Remembering the Megatour
For the release of their Box Set Chris Rye talks us through 10 full videos, literally hundreds of hours of footage, and plenty of antics....
Words and photos by Rob Dolecki, Additional photos by Hadrien Picard, Jeremy Pavia and Keith Romanowski.
Planning and rounding up over 40 various people for a week-long journey and documenting it all, and editing dozens of footage hours down into one video is quite a daunting task. Taking cue from Road Fools series and the 50-odd issues produced, Props co-founder Chris Rye managed to oversee that scenario ten times from 2002 through 2011. The results of that time period is now available in one epic package called the Megatour Box Set. In between working on the mother of all box sets, the Props Issues collection, Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about the entire Megatour series, including the infamous Megatour 4 security guard incident with Shad Johnson blacking out, as well as the most miserable experience he ever had with a team. Talk about shit luck...
How did Megatour come to be?
The first Megatour was released in 2003. After doing 50-ish Props Issues and 10 Road Fools, by that point I think we were just wanting to bring something new to the table and thought it would be cool to involve a bunch of teams to get a wide representation of the industry in a single video. All the teams were different, had their own team riders they would bring in their own vehicles...it was just a neat combination of all that. So many different riding styles and each team would do their own thing during the weeks the trips were going on.
The teams were chosen based on what we thought might make up an interesting combination. Some teams were mellow, some wild, some partiers, some on missions for clips, some slackers…you got the whole gamut which was awesome. We sent a cameraman with each team, so all the filmers were essentially isolated within their little team bubbles until the end of the trip and would exchange stories on the last day. When we did the first one no one had really any clue how it might work, we really just hoped for the best ha. No one really knew what clips all the teams got until the finished video came out a few months later.
How would you compare Megatour series to the Road Fools series?
The difference was it was a group of teams doing their own thing vs. a structured trip where we transported everyone in a bus. Road Fools had a lot more interviews and on camera talking from people. Then the way it was put together was a completely different style. Megatour was definitely more chaotic than Road Fools and a lot more unpredictable on how it might turn out.
Production-wise, the trips themselves were a lot easier to pull off than a Road Fools… basically because no one was really in charge of managing the day-to-day activities of such a large group of people. The teams managed themselves once unleashed on the road. Most teams brought their own team managers and it was basically like a handful of team road trips happening at the same time in the same geographic area, but under the Megatour banner.
Coming back home with all the footage was a different story though. This was an entirely different kind of animal than any other video that had been done before. There was nothing to go on for how to put it together, so I basically just made it up as I went along. After watching all the footage from all the teams, logging it etc, I created these paper grids that showed everything each team was doing during all parts of each day. I thought it would be fun to get little snapshots of what the teams were doing when and where, then use a vertical wipe transition between them, essentially showing how each day played out as it really happened. Titles would come on screen after each transition updating the viewer of what team they were now watching, where they were physically located and what time of the day it was.
I tried to use a different style of music with Megatour, more light and fun perhaps? Songs to help push along the story and tie it all together, make all the teams feel like they were together, yet at the same time independent. It's hard to describe the exact differences in the music choices, but there was definitely a conscious effort to make the flow of the two series different with the songs used.
Which was your personal favorite of the series?
Hmm, I thought trip 3 came out really good. In addition to the 6 main teams, Shitluck took their own unofficial trip and shadowed the route. Then on the last day they entered the main video where Leland’s band Dirty Bird played the wrap party and served as the credits of the video. I though that all turned out really cool. Then on the DVD there was a lot of awesome bonus material from them, which helped explain what the hell was going on with them suddenly appearing at the end. Leland and John Paul happened to be at my house around the time I was finishing editing and I got them to sit down and do a commentary track to the main Shitluck trip edit. Instant classic filled with hilarity. The Uncle P-Nut section, Stove Dialer section about Derek Gerrard…all classics I can still watch and laugh my ass of at.
How about your least favorite personally?
Even though the video itself turned out really good, probably Megatour 5 was my least favorite experience of being on the road during a trip. I would always pick a team I wanted to travel with and would offer to be their cameraman. On trip 5 I decided to go with Shitluck. Well, what I thought would be super fun turned out to be miserable. I was in a transitional phase of my personal life and going on that trip at that time did not click at all with what I had been doing and thinking about back home. You get to a point where you become interested in things outside of BMX, and I think I was at that point then. During the trip I almost left about half way through, and probably would have if I had had my own vehicle. There were a couple complete assholes (one in particular) on that trip I just did not care to be around at all after a few days of being locked in a van with.
What was the most professional team out of all the Megatours?
Hard to pick just one, but most everyone was professional in that they rode hard and tried to get good clips and fun stuff filmed.
How about the most rowdy team?
