Why I Abandoned Music Videos for the Tech Industry


Ryan Staake’s super meta “Wyclef Jean” music video for Young Thug

Young Thug’s viral video for “Wyclef Jean” is the pinnacle of meta music videos and a primer for what to expect when embarking on a music video directing career. Ryan Staake beautifully illustrates the frustrations and pressures involved with juggling the expectations of a popular rapper and well, everyone else who isn’t one. Props to Mr. Staake and his crew for surviving such a shitty ordeal and being able to flip it into something truly entertaining. From my experience, every video director has some kind of crazy anecdote or war story. Here’s a few of mine…


Making Action Bronson’s “The Symbol” was a balancing act of ego and practicality

In my case, perhaps it was the time Action Bronson smoked so much THC wax my DP got sick and had to leave or when Joey Bada$$ flew us out to London for a video, only to miss his flight because of a headache and not show up. Or maybe it was the time Common arrived to shoot a beer commercial but A) doesn’t drink beer and B) never read the treatment or how about when Busta Rhymes had me take over a video that a previous director abandoned, only to yell at me at 3:00am on Christmas Eve because he wanted to see a roughcut. All of these situations got resolved behind the scenes but it did take its toll on my quality of life. What began as pure passion for contributing something to the culture of hip hop eventually turned into a gaping hole of frustration. Occasionally I’ll receive a text from a former colleague asking “What you retired or something?” or “You don’t like hip hop no more?” and the answer is “sort of”, “well no”, and finally “it’s complicated.” My journey through music videos has helped me transition into video production within the tech industry – a world that celebrates rubbing elbows with rappers as much as sharing emojis on Slack – but it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was kind of depressing.


My “style” back in the day was once described by Wired Magazine as “Grime Noir”, uhm sure why not?

I grew up in the 90’s when music videos were big, major events. I thought of them as short films and I didn’t even have to like the actual song to experience the artistry on display. I always wanted to tell stories through video and my passion for directing was birthed through many years of dabbling in other art forms, none of which I was particularly good at but somehow I was able to graduate with a fine arts degree. After working in motion graphics upon graduation, my first attempt at a serious project was an indie feature in 2005 and like many others, it was my “film school”. I made a ton of mistakes that somehow morphed into competent “skills”. I didn’t get into music video directing until 2006 and it was completely by accident. Here I was, a wannabe indie filmmaker who suddenly got some buzz because I directed a video “trailer” for Jay-Z. I didn’t get paid by the label, I wasn’t commissioned to do it. I had an idea and I executed it with my heavy Panasonic HVX because Jay’s name was attached to it. I wasn’t even really sure what I was shooting because it was so top secret. That day was the beginning of my addiction to music videos.


Quavo almost left the set and fought with my AD when I asked him to please not use his loaded gun as a prop for the robbery scene at 3:17

The 90’s were over and my reality of the modern music video industry in 2007 was that there were absolutely no rules. Music videos gave me a quick fix and media driven exposure for any artist who was buzzing. If the budgets were low or nothing at all, I still wanted to shoot. It was about building my reel by any means necessary, regardless of cost. Getting press for standing next to these artists and putting photos on MySpace and my fledgling Twitter account was exciting but also depressing because I didn’t actually hang out with these people. Sometimes I felt like a director stepchild, getting hand me downs from the iconic directors I looked up to in the 90’s.


Pre-DSLR revolution meant big bulky cameras, media cards and chin strap beards

Back then and maybe even the early 00’s if my research is correct, the music video industry was not yet in its wild west situation. It was general industry practice to put 10% of the budget into director’s fees no matter what. Remember those videos I grew up on? Those ended up landing on the reels of young and exciting directors like David Fincher, Mark Romanek, Chris Robinson and Spike Jonze. They were able to gain some practical experience while at the same time earn a living through their production companies. Most of them may not have been ultra wealthy at the time but they managed to pay the bills through music video directing and shooting commercials.


Explaining the vast amount of special effects work I planned on doing in post (without having the budget) to Busta Rhymes

Fast forward to 2007 and those directors from the 90’s had moved into television, features and commercials garnering critical acclaim and bigger budgets. This mass exodus was caused directly by the crash of the music industry. They no longer made real money from music videos. MTV refused to pay for content so there was no desire to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce music videos. I knew that coming into the industry but I didn’t care. If these guys didn’t want to shoot the artists I worshipped like Nas, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, etc. because of budget constraints then I sure as hell would. I made a lot of music videos from 2007 until 2015, mostly for the internet and usually at a loss or barely breaking even. It was never a problem getting artists to appear in my videos, most of them love getting in front of a camera. The problem was that some of them were used to the old model which included all the creature comforts of a 90’s music video set. It was frustrating to be treated less than professional because I didn’t have a crew of 20+ people.


