Ryan Schorman of Wooden Camera utilizes Kessler CineDrive for his latest skateboarding film Married with Children
We recently had a chance to catch up with Ryan Schorman of Wooden Camera to speak about one of his recent projects.
Wooden Camera makes some really great camera accessories, the company was founded in 2011 by Ryan and his wife Elizabeth. Based out of Dallas, Texas they started with the A-box (an adapter that accepts standard XLR mic inputs and outputs to 3.5mm plugs to allow for professional level audio on cameras without XLRs like the RED) and have grown to offer over 900 different products.
You can find all of there products on their website here.
Ryan’s love of filmmaking started as a teen shooting skateboarding videos and he is still shooting skateboarding films today. His most recent film combined his love of skateboarding with the iconic hoverboard from the Back to the Future franchise. Check it out!
KU: Ryan, we’d like to start with saying that we love this short film. I’d mentioned to you before that Back to the Future is one of my favorite films, the way you pulled in iconic moments from that film, the music selection, and the way the guys appeared to be having a good time together all left us smiling after watching the film. Has a BTTF hoverboard and skateboarding video mashup been something that you had wanted to do for a while, and are there any other films that you’d like to incorporate into future skate video projects?
RS: I loved Back to the Future 2 and was obsessed with the hoverboard scene as a kid even before I started skateboarding. After I started skating I would occasionally think about what tricks could be possible on a real hoverboard and how it would look. There was a Lexus hoverboard that actually worked on a magnetic track and then another hoverboard that worked on a copper mini ramp but I wanted to do something more true to skateboarding and the styling of Back to the Future. I was really happy with how it came out and listening to the theater reaction was amazing. People were hooting and screaming. It made the months of post production worth it.
I've always enjoyed making skits for skate videos. In Alligator Suitcases, a previous film I worked on, there are tributes to Stranger Things and Goonies. In the next film, we are going to use elements from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze. There’s something about childhood films that I feel compelled to recreate. I'm sure Ghostbusters will make it in there sometime too.
KU: I understand that your skateboarding background is what got you into filmmaking and starting Wooden Camera, how long have you been skating and what is something about the sport that you love?
RS: I started skateboarding in 1999 and started filming skating in 2004, releasing my first, full length film in 2007. It's hard to describe exactly what I love about skating. I think it has to do with how difficult it is and how it's completely up to you to succeed by trying really hard and never giving up.
I love practical effects which is why I ended up spending months making the props
KU: You used Kessler’s CineDrive motion control system to achieve the ground level hoverboard shots, could you outline for us what all was in your kit?
RS: We shot 95% of the intro in one day so I had to be really efficient. We had one Panasonic EVA1 permanently attached to the CineDrive head with pan and tilt axes and controlled it via kOS on an iPad. This setup was on Manfrotto sticks that I had modified to go from a completely flat, high-hat level, to standard height. The second EVA1 alternated between a Wooden Camera shoulder rig and a standard Manfrotto video head. The lenses were a set of ARRI Standard Speed Primes and the drone shots were all done with the DJI Mavic Air.
KU: What was your process like for doing the vfx work to achieve the hoverboard effect? I’m guessing that you did clean plates without the actors in the scene, then another pass with the actors skating and did some post work to remove trucks and wheels from the skate decks, but hoverboard’s round discs under the deck seem to be practical rather than added digitally. Did you use a specially built up prop board to achieve this realism?
RS: I love practical effects which is why I ended up spending months making the props. I went through so many iterations of hoverboard, adjusting the wheel positions, height, and weight. I'd make one prototype and hand it off to some friends to try it and they couldn't flip it right or ollie very high off the ground. It was a ton of trial and error. All of the tricks you see in the film were really landed which I think adds to the effect. In total we had three boards that rolled and one dummy board for the shots where it was carried.
We did some testing with the CineDrive head as well to see what was the easiest way to capture the tricks and the plates. In the end, I would program the camera move and then count down when a person should start rolling toward the trick. It took the skater several tries to land the trick anyway so it gave us a chance to work out the timing. Once the trick was landed, I would have everyone exit the frame and we'd should 5 clean plates. It was cloudy the day we shot which saved us from sweating but also made a ton of variations in color tone on the plates so it took a bit of extra post effort to match them.
When the trucks and wheels were in front of the background plates, that was relatively easy to mask out but the hardest parts were when they passed in front of the board, hover pad, or feet. I tried my best to frame the shots to where the post production effort would be minimal with the exception of Sean's nose manual. I wanted one shot where you could see the entire bottom of the board for an extended period of time. The trucks and wheels were covering major parts of the board and pads so I had to do a lot of compositing. In the end, the audience reaction to that shot was fantastic so I was happy.
KU: It likely would have been easier to do these vfx shots with a locked down camera, what do you think adding the camera motion into them adds to the final film?
RS: Camera motion really adds to the energy of the shot and helps with the suspension of disbelief. If we locked down the shots, it would not have nearly the same effect as panning to follow someone floating by on a hoverboard.
Camera motion really adds to the energy of the shot and helps with the suspension of disbelief.
KU: You also have our Digital Control Center (DCC) as part of your kit, for your workflow do you find yourself connecting the DCC directly to the systems MCB’s/Motor bricks and programming moves directly within the DCC, or do you connect the DCC to your CineDrive Brain and use the DCC to help you quickly move the motors into position for programming keyframes within kOS? How does including the DCC with your kit improve the experience for you?
RS: I originally thought I'd be able to use the DCC to follow the skater in real time to make sure they were in frame but that turned out to be difficult. There were too many things to focus on. Instead, I programmed the moves in kOS and worked out the timing with trial and error. Since trick attempts are relatively the same in terms of speed and position, having a preprogrammed move was really ideal and I could then focus on the composition of the frame and giving direction to the actors.
KU: The slow motion shots lend themselves so well to skateboarding, and your use of slomo was not overdone to the point of taking away from the story, What camera gear did you use on the CineDrive to capture them and how do you decide what shots should be captured this way?
RS: After some testing, it became clear that the skating needed to be captured in 4K at 60p so that the viewer could really focus on the hovering and scrutinize it. You can get away with almost anything at 24p, but when you slomo, that's when effects get magnified. We also picked the song long before the shoot and designed the intro around it so the heavy parts of the song are where the slomo is and the lighter parts are dialog and regular motion.
KU: Jumping over to your company, does Wooden Camera have any new products that you’d like our readers to know about? We find that going out and using the gear that we make to shoot helps us with product design, is your experience similar with Wooden Camera’s products and which of your products were used when making this film?
RS: I completely agree which is part of the reason I still like shooting skate videos and skits like this. It keeps me in touch with the market and gives me insight on what should and should not be included in new product development. For the hoverboard video, we used a few prototypes including our Zip Box Pro and VX Mic. The VX Mic, in particular, was key in recording location skate sounds like pops and slides, even though we edited the rolling out! The Zip Box Pro and Zip Focus were great because I was shooting almost everything myself and I needed the smallest, lightest setup possible. That plus our Shoulder Rig and I was good for a full day of shooting.
KU: Do you have any future projects planned that we can look forward to seeing?
RS: Alligator Suitcases 2 will be released in December, 2020 and that will have a TMNT2: Secret of the Ooze theme. We shot a little teaser for it already and you can see it below. I actually shot and edited that on the afternoon before the theatrical premiere of Married with Children and we threw it into the timeline after the credits. It was pretty wild.
KU: Thanks so much for sharing your work and taking the time to speak with us. What’s the best way for our readers to connect with you?
RS: Thank you for the interview! Please follow us on Instagram and YouTube! You can also watch the video on our site link below and even download a high res version for free.