The State of the Snowboard Video – A Hump Day Special Report
If you’re a regular user of the Internet (we’ll assume you are), you are well aware that anyone can make a snowboard video now. Day after day, the netwaves are filled with new mini edits from mountains you’ve never heard of and kids you don’t care about it. Even semi-obscure full lengths can be found with a few clicks of a mouse. There’s no shortage of stoke and inspiration out there, but at some point does it become quantity over quality? Will we eventually lose the true art of snowboard filmmaking because anyone can do it?
Video has always played a huge roll in snowboarding, but the model is changing everyday. Cole Taylor from FODT/MFM productions, Vincent Urban from the European crew Isenseven and Mike Benson and Casey Wrightsman, who make up the Knife Show, have very different approaches to the movie making biz, but one thing in common. They all produce videos that stand out in a crowded market. We could sit here and philosophize all day, but it seemed more reasonable to ask their opinion on the matter.
The Knife Show’s emblematic “Magic Flashflights” put them on the map.
What do you think makes a quality snowboarding video?
Cole Taylor (FODT/MFM): There are so many things that determine that, everyone has their own opinions. You can have a video that’s edited super tight with crazy post coloring and animations, or super loose with tons of random partying and not-so-serious riding. Maybe it’s dramatic cinematography using fancier film equipment or going the easier route and handheld filming your bro cam. At the end of the day it all can turn out sweet if it’s what you like and you have a good crew and everyone puts a little passion and heart into the project. Luckily for me I’ve been part of or contributed to all styles. Most kids of today don’t know this but I filmed a lot of Love/Hate and Burning Bridges, two videos in my opinion that influenced the newer generation of shred flicks today.
Vincent Urban (Isenseven): Most importantly, fun. A snowboarding video should always capture good times on the mountain (or the city), portray friendship and likeable characters, maybe some sunshine here and there, and of course tricks that the viewer either wants to try himself or is simply amazed by. That might all sound a bit cheesy, but in the end, our job as video producers is to keep telling people how much fun being out there riding with your friends really is. Not exclusive fun, but something that everyone can enjoy.
Casey Wrightsman (Knife Show): If the vibe of the video isn’t there, then there is no video. If there is a vibe, then there is a good video.
Mike Benson (Knife Show): Yeah, what he said basically. It needs to set a distinct mood. We had a contest on our website where anybody could send in their web video and Casey got to pick the winner. The clip that won was actually a super-simple edit, some kids jibbing in their backyard. But it really made you feel like you were there with them.
Cole Taylor, on the job.
When editing, what’s more important to you: the quality of the clip or the quality of the snowboarding?
Casey: I personally always think the trick comes first. But then again I’ve used a bad trick cause the way it was filmed before. Usually, I think trick comes first.
Cole: Really it’s both. The last couple years I’ve been having fun with a little more attention to the quality of the filming, making the snowboarding look its best! But then you have to be careful, if the quality of the actual snowboarding or the trick isn’t up to par, then you have to deal with the haters. Actually you got haters no matter what, especially us … haha
Vincent: Snowboarding is crucial. It’s the flour for your bread. There are many videos out there with really poor editing or filming but they are well accepted as long as the snowboarding is at least entertaining. If the quality of the snowboarding simply sucks, you can edit and film crazy as you want – no one wants to see that.
On the other hand, the quality of the production is what makes the difference in the end, what makes your video special and distinctive. There’s just too many productions out there that simply feature good snowboarding and most of the crowds out there can’t really tell any difference any more. To attract a bit wider audience than your usual 2000-person core crowd, you gotta make sure your edits have more to offer than hard-cut handrail shots to yet another classic rock song from the 70s.
Vincent Urban may be confused by American money, but he knows his way around a snowboard video.
Do you think it’s gotten “easier” to make a good video because of the better/more accessible technology?
Vincent: Yes, way easier. And that’s a good thing. We’ve gotten to a point that you can distinguish between producers that are actually good and the ones that are not. Before, there was only the difference between the ones that had a lot of money on their hands and the ones that didn’t.
Cole: It’s definitely gotten easier as far as buy a cheap camera, film your bros, edit on your laptop and call it a movie for those who do that. The problem most production companies are having is locking in solid budgets, everyone fights for the same sponsors and in a lot of cases the same riders. Most companies don’t have a lot of money these days for sponsoring movies, which is why some stick to making their own team videos, which is rad. For us, we’ve always had to rely on our sales to fund our next project and now that there’s so many movies because of technology not to mention so many bootleggers because of technology it’s made it harder to sell.
Has the business model of a snowboard video changed because of the Internet (or do you let other people deal with that!)?
