“When we’re shooting, I’m constantly thinking about the trick and how to give viewers the best idea of what it means to pull off that trick. These skaters put an insane amount of time and effort into what they love despite the risks. As a filmmaker, it’s my goal to capture that spirit and passion in the most epic way possible.” - Ty Evans, Director/CEO of Ghost Digital Cinema.
Skateboarding and videography exist side-by-side; where athletes scrounge up what they can to afford any camera systems that can get their tricks on video. In fact, skateboard videography is renown for exuding that homemade feel, with most videographers being skaters themselves picking up a camera and learning how to film from scratch. It’s a form of filmmaking that’s exciting as much as it is humbling.
But what was once just a hobby for many of these young athletes has now grown into a popular art form with a substantial fandom in the action sports film world. It’s not uncommon to see super well-produced skateboarding videos that capture athletes in the most creative and epic way possible.
Ty Evans, who recently released his feature film The Flat Earth, has taken skateboarding cinematography to a level that all fans of the sport strive for. He shares with us his tips for shooting action sports and what it means to film skateboarding with cinema cameras.
Back to the Roots
“I started skating in 1985, back when there wasn’t that big of a scene for filming this kind of content, nor was it easy to access videos if you wanted to watch the pros. Cameras were expensive back then, and no one had little 4K phones to just start recording on a whim. But I grew up watching the skate videos of Stacy Peralta, who was one of the few people making these in the 80s. Instead of watching TV shows or movies, I would watch these skate videos hundreds of times. I knew right then and there that this is what I wanted to do, so I pursued it.”
“In the 90s, I really started pursuing filmmaking as a career. I worked on commercial sets as a ‘skateboard operator’ where they had me doing a primitive form of a roaming camera. That’s where I started learning traditional production elements and branched out into as a commercial director. 3 years ago, I started my own production company Ghost Digital Cinema where I now work on commercial and feature films.”
“There’s two types of shooting styles when it comes to action sports films. The first is big budget action sports films, where a client will fund a production company to make a large scale film. These are ran with huge crews and everything else that comes along with a traditional film set. Good for large scale productions, but can be very challenging for a skater to work in this environment.”
“The other way is going back to our roots - the days where we filmed with just a camera in our hands at any random location we could skate in. Except instead of just cheap camcorders, I bring my entire kit of cinema tools to push the boundaries of what is possible in action sports filmmaking.”
“Shooting skateboarding is all about making viewers feel like they have the best seats in the house.” Here are some general rules to achieve that.
“Filming tricks and making them look stunning isn’t as easy as it seems. To fully capture what it means for an athlete to do these tricks that they spent so much time to perfect, you have to understand skateboarding. When we choose a spot and what trick is going to be executed, I’m constantly thinking of what is the best tool in the tool box to translate what is happening. By understanding how monumental a trick is, I know what angle to approach it with.”
Wide Angle Lens
“Seeing a skater randomly flying through the air on a longer lens can sometimes look odd, so I usually film with a wide angle lens close to the skater to show the entire scope of the trick. The wide angle lens tends to make the obstacle look larger, thus emphasizing the distance traveled when a skater does a trick.”
Low Angle Shots
“The shot I go to a lot is having my camera low to the ground and tilted upwards at a 15 degree angle. In skateboarding, most of the action is on the lower body and whatever ground or obstacle the skater is working with. Putting the camera there makes the shot much more immersive for the viewer and they can see everything that goes into the tricks.”
“When I started filming in the 90s, there weren’t any tools like gimbals to keep the camera steady. But just these past few years, gimbals have evolved so much that it’s become an important part of everyone’s setup.”
“My personal favorite gimbal system is the Freefly MoVI Pro. It’s completely integrated so you can mount your camera, motors and other accessories. It runs completely on batteries, and keeps your whole setup lightweight. When I’m filming skateboarding, I’ll have these for roaming shots where I’m also on a skateboard following the skater.”
“With gimbals you’ll also need wireless video because it’s impossible to have a cable going to the monitor when you’re moving at a fast pace. For these shots I always use the Bolt 500 with a 703 Bolt receiver monitor. A lot of times when I’m operating, I’ll need a 2nd operator to control the pan & tilt, lens, and camera so I can focus on getting the right shots. The Teradeks are super important to getting these moving shots, so I always have them with me in my kit.”
Prepared For Anything
“The true essence of skateboarding is the idea that you make the best of your surroundings. Wherever you’re filming, whether it’s an abandoned park or any urban setting, be prepared for anything, as sometimes things need to be fixed or changed to make a location skateable.”
“In my van, I have everything we need to facilitate skateboarding. If it gets too dark, I have a power generator with lights. If there’s a crack, I have autobody filler. If anything needs to be altered, I have a cordless saw and grinder. Basically everything we need to make skating there possible.”
The Flat Earth
“The Flat Earth is a feature film that highlights the wide array of shots we were able to do with skateboarders. From MoVI shots to a Shotover F1 on a helicopter, we used a ton of professional cinema gear to show how skateboarding can be captured in new and exciting ways, and that skateboarding videos can be portrayed just as cinematically as any other sport. It’s a pure passion project that we’ve been wanting to do for years, and we’re super excited to have completed it.”
Check out The Flat Earth on the iTunes store here: