Tracking Shots Ep.18 – Sliding and ‘Swirling Samas’

Adam Colton from Loaded Boards has kindly sent us a variety of videos over the past year featuring some of the slickest slider shots we’ve seen to date (you can find them in the Tracking Shots archive). He passed along the Swirling Samas video a few weeks ago and I just haven’t found time to share it until now. The piece has already rocketed to over 130,000 views on youtube and deservedly so. What’s awesome about Adam’s stuff is you can actually see his growth as a shooter over the past 12 months. Don’t get me wrong, the first video he shared with us is awesome, but over the past few videos and especially the most recent video you can really see a change in compositional choices and seamless camera movement. I’ll let you be the judge but don’t forget to check out the BTS and a quick Interview with Adam after the video.

If you ever meet Adam you will find that he is a really down to earth and humble dude who’d never take enough credit for his films. I got a chance to let him know how much I dug this latest film and managed to grab some insight into the piece and his evolving approach to making these films.

Adam and Adam from Loaded Boards setup a shot

Adam and Adam from Loaded Boards setup a shot

An Interview with Adam Colton

Adam starts the interview with some thanks and kudos; “First off I want to say that ‘Swirling Samas’ could not have happened without my bud Adam S. filming and pulling focus. He has a gift for capturing amazing shots and we make a good film team. And, of course, big thanks to Cinevate for all the gear that expands our ability to be creative and capture inspiring shots.”

Q\ I think newer shooters can get stuck at eye level, setting their sticks or monopod at a certain height and capturing events in haste without finding a different perspective. There’s plenty of variation in the latest video and in past videos so I know you’ve figured out how to mix it up. How do you decide to switch up perspective?

A\ I feel like I can get stuck with eye level shots when I get really tired and hungry, hahah, filming is hard work.  With longboard filming you are always on the go, changing locations and you develop on the go creativity to be able to come to a new spot and think of the shots on the fly.  With each location we stop at I take look at the surroundings and see what inspires me about the spot.  Sometimes there are beautiful trees that would be fun to pan past, flowers, some kind of structure, a beautiful winding road in the distance or just the vastness of the area.  Certain things always jump out at me but if not then we usually find a better spot.  As I film more I am more patient with finding the right location that works both with the skating and filming rather than just settling for any spot.  So really the spot and its features help dictate the perspective, there really is no concrete preplanned shot, it’s mostly creativity on the go.  This all said I am very conscious of what shots we have done throughout the day and I do try to make an effort to vary them up and use all the equipment.

Adam gets low with the Atlas 30 camera slider

Adam grabs a low angle shot with his Atlas 30 camera slider

Q\ When you’re composing your shots what do you look for in the frame to make it more dynamic?

A\ With framing I always meditate on what am I going for.  Am I trying to place the most importance on the scenery first and skater second? Or is it all about the movement of the skater?  Or perhaps the detail and movement of the feet or body?  Most of the time I have the focus on the skater and have the skater take up as much room as possible in the frame.   When we do a 1st take and there is a lot of headroom I will zoom in on the shot to allow the skater to be bigger in the scene therefore having more focus on him or her.  I am constantly reworking and adjusting shots to really make effective use of space.  For the new video we even focused a bunch of shots on just the body, showing the flow and movement of the upper body and torso.  Then we did some close ups of just the feet and board–was fun to work with tight shots for this video.  I find a lot of time details can get overlook and when captured it shows skating in a new light.

Q\ A friend of mine recently advised me to ‘tell your story with your b-roll’ to emphasize how important the cutaways are. You really set the tone/mood with the shots of the Northern California redwood forest and seem to be in parallel with that philosophy. Did you capture all of the b-roll shots knowing you’d be using lots in the video?

A\ Capturing scenery and detail shots can be easily overlooked and forgotten because you are focused so intensely on the main video piece. I think it is always best to capture more B-roll then you think, this gives you more options when editing.  With skating, an amazing part of the experience is the environment you are skating in.  So to capture the surrounding environment and pair it up with the skating really makes you recognizes that skating can take you to beautiful places.  It kind of gives the overall video a much more fulfilled vibe and experience.  Though it is finding a balance of B-roll and skating that work together, the kind of balance where the B-roll adds to skating but does not distract you.  I just need to get better with sound B-Roll and I am working on that.

Adam grabs one of the gorgeous scenic shots

Adam grabs one of the gorgeous scenic shots

Q\ Is there anything you didn’t capture you wished you had?