That time I had to tell Pusha T that Cam’ron wouldn’t get out of his car to film his scene in a barbershop so we had to follow him to Lodi, NJ and pick it up at a Popeye’s

The music industry didn’t stop producing valuable products, but the internet blew a fuse in their business model and wiped out profits that would be allocated to music videos. While money is still spent on music videos, almost every director I know has had to take a hit on either their creative vision or their fees. But we still love doing it, it’s addicting because it does feel like a real job when we’re on set. Some directors even like using the #setlife hashtag just to show how much fun they’re having!


I lost money making this video

I’ve come to the conclusion that the music industry doesn’t really respect directors as true filmmakers, partly because directing music videos isn’t really about our art, it’s more about narcissist babysitting. Hell, some artists even like to slap their directing credits right on the front of the video because really how hard is it?


You know you’re running behind when the entourage outnumbers the amount of people who are actually working

The current reality of music videos is that everyone, from label commissioners to managers and even artists themselves expect directors to work for free indefinitely. Well maybe not free but I’ll sometimes overhear recommendations like “Yeah Rik can make that budget look like it’s double!”. Okay so that puts me into a weird position: either I make the video look double it’s worth or I look like a selfish, greedy asshole.


I was commissioned by Pepsi to make this video, only to have the artists launch their own version because they didn’t like their angles

We are required to put the entire budget on screen, regardless of actual costs. The intangibles of music video directing are not a concern for anyone in the music industry except for the directors. Most music video directors I know that started around ’05 edit all of their own work, which means we have to live with a video long after the shoot is done. Sometimes this work is allocated into the line budget, but most of the time, it isn’t. If you give a damn about the song or the artist you’ll take a hit to make the overall vision come to life and stay up until the wee hours of the morning to get it done. Young music video directors are shamelessly exploited and told to keep taking financial hits for the big “win”. Here’s what they aren’t telling you: you are exceedingly unlikely ever to see any real money from music videos. And on the rare occasion you do get a “decent” budget, you better make sure all of that is spent on production value.


The Roots gave me a lot of support and trust early in my career to the point that they didn’t even have to be in the video at all

The philosophical argument against music videos is that they are strongly anti-filmmaker. I’ve done videos that I’ve poured my heart and soul into, mostly involving some kind of narrative filmmaking or storyline. Some unique work gets noticed but the most popular views come from meaningless performance setups. It’s the same materialism/exploitation stuff from the 1990’s but with the DSLR age and YouTube, you don’t really have to pay people to do ignorant things on camera. It’s as easy as learning how to turn the camera on. I am guilty as charged.


Joey Bada$$’s “No. 99” was a logistical nightmare yet a true collaboration between artist and director

Will I ever stop making music videos? Probably not, there are a few artists who I personally care about and love collaborating with because their independence allows them to experiment visually. My beef isn’t really about wanting more dollars or fish from the dead sea, it’s about clearing up any misconceptions about what music video directing really is – “A cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” – Hunter S. Thompson


This Jonathan Simkhai x Carbon38 branded content video for Harper’s Bazaar was dream to direct mainly because of the across the board professionalism

If you’re serious about making a living off video production, my advice to you is not to do what I did. Focus on other industries like branded content for media publications or in house content for tech companies. You will more than likely get addicted to shooting music videos because of the quick fix but none of that has any real bearing on the world of commercial advertising and narrative filmmaking where most of us actually want to belong to. Maybe in the 1990’s but not now. There’s just way too much content to sift through considering that 72 hours of mostly music related video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. High end commercials are hard as hell to break into, but you will very rarely be asked to work for free, and you will develop more professional relationships that will come useful in securing freelance work. The pay is better, prospects are better, and commercials have considerable benefits in terms of filmmaker development. You will most likely have to deal with agency creatives looking over your shoulder while you direct, but compared to the endless demands of rapper entourages and managers, it feels more like a real job and not indentured servitude.


My work for tech company Duo Security sometimes dips into narrative territory, a creative burst of fresh air

In conclusion, the more talented you are as a filmmaker, the more jaded you will get by involving yourself with the hip hop music video scene. You will eventually hit a ceiling because that need to execute an exciting and original concept that is completely birthed out of your own imagination will always get batted down. If you can earn an income outside of the music industry, you’ll be able to focus on what you really want to do instead of living check to check from an industry that will never really respect you. Plus less stress and frustration is proven to increase your lifespan. But if all you’ve ever aspired to become is just a hip hop music video director then hurry up and wait. The rappers and their entourage are on their way.


