The Making Of BSD's 'Transmission' DVD
"Let's Just Make It About Space"
Photos by Fred Murray, Vince Perraud, Dave Sowerby and Jason Colledge
It doesn't get much more definitive than a full-length team DVD. It's an opportunity (and huge undertaking) for a brand to showcase their riders and latest endeavours in the most legit and admirable format, but also seems like a route that many are unwilling or incapable to take. BSD has always embraced the art of video making and over the past three years has employed Dave Sowerby to handle that side of things full time. He's not the guy out there making the most noise or talking shit on Instagram - Dave is the kind of guy who throws himself head first 100% in to a project and doesn't come up for air until the mission is complete. Dedicated doesn't do it justice. It's a few months now since their first full team DVD hit TV sets worldwide and now the online upload has also begun, so we thought it was prime time to be delving in deeper to the incredible 'Transmission' DVD and ask BSD filmer Dave Sowerby more about the process behind completing such a large scale project.
You must have had a plan for this DVD at the start but how much did you have to adapt as you went along? How different was the end product to what you imagined?
Our plan wasn't ever too fixed or even very specific to start with. We knew we were setting out to film over a period around a year although that ended up being closer to two. And we knew we wanted to try and film full sections for as much of the team as possible taking the traditional DVD approach. Beyond that our plans were more vague and concerned mainly with the general vibe the DVD should have. With Transmission being our first full team DVD we really wanted it to portray BSD in the way we see it. So it was important the video captured the great interaction that's central to the BSD team and have a sense of fun, not taking things too seriously. In those regards I think the final DVD delivers but in setting out to film I initially had no idea how we'd achieve this. The final result is something that grew much more organically throughout the course of filming rather than something that was rigidly planned from the outset.
"None of the team saw the full DVD until the preview night we had at the venue before the Glasgow premiere."
- Dave Sowerby
Where did the Transmission title and theme come from?
It took a while to come up with a theme, it wasn't until about half way through filming when sat in a bar back home in Glasgow between trips that Grant said to me "just make it about space". It seems silly thinking back to that statement which was probably as much a joke as it was a serious suggestion but at the time we just needed a simple starting off point for a theme that would act as a springboard for ideas. BSD already had space themed stuff going on with some of the bike parts so it seemed to fit and it grew from there.
For me space exploration worked great as a theme as I could draw parallels between what's arguably man's greatest endeavour to explore with what felt like BSD's biggest project to date to travel in search of spots to ride. And I could have some fun coming up with ways to get the team involved in space themed intros for their parts along the way.
Grant and Rachel (BSD owners) came up with the Transmission title right at the end of filming after we had thrown around countless space themed names over the previous couple months. Although its not overtly space related it does work in that context but also links the words 'mission' and 'transmit' which relate perfectly to the process of travelling for a project to film then get the final video sent out there to viewers to watch.
What was the process of working with the riders and letting them see the progress of their parts?
The majority of the filming was done on ten trips over the course of the 21 months we spent filming. On a trip I'd log the riders clips from that day onto the laptop then we'd all watch the footage each evening seeing the timeline grow as the trip went on. Our first trip was to Minneapolis for four weeks in the summer of 2014 and we came away with so much amazing riding captured on that first one. When we all watched the footage timeline at the end of that trip it really gave everyone a sense that we'd launched head first into something that could turn out pretty special.
Once we were around two thirds of the way through filming I started to collate each riders clips separately and we'd watch those at the start of the remaining trips. It gave everyone a pretty clear idea how far along they were and what they might still need to finish their part.
I didn't get into editing anyone's sections until after the last trip. I sent each of the team a video showing a shortlist of the clips I thought should be used in their part and we discussed that and the music choice before I edited anything. Then from there I just drafted all the sections to music and let each rider see their own part so they could make any final changes to clips if they wanted. None of the team saw the full DVD until the preview night we had at the venue before the Glasgow premiere. That was as much to do with me editing right down to the wire as it was with wanting the team to be together to see the finished DVD for the first time.
I know a lot of filmers back their files up a few times on different hard drives and always worry when on trips about the files getting home safely. How did you handle the huge responsibility of all this?
I'd keep all the footage on multiple drives on a trip and at home. I'd like to say backing up files is just common sense but it's often a lesson learned the hard way through bitter experience that makes you realise how important it is to do it right. In the past I've lost clips through drives failing and accidentally deleting clips and it's a horrible feeling you want to avoid ever having again. With over a year and a half of filming ultimately coming together you end up sitting on so much footage which has taken a huge financial commitment to gather. But its the nature of the footage being unique moments riders laid it on the line to get or put hours of effort into that's been shot in places that you will likely never visit again that makes the clips priceless. Investing in a few extra drives to keep footage safe until the DVD makes it off the computer and out into the world is a no-brainer.
I can see that many hours were spent working on Transmission and not just the riding but the interludes as well, how much of this project was a labour of love for you personally?
It's the riding that makes a bike video, that's the most important part, but the vision a filmer can bring to shape it into more than the sum of its parts is often what can give a video its identity. I enjoy the challenges of filming riding but it's the editing phase that is the most creatively satisfying where you have the chance to finally pull together your ideas. And I always enjoy setting myself new challenges for each video to keep it interesting. That's what the themed interludes became, a chance for a new creative challenge! I hadn't done any green screen stuff before so it was fun to learn but I was also nervous about trying it out first time in such a big project. But the buzz in seeing those first shots for Leezy's intro come together once they were composited was worth it though, I couldn't stop laughing watching those first shots of him on the moon! All that effects stuff for the intros took a lot of extra time on top of editing the riding with days of work going into a single clip that's only on screen for a few seconds. But that's the unique position I'm lucky to be in, there's not many filmers that get the chance to spend a solid three months editing a BMX video so I was always keen to make the most of that opportunity.
"I couldn't stop laughing watching those first shots of Leezy on the moon!"
- Dave Sowerby
Was it always intended to make it a street riding focused video even with riders like Kriss Kyle on the team?
For the most part I expected all the riding would concentrate on street spots but I fully intended Kriss' part to be a combination of park and street clips to represent what he rides. But we found over the course of the filming Kriss had been finding a lot of transition, curved wall and banked spots in the street that let him film the sort of riding he might have done at parks anyway. That combined with the fact I had filmed four park web edits with Kriss that had come out during the DVD filming and he'd also dropped his Kaleidoscope video which is ramp based it felt like his park riding was already pretty well represented at the time. As much as I didn't anticipate it, a pure street section for Kriss' part ultimately became the way to go that felt right for the DVD.
"I didn’t have to film random bike guys; I just cut to the chase and filmed some of the best in the world"
"...I really say a lot of shit I don't mean"