Vans Time-Lapse: Behind the Scenes
When I closed my eyes, I could see the whole video: the skateboards carrying the shoes down an assembly line as the shoes are constructed. As I pre-visualized the shoot, I determined that we needed at least four pairs of shoes on four skateboards, to get three of them to be in the frame at all times. I knew we also needed to tear apart two pairs of shoes, to complete the looping effect.
The reality was that this video was way more complicated to produce than any of earlier my paint videos. There were more moving parts, space in the studio was tighter and the logistics were particularly complex. Since we were showing the shoes moving forward on the assembly line as they’re being constructed, we had to shoot in reverse, carefully tearing the shoe apart as it is rolling backwards.
I picked up my supplies, including four mini skateboards from Wal-Mart, and brought them into my studio to begin laying out my set. My studio isn’t very large, since I do a lot of location shooting, so my set for this shoot ended up just barely fitting, with ¼ inch to spare!
A few weeks before the shoot, I had planned everything out in my mind: every who, what, when and where of the shoot. Well, almost everything. There were still a few issues to be worked out before we began shooting. The skateboard trucks (the metal pieces that attach the wheels to the board) were a shiny silver, and were a little distracting on-camera. In addition, there was some variation on the colors of the wheels and the grip on the boards. Also, I needed a way to lock down the boards during shooting, so that they wouldn’t move even a little bit as I deconstructed the shoe on set.
My final problem was diffusion. Coming from a background in still photography, I’ve always used a Profoto strobe lighting kit. Strobes wouldn’t be practical on this shoot, as they would need to be popped thousands of times in a row. My solution was Husky lights from Home Depot! I have diffusion for my Profoto lights, but not my new Huskies, so I started walking around my house looking for something I could use for diffusion. To my wife’s displeasure, I ended up using a brand new white pillow case, stapled to a cheap picture frame I found in the basement. Despite the fire danger, it got the job done.
For the skaters: I know that these are BMX shoes, not skate shoes. I selected this shoe because the coloring and pattern would look better on-camera than an all-black shoe. Also, I know that many skaters and BMX bikers use their shoes for other sports all the time. Personally, I’ve found that my beat up old indoor soccer cleats make great skate shoes.
This was by far the longest shoot of my career thus far, but I did have a great team to keep me company and help make the shoot happen. In total, it took 36 hours of slowly pulling stitches and moving very carefully so not to ruin the shoot. Back at Brooks Institute, we had long projects that would last days, but nothing like this!
Compared to my paint videos, this shoot was more of a marathon than a sprint. With paint, the second you start pouring there is no stopping and no slowing down. With this shoot, we were able to take breaks, and even sleep in the middle of the shoot. Because this particular time-lapse didn’t have self-moving parts, we were able to take our time moving each component by tiny increments. We were able to remove a stitch every couple shots, taking one shot to loosen the thread and a second shot to remove it.
Over the course of two days I ended up with more than 33 unique time-lapses. The number was so high partly because it includes the looping and ending time-lapses. Either way, that’s a lot of data… Some of the longer time-lapses are around 1,200 images, and 40 seconds long. Plenty of room for an editor to have a ball!
For the main angle of this time-lapse I used a EOS-1Ds Mark III with a Zeiss Planar T* 1.4/85mm ZE prime lens. I shot ISO 125, at an f/3.5 aperture with a 1/20 seconds shutter speed. An additional four angles were covered with cameras that are able to shoot at least 16 megapixels or higher in RAW format. That gives these videos the ability to shoot time-lapses in 5.6K Video!
For this video, I ended up shooting more than 30,000 images! You might be surprised at how low this number is compared to the paint videos, which took significantly less time to shoot. However, this shoot was a bit slower paced due to the small incremental movements involved. Carefully removing stitches on two shoes while making it look like the same shoe, simply takes time. It was worth every minute of it when we handed off 16 minutes of time-lapse footage to the editor and see the final, mind-blowing video!
I’m no stranger to long shoots. I dream big, and it can take many hours to turn those dreams into reality. For this shoot, I wanted to show Vans BMX shoes being constructed on an assembly line that reflects the shoe’s life — on a bike or on a board, these shoes are born to roll!