Video. Quite the popular medium these days. As a follow up to yesterday’s Top Ski Resorts on YouTube post, I wanted to share some perspective from the group with the most YouTube subscribers, Vail Resorts, and the man behind their lens, Rex Lint. With Rex’s new ACL still healing up, he had the time and was willing to share his story plus some great insights and tips into the whys and hows of jaw-dropping ski video:
SlopeFillers: Tell me a little bit about your background, how you got into shooting video and how you ended up with Vail Resorts.
Rex: I grew up skiing in N.H. Raced in High School on the ski team, and went to UNH for a couple years before dropping out to be a ski bum in CO.
I started ski patrol in Keystone in 1993. I also started Kayaking that same year in Santa Fe NM. Over the next 7 years I patrolled in the winter, and started a white water video company that I ran in the summer. The company (dragonfly video) was a bunch of VCR’s and a videonix linear editing switcher. This all fit in the back of my Toyota Previa. I took my show on the road, summers on the Arkansas, and fall in WV on the Gauley river.
The videos were super basic edits of commercial raft trips. I would mix the videos as people watched them, usually in a bar someplace. I would only get paid if people actually bought the videos. I did pretty well, making 200-500 a day, and getting to paddle my kayak, which was the really the whole point.
Wintertime I would use my little studio to make a ski patrol movie for our end of the season patrol party. Over the years the video became the main event of the party. These patrol videos got me discovered by the marketing people at Vail. They eventually drafted me out of Patrol, bought me a fancy studio, and made me a year round salaried employee.
SlopeFillers: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge of shooting skiing and snowboarding as opposed to other sports or events?
Rex: Shooting big mountain and powder skiing is, for me, one of the most challenging and rewarding subjects to shoot, for so many reasons. Let’s start with snow. Is it snowing, how much, it’s got to be a lot, but not too much. It’s got to be light, but not too light, wind, bad, sometimes.
Location: Usually backcountry, long hikes, snowmobiles, maps, logisitics can be intense, days are often long.
Risk: Backcountry is a dangerous place, even for the experienced educated avalanche technitiion. I got buried last year, and blew up my knee this year. There is more risk to my athletes that to me, so the decision making process for what lines we are going to ski and shoot has to be a very cooperative process. It is a very delicate balance between getting the shot, and not getting hurt.
Team: Finding the right chemistry of people is critical. Team dynamics make all the difference in results, and in how much fun you have.
SlopeFillers: I watch a video you made and my jaw drops. I watch a video Joe Snow Report at Mt Trashmore makes and I cringe. It’s easily to blame it on a camera, lighting, etc, but what do you see are the biggest differences between amateur video and professional video?
Rex: There are so many variable that together create a professional creative artistic video. No one thing makes or breaks a video, it is a combination of all the elements, and attention to detail that makes all the difference. Composition of the shot, putting your camera on a tripod, staying off the zoom, no pans for god sakes, these are all important elements of the shoot. A trick that really helped me, I learned from this old salty DP a couple years ago. His mantra that he would shout in my ear every time I touched my camera was “Don’t move the f***ing camera!!” He made us shoot a couple stories without moving the camera. This was an amazing revelation for me. It made me really consider my composition. This time taken to set up shots makes a HUGE difference in how a piece presents. Aesthetics is all about composition.
The edit, of course is critical. Music selection can sometimes take me longer that the entire edit. I am always listening to Pandora, and fine tuning my stations. The more creative and underground you can get, usually the more cooperative the artists are. If they are unknown, they will usually trade you music credit for rights. It is a win win. Pump audio and Killer tracks are also great sources of quality stock. Take your time in the search though, cause there is a ton of shit and elevator cheese that will suck the life out of the best photography.
Color corrections is critical. Take the time to learn basic color correction, especially if you have a less expensive camera. The 3 way color correct, and magic bullet looks are money skills in the Final Cut Pro world. Get to know Phillip Bloom.
SlopeFillers: Vail Resorts obviously takes video more seriously than other resorts. Should other resorts be putting more resources into professional video or is their amateur stuff enough for them?
Rex: The verdict is not in on quality vs quantity. Some people love the shaky dark, dirty lense, muffled audio. They just want content and lots of it. These people are usually marketing people that want the website they are in charge of to have a lot of videos on it, so they can say to their boss, we make 54 videos this week for the site. I don’t know who watched a 20min gopro video of some blue skier skiing coral reef on a grey bird. But people do.
Vail has really embraced the higher quality productions from their staff guys, while still leveraging the user gen stuff as well. I think there is need for both. Vail created the snow squad this year, bringing in a bunch of amateur video people, giving them a flip cam, and some basic tools. This worked really well, especially when it comes to event stuff. Social video is perfect for creating buzz on events, practically as it is happening.
This snow squad also frees up the staff guys to work on more high end productions. Vail also has invested in tools for the staff guys. Canon 5ds, dollys, jibs, lenses, and high end Mac studios. Video is the most effect way to communicate the outdoor product, and it is paramount that we maintain the brand with our signature video content. Producing poor quality dark grey lame video does more damage to the product than no video at all. Vail has demanded that the video quality be as high caliber as our photography has been for so many years. Jack Affleck is a legendary photographer. He has been the staff guy at Vail forever, and he sets the bar extremely high. It is a great challenge. I have learned a lot from watching him.
SlopeFillers: I mentioned this a little already, but I hear a lot of amateurs blame the camera. How important is having a good camera and do you have any camera recommendations for resorts looking to take video more seriously?
Rex: My Kit: Canon 5d (shoot all my scenics, interviews, and architectural stuff) Canon 7d (for most of my action stuff. The smaller censor and 60 fps make keeping stuff in focus and slow motion way easier) Panasonic HVX200. Great storm shooting camera, and run and gun event stuff. This thing is a beast and indestructible. Glass for Canon. 70-200 2.8 IS, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8, 15mm fisheye, 24-70mm 2.8. That is a good starter set. If you can afford the 400mm 2.8 IS, that lense is the shizzle, but is heavy and $$$ Intervelometers for the timelapses. Sachtler tripods, carbon fiber, light enough to carry on short to medium missions. Get some good mikes, a lav and shotgun set as well.
Most important have fun and tell a story!
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