Mike Mastroni - The Hardest Thing To Do
The full story behind the making of Volume's 'The Finer Things' DVD
Intro and Photos by Devin Feil
At last Mike Mastroni and Volume Bikes have presented 'The Finer Things' to the world. The very first public showing of the DVD took place this past Sunday mid-February 2015 in Newport Beach, California at Lido Live Theatre. In the days leading up to the premiere anticipation and anxiety surrounding the unveiling even managed to seep into Mike's dreams, manifesting into a nightmare scenario. Mike had arrived at the theatre, with everyone eager to see what he's been diligently chiseling away at for over two years. All that was left to do is put the DVD in and hit play... but the disc was blank! There was no such disaster on Sunday and the event went off without a hitch. With the video now available and the stress of the eleventh hour behind him Mike sat down to recount what it's taken to make this project a reality, five at a time...
The Best Moments Whilst Filming:
1. Tate's gutterball slider through the tunnel.
This to me is the best spot/trick/filming match-up in the entire video, and it was no walk in the park to accomplish either. First of all we caked the entire tunnel with wax so Tate could slide his front wheel sideways through the entire thing with greater ease. Secondly, as you can see in the clip, the tunnel is less than a handlebar's width, and all downhill. The combination of the wax all over the ground, the downhill, the tight walls, and me attempting to be in front of Tate on the board proved to be a very dangerous filming situation. Because of the wax on the ground and no side room for a foot drag, I could neither slow down or speed up without instantly slipping out and getting run over. The tight quarters not only made staying straight on the wax and keeping a consistent speed difficult, but it also prevented me from looking back at Tate during the trick whatsoever. The entire thing was just one educated guess push in the beginning, followed by completely blind audio based judgement from there on out. So, as if all that wasn't difficult enough, we decided to go back and film the trick a second time due to conflicting lighting situations of inside/outside the tunnel the first time around. Even with the auto exposure settings on the camera, the contrast between the darkness inside the tunnel and mid-day sun was just too much for it to handle and left us with a washed out white screen as soon as I exited the tunnel. Not quite happy yet, we returned at dusk and managed to come away with a much more balanced fish shot. We then re-filmed the long lens angle just so everything would match up nicely. Tate must have done this over 60 times between both filming sessions to get it just right.
2. Broc's Ender.
As filming was coming to a close we were sort of weighing our options as to what exactly we were after for the icing on Broc's video part cake. Devin Feil ended up coming thru with a ton of large but also very unique setups that helped us out a ton. After a few long driving days of spot research & development, we finally arrived at the ultimate setup with the ultimate filming opportunity built right in. Although I already had the song picked out and perhaps even most of Broc's section edited at that point, it still didn't really dawn on me while filming the roof angle that it would match so well with the song. I simply thought it was the best way to compliment that particular setup, & the camera motion was something I had never really attempted before, so I went for it. As soon as I got home and imported the footage, I knew we had a match made in editing heaven.
3. Drew's Sunset feeble 180 over the chain from dock to dock:
This one has quite the story behind it. This spot is not only very unique on its own (wooden ground, wooden bench, perfect chain placement) but the entire thing is on a dock in which the landing rises and falls with the tide. Drew noticed this setup on one of his first filming trips out here to Long Beach, but it seemed like the next 4 or 5 times he came back, the high tide required for the trick was at midnight, or 6am, or there was some stupid event going on which prohibited us from getting it done. I remember on the last two trips out here Drew was checking the tide charts daily in hopes of lining up the perfect time to get the clip. Finally on Drew's last visit out here we made it back to Long Beach just in time for the peak of high tide, and mother nature even granted us a beautiful bonus sunset as well for all out patience. After we got the clip, Drew also did the over-smith going the other direction because fuck it, who doesn't want another sunset clip?