Cole: Definitely and yes, I try to get MFM to deal with that. He’s become quite the business man, has lots of ideas, not to mention he’s a partner of mobile rider and reel comp. The Internet obviously opens the doors for new opportunities with promoting your project. People today are more concerned with views and steady content so if you have that locked down your business model will look pretty good to any potential sponsors.
Vincent: It’s sure changed. There’s more competition, there’s a larger audience and there’s the need to edit your stuff in a more fast-food kind of way because that’s what your 2.0 snowboarder wants to see. But in general, your main goal is still to make a good snowboarding movie. That’s all.
The teaser for FODT’s 2009 release Hard to Earn, courtesy of Cole Taylor
Do you like making mini web edits or do you prefer the full-length process?
Cole: I’m in it for the full length. I like seeing the quality at it’s best, I like working on a project all season and seeing how it unfolds in the summer. I like touring and stoking out all the kids at the premiers. Web edits are cool but they’re here today, gone tomorrow, or in some cases gone in a half a day.
Vincent: I like the web edits better. A) you have a bigger selection and therefore way more opportunities to give your edit the overall emotion of any kind you want. B) You’re not restricted by the many obligations you have when editing a regular movie, like to show all the tricks a rider wants to have in his part or edit to a song that you’re not that into.
Ok, Knife Show, why do you guys choose to do web edits?
Casey: They get some many more views. They are the future ! haha
Mike: Well yeah, since we aren’t a huge company, we basically set out to make fun videos with enough humor that casual boarders could enjoy them. Gnar Wars has been on the front page of MSN, MySpace, Vimeo. When it’s all put together that one video got over two million views. In order to pay for some trips we make sweatshirts and boxers you can buy on knifeshowinc.com. So we kind of did it backwards: We started as a video company and then later started making stuff that people buy.
Do you feel like the sheer amount of videos available on the web makes full-length video projects less, or more relevant?
Cole: I think that if you’re on point your using the web as your marketing outlet to create hype for your upcoming full length. If you’re releasing webisode edits, blogging all over and creating major views and an audience then hopefully you’ve locked in all those people for the actual release of the full length. Both are relevant for each other.
Mike: We all know the industry has changed. One of the most interesting things for me was a conversation I had with a pretty well-known pro who told me (off the record) what some of the sales numbers were for that year’s videos. You would probably be surprised at how low the numbers were. Spending a lot of time around industry people, it’s easy to forget just how small the market is.
Vincent: I have to admit – I really don’t know. Our videos, both webclips and the full-length, have always gotten more relevant during the past years, just because of the fact that our audience grew. We couldn’t really feel any impact by more or less clips by other crews. I’m always happy to see that there are tons of crews out there filming themselves and showing the world – because I know how much fun it is. They probably wouldn’t do it if the full-length professional videos wouldn’t be relevant anymore. If the medium DVD for a full-length is still relevant is another question though.
Mike Benson and Casey Wrightsman, a.k.a. The Knife Show
Do you think the snowboard DVD is going away and eventually everything will just be online?
Vincent: Eventually, yes. I don’t know when, but it will be gone some day. I guess the DVD itself will disappear so it’s not a destiny that will come over snowboarding alone. For me as a producer, this doesn’t make a difference though. I would even make movies whether people would still buy VHS cassettes or if they can download it directly to their iPads while sitting in Koh Tao at the beach.
Cole: It seems its already gone. Everything will at least come off of the Internet once the quality is there.
Has the Internet changed the way you do things at all?
Cole: It has for sure, but I’m old school. I like to spend my time outside filming or communicating with people in person or at least on the phone. I’m definitely not trying to keep up with all the Internet junkies all cooped up all day emailing and ichattin it up, talking about what to do for lunch on Facebook. No offense to those who do, it’s just not my style.
Do you think we’ll reach a point where people stop making full-length snowboard movies all together?
Mike: I think that there will always be full-length videos, because there is something inherently attractive about long-form entertainment like that. When YouTube and other free video sites started getting big, a lot of movie producers got nervous, because they weren’t sure how much business that was going to take away. They weren’t even sure if people wanted their entertainment presented in 90-minute blocks anymore. But overall, box office has been going up every year. And because people have a passion for it, filmers and editors will always find a way to make snowboard videos. Now, here’s the thing: They won’t always have the same budget. But the really talented ones will find a way to make it work, because that’s what they love to do. For us, I really want to stay focused on quick web edits, because I feel like our stuff is kind of best viewed as short individual skits. Everyone’s attention span is shorter now. Thanks for nothing, Internet.
Get psyched for the new Isenseven release, you know it’ll be good.
Check out more from Vincent, Cole, Casey and Mike at: