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"The Good & The Bad" - Coldsmoke 2011 Video Contest


Every year in February Nelson hosts the Coldsmoke Powder Festival. Coldsmoke is all about backcountry skiing and snowboarding and celebrates the sports with all sorts of competitions, events, and clinics. One of the competitions each year has been a photography contest but due to a very well done stopmotion video that was submitted for Coldsmoke 2010, they decided to open up the format for 2011 to be a multimedia contest.

Somehow, my name got thrown out there to be a contestant (thanks Nichola) which was quite surprising to me since video isn't necessarily my strong point. The details for the contest was to make a video over the course of 1 month with a team of up to 4 people. It had to be around 5 minutes long with the theme of "Good and Evil". I called up a few friends to join me and had Shane and Kamala take me up on the offer. 

We were stoked to take part but knew we were some serious underdogs since we don't have much of a video production background. There was also one other snag that we came across which is that none of us ski or snowboard. I used to teach snowboarding and had ridden for probably 10 or 12 years but hadn't really been on my board in the last few seasons. I also only had a park board to ride which proved to really suck on anything but hard snow.

The Video

Music: Cicada - Falling Rockets
Buy on iTunes

The Plan

Like usual our planning stage started off by going to Mike's Place pub. Unlike usual we actually walked out of the meeting with a pretty clear idea of what we were going to do. One definite advantage to planning things at the pub seems to be that we don't get distracted watching videos on Youtube within the first 30 minutes.

We knew that since we are all graduates of the New Media program at Selkirk College we had to try to cram as many different types of media into the video as possible. In this situation we figured that if we couldn't compete with the opponents filming and editing skills we may as well try to overwhelm them with as many different styles that we could do in a half-assed manner. So with that established we decided that we wanted to have still photos, stopmotion video, regular video, 3d animation, a more classic style of animation, and use photoshop where possible.

Our idea was to treat a day of riding like a video game so we wanted to have a "life" meter for our character that was always present in the shot. In our case the "life" meter was the "stoke meter" and displayed how pumped the rider was throughout his run. To use the "Good & Evil" theme we ended up going with something more along the lines of the ups and downs of days riding where our rider's stoke level goes up and down depending what happens. It was a pretty loose plot.

Media of All Varieties

3D Animation - The title shot for the video that we showed at the contest had a short 3d animation with our team logo. The version in this post doesn't have it so I could shorten the overall length 

Photoshopped Still Photos - The establishing shot we decided to photoshop a bunch of still photos onto a Polaroid background and then animate them in After Effects

Photoshopped Stopmotion - The still then transition into a stop motion video animated on the same Polaroid background

Regular Stopmotion - The Polaroid stopmotion moves into regular stopmotion for the next few shots

Video - The stopmotion slows into a few quick stills then moves into regular video. We thought this was going to be the easiest part of the project to do but after three days of our camera freezing and us losing all of the footage it proved to be one of the most annoying for sure.

8-bit inspired Animation - This was most definitely the hardest and most time consuming part. We wanted to do an 8-bit animation style like classic video games but also wanted to modernize it a bit by putting it in a fake 3d world. We used After Effects to do something called 2.5D where you have flat images in a three dimensional space. This took forever to do since we had to create a fake world for the rider to go through which meant planting several hundred trees and rocks on a ground plane to have animate past him. That combined with the most times any of us have ever crashed a computer while trying to render the video for sure made this the most annoying bit to work on but also one of the most fun.

Regular Stills - After the 8-bit animation there is a transition back to video for a bit and then slows down into still photos again.

Epic Closing Shot - As a bunch of nerds, this was one of our favorite shots. The last photo in the collection of regular stills is actually a photo, that we photoshopped onto the Polaroid background, then printed, then put into a photo album, and then shot video of.  As a shot it isn't visually impressive at all, we were just stoked on how many different types of media we packed into one shot.

Sound - I guess it's worth mentioning that we didn't use any sound that was recorded during filming. Everything was done with downloaded sounds or ones that we recorded afterwards. This was fun to do since I hadn't done that much sound work since being in school.

Putting it All Together

We ran into more snags than I can even count trying to put this thing together. It all started with our camera not recording properly during several days of filming. That totally sucked. Most of our shots that we felt good about were lost and we wasted a ton of time. I guess on one hand it may have worked out alright since it gave me some time to kind of figure out how to snowboard again. The first day at the hill I also managed to lose the helmet cam twice when the mount broke off of my board. Luckily I found it the first time and somebody else returned it to the ticket desk the second time. 

The 8-bit animation was the most fun I've ever had having my teeth pulled. It was fun to work on but I have never had so many issues with computers before. After planting several hundred trees, Shane and I got the animations set up in the After Effects compositions and started rendering them out. He was working on the scene with the tree crash and every time it got most of the way through exporting it would close After Effects. He spent at least a day trying to make it work and somehow it came down to needing to replace one of the trees that had corrupted somehow. It was ridiculous. 

Things went without too many major problems after that until we started trying to edit together the entire video. The editing process went fine and I pulled that off in a few hours. Where things went wrong was when I was trying to export the video so that I could bring it into Soundbooth to do the audio. Again we had software issues and the export would reach a certain point about 3/4 of the way through and then fail. It took about 2 hours of rendering each time to get to this point of failure every time I tried a different method as well so it was incredibly time consuming. I can't even remember how I solved this but got the file into Soundbooth and started doing the audio for the movie at about midnight the day we were supposed to present it. It was panic time for sure.

I got the audio done at like 7am and put it into Premier along with the video with no sound to do the final export. The final export took forever and we had a last minute realization that our 1080p final version was going to be way too huge of a bitrate to play smoothly at the event. I started sending out a new smaller version with barely enough time. We had joked that we were going to be down to the wire finishing the video right before they needed to play it. As it turned out, the compressed version for the show was exporting on my laptop in the car on our way to the event only finishing as we walked into the building. It's just not a real project unless you're completely terrified about it right up until the last moment.

The Results

We didn't win. We weren't surprised. We did however have a very different video from the other guys and people seemed to like the fact that it wasn't expected. We also had an awesome time doing it (even when I was awake for almost 48 hours straight) and proved to ourselves that even making something this simplistic takes a lot of hours to pull off especially when we were all working full time jobs the entire time as well.