4. Jason's Tunnel Line.
This is one of my favorite clips in Jason's part from a spot/trick/filming perspective and also because you can tell Jason is just completely in his element here. For anyone who follows Jason on Instagram you know that he lives for finding pools, full pipes, tunnels, or really just any discoverable transition not intended for riding. Working on this line with Jason was like watching a big kid in a candy store as he went to town making dams, cleaning up puddles, and sweeping the entire tunnel of debris. Also, fun fact: The gap to wall from the square tunnel into the round tunnel followed by carves to wallride 180 are actually at two completely different spots about a mile away from each other. With a little filming/editing trickery, nobody would ever be the wiser. For all you nerds reading this, keep that a secret.
5. Raban's Crook to Smith in San Antonio.
This was on one of the first big team trips we took for the DVD, and for me it was also a repeat of a Demolition trip we had done to San Antonio only a month or two before. On the Demolition trip I already knew we'd be coming back for Volume so I was sending photos of every good setup we found to the team back home in hopes of making our trip a little more productive. On the Volume trip we actually ended in the exact same vacation rental and everything, so a lot of the spots I found pedalling around were close by and easy to light up…this was one of them. When I first sent Raban that photo, he was like "dude!!!…what the fuck!?" The spot is just too perfect with the angle iron on the ledge and everything. However, things are always a little different when you're actually trying it of course, and Raban ended up struggling with the close proximity of his bar end to a vertical pole at the top of the rail, and also just how steep/short the rail was in general. After taking some pretty crazy slams, he ended up pulling it perfectly. I totally freaked out and screamed in excitement as he rolled away…which you can hear in the video. I guess there's just something very rewarding about finding the perfect setup months or years ago, having the perfect man for the job, then finally getting to go back there to execute. When that kinda shit works out, there's no better feeling in the world.
A Few Things You Wouldn't know About:
1. The Graphics:
Most people would be surprised to know that all the graphics throughout the project are purely iPhone video created by using a small kaleidoscope, a few of Raban's awesome disco lights, and a very dark room. Everything in the entire DVD was derived from one 50 second video I made probably a year or more before the DVD trailer even existed. This method, although crude and completely inconsistent, created a sequence of visuals that is certainly one of a kind, and something I couldn't exactly replicate again in a million years.
2. The Music:
I really wanted the project to have a consistent and unique feel all the way through, so I laid it down early on that I would be choosing all the music. I also made a zero rap and zero new music policy. In fact, there isn't one song in the video that was written or released within the 21st century. Drew is really the only one who had any musical input on his section, which is his first song. All the rest of the music is from my own personal collection, in addition to some very significant help from my good friend Richie Jackson who is on a wavelength all his own with 60's and 70's rarities. The video honestly would not be what it is musically without his help, and I can't thank him enough for all his input there. Bahlman also suggested the Floyd tune which I ended up using for Tate's section. Eric originally made that suggestion for his own part, but since him and Josh shared a section, I thought it was much more fitting for Tate. Josh and Eric's song is also the most epic song in the entire video, and perhaps ever created on earth in my opinion.
3. The Titling:
Every single bit of text/titling for the video from the opening name sequences all the way through the credits were drawn by hand (mouse) frame by frame and letter by letter in photoshop. I didn't create a font, re-use any letters, or anything like that. Every bit of text, animation, or anything that moved was drawn 5-7 times over each other in a slightly different manner each time, arranged as an animation, exported, and plugged back into Final Cut. When I brought the DVD to Kelly to get authorized, he thought I was completely insane for putting myself through all that and not just creating a font haha. All in all between the trailer and the actual release, the titles took me roughly 3-4 weeks of combined straight time just plugging away in Photoshop.
4. The Castillo footage:
The Castillo clips in the mix section was a total last minute decision and one I've very hyped on. For the entire time we've been working on this video, I'd been jokingly bugging Brian like "Hey man, so when the hell are we gonna film a clip here…!?" He always responded with something along the lines of "Oh mannn, nobody wants to see me ride" or "Haha seriously? Yeah maybe one day…" but it never actually turned into either of us setting aside time to make it a reality. A week or so before the deadline we finally agreed to get out for a few days and get some stuff done. Like the true veteran that he is, Brian came through with some amazing clips all at spots within 20 minutes of his house, most of which none of us had ever been to before. Just the little bit of footage we got really shows Brian's timeless style and also the fact that he really hasn't slowed down one bit as a rider over all these years away from the spotlight.
