 10,000 words. One time he said if I kept this up he would make me film on GoPros and nothing else. Fuuuuuck that).
So, anyway, how the hell is it made? I wasn’t sure where to start. There is so much to break down, but I figured I would start with a project that I am often asked about and often people are surprised by the answers: PERSEVERANCE ft Christian Craig. For those unfamiliar with this project, you can visit The Craig Family YouTube channel to watch all of them, or the embedded link below. But, in short, it was a five part doc/vlog style series I shot with CC and Paige Craig in January of 2020. So, let’s get into it. Okay? Okay. (Insert Super Mario voice) Here we go…
It was a quiet Sunday on December 29th, 2019. Literally seven days until A1. My wife had just finished a spin class, and we were at a local Starbucks in Newport Beach, CA getting hot chocolate and coffee before embarking on our morning beach walk with our pup. While waiting inside the overpriced coffee shop that has me banned from ever working there for our drinks, I received a text from CC. He said,”Yooooo sir. Are you busy this upcoming week? I kind have a cool idea.” For reference, CC and Paige are one of few people that, when they ask, I will always say yes. So, before CC even told me what he had in mind, I knew I was going to be all about it. He goes onto tell me that his idea is doing five videos leading up to A1 that are inspired by UFC’s Embedded series on YouTube and he wants to start tomorrow (Monday). While I look like a total hipster douche nozzle, I am actually a pretty big UFC fan and hooked on their Embedded series. And, CC is also quite the UFC fan. So, as soon as I saw the reference video he sent via our text conversation, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. The goal? Film Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, shadowing CC each day and, after each day of shooting, jam home and edit the episdoe and upload to their YouTube channel that night. Yes, that’s right, shoot, edit, and upload all in one day, for five days in a row. As Ricky Bobby once said, “Slingshot engaged.”
We spent the rest of our Sunday devising a game plan for the week, getting gear ready, thinking of names for the series, and more. Going out and shooting and then turning around an edit in the same day isn’t necessarily unheard of or ground-breaking by any means. It’s stuff I’d done for years prior when I worked for other dirtbike websites. However, I will say, I had never done this type of turn around with this level of production quality and total runtime per video. The objective was to have a 10-minute video shot, edited, colored, GFX, etc and uploaded before midnight, each day. Episodes one and two had a mix of test rack, race shop, gym, and at home with the family. Episode three was a day focused on being with the family, going to lunch, and taking Jaggger riding, while episode four was focused on loading into A1 and episode five A1 Press Day and a dealer signing in Huntington Beach, CA. We shot this as a one-man-band, single camera project. Yes, that’s right. There is not a second camera op, there is no sound guy, there is none of that. Literally, it was just me with a camera and my audio equipment. Oh, and that was a nightmare… The audio part.
After all of the PERSEVERANCE episodes were completed, Wes changed my life with the introduction to an audio timecode device called Tentacle Sync. For cinema level cameras that have built-in timecode, these little boxes allow you to sync your camera with your audio recording device that is recording separately from your audio device(s) and, in post, you use the Tentacle software to sync your audio files and visuals together and save yourself HOURSSSSSSSSSSSS of time having to manual hand sync AV (audio/visuals) in post. You see, RED cameras do not have built-in XLR ports, thus, we have no way to run a shotgun or lav directly into the camera. The solution? We run a Zoom H6 (a Zoom H4 was used for PERSEVERANCE) attached to the RED, which allows me to run my shotgun mic and lavs into the H6, along with one Tentacle going into the H6 and a second Tentacle going into the RED sync port, you hit sync on the Tentacle app, and you’re off to the races.
For PERSEVERANCE, I didn’t have this tool. So, guess what? I had to MANUALLY HAND SYNC all of my audio files in post. Yes, the nightmare was real. I ran a lav on CC anytime he was not on the bike. At the track, I would run a mic on Hayden Villareal, CC’s mechanic. Once I got home, I would begin the process of having to find the perfect spike in my waveform with both the built-in RED audio and the lav audio and go about the process of syncing and hoping it matched up. Yeeeeeeaaaaah, not pleasant. But, if you wanna be impressed, watch all of these episodes to see my incredible talent of manually hand-syncing AV. Where is my award?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?! In all seriousness, I would like to say that my audio situation has seriously progressed in the proper direction post-PERSEVERANCE. It’s frustrating to know how much my audio has progressed since we shot this!