I’m still that same hungry kid from Queens, but with better perspective

How We Shot the Jonathan Simkhai x Carbon38 Collaboration Video

Recently I had the opportunity to direct a promo video for designer Jonathan Simkhai and the luxury women’s activewear brand Carbon38 for media publishing giant Harper’s Bazaar. As a fan of activewear and technical design, the collaboration was a match made in heaven.

Our concept was all about movement and incorporating dancers to show what the clothes were capable of. Utilizing natural light, a gritty warehouse setting, the handheld fluidity of the Sony FS7 and Panasonic GH4 and a giant 20k fresnel light, my goal was to capture our choreographer Normann Shay and the dancers in a candid, real moment punctuated by a stylized, massive backlight. The energy from the shoot was reflected behind the scenes when an impromptu, unscripted soul train line formed with the entire crew expressing their own personal style and grace. For more information on the collection be sure to visit carbon38.com and jonathansimkhai.com

Director: Rik Cordero; Choreographer: Normann Shay; Assistant Choreographer: Soraya Lundy; Music: Angel + Dren; Dancers: Jazz Johnson, Jadée Nikita, Karin Tatsuoka, Kana Matsui; Director: Rik Cordero; Creative Director: Thomas Beckner; Producer: Angel Lenise; Stylist: Kerry Pieri; Associate Producer: Bree Green; Director of Photography: Clay Combe; Assistant Camera: Nolan Maloney; Wardrobe Assistant: Jensen Turner; Hair: Ro Morgan; Hair Assistant: Shanice Fields; Makeup: Katie Jane Hughes; Makeup Assistant: Isabel Rosado; Gaffer: Andrea Boglioli; Colorist: Josh K. Brede; Best Boy: Corey Gailit; PA: Frank Traggianese; PA: Joe Speer; PA: Joe Storch.


product information button runplayback Sony PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 Camera System

So We’re Building a DIY E-Bike Part 1

Winter in Ann Arbor, MI is typically cold and grey with rough road conditions that make e-skating very difficult. So naturally I’ve started to think about building a DIY E-Bike to commute around the downtown area. Using one of my spare electric skateboard battery packs, we’ve decided to repurpose it for a DIY E-Bike. Here’s Part 1 of our build.


Lithium Bottle Battery Case for DIY E-Bikes

Feiyu Tech SPG Plus Smartphone Gimbal First Impressions

Just when I thought I’ve seen every small handheld gimbal that’s out there, along comes the Feiyu Tech SPG Plus 3-Axis gimbal for smartphones. With it’s two handed operation, it resembles the style of traditional gimbals but in a smaller, more compact frame. It’s perfect for content creators who share their videos directly on social media.

One cool feature is that the SPG Plus can automatically alter between horizontal, vertical and upright modes using a specially designed altitude sensor. The gimbal also offers 360 degree panning, tilting and rolling. Combined with it’s structural stabilization, the SPG Plus makes it easy to take perfect panoramic shots with your smartphone.

In addition, the SPG Plus also has a sliding arm on the roll motor side to easily fine tune the balance of just about any phone, even with accessories like lens clips or filters. With foam spacers, the SPG Plus is also capable of flying action cams like the GoPro or Xiaomi Yi.

Accessory wise, the SPG Plus features 5 1/4-20 threads – three on top and two on the bottom of the handles for attaching a top handle, lights, mics or other accessories. Feiyu Tech also released a companion app which allows you to initialize gimbal calibration, update the rig’s firmware and customize settings. The SPG Plus is powered by a massive 22650 Li-Ion battery that offers up to eight hours of shooting.

Recently I’ve become pretty gimbal weary, especially for mobile phone or action cams but I was pleasantly surprised by the SPG Plus. With it’s sleek two handle design, and auto balancing features, it’s truly a unique entry in the crowded world of lightweight gimbals. If you have any questions about the Feiyu Tech SPG Plus, hit me up in the comments below.


Feiyu Tech SPG Plus Gimbal Rig for iPhone

I Made A Futuristic DIY LED Commuter Backpack

Here’s a fun little project for anyone who would like to be a little more visible at night when commuting on a bike, skateboard or personal electrical vehicle. With the help of my friend Landon, we put together a super affordable, DIY LED Backpack kit that can be applied to just about any backpack that you may already own. Please note, you’ll need some basic tools and electrical skills to put something like this together.

I chose to use my classic Lowepro 650 camera backpack. It is extremely comfortable to wear with plenty of storage room for camera gear, a laptop and other miscellaneous items. It’s also my favorite pack to wear when cycling or skating because it feels very balanced across my back.