A\ In retrospect I wish we captured more overlooked close ups of the environment, the texture of the bark and leaves. Maybe some more native animals or insects? The Elk shots made me super happy.

Q\ I really liked the balance you’ve found with camera movement. There’s a good variety of high speed movement with the skaters as well as more linear shots from the sliders. How do you choose to set up a slider shot and what do you consider when framing?

A\ Yeah balance of shots is good and I know it is definitely easy to get caught up in slide movements for every shot.   I have been guilty of that in the past especially when you get a new slider you just want to keep on using it.  With skating there are certain tricks that can work well as stationary shots, slide shots and follow shots.  From filming a lot of skating you can recognize what kind of movement will work for certain moves.  In general with slide shots there usually is something in the foreground that is worth sliding past that can work well and add beauty to a certain skate move.  Depending on the object to slide past I will figure out how much focus I want to give it.  Most of the time I usually shoot with a lot of depth having the foreground object be a subtle beautiful blur and keeping sharp focus on the skater.  Framing is important as well: how much I want the focus to be on the skater or the environment.  Having something in the foreground while doing a slide shot is a nice touch and makes the shot and movement of the slider come to life and pop.  With every shot I always try to have at least 2 different angles of the trick to give some options when editing.

A different kind of slider shot - Adam keeps up with the talent

A different kind of slider shot - Adam keeps up with the talent

Q\ In each film you’ve consistently married the video and music perfectly.  Do you choose the music first and then start cutting the video? I always find picking a song is one of the trickier stages of editing my video, how do you pick music?

A\ Finding the right music can sometimes be easy or hard.  With this newest video, ‘Swirling Samas’, I had 2 days until the video was suppose to be live and, like a miracle, Dane, my roommate reminded me of the band Emancipator and within 30 minutes I contacted them and had music rights to the song ‘Safe in the Steep Cliffs.’  This song was made for this video. You can just tell a song is perfect when it matches up so well with your rough edit without even having edited to the song.  With the song in place I took my rough edit and molded it to the vibe and break down of the song and it became poetry.

I do like to find my music first as it does help a bunch but it does not happen all the time.  I kind of envision the mood/skating for a new video and start searching around for that song, either through Pandora or through coworker recommendations.  Once I have the song I can then start storyboarding a bit in my head what kind of shots I need to capture to work with it.  Especially if there are certain key break downs in the song I need to figure out what would work well with them.  I feel like cutting to the beat of the song is fun and works but that can get old at times as well.  Really depends on the video, a lot of the times I like the skating and music to be one and it matches up on a much deeper level then just cutting on beats.

Long legs and a step ladder (or an apple box) help with another perspective change

Long legs and a step ladder (or an apple box) help with another perspective change

Huge thanks to Adam for sharing not only the video and awesome BTS pics but also for taking the time to answer some questions and provide some insight into the shoot. For more information on the new Dervish Sama board featured in the video check out the Loaded Boards site and you can check out his film gear list and some more on-location images below.

Atlas 30 Camera Slider

Caveman camera slide

Gear List

Canon 5D MkII
Canon 7D

8mm-15mm
28-30mm
24-105mm

SmallHD DP.4

Atlas 30 Camera Slider (currently part of our June Specials – Ends June 30th, 2012)
Atlas FLT camera slider
Durus Follow Focus

Atlas 30 Camera slider mounted on C-stands

Here they add some foreground elements to the slider shot to increase depth

Durus Follow Focus helps out for this shot

Adam frames the shot while Adam S. pulls focus

Atlas 30 Camera Slider with All Terrain Legs

One more low angle slider shot with Atlas 30

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3 Responses to Tracking Shots Ep.18 – Sliding and ‘Swirling Samas’

  1. Brian Hynes says:

    Great work Adam!

  2. Pingback: Adam Colton / Cinevate – Swirling Samas Film Thoughts | Loaded Boards

  3. I’m a filmer/editer myself, certainly not as good as those guys. I just want to say how much i think this video is good. Not only because the riders are insane, not only because the landscape and the shots are amazing. This video gave me goose bumps, because it’s loaded with emotions and freedom. Seriously, thumbs up

    Thanks for beeing so creative and inspiring, you are to me and for others a model to follow.

    Here’s something i edited last year for one of the main races here in Quebec City
    Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CETXmLt-TBE

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