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All rise…

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I took down the Mat Movie Forum today. I doubt it will be deeply missed *sniff*, but if you want to pause for a moment of silence, now is your chance.

Actually it was premature and probably unnecessary to start it in the first place. And when the Estonian cyberbots started pounding me with 20 or 30 account requests a day, I suddenly remembered why I originally fled the glamorous world of Information Technology (I went to the beach instead). The Gentleman’s Enhancement industry will just have to plow ahead without the Mat Movie Forum’s assistance.

Now, the film production world could still use a comprehensive project management platform. Maybe one exists of which I’m not aware. But for the time being, we all seem to be using variants of the same social media, and we share the same channels of communication, so we’re in touch. As my own progress begins to gel to the point where I actually have a schedule for the mat movie production, then I’ll depend on the blog to coordinate with the rest of you out there so that the message is more or less centralized and organized.

I hope you’ve been able to scoop up some footage over the last year. I have, and I’ve already gotten some great contributions from vyusher, kendog, and others, and I know there’s more out there. The coming season should put us over the top. My lifelong predilection has been to surf alone, but the home team and I will be working together a lot more this coming winter (the season of best waves in my neighborhood), so I’m sure we’ll score some solid sessions. And likewise, I’m eager to bear down on some of you as subjects for onscreen interviews (using voice mod and cast-shadow profiles upon request). The oral history of surf culture is, of course, the engine that converts sessions into legends, so tell your inner Homer that’s it’s almost time to sing.

Checking in

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Back when we kicked off this project my blood was still flush with adrenaline from last winter, probably one of the best seasons I’ve had in the last 15 years. I was SO ready to do it again, but I’m sad to say that this year has not delivered the same epic waves and weather yet. Maria and I cleared our slate for most of December only to get skunked. The dates between Christmas and New Year’s Day, typically a time of stellar surf around here, were eerily flat — like, uncannily flat. So I haven’t shot anything like I want to. The good news is that the swells turned on a couple of weeks ago, and the weather is fantastic, so a good season might be upon us now. I’m poised.

New Year's Day was bitterly cold here in Santa Barbara, and as flat as the Pacific can be.

Last summer, I got ahold of Oregon Scientific’s little ATC9K sports cam. During a run up and down the coast, we managed to rendezvous with PG in Central California and frolic a while in some fun little surf, and shoot preliminary water footage with the ATC9K. To be honest, it was disappointing — soft image quality, generally desaturated color, bleached out whites. Maybe I’ll post some up here as an example, but I really wasn’t stoked about it. Of course, the best artistic response to a technical weakness like this is to exploit it — the funky image has its own kind of allure, especially if the waves and scenery are worthy. So I haven’t given up on the cam altogether, though it makes me crave a high-end solution with a housing all the more.

Since then, OS has released some firmware upgrades, I’ve fiddled around more with the customization, and learned a bit more about which situations might yield better results. I’ve stripped all the plastic holders off of it and secured a length of bootlace to it with some fibrous shipping tape. Now it’s a very light 3-inch waterproof cylinder with a screen on the back and a simple button on top to trigger a shot. Can’t complain about the form factor at all, it’s outstanding.

Shooting specs

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I recently got an inquiry from one the the intrepid matriders from the Pacific North West. He had acquired a nice HD camcorder and wanted my thoughts on which recording mode to use. I told him that ideally I’d like to see video shot at 30 frames-per-second, and if possible in a widescreen format (16:9) at full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). Get as close to the action as possible in order to keep the screen filled while minimizing the use of the zoom lens. Use a tripod with a good head on it to stabilize the image and pan smoothly. The digital image stabilization function usually introduces some softness into the image, so it’s better to put some effort into getting a solid picture in the first place.

Realizing that not everyone has access to camcorders of that quality, it’s certainly not a deal-breaker if you shoot footage with other specs. I imagine that Standard Definition stuff will be pretty common, and it will fit in our HD field. Don’t use 24 frames-per-second “film look” if you can avoid it. it’s harder for me to integrate that with other frame rates. It can be done, but it’s less than satisfactory — try not to.

To keep things organized, I’ll put up a separate post about capturing your footage, file types, and transferring to the project repository,

As far as tracking down the waves and riders, you’re on your own.

The season has turned

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Yesterday’s equinox produced a dramatic and distinct change in conditions here where I live. I’m always attuned to the shifting light, and it almost seemed like the thick summery gold of California’s sunshine instantly began to thin out and whiten, as if a switch got flipped. At the same time, the prevailing breezes began to pick up speed and to flow towards us from cooler northern regions. These are the kinds of stimuli that get me to inspect my wetsuits, organize my gear, and just generally prepare my equipment for the campaign ahead.

I haven’t shot any mat footage since the Mat Meet at Cotton’s. Indeed, I’ve only ridden a handful of sloppy days locally, although there’s been surf elsewhere on the coast. But assuming that the shooting phase of this movie is going to take a year or so, I’m not concerned about it yet.

I’ve got my eye on some new camera gear. I’m not prepared to invest heavily in water housings etc. although something may come up. To hold me over, I went ahead and got one of Oregon Scientific’s ATC9K “action cameras.”

Oregon Scientific atc9k action camera

I fiddled around with both the ATC9K and a GoPro, and got the impression that the image quality is comparable between them. The ATC9K has an inferior microphone, but that wasn’t a concern to me. GoPro has a wider field of view, and that ended up as the deciding factor. Several other mat riders use the GoPro, so that wide-angle image will be well-represented in the final film. I wanted to complement that with water shots of slightly less fish-eyed image.

I’ll be on the road quite a bit in the next few weeks, and with any luck I’ll get some experience with the ATC9K and have something to show for it.

Video footage from August 22 Mat Meet

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Although it’s a real pleasure to edit footage, I promised myself that I’d just get this sequence shipshape then let it go. I’ll be wrangling many more hours of it if all goes well this year. So fly away, my dove, I’m back on the hunt again.

If you want to download and save it for yourself, click the movie and go to Vimeo. It will be available to dl for a little while. And it seems that you can only view it in HD from that site, so what the hey!, just go to Vimeo and savor all the gusto!

I posted a few snapshots from the Mat Meet at Cottons

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Video to come asap.

http://www.matmovie.com/images/100822matmeetsnaps/

Sunday morning, August 22, 2010, Cottons

Sunday morning, August 22, 2010, Cottons

We’ve got to win over my wife

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She just took a look at my first post and let out a snort of derision! “Oh, Lord,” she said, “My advice, don’t get too heady.”

OK, maybe, but let’s check in with her again after this weekend’s mat meet at Cottons, once she has supped and dined with the Heroes and Demi-Gods on Olympus and tasted the sweet infusion of our enthusiasm.

UPDATE: Stoked! She’s totally on board, wants to get a high-end camera for herself and domesticate the wild images in her head.

Can post from my phone now

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Might come in handy as things speed up…

Let’s start with Why

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Because that might be the central mystery — why do these people ride waves on inflatable surfmats when there are so many other ways to go? Or why do some people try it and remain uninvolved, whereas others develop a passionate fascination for the game? Let those questions dangle for a while, and let them trigger some thought. So if we pursue a cinematic answer, we just might get a glimpse of what Werner Herzog calls the “ecstatic truth” inside our experience. Not the prosaic Who, How, What, and Where of accountants’ truth, but something more elusive, the quicksilver phenomenon that elevates ordinary life into poetry and art — precious and valuable because it’s rare.