For the LED lights, we went with these super bright COB LED lights that measure about 7″ x 1″. They are extremely lightweight, waterproof and have a clean design that doesn’t scream cheap LED’s. They are also aggressively bright at full power but can be tamed using a dimmer which I’ll get to in a moment. To attach the lights to the bag, I used standard adhesive velcro strips along with fabric glue to reinforce the bond.


2x Super Bright White COB Car LED Lights 12V

We used four 18650 Li-Ion cells to power the lights which might seem like overkill, but provide some serious long lasting work life. Additionally, I’m using the Nitecore i2 smart charger which is an affordable but high quality charger that’s compatible with a wide array of Li-Ion bateries.


LG HE4 2500MAH High Drain 35A IMR 18650 Battery


Nitecore New i2 Intellicharge Universal Smart Battery Charger for 18650 Li-Ion

The batteries are connected in series using a generic 18650 cell case to output about 16.8v. That may seem like too many volts to push to the 12v lights which is why I opted to use a dimmer control with a 12v regulator.


Battery Holder Storage Box Case For 4x 18650

The best part of this build is the ability to control the lights wirelessly using a small RF controller. Since it’s an RF signal, it’s able to pass through the bag easily and has a long controlling distance. Other features include custom brightness levels, dynamic modes and speed adjustment for dynamic modes.


12V Mini Wireless RF Remote Controller Dimmer Control

I just ordered another set of lights but this time with red LED’s which I’ll wire to the back of the bag as a rear stoplight. It’s really easy to get creative by combining a wide variety of backpacks and COB LED colors while also remaining safe and visible when riding at night. If you have any questions or suggestions for this build, hit me in the comments below.

Torch T2 LED Light Helmet First Impressions

With my recent move to downtown Ann Arbor, I’ve been cycling much more which means I need to be more visible to vehicles and pedestrians. My solution was the Torch T2 Bike Helmet with integrated LED lights. Check out the video above for my first impressions and be sure to hit the comments if you have any questions.


Torch Apparel T2 Bike Helmet with Integrated LED Lights

How to Survive a 24 Hour Film Shootout

The YPSI 24-Hour Shootout is a popular filmmaking competition that asks teams of filmmakers to produce a short film in the span of 24 hours. At the start of the shootout, several “ingredients” are announced. They may include a line of dialog, a prop, a location, or any other requirement for the film being produced. This element forces teams to think on their feet. As a filmmaker who has participated in two YPSI24 events, I’ve put together a few tips to help you survive this intense experience.

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A pre-determined style or technique will help inform your script.

TESTING THE WORKFLOW
Before each 24 hour shootout, I think about a style that would be challenging to implement in 24 hours. A pre-determined technique will also force you to create a story that will fit within the parameters that you set. At this year’s YPSI24, I wanted to execute a continuous one take shot across multiple locations. This would be extremely challenging without testing so I experimented with a range of equipment to create the right recipe. Too much equipment would bog us down and too little gear would compromise the production value.

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The unsung hero – my cheapo $80 fisheye lens for the GH4.

Our main gear list included my trusty Birdycam Lite gimbal, the Panasonic GH4 and a super cheap $80 CCTV Micro 4/3 8mm f3.8 Fisheye Lens that I bought off eBay. My goal was to shoot 4k with a very wide focal length that I could defish in post if necessary. The lens provided a very interesting image that simulated surveillance footage while also giving off some interesting flaring effects against the sunlight.

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8mm f/3.8 Fisheye CCTV Lens for Micro 4/3 Cameras

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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Sometimes enthusiasm trumps experience when it comes to 24 hour filmmaking – choose your crew wisely.

CREATE YOUR TEAM
As a team captain, you are involved in every step of production but assembling your cast and crew to delegate roles is an important, if not THE most important part of a successful 24 hour shootout. This does not automatically mean choosing the most experienced filmmakers (obviously it helps), but rather, the most enthusiastic group of people who are willing to put in a lot of highly concentrated time into their roles. People who can think on their feet and discover creative solutions on the fly are some of the best folks to work with in a 24 hour shootout.

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For our 24 hour short “The Delivery”, the concept was simple – a heated argument between a couple gets resolved. It’s the sci-fi elements that happen in between which add flavor.

GET TO THE POINT
Telling small stories with a simple conflict helps to streamline your script and give the audience a way to connect with your film without being bogged down by long exposition shots or monologues that don’t move the plot along. Think about classic conflicts in literature – man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. self and man vs. technology. Having a basic conflict thought out in advance can make it easier to implement your ingredients and create obstacles that your protagonist must overcome. Don’t let your film be the one that makes the audience check their watches during the final screening. Remember, every minute counts. Don’t waste them!

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Always keep things social and fun, especially when your team is going above and beyond the call of duty.

