Snowboarding in Niseko Japan

Niseko is awesome! I have run across random videos of the runs in Japan for years. Seems like every one of them is one or two people, grey snowy skies, no body else around laying fresh tracks. Every video, the same. Last year our group of merry men went to Jackson Hole for our annual trip. We spent a day at Grand Targhee during the middle of the trip. Cam and I were the only ones to make the morning bus, so after spending the a.m. on the hill we headed to the bar for lunch and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. There was an older skier sitting next to us at the bar who mentioned that he was going to Japan for 2 weeks. But he didn’t call it Japan. He called it JaPow. As he told the two of us sitting at the bar about conditions in Niseko, we pretty much made up our mind to go.

This was a huge El Nino year. While snow storm Goliath brought heavy winter snow across the US (and shut down New Mexico), El Nino actually hurts Japan’s snowfall. The warmer ocean air tends to drop overall snow there buy 15%. While we were in Niseko it didn’t snow for 3 consecutive days on our trip. From the talk of everyone there that is unheard of in January. Even with the down overall snow, Niseko still had the lightest and deepest snow I’ve ever ridden. Multiple days of waist and chest deep snow. The snow texture is the same as Utah, very light and dry. The weather reports called it dry silk, which is how the video got it’s name.

Editing this year I wanted to tell a better story than I did on last years Jackson Hole / Colorado video. The final cut of JH/WF was satisfying, but when I watch it now I can see several shifts that would have made it much better. The photos from 2006 should have stayed a 4×3 ratio to match the old 2006 video and moved into widescreen when we get to 2015. The Colorado portion of the video needed more of a callout to separate from the Jackson Hole portion, instead of just rolling into the A Team parody. There are a ton of inside jokes that everyone on the trip would understand, but there wasn’t enough effort made to let the average viewer in on what we were laughing about. The original reason for doing these videos was to keep the memories of these trips, but also to learn to be a better storyteller. Last years video was a another step forward, but in hindsight could have been more.

I went into cutting this video with more of a documentary mindset. Extra effort was made to add some facts, locations and what I observed about being in Japan into the video where I felt the just the footage didn’t make it obvious. That’s where all my captions come into play. My technical ability to use the editing tools has advanced enough that most of my thought process revolves around what to do rather than how to get it done. The result shows in the final cut. Even clocking in at 25 minutes it feels leaner and more engaging than my efforts from previous years. I hope you enjoy it!

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6 Hours In 6 Minutes

So I get the question from time to time, what is an Adventure Race? It’s a combination of trail running, mountain biking and kayaking. There are short “sprint” versions and longer (sometimes days long) versions. The longer versions are broken down by the max time allowed to finish. This can be 6, 8, 12 or even 36 hour races. While the sprint versions have a set course, the longer versions almost always involve some orienting. That is, you are given a map that has been broken into sections, and a set of locations you have to find. The locations are given as plotting coordinates. The coordinates give you a northerly and easterly measurement, allowing you to mark a position on your map. After that it is up to you how to get to the locations and what order you find them. You also are given several set of locations on each leg (running, biking and kayaking). Every location will have a unique hole puncher that you use on a “passport” that will be turned in at the end of the race. The team with the most correct passport punches in the least amount of time wins. So depending on how good you are a plotting and planning your path to the locations to could run 5 to 10 miles. Bike 15 to 25 miles, etc.

I started doing these in 2011 as an excuse to go mountain biking. The bike leg is usually the most time consuming part of these races. Since doing some of the longer races I’ve come to really look forward to the orienting aspect. It forces you to stay engaged in the moment in a way other endurance races do not. Even if you are really good at plotting the locations, once there just finding the hole puncher can be challenging as well. I have yet to do one of these where there wasn’t at least one spot where we are basically standing right next to the thing, but it still takes us 15 minutes to find it. staying positive and being able to think things through while you are physically tired is skill that comes into play as well.

So with the explanation out of the way, here is the video of our “movember” team (Mustache Rides) running the 6 hour Huntsville Hammer Race in November 2016.