This project was incredibly run-and-gun. I’d arrive at CC’s house by 5:30am each morning (sometimes earlier), get a mic on CC and start the day. After our first day of production, I would leave my camera, glass, batteries, etc at CC’s house. This way, things were already built, I could let batteries charge over night at their house, and just bring my SSD and card reader home to dump footage and audio. Then, the next morning, I would arrive at CC’s house, camera is already there and built, batteries are charged, and off we go. CC, being the consummate professional that he is, made each day so simple. He knew exactly what we needed and what to say, which allowed for an efficient day with no time wasted.
Typically, we would be wrapped by 2:30pm or 3:00pm and, after we wrapped, I would jam home and go straight into the post. As I mentioned, not only am I doing the editing, but I am also coloring the entire episode, building and laying in all of the on-screen GFX, doing a shitty fucking audio mix and master because I had no idea how to do it properly and also had no time, exporting, uploading, sending to Paige Craig, and also including roughly 15 to 20 colored frames for YouTube thumbnails, social posts, etc. Paige would literally stay up with me until the video was uploaded onto their YouTube channel. From there, she would take over and handle the thumbnails, descriptions, title, and publishing. She, a mother of two, is up until 11:45pm to 12:00am, texting back and forth with me as we get each episode ready for launch. For five days in a row, we pulled 16 to 17-hour days, which were fueled by more original Monster Energy drinks then I care to ever admit to. If I was to calculate post time, I would say it was about eight hours of shooting and then eight hours of post each night.
I tried to make post as efficient as possible (despite the AV sync debacle) by making production as streamlined as possible. We’d discuss our morning game plan of what to shoot at the house and/or gym and then we would discuss the riding schedule for the day, and what we would do after the track. It made the post situation easier because we literally shot everything in order of how it plays out in the edits. We didn’t do anything that would cause footage to be out of order in how the day played out. To some extent, I could basically select all of our footage from each day, drag it all onto my timeline and it would play out true to the day and make the editing fairly simple. While there was some heavy lifting in each episode, there was also simply a lot trimming the fat which eliminated any additional headaches that we didn’t need.
In terms of how I shot this, it was quite simple. We realized that maybe somedays wouldn’t be all that exciting, but that was part of the story. Just because nothing “juicy” happens, doesn’t mean it’s not a story, especially for a project like this. We are simply showing what happens every day leading up to the biggest Supercross race of the season. If something wild happens, we show it, if nothing wild happens, we show it because that’s true to the day. We knew that we needed it to feel a bit rough and imperfect. So, my objective in creating the look for this series was to have roughly two to three locked off, establishing BROLL shots at each new location. This is to set the scene and allow for on-screen GFX to enter and let the viewer know where we are, what time it is, etc. Once we established the location, everything was handheld to allow for that more vlog style type of feeling. My three primary focal lengths were a 35mm, a 50mm, and a 70-200mm. I utilized the 35mm for all establishing shots and in-car driving shots while I saved the 50mm and 70-200mm for any and all on-track action, gym, and dialogue with mechanic/staff. Creatively, this was a unique challenge for me. I am known for very clean, locked off shots all of the time, so going handheld for 95% of this project was a fun exercise in creativity for me. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me in ways that I most definitely needed. I felt like I was able to harness my inner style while also stepping out of my comfort zone to fit the needs of a high end, yet imperfect vlog style that we were after and wanting to feel real and in the moment.
All of the same methods and theories were applied to the second installment we did for PERSEVERANCE, which was the Monday after the now iconic Dylan Ferrandis and CC debacle at A2. Overall, PERSEVERANCE was probably the most fun I have had filming dirt bikes in years. While there was a lot of pressure to hit the deadlines we set for ourselves, not a lot of sleep, and running on fumes by press day on Friday, there was a unique feeling I had throughout this project. A sense of lightheartedness and easy-going vibes. There was something that, for me at least, felt like I was at home and where I belonged. Nothing felt uncomfortable or awkward or forced. I’m not sure how to put it into words, but it felt genuine and it felt fun. It felt like we were doing something that people actually wanted to watch and be a part of and, the trust that both CC and Paige had/have in me is second to none. They believe so much in who I am as a creative individual that it makes a job like this so easy. And, the trust and belief I have in them is the same. I’m just not sure how to say it other then this was simply a magical experience for me. I hadn’t experienced something like that in a long time. And, I still hope we can find a way to do another five episodes again for 2022, because I am all about capturing those feelings agin.
-Rokinon Cine DS 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5
-Canon 70-200mm IS f/2.8
-Tiffen Variable ND 77mm
-Sennheiser EW G3 100 lav mic pack
-Adobe Premiere Pro