Maybe Blacken from Megatour 3, I mean you put Darryl Nau, Jimmy Levan and the rest of the rockers in a van and shit's guaranteed to get nuts. Megatour 4 of course had the scene with 2-Hip battling the Miami security guards when our cameraman Shad snapped and almost killed people. Team Major Air from trip 6 got wild and shot a music video during the trip. The Mesh team from Megatour 8 got pretty rowdy, Colt Fake rode with a dildo glued to his helmet and got his hair lit on fire at one point. I believe Shad held a lit match under his testicles for a period of time for a pot of cash. Also on that trip The Come Up team went to jail one night. FBM always gets into crazy stuff of course, like that time Crandall puked and some guy immediately scraped it off the blacktop and ate it. Deah.
How on earth did you and Marco manage to pull off a multi-team trip with specific times destinations and over 30 riders involved?
I think it was part luck and the willingness of all the teams wanting to be part of it, having a chance to rep their teams and brands in a video like this and doing their best. We were never overly strict about any portion of it, unlike Road Fools where we were sometimes on a tight schedule and had to make long drives. All we asked was for the teams to show up on the same day so we could shoot intros and get photos, try to hit the demos we planned at local skateparks and then meet up on the last day so we could collect all the tapes.
Nothing was really complex about the trips since everyone did their own thing at their own pace, the complexity came into play back home when editing and piecing together the timeline of events. The fact we had a different cameraman with each team was what really made it work, the filmers knew what they had to do and everyone did their thing and delivered enough good footage to put the videos together with. The trips usually hovered in the 50 rider range, then you add videographers, photographers, team managers, etc and the number of people involved can get kinda crazy.
There was nothing to go on for how to put it together, so I basically just made it up as I went along. After watching all the footage from all the teams, logging it etc, I created these paper grids that showed everything each team was doing during all parts of each day.
- Chris Rye
Talk about the monster that was the editing process, and who were the primary editors.
The editing of the Megatour videos was a practice in organization first, then taking the organizational phase and building a fun video to show all the elements of each team's adventure. I myself edited trips 1-6 and 8, and also most all of the bonus sections from those that were on the DVDs. Stew Johnson edited trip 7, which was the European one and also trip 9. Megatour 10 was a different format, with each team having a section on the DVD which were edited by Stew and Terrell Gordy.
Megatours 1-7 all had 6 teams and 8-10 had 4 teams, so the first 7 trips definitely had the most footage produced. For those trips it would not be out of the ordinary to come back with 50 or more tapes, which we're talking all 60 minute MiniDV tapes mostly filled to the end. I think Megatour 3 and 4 were the most, each with 56 tapes.
When I would prepare to edit a video in those days I would watch literally every tape from beginning to end, and each tape would have an accompanying piece of loose leaf paper in a binder with all handwritten logging of timecodes, tricks, people, places, antics etc. I might've taken 1-2 months to finish that portion, another 2-3 weeks to edit the actual video, then maybe another week to create bonus sections and do all the DVD authoring stuff to get it ready for replication. Sometimes I would design the cover artwork, sometimes other people would do that.
As far as all the handwritten logging of tapes to paper, I'm not sure who else did it that way, and with today's cameras it's obviously a different process than capturing off tapes, but for me the documenting served not only as an organizational thing, but as a way to impress all the footage in my mind for deciding how to best assemble it all into a single watchable video. All the Megatours really had a lot of effort put into them to best show what happened and get all the best clips in from all the teams, and I think it still stands as one of the best BMX series made up there with Road Fools.
FBM always gets into crazy stuff of course, like that time Crandall puked and some guy immediately scraped it off the blacktop and ate it. Deah.- Chris Rye
What would you say is the wildest moment captured in all of the series?
The security guard fiasco from trip 4 stands out for sure. Here you have the 2-Hip team riding a rail at a marble plaza in Miami at night, a city known for being one of the first back then to start capping and knobing rails and ledges in an attempt to prohibit street riding. Enter uber instigator and cameraman Walter Pieringer who would literally live for antagonizing and escalating situations. Matt Wakefiled was trying to film a rail clip when these two security guards roll up, one an older man and the other an overweight racist black woman. The guards start taking photos of the guys with these bulky digital cameras, being sort of polite and nice at first. Walter jumps in jokingly to get a selfie with him and the black lady. From there it goes downhill when the lady tries taking Rob Dolecki's camera bag. The lady starts getting very aggressive and is preparing to fight Walter, yelling "Don't let this uniform fool you!" like she's a bad ass cage fighter or something. Walter's attempting to de-escalate the situation at this point, telling everyone to calm down.
Right then the Manmade team rolls up with cameraman Shad Johnson who jumps into the middle of all this. The lady is on her walkie talkie calling whoever, when she hits Walter's lens with a huge ass Maglite. Then She's all up in Shad's face screaming, "Hit me bitch! Hit me you pussy ass cracker!" wanting to fight him. She then cracks Walter's camera a second time with the Maglite, at which point Shad completely snaps (he later claims he blacked out and can't remember anything), rips it out of her hand and tosses it. The two guards then start to retreat, apparently frightened by a crazed Shad. He then wrestles the older security guard to the ground, rips the camera out of his hands and whips it by the strap into the concrete breaking it into a few pieces. Then Shad leaves the scene and is just gone.
