T-5 – Engaging in the next big project

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Pipeline Masters 2006 ©Vincent Laforet

I’ve been unusually quiet on the blog because I’ve been in pre-production for the past few weeks gearing up for a pretty fantastic project.    I will be filming a short narrative film on one of the world’s top surfers Jamie O’Brien over the next 3 weeks on the North Shore of Hawai’i.   Jamie is an incredible talent who grew up on the Pipeline – one of, if not the surfing mecca, and the final spot for the sport’s Triple Crown competition – the Pipeline Masters.  I had the pleasure of photographing this amazing sporting event  for The New York Times Magazine’s PLAY two years ago – and have been trying to find a way to return to ever since.  When Jamie’s manager contacted me the day after “Reverie” was released on the web asking if I’d be interested in collaborating on a project together – the project was very quickly afoot. 

Jamie is a free surfer who is forward looking and very focused on the future of his sport and helping steer it back to its roots.   He is also a very successful competitive surfer (although that is not his main focus,) and gets to  travel the world as he chases the world’s best waves and is keenely focused on producing awesome imagery of his own – both video and stills.   Jamie is one of the first surfers to have his own production company.  He lives the dream of every surfer, few contests, just surfing and traveling where the waves are best at any given time.

We’re going to work together on narrative film – based on his life on the Pipeline – and possibly throughout the next year or two around the globe.   Jamie lives at Pipeline – literally – he grew up looking directly at Pipeline and his bedroom window literally looks straight at the peak.  His is the closest house to the wave, many people shoot straight from his front yard and balcony as they command a near perfect view of both waves, Pipeline and Backdoor.  So this is in many ways a dream project for everyone involved.  Doesn’t hurt to be away from the East Coast in wintertime of course…        

©Vincent Laforet

Pipeline Masters 2006 ©Vincent Laforet

As some of you may remember, SmugMug offered to fund my next film just a few hours after “Reverie” hit the world wide web just about 3 months ago – and they’ve more than followed through.   I’ve had a few offers for funding – but what struck me about Don, Chris & Andy at SmugMug and led me to work with them on this project – was that they offered to fund my next film right away w/ no strings attached.  Their passion for photography – and now video/film – is palpable.  I can tell you that getting funding from Fortune 100 companies these days in this market, let alone at the end of a fiscal year, is close to impossible.  The fact that SmugMug has honored their commitment during this economic downturn speaks volumes about how well they’re doing and how their company is run.   In exchange for the funding, I will be writing regular posts detailing our progress on this blog every day or two starting next week.    We’ll be showing some of the best shots of the day (but may keep the VERY best hidden)  and quite a bit of “behind the scenes” footage – showing how we’re pulling this off – which should make the gear-heads out there really happy.

I’ve been stalling a lot of my “tech tip” posts and Canon 5D MKII tips – as I just haven’t had much free time at all to be honest – and I can best explain / demonstrate things through the behind the scenes videos that we’ll be filming throughout – they’ll be an integral component of this production.  So it’s a safe bet that you’ll want to check in daily.  I’ve been playing with quite a few prototype toys lately from a number of sources- and I think that many of you are going to love some of the stuff I look forward to sharing with you.  

SmugMug is the only sponsor of this project – but we also have a lot of support from quite a few great companies.  A lot of these companies are providing me either with technical help and/or loaner gear  – in exchange for my feedback on how it works with the 5D MKII – a camera that has the potential to have a very interesting influence on certain segments of the video/film industry.   I will also be giving quick demos of the gear that I find works best for this camera and the emerging DSLR video market for all to see on this blog – so if you’re wondering what else you might want to buy or rent now that you just received your 5D MKII – stay tuned.   I’ve been researching and testing gear in preparation for this production for more than 11 weeks now.

Pipeline Masters 2006 ©Vincent Laforet


The companies that we’re getting support from include:  Apple, Avenger, Bogen, Canon, Eizo, Formatt, Gitzo, Gossen, HD Cinema, Kata, Lastolite, LitePanel, Manfrotto, Marshall Electronics, Profoto, RedRock Micro, Steadicam, Tangent Devices, Tiffen, and RED.

I know a few of your may pause at this – but the point that I think needs to be understood that the Canon 5D MKII does quite a few things you can’t do with a RED and vice versa.  One thing a lot of people seem to be missing on many of the message boards/threads that I’ve been reading  – is that while the 5D MKII is truly a game changer on many levels – it like any tool – has its pros and cons, advantages and limitations – as does the RED or any other camera for that matter.  

This production is not about playing favorites or alliances – but about finding the best tool for specific tasks – which is something that I’ve always lived by.    The Red One will serve a number of special purposes – specifically to shoot at 120 frames per second.  I’ll also be mounting Canon glass on the RED with a special adapter (more on that soon)  – including a Canon 800mm 5.6 that will be the equivalent of an 1280mm on the RED once you factor in the 1.6X conversion factor – I can’t wait to see what it looks like to see Jamie surfing on a 1280mm lens at 120 fps at 2K!  

For the die-hard Canon users, or people who think I’m leaving the non-hollywood-budget filmmakers/videographers/photographers behind – don’t fret – we’re going out with FOUR 5D MKII cameras…  and I’d be a fool not to leverage the small size, price and weight of the 5D MKII – not to mention it’s incredible performance in low light – on this production.    We’re having a custom underwater housing built for it by Ikelite – as well as bringing in a radio-controlled helicopter that can carry the camera and control it as it flies hundreds of feet above – or just feet above the ground… this is going to be exciting.   I’ll be detailing every step of the way as we go – as well as all of the gear / software / workflow as best I can.   For now let your imaginations run – I know I am.


p.s.: for those of you who are waiting for more information on the internship –  I will be announcing more details about a paid 3 month spring or summer internship following the conclusion of this production – likely in mid-late January.  As I’m sure you understand – I will be focusing on this upcoming project exclusively over the next few weeks.