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Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee and Wolf Creek 2015

To me, what is cool about this year’s trip is we had our whole group from the trip we took to Jackson Hole nine years ago. 2006 was the last year for the old tram, which was one of our reasons for going. The next year was the beginning of an expansion of the mountain village. The old tram could hold 50 people (the current tram has double that capacity). In 2006 there was only one bar at the base camp, The Mangy Moose. Now village has been expanded to more than double the size it was in 2006 and there are many more options for food and drink. The mountain has a really different feel now. Much more like Summit County or Utah.

The 2006 trip was the first time we experimented with taking video on the mountain. Someone had a small point and shoot that would zoom and take video. I also bought one of the first action cameras, an Oregon Scientific ATC-1000. This was years before Contour and GoPro would release their first HD cameras. I filmed some gloriously grainy runs in full 640×480. We also took some video during a legendary night at the Mangy Moose, drinking enough jagerbombs and beers to tranquilize an elephant. The things you can do when you’re young and within walking distance of your lodge. We did get an awesome group photo of all of us at the bar. That photo is one of my favorite of my group of friends and I have it framed in my house. So for this video I knew I had to dig up the old footage, include it, include the old photo of us and get the group to recreate the bar photo at the Mangy Moose with our grey beards.

This trip we had 4 people with GoPros, giving me around 17 hours of footage to sift through. There was an effort to get more than just us on the mountain. We do have some characters in the group and in the past we haven’t really put the tomfoolery of our downtime on film. We definitely got a taste of that this time around. It does make the final video a bit more R rated than my previous edits, but it is a snowboarding vacation. Most of this downtime footage happens around mealtime. Dinner was a big deal every night. Jackson has a plethora of game meat available. For the price of a good meal at a steak house we stocked up on exotic meat for almost every night. Ground Elk and Buffalo, Buffalo strips, Elk Chops, Elk tenderloins and Buffalo brats. We looked forward to grilling almost as much as snowboarding.

We did take a day trip to Grand Targhee mountain, which was probably the best conditions of the trip. It didn’t snow much while we were there. Adding to this it was sunny and warm most days and freezing at night. That causes melt off and refreeze, which makes the snowpack harder by the day. Jackson Hole has some of the most vertical terrain in North America, so that hardpack means you have to be on your game. Some of the snow at the peak was as hard as concrete by the end of our time there. Grand Targhee is a little higher in elevation so the temperature didn’t get as high during the day, preserving the snowpack and leaving a much softer base. The Targhee footage starts off with just myself and Cameron. Everyone else in our group stayed out too late and didn’t make the shuttle the next morning. They managed to catch a ride later that morning and meet up for a half day.

The day before we left for home we took a snowmobile tour through Yellowstone National Park. The tour was about 50/50 between riding the snowmobiles and taking a walking tour of the geysers. I have been to yellowstone before, but it was 25 years ago at the end of summer. Getting to explore the park while it was covered in snow was a great experience.

I did get to take a second snowboarding trip to Wolf Creek Colorado during spring break. My wife and daughter were staying in Creede with some family during their school break and gave me approval to tag along and board. In our group we say that anyone who takes the expert and backcountry terrain is on the “A Team”. Two of my A Teamers managed to get permission from my wife to tag along so I wouldn’t have to board by myself. Bev and Tyler did try a day on the mountain, with mixed results. Snowboarding might not be their thing.

From a technical standpoint this is the most complex and best looking video I’ve done so far. Last year I got good at using the magnetic timeline in FCPX to pre splice containers for video clips. I preselect some music and use the beat to give me a range of these containers. It speeds up the editing process so much that I spent more time learning about color grading and blend modes. I still don’t use the Protune for clips on our trips because we just don’t have enough storage with us for those bigger files. Besides, since so much of what we shoot is white snow I’m not sure how much benefit we would get vs my limited color grading experience. That said I did perform a color grade on all the video, increasing the contrast, sharpness and vibrancy. I also found some plugins to help me balance overall RGB values to get the whites more true. One of the cameras was an older GoPro 3 and it’s sensor shoots more green. I balanced it’s video to match our newer GP 4 cameras. All of the color work was done on a separate adjustment layer plugin. I also created some transitions and type effects from scratch and tried out some film burns. I’m starting to move out of the basic functions of FCPX and getting into more of the intermediate skill level editing. I plan on adding more custom graphics and even better grading next time around.