Walter retrieves one of the smashed cameras and can be seen via his camera's POV tossing it back to the male guard in pieces. Walter is starting to ride away when out of nowhere this massive giant of a black man, an apparent third security guard, tackles him off his bike sending them both to the ground. A 2-Hip rider takes Walter's camera and turns it toward him and you can see Walter facing off with this giant guard. Somehow Walter and everyone managed to escape, meeting up on a street corner a few blocks away. Everyone had picked up various parts of video equipment, photo flashes, tripods, etc and carried it all away safely from the scene. Walter had his camera rolling the entire time and this is all on tape and it's pretty intense.
The new box set has a pretty long bonus section with all this, part of it is narrated by Walter describing the events as they play out. I don't think Shad could be reached for comment at the time.
Explain Shad Johnson's anger black-outs.
I don't think I can explain it, other than he seems to react violently to certain situations, snaps, blacks out and later claims he can't remember anything. You'd have to ask him. I'm not sure if there have been any more recent episodes or not.
Enter uber instigator and cameraman Walter Pieringer who would literally live for antagonizing and escalating situations.- Chris Rye
..in my mind BMX is not the same as it was in the mid-to-late 2000s, for better or for worse, so I'm not sure I'd even want to continue it.
- Chris Rye
Was all the planning, coordinating and work to put those videos together worth it?
I'm sure it was, I mean on one hand we created this pretty rad series which captured a lot of riding from that time, showed a very wide variety of teams and people from all parts of the industry, and the videos also contributed to documenting the history of BMX. A lot of people really liked the series. I'm personally proud of it and like a lot of the work we did and how the videos turned out. On the other hand you have a certain financial return selling the videos, which may or may not have been that profitable, but it allowed us to keep going and make more. Then we were also able to later use some of the video segments for our TV show that was on Fuel, which introduced a lot of new people to BMX via the TV market.
How many Megatours went down in total, and what was the deciding factor to end the series?
There were 10 Megatours, the first was in 2003 and the last was in 2011. We also put out a Best Of Megatour video after trip 9. There wasn't really a specific "deciding factor" I don't think. In 2012 Marco decided to leave the company and moved with his family down south. I took the company over at that point and it's just been myself and a couple friends helping with things here and there since then.
I've been busy working on these box set projects over the last couple of years just to get our large body of work preserved and out there to all the people who love these videos and value the history we managed to capture. I've also worked on some other large and not so large projects since then as well, like the Baco movie, Rick Moliterno/Standard ESPN series, some edits for Deco and have helped Chad out, lots of little things etc, so I haven't really had time to think about even the possibility of continuing the series. But in my mind BMX is not the same as it was in the mid-to-late 2000s, for better or for worse, so I'm not sure I'd even want to continue it. We'll have to see I guess, you never know.
There were a couple complete assholes (one in particular) on that trip I just did not care to be around at all after a few days of being locked in a van with.- Chris Rye
What prompted the Megatour box set?
Honestly, it was never planned it just fell into an opening in my schedule and I thought this is the perfect time to get this done. The first box set I worked on was the Road Fools one that came out in 2013. After that I turned to Baco to produce the Baco documentary with my Wisconsin friends, which was part of a box set with all the Baco videos that came out in 2014.
In late 2014 I started working on the mother of all box sets, which will have all the Props Issues, special releases, Year End videos, some little known 16mm film projects I've worked on throughout the years and some other stuff….over 110 videos total and about a dozen really good hidden easter eggs people are gonna be real psyched on. There are a couple new things that are currently being produced for that one, so even though most of the work is done, it's in limbo until later this fall when the new content gets completed and dropped in.
So in the meantime I decided to go full in on a Megatour set, which took around 3-4 months to complete, and I'm happy to say all the pre-orders just started shipping and it's now available. All the box set details, contents and info are over at our site for people to check out Propsbmx.com.
These box sets are all large, large projects to put together, so I'm hoping people pick them up and are psyched on owning all this pretty awesome history.
What was the most prominent effect you think the Megatour series had on the BMX community?
Aside from what I've mentioned above, I think it brought out a certain comraderie between teams and companies with really diverse backgrounds within BMX. Everyone felt part of something being in the videos and without them surely all the imagery from the videos would've never been captured and preserved.
The Mesh team from Megatour 8 got pretty rowdy, Colt Fake rode with a dildo glued to his helmet and got his hair lit on fire at one point.- Chris Rye
About that intro photo...
Down to the wire with the Volume team
Stay positive and Bee healthy...