STEER THE SHIP
How you organize your shoot depends on your script, the equipment and how much experience you have but there’s a few things that can make a set run more efficiently. Always keep things social and fun. Having the cast and crew together will create a natural camaraderie that’s reflected on screen but with such a tight time crunch, you want people around who are great under pressure and don’t lose their cool by the slightest change in plans. Keep the entire team involved and active during the shoot and they’ll be more inclined to chime in with ideas that can improve the script.


“The Delivery” 2nd Place Winner of the 2016 YPSI24-Hour Shootout

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
Participate in a 24 hour film shootout because you want to have fun and challenge yourself. Taking it far too seriously can lead to unnecessary frustration. Sure it’s a competition but it’s more about enriching your current artistic relationships and forging new ones. Get rid of the idea of winning awards and know that your 24 hour movie will always be remembered as a bold experience amongst your peers. Check out our 2016 YPSI24 short “The Delivery” above and remember to always stay inspired!

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Photo Credit: Jessica Bibbee

“Session Error” World Premiere & Live Stream Q&A Panel

“Session Error: The Rise & Risk of Electric Skateboarding” details the emerging popularity of high performance, electric skateboarding and the misconceptions about eboarding risk and safety. On Thursday, September 15th at 7:00pm EST, we launched the World Premiere and Live Stream Q&A panel with the filmmakers at Duo Security’s tech event space in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Session Error: The Rise & Risk of Electric Skateboarding Trailer

On Thursday September 15th, I’ll be live streaming my latest short documentary “Session Error: The Rise & Risk of Electric Skateboarding” followed by a Q&A. For those in the Michigan area who would like to attend the screening you can RSVP for FREE here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/session-error-the-rise-risk-of-electric-skateboarding-tickets-27339475106

Synopsis
On June 2, 2016, software engineer Robbie Small suffered a traumatic brain injury while riding an electric skateboard. This is his story.

“Session Error: The Rise & Risk of Electric Skateboarding” is a short documentary film that details the emerging popularity of high performance, electric skateboarding and the misconceptions about e-boarding risk and safety.

Total Running Time: 25 min.
Produced by Rik Cordero & Robbie Small
Directed, Shot & Edited by Rik Cordero
Produced by Arbor Day Pictures & A2ESK8
Doors open at 6:00pm
Screening begins at 7:00pm sharp followed by Q&A with the filmmakers
Food and refreshments will be served

Our Electric Skateboards Got Mobbed at Maker Faire Detroit

This past weekend, our local electric skateboarding crew A2ESK8 participated at Maker Faire Detroit, a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker Movement.

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Makers ranged from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers. About 25,000 people attended the event to check out ordinary individuals rolling up their sleeves to create inventive solutions for everyday needs.

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Sometime last year I began to search for other DIY ESK8 builders so I created a Facebook group to draw others in which birthed A2ESK8 – Michigan’s largest social hub dedicated to the building of DIY electric skateboards. Our booth was graciously sponsored by our friends at Carvon Skates and Polar Pro whose products are seamlessly integrated into our local ESK8 culture of building and filming.

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Attendees were able to get hands on with some of our boards as they were able to throttle and brake using our realtime display bench rig to test RPM, temperature and current.

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For those were interested in the tech, we had live demos of VESC (Vedder Electronic Speed Control) and LiFePO4 battery assembly. We also provided insight on the open source community and the emergence of ESK8 as a major player in the personal electric vehicle movement.

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We took turns riding the boards around The Henry Ford which provided a glimpse at what ESK8 feels like. Many of our riders describe ESK8 as an alternative to snowboarding and longboarding where you get a similar feeling of “flying” on the ground.

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All around us roads are changing, structures go up and having a “spotter” who you are communicating with through Bluetooth intercoms creates a sense of gamified exploration. Every turn we make can be something new and its all about living in that moment with zero distractions. Essentially it’s meditative and can relieve any stress that’s built up throughout the day.

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Who knows what the future holds for A2ESK8 but one thing will always remain clear – our mission is to combine safety, reliability, art and design to inspire others to be part of a growing DIY community that will innovate the electric skateboard industry.

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product information button runplayback Carvon EMC2 Dual Hub Motor Electric Mini Cruiser

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro GoPro Frame 2.0 Professional Filter 6 Pack

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro DJI Phantom 4 / Phantom 3 Filter 6-Pack

Why I Built a Carbon Fiber Electric Skateboard Mini Cruiser


Shot exclusively with the LanParte LA3D Action Gimbal, DJI Phantom 3 and Polar Pro Filters

My original DIY Electric Mini Cruiser Skateboard still holds up quite nicely even after 6 months of hard riding and natural wear and tear. But as with all things DIY, parts can always be upgraded. One key feature that I wanted to improve upon was weight, so once again, I researched the right combination of components to make an already awesome commute even better. I’ve nicknamed this build – the A2ESK8 Mini Cruiser.