2016 will be a trip to Niseko, Japan for some of the deepest powder on earth.

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Colorado 2014

With the snowboarding trip for 2015 only 6 weeks away, I decided to finally revisit the footage from last years trip Colorado and edit a proper video. We stayed in Avon and rode at Vail and Breckenridge. Last year was a record year for snowfall in Summit County and overall conditions were excellent while we were there. We also discovered something new, the Minturn Mile. It’s a backcountry route to the town of Minturn, which sits in between Vail and Beaver Creek. You leave Vail through it’s backcountry gate, ride about 3 miles through various terrain and then walk a mile to your final destination. This usually ends with drinks and dinner at the Minturn Saloon, a very old and highly rated restaurant and bar. Unknown to us, the saloon was booked for a private party so we made due with a pizza place down the road. No worries though, it was a nice last run of our trip and will have to be a new tradition anytime we visit Summit County.

Rider legend:
Holland = orange jacket, olive pant, graffiti helmet
Cam = black jacket, grey pant, black hat
Phil = Olive jacket, black pant, grey helmet
Shane = black jacket, black pants, gremlin hat
Steve = red/cream jacket, grey pant, black hat

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The Art of Steadicam

This is greatness. So many awesome movies and TV shows here.

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Home Photoshoot Time Lapse

A behind the scenes look at what goes into a studio photoshoot for home items. Often there is a team of talented people planning spaces, building sets, configuring props, working soft styling, and managing the shoot logistics. everything is pre-planned, especially when there are room sets that need to be built. Unless you have been on a set and seen this orchestra of people it can be easy to take effort needed to get a good shot for granted. Our team of home art directors has often discussed this and how we would like more people to understand the work that goes into these shots. I was recently on a large 2 week shoot with another AD. We were splitting shots simultaneously at 2 studios. While shooting I set up my 3 contour action cameras at various locations around the studios. The cameras took a still photo every 30 seconds, which I could put together to make a nice time lapsed video. I’ve included the final shots after each time lapse segment for reference. I have always found it a little surreal how the production of an image (or video) looks so different from the final product.

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Christoph Waltz Sketch

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The last few days I’ve been doing storyboards for my work. I haven’t done pen and marker work in awhile. When I started on the project I got my pens out and promptly discovered they were too old to work with. I usually work with micron technical pens but while looking at options I came across some faber india ink art pens. I got a set that had the fine line range of .1-.7 mm but also had some nice fat brush style pens as well. Working with them I really liked how they flowed and wanted to push them a bit more than the storyboard project would dictate. One cool recent image I had run across was the poster for Zero Theorem featuring Christoph Waltz. Very dramatic single source light with a nova imposed in the falloff. So as a warmup I got a few of the brush pens out and did a quick 10 minute sketch of the image. I really liked the speed at which I could go back and forth between the pens. Much quicker for me than brush and quill, and the results are pretty similar. Granted, brush and quill are not something that I’m wonderful at doing. The storyboard project is ongoing so I’ll probably mess around with a few more of these next week.

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G.O.T. season 4 VFX reel

This show must be sooooo expensive to make. Season 4 got us through book number three. Four more books to go. As long as the quality of the show stays this good they should hold viewers for years.

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Transformers Transforming

Every transformation from the first 3 Transformers movies. The 10 year old in me is smiling.

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Daft Punk Vs. 2001

Daft Punk’s song “Contact” sync’d with the end scene from 2001. Found this on a blog yesterday. Reminded me of the first time I watched The Wizard of OZ with Pink Floyd. I guess we will never know if Daft Punk did this intentionally, but it doesn’t make it any less cool.