5. Home stretch:
This is already a known fact, but according to the trailer the video was supposed to be released in Fall of 2014. We almost followed through with this, but upon seeing all the footage together and seeing the potential the video could have, we decided to keep filming for several more months until everyone was happy with their sections. The final four months were without a doubt the most productive times during the entire filming process, and the most exciting from a filming standpoint as well which really brought everything together.
I'm really happy with the amount of footage I was able to get considering my full time job is technically to be on the other side of the lens.
- Mike Mastroni
Five of My Personal Favorite Clips in the Video:
1. Drew's "A Happy Medium 2" Tribute.
I really wasn't expecting anyone to understand this one, but if you've seen the Arizona based AHM2 skate video you'll notice that it's a parody of filmer Buster O'Shea and Aaron "Jaws" Homoki's in Jaw's section. The clip is about mid-way through Drew's part where he rides out into the darkness, does a toothpick on a perfect street quarter, then we high five and yell "GO!" as the song switches. The deal with that spot is that it's at some sort of high security government building in the Phoenix area with cameras surrounding it and a guy who comes over an outside microphone system yelling at you to get out. It's pretty much impossible to get away with riding it normally, so you have to resort to the camera light night quickie. On this night however we were actually shocked that we didn't get yelled at whatsoever. After we filmed the parody clip, we actually rode it for a few more minutes with no incident. The security guard must have gone for a bathroom break or something. I was actually kind of hoping we'd get yelled at... would have made the clip that much better.
2. DeMarcus tuck no hander puddle shot.
This is actually another AHM2 inspired shot. Ever since seeing how Kody Kohlman's ender was filmed in that video, I've always been after a similar shot concept for a BMX clip. The problem is that it never really rains in Southern California and I've also never really encountered a conveniently placed puddle of water in front of a high off the ground setup. Finally one day while filming with DeMarcus in San Diego I had the perfect opportunity to make that one happen with his giant tuck no hander off a roof into the bank. DeMarcus does arguably the best tuck no handers in the game, so that just made it work out perfectly. Filming aside, the trick itself was really, really insane. The roof was covered in those tiny little pebbles which were sitting in a pool of water from rain the day before… making the runway sketchy as hell. It was totally insane to even jump off, let alone spread the wings. As the day went on, the afternoon sun was baking the ground and my little filming puddle was starting to evaporate. I was kinda stressing that we might not get the shot, but then like a champ Demarcus came through with flawless execution.
3. Bahlman's manual to backwards manual to feet plant on the fence.
This was amazing because it was totally unexpected. Bahlman was trying this manual to backwards manual on the back of this slanted dugout tool shed roof thing with a baseball backstop fence directly in front of it. Due to the position of the slanted roof with the fence, it was hard enough to get a consistently straight hop into the manual with the run in basically being a 90 degree turn. As he started getting closer to pulling it, it was becoming really obvious how much of a problem the fence was, leaving Eric virtually no room to roll out. Nobody really said anything though and Bahlman just kept going for it. I don't really know how long he had this solution worked out in his head, but one of the times he just committed to a full speed fakie directly into the fence, jumped up, planted his feet in a superman position, and it worked perfectly propelling him back forward. Bahlman is a genius.
4. Krejmas' Pedal feeble front foot plant hard 180 line.
This clip was shot on New Years Day 2014. I found that spot right before I went home for the holidays and was eager to bring Krejmas there to see what he'd come up with. This was right when Krejmas first got on Volume and was actually only the second time we went out filming for this project. With Krejmas also being a legit filmer, this was a turning point for the productivity of the project with having a second camera involved. I remember the two of us spending like ten minutes trying to sync up our camera settings and white balances with each other to make sure they were consistent. I'm not really sure what we did that day, but the colors in that particular line were my favorite in the entire video. The pedal feeble to front foot fast plant hard 180 Krejmas did to start the line, is also if I'm not mistaken, an NBD. I still haven't seen anything else from that spot to this day, which leads me to believe that we may have found a NEW spot in Southern California (which is an accomplishment in itself) and also filmed an NBD trick on it. Side note: I also filmed a clip with Biz there at a later date but it came out way before this video.