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My original 29″ mini cruiser was the perfect size thanks to the unique design of the now discontinued Jet Spud deck. But I wanted to do something different, which is why I chose the Hi5ber Ion 30 mini cruiser deck. Hi5ber has built a great reputation for manufacturing the best carbon fiber longboard decks available. They are lighter and stronger than typical wooden longboards which create a more controlled, responsive experience for the rider.

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The Ion 30’s design is the definition of stealth with it’s ultra thin rails that gradually curve thicker towards the wheelbase. The added benefit is an enhanced wheel clearance that looks so damn futuristic. Other than the low weight, the characteristics of the Ion 30 include high rigidity, high tensile strength, corrosion resistance and fatigue resistance. And unlike wood, carbon fiber doesn’t warp when exposed to water.

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product information button runplayback Hi5ber Carbon Fiber Ion 30

hi5ber_sidewinder

Before electricfying the Ion 30, I tested it out with Gullwing Sidewinder II trucks alongside 72mm ABEC11 Freerides and it was a blast. That combination of an ultra lightweight carbon fiber deck and double kingpins was so much fun I was a little hesitant to throw electronics on there. But my curiousity got the best of me so I got to work.

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The next step in weight reduction was the battery. My original build contained the 10s3p Enertion Space Cell, a wonderful battery pack, but 30 cells demand a lot of real estate in the wheelbase for a small mini cruiser deck. With a wheelbase of 16.25″ on the Hi5ber, I knew I had to figure out another power solution.

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I ended up creating a custom 12s1p LiFePO4 battery pack with the help of my friend Landon who is an electronics wizard. LiFePO4 batteries are the safest type of lithium batteries as they will not overheat, and even if punctured they will not catch on fire. The cathode material in LiFePO4 batteries is not hazardous, and poses no negative health or environmental hazards. Due to the oxygen being bonded tightly to the molecule, there is no danger of the battery erupting into flames like there is with lithium-ion. We used 12 cells in series for a total voltage of about 36v. Paired with a BMS, voltage display, charge port and power button, the pack ended up having a more compact size – perfect for the Hi5ber deck.

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Once again I designed a custom 1/8″ ABS enclosure using my homemade vacuum former. This time I wanted the buttons to be located on the side of the enclosure as flush as possible. This created a more pleasing appearance that complimented the look of the carbon fiber. The length of the enclosure came out to 11″ and width at 5″. This meant plenty of room to spare on the Ion 30 wheelbase.

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product information button runplayback A2ESK8 Apone V1 Electric Skateboard Enclosure

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Another big upgrade I made was swapping my original Torqueboards 2.4ghz Mini Remote with an even smaller 2.4ghz Nano Remote that features a thumb throttle instead of a trigger throttle. As far as how it feels in my hand, it’s pretty awesome. Granted, I’m not a big guy but it’s the right size for stealth in the city. It’s as if they took the best features of the Yuneec EGO and Boosted Boards remote and put it into a no frills casing. I like the short throw, knob throttle which is a much better design than Boosted’s long throw thumb dial and trigger button. Shout out to Kaly over at ESK8 builders for the hookup on this remote.

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The only components I ported over from my original build are the Ollin Board VESC and the Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor. Because of months of wear and tear and a few moisture issues, Landon and I decided it was best to clean the VESC up with some gentle scrubbing and a coating of anti-corrosion spray. Even so, the VESC is still going strong with no issues or errors – a testament to Ollin Board’s high quality manufacturing practices.

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My Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor was upgraded with authentic 90mm ABEC11 Flywheels and is really the backbone of my entire mini cruiser build. I’ve put the hub motor through the ringer in every harsh road condition imaginable and it continues to perform flawlessly. Carvon continues to push the boundaries of eboard drive trains and I look forward to seeing what they do next with their V3 hub motor design and EVO series.

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Dialing in the VESC settings is critical for creating a safe and fun mini cruiser. My original build was capable of hitting 31 mph but the sweet spot for a board this small is around 15-18 mph – more than enough for carving through a dense city filled with intersections and pedestrians. Also, the 12s LiFePO4 battery delivers a stronger punch than my 10s lithium ion with a more stable discharge and minimal voltage sag. As much as I enjoy releasing the full power and speed from a DIY eboard, there’s something quite satisfying about taming a mini cruiser eboard that has the ability to hurl you but won’t because you’re keeping it on a leash. More importantly, this build never feels like it’s struggling or straining and that kind of confidence transfers into longer range and fun, safer rides.

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Skating the A2ESK8 Mini Cruiser around the city proved to be a blast. On FOC mode with the Carvon V2 hub motor, the sound is nearly silent. The ultra light Hi5ber Ion 30 board makes acceleration from standstill fantastic and it really feels like your riding on some kind of space age material because of how responsive it is. Carbon fiber handles bumps slightly differently than wooden decks but in a good way because vibrations don’t transfer as much harsh energy to your body. Oh and did I mention how light this thing is? Seriously I’ll take carbon decks over wood any day of the week.

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DIY electric skateboard builds have been getting better and better in just a few months yet there are still just a handful of 30″ and under DIY mini cruiser builds. Perhaps it’s a bit of a stigma to purposely limit your top speed on a smaller deck but I feel like it’s our responsibility to be ambassadors of this technology everytime we step on a board. I’ve already seen friends who’ve hurt themselves on eboards and in almost all cases, the problem was either an inexperienced rider or a road obstacle and not a board failure. Going over 25 mph instead of 13 mph on a non electric board meant crashes that have caused broken bones and serious concussions. Believe me, I’ve had first hand experience with this and it’s made me a very visible advocate for eboard helmet safety.

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This mini cruiser was not designed to be a land missile and it shows. It’s become the ultimate conversation starter whenever I ride in the city because I’m seriously just having fun. The weight reduction made a huge difference and carrying it on public transportation is even easier. If you’re in the Detroit area at the end of July, check out this mini cruiser build in person at the Detroit Maker Faire where will have an A2ESK8 booth and demonstrations. For more information on the products I used to create the video above, please check out the links below.

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product information button runplayback Lanparte LA3D Detachable 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro GoPro Frame 2.0 Professional Filter 6 Pack

My New Film “Force Touch” Is Streaming For Free


Force Touch is now streaming for FREE

Check out my latest short film “Force Touch”, shot entirely with the Varavon Birdycam Lite and the Panasonic GH4. Synopsis below:

When four friends discover a smartphone that takes pictures of the future, things go from bad to worse as their darkest secrets are revealed. Written, Shot & Directed by Rik Cordero. Produced by Arbor Day Pictures & Neutral Zone. Executive Produced by Nancy Mitchell.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

The sold out screening at the historic Michigan Theater was a huge success. The power of independent storytelling, community and inspiration is a potent combo and it was evident from the positive feedback from the audience. A big thank you to our sponsors – Camera Mall, Aspen Mics and Polar Pro for the wonderful raffle gifts, Neutral Zone, Sunday Afternoon Pictures, YPSI24, our photographer Katie Alexis and our friend Jason Buchanan who conducted the interview below about the making of “Force Touch”.

I sense an influence from The Twilight Zone here. In particular, the episode “A Most Unusual Camera”, was that show an influence on you as a storyteller? Could you talk about some of your influences in writing and directing?

Yup that episode of the “Twilight Zone” was a major influence, especially with the voiceover narration that provides just enough exposition to pull you into the story. Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” was also a strong influence as I wanted to explore the consequences of modern technology on a specific group of young people who aren’t very likeable. I imagined these characters had big dreams in college which never fully materialized. It’s like that weird time in your early 20’s when you’re not young enough to be dependent yet not old enough to be jaded by the grind.

My wife Nancy (Executive Producer of the film) and I, moved from New York City to Ann Arbor last July. We shot a ton of music videos and commercials during our time there but the work life balance sucked. Once we moved, the creative quality of our lives improved almost immediately through meeting many diverse folks with common interests.

With more time to focus on storytelling, I came up with the idea of “Force Touch” and my goal was to capture elements of the college culture here from an outsider’s point of view. I’m a college football fan but maybe not to the degree as some of my friends who have lived here their entire lives so I wanted to explore those emotions and how they would bounce off the characters in the story. Also Ann Arbor was a new canvas for me to employ a layer of sci-fi and technology which is another passion of mine.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis


Neutral Zone Promo video produced by Arbor Day Pictures

Can you expand on the role that the Neutral Zone played in producing the short? What was it like working with them?

I was introduced to Lori Roddy and Mary Moffett at Neutral Zone through Dug and Linh Song. After getting the tour of the facilities I was instantly inspired to contribute something to their video program that’s run by Alysha Schlundt-Bodien. Once we set our shoot dates, I reached out to Neutral Zone to help produce it. From our script rehearsals with the actors to camera assisting, lighting and sound, we provided some Neutral Zone Teens first hand experience with independent filmmaking. It was a tough shoot, especially since our first day landed on a major snowstorm but we made it through and hopefully some of the kids will stick with it.