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February 2014 Poster – Filth

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February was a busy month, and it was looking like I might not have a poster to show for it. Between my 9 to 5, a short calendar and the annual snowboarding trip, there wasn’t much time to work on my side project. I actually started work on a different film poster than this one (that will now become the March poster). A few weeks ago I received a call for entries from the AMP rss feed. They were running a contest to create an alternative poster for the UK movie “Filth”. The winning entry will be chosen by the film’s creators and is to be used for DVD packaging and email blasts. So I thought to myself, I’m too busy to try to work one of these into my already packed schedule. Time went by. I went snowboarding. I got a few commission assignments. I worked on my formerly mentioned idea. Comfortable with not trying to cram another project into my schedule. Then, it got down to about 3 days before the deadline for entries. I, all the sudden, decided that I should try to crank something out. So I took my tablet with me to the photo shoot I was on and did this in between Art Directing shots.

The film is based around a corrupt Scottish police officer played by James McAvoy. For my Filth movie poster, I wanted to clue on his sickish grin. I really wanted him to look a bit greasy and sleazy. I incorporated the type into a background element, featuring a dancing collage of pills, booze, women and other character vice’s. Yellow was used very prominently in the film’s theatrical poster so I wanted to keep that as a base to tie back to what has already been done. My first idea was to use blues for the character portrait as a complimentary contrast. I also tried a green version, with the thought that he was sick and greedy. I really couldn’t decide which I like better so I sent them both to the contest.

It will be interesting to see if there is any feedback from the contest, but either way I’m pleased with how it turned out.

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January 2014 Poster – The Silence Of The Lambs

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Over the next few months I am going to try to complete a new alternative movie poster for some of my favorite movies. I’m currently planning to do them all digitally and in a style and format suitable for silk screening. This will be both a personal and portfolio project so I will be posting in both the work and blog sections of TSM. My work section will only feature the final artwork and detail shots, but the blog post will go into specifics on the process of making these, variant color options and general ramblings about some of these movies. I haven’t been drawing much the last few years and I’m hoping that this will not only help my skills from eroding but also push my work more towards the illustration arena on a regular basis. With that gauntlet thrown down, onto the poster…

I didn’t really pre plan much of this project. There is quite an exploding market for art prints and alternative movie posters, so that seemed like a natural fit for my skills and style of illustration. I haven’t seen many of these alternative pieces for “The Silence Of The Lambs” and since it is one of my favorite movies I just jumped onto illustrator and started working. I knew I wanted to portray the infinite stare of Hannibal that the movie featured. Anthony Hopkins has since stated that he based it on observations of Charles Manson. Hopkins has played Hannibal in 3 movies now, but “Silence” is really the only that continually features this soul searching stare prominently. The way director Demme pulls into it repeatedly helps break the 4th wall in the film and amps the creepy factor of the character.

I also wanted to feature not only Clarice Starling but Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb. Pretty much every promotional piece I’ve seen done with this movie features only Hannibal and/or Clarice, but in my opinion Buffalo Bill is just as iconic. Who can see this movie and not remember (and quote) the lotion scene? I wanted to mimic the under the jaw angle with both Clarice and Bill to give the characters a visual connectivity, as well as contrasting the head down angle of Hannibal’s stare. Once they were blocked in I went through a few layout options but settled on Clarice and Bill on the lower half of the real estate, with Hannibal looming behind. Each of the supporting characters under one of Lecter’s watching eyes, implying his focus and knowledge of each. I think it’s a nice way to synopsis the story, as Hannibal is the link between the two finding each other. I gave Hannibal a highlighted glow and let the edges of his visage fade into the background as if he were a spectre. He is the spark of the movie and it really adds to his creepy, otherworldly vibe.

I did the color palette in reds, wanted to give it a nice bloody feel. If this were to be printed I would do 3 colors on cream paper. I also did a couple of quick alternates in blue and grays. I didn’t think it was a bad start. Hopefully these get better each month.

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SOTL_BKWHT

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