5. Platt's ice to smith on the kink rail to ledge.
This one is just so crazy to me because it's totally something that nobody would ever really attempt, and if they did, they sure as hell wouldn't do it like Platt. Living with Alex, I always get to hear all these crazy ideas he has, many of which I have a very hard time seeing become a reality. When he told me that he wanted to gap to ice the flat of a kink rail, to then gap from there to smith on a super tall ledge, I had similar feelings. The craziest part about this was how hard he slammed before he pulled it. He fell in like every single way from hanging up underneath the rail, to body slamming on top of the ledge, to missing his front peg on the smith a couple times. It was really hard to watch this process go down, but Platt is a fucking trooper. On about the tenth attempt, in true Platt fashion, he decided to go a little faster and laced it perfectly. This, although not his ender, is in my opinion the craziest thing in his part.
Mike Mastroni - Volume 'The Finer Things' DVD
There is nothing ordinary about this part - More Info
The Most Stressful Moments:
1. My camera getting stolen in Costa Rica.
This happened on a 180 Distribution trip within the first few months filming for the DVD. The only clip that survived was Drew's sideways curved feeble over the weird statue at the beginning of his second song. This not only put the project on hold for a while, but pretty much fucked my financial situation for over a year.
2. Filming my own part.
As any rider/filmer will tell you it's really hard to find the time to get your own stuff done, let alone be able to trust whoever is filming you. Luckily I have Zach Krejmas and Josh Clemens around most of the time who are always down for my missions. Also almost every clip in my part was a project of sorts, so between mental time needed to come up with all my ideas, the physical/spot aspects making those ideas a reality, and then finally setting aside a time to do them while filming everyone else... it was no easy task. I'm really happy with the amount of footage I was able to get considering my full time job is technically to be on the other side of the lens.
3. The Music.
As I said before I really wanted this project to stand out musically; have a consistent vibe all the way through, and most importantly have each song fit each rider's personality and riding style. That combination of things is definitely a tall order. In my mind, music is exactly 50% of what makes a part awesome and perhaps even 60-70% importance when it comes to the project having any sort of re-watch value. Finding all the right musical gems to accompany your hard work is exactly like finding spots…in fact it's arguably the most important spot you can find. No matter what genre you're into, it goes without saying that it's very time consuming to uncover your idea of video part gold. For me, that whole process is something I really enjoy, but it can definitely turn very stressful when the project is nearing completion and you still don't have that perfect song for a certain rider. Luckily with Richie's help and expertise in the overall era, it all together with plenty of time to comfortably complete the editing process.
4. Losing footage and forgetting to include a clip.
With a huge project like this it's almost bound to happen at some point or another despite being as careful as you possibly can. Thankfully I didn't have anything too major go down, but I did accidentally not import a second angle of Krejmas' hop thread the needle into the white storm door, and also just completely forgot to include a more recent clip of Bahlman from a last minute Arizona trip. Bahlman's thing isn't the end of the world because that can now be included in a future project, but Krejmas' thing is something I have to life with forever. I loved that angle too… stupid computers.
5. Color Correction.
This took me 3-4 cycles of going through the entire video clip by clip to get it just the way I wanted it. Throughout the filming process I went through several different cycles of "ah-ha!, I've figured out the best on camera white balance…" which really at the end of the day all proved to be much too red/yellow. Between the yellow lighting in my room, my computer monitor making things look much better than they actually are, and the tendency for most televisions to be slightly warmer in appearance, I was losing my mind for about two weeks there trying to balance everything out. Completely frustrated and out of options I finally purchased some white light bulbs, and stayed up for like two days straight fixing everything. I'm really happy with it now.
Why Full Lengths Still Have A Place:
1. They are the best representation of a team of riders' abilities... that BMX or skateboarding society has been able to come up with so far. To me, it's a timeless concept that will always hold the highest value regardless of the medium (DVD, Web, etc) released.
2. You really get a sense of the rider's true vision... through his spot selection, tricks, and hard work to bring it all together.
3. It's the hardest thing to do.... Lets face it, some people may prefer the 5-10 minute team trip mix videos, but everyone knows that concept is something that can be accomplished fairly easily over the course of like a week or two. The amount of quality footage required for a full length generally takes years to accomplish. In the end, that's naturally just going to be valuable in the mind's eye.
4. The act of sitting down with focusing 100% on a video is something I see less and less of these days... Kids are watching three minute web videos on their phones while texting, looking up at the road, talking with their friends, etc. Of that three minutes, who knows what they will actually absorb. With a full length, it kinda forces to you to have a seat, cut out the distractions, and enjoy the project. You also are probably are less apt to want to watch a full length on your phone, which leads to more of a group viewing experience bringing riders/friends together.
5. Even though the web is a great thing and serves as the fastest means for everyone in the world to see your work... I personally feel like real and tangible things will make a comeback sooner or later in our society once nothing is actually "real" anymore. Like, it will become trendy again to actually have the band's record, the photographer's prints, etc. If not, we will forever live under a digital cloud that could be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. Hold it in your hand, and it's yours forever.
Why I'm Happy That the Video is Done:
1. First and foremost, I love videos plain and simple… Skateboarding, BMX, snowboarding, whatever, it's an art form in both a riding and production sense. BMX is alive, it's growing, and it's something we all spend the majority of our lives obsessing over. To be able to give something back to the BMX community as a whole and hopefully inspire the younger generation to do the same… that's the most important thing to me hands down.
2. From a personal riding standpoint... It's very exciting to finally be able to share the most important moments of my BMX life for the last few years with the general public. As a rider, I tend to shy away from the daily Instagram clip bullshit, and focus purely on my best stuff. Releasing a section within a project like this in my mind almost validates my existence on this planet for these past years as a professional bike rider.
3. On the exact same note but from a filmer's standpoint... I'm so incredibly happy to have a hand in helping everyone on the team shine to their fullest, and hopefully propel them new opportunities with their video sections as a platform to stand on. For example for someone like Broc, I feel this is really his coming out section and will sort of bridge the gap between "oh that kid is good" to "oh that kid is one of the best in the world." This video being released will inevitably lead to additional sponsorships and other opportunities for him, which will in turn help him live a better life. The same goes for everyone else.
4. I've always felt that Volume (in recent years) was extremely mis-represented to the BMX community... and now that's all gonna be very, very different. Our whole team is comprised of some of the best dudes to ever do it in my eyes, and now the world finally gets to see a more accurate representation of them and what they are really capable of accomplishing.
5. Now we can do it all over again! I'm not exactly sure what we as a team/company are going to set our sights on for the coming years, but rest assured we will definitely be working on something.
"Throughout the filming process I went through several different cycles of "ah-ha!"
- MIke Mastroni
Quick Fire Fives:
Five Cities Most Prominently Featured:
1. Long Beach, CA and the greater Los Angeles area including Orange County, The Valley, and very far inland.
2. Phoenix, AZ and surrounding areas.
3. Salt Lake City, UT.
4. San Diego, CA.
5. Albuquerque, NM.
Five Finer Things In Life:
1. Old music gems.
2. The morning coffee.
4. Female time.
5. Above all actually I enjoy my alone time the most. Whether that's driving the van around looking for spots, riding, coming up with new ideas, etc. That has always and will always be the finest thing in my life.
Five Lessons Learned:
1. The Importance of keeping constant camera settings to avoid the additional work in post.
2. Getting the trick as soon as possible after finding the spot. Tomorrow it could be gone, filled with water, skate-stopped, etc.
3. Shoot every aspect of every trick to make the editing process easier. There's nothing worse than not having that additional angle, run in, or run out when the song calls for it most.
4. Don't put every aspect of post production (Color, Sound, etc) off untill the last minute.
5. Do whatever it takes to make the vision a reality. If that means staying up for 2 days straight at the last minute to tweak the colors just that little bit, it's worth it. Hard work pays off.
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