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Force Touch pre production meeting at Neutral Zone, Ann Arbor

As a relatively new transplant to the area, what are your impressions of the local filmmaking scene? What do you like? Anything you wish you could find but haven’t?

I met the majority of our cast by participating in last year’s YPSI24 24 hour film competition and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. There’s a special sense of camaradrie and collaboration here that’s been missing for awhile in New York City. It’s easy to stay busy in NYC but most video creatives including myself were often stuck hustling multiple gigs just to pay the bills. There’s a better work life balance here that’s very refreshing and reminds me about why I got into this business in the first place – to share stories and stay inspired.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

Can you talk a little about your work with Duo Security?

Duo Security reflects a lot of why the Ann Arbor community is appealing to me. Our CEO Dug Song, Creative Director Pete Baker and Multimedia Specialist Martin Thoburn have embraced my thirst for living a creative life which motivates me to think about creative video solutions for Duo. Things like recruiting videos to brand awareness and case studies are not often big priorities at most tech companies but Duo is unlike any other company I’ve worked for. Our creative team can go toe to toe with some of the best creative agencies in any major city and it’s a testament to the forward thinking goals of the leadership here.

One thing that most filmmakers have in common when it comes to doing the corporate grind is – how much of my artistic integrity do I have to give up just to fit in? I’ve retained 100% of my artistic integrity since working here and that comes from having an office culture that doesn’t force you to conform to tradition.

My value at Duo may not have a direct measurement as someone in Sales or Engineering and while metrics and procedures are important, nothing is more valuable than offering up creative solutions that keep our street cred intact. There’s a reason why our website doesn’t look like an out of the box template or why our videos entertain some of the most successful tech people in the world. We must be doing something right.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

Lastly, are there any video projects in development that you can talk about?

At Duo, I’m working on a huge marketing stunt called “Duo in Space” where we will launch a weather balloon equipped with a phone and prosthetic finger that will perform a Duo 2-Factor Authentication push from close to 120,000 feet above the earth. In my spare time, I’m sharing DIY techniques on my blog runplayback.com and building electric longboards with my crew A2ESK8.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro Trippler 3-in-1 Tripod/Grip/Pole

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

Lanparte LA3D 3-Axis Action Gimbal First Impressions

Action gimbals are all the rage these days, especially at this year’s NAB Show, yet the one that really stood out to me was the Lanparte LA3D gimbal for the GoPro. Cosmetically, it’s similar to the Came TV Action and the Ikan Fly X3-Go but if you look further, it has some really well thought out design features that make it the best action gimbal out right now.

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The most standout feature on the LA3D is the detachable mounting system. With my previous Came TV electric longboarding rig, weight distribution was often a problem as mounting the entire gimbal to the end of a painter’s pole created a very front heavy rig that would be tricky to handle especially when traveling at high speeds. With the LA3D you can mount only the gimbal on the top of a boom pole via a 1/4-20 thread and hold the battery/control stick in another hand via a wire control cable. For electric longboarding where you need have one hand on the transmitter, I’d recommend keeping the control stick in your pocket or strapping it to your boom pole with some velcro straps. It would have been nice if Lanparte had added a 1/4-20 thread on the controller side as well to keep things even more modular. Some other interesting ways to mount the LA3D are using a Polar Pro Trippler Grip Pole or a standard GoPro chest mount and head mount to keep things centered.

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The LA3D holds two 18350 Li-Ion batteries but you can attach a 2″ tube extender and use two larger 18650 Li-Ion batteries for up to 8 hours of power. The three modes are pretty standard – follow mode that pans and tilts to your wrist direction, semi-follow mode where tilt is locked but can be adjusted using the control pad and locked mode where tilt and pan adjustments are made manually on the control pad. The best integrated mode feature is probably inverted mode which enables you to turn the gimbal completely upside down. This makes booming from high angle to low angle action shots super seamless. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll demonstrate some LA3D footage. If you have any questions hit me up in the comments.

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product information button runplayback Lanparte LA3D Detachable 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal

trippler
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Trippler 3-in-1 Tripod/Grip/Pole

My Homie Jeff Made A 45 MPH Electric Longboard!

Just wanted to share a new video series I’m developing titled “Duo Meet Your Maker” which profiles local hackers, tinkerers, hobbyists, and the tech-savvy makers to learn about their processes and highlight the things they create. My goal with this series to look beyond the gadgets themselves to explore the people behind them and what makes them tick. My first subject is Jeff Plott, a local mechanical engineer, who built a 45 mph electric longboard! Yikes! If you’d like to know more about how I shot those action shots check out my electric longboarding action rig here.

Konova Launches the portable, travel friendly SunJib S700 – NAB 2016

NAB 2016 coverage continues with a look at the SunJib from Konova. This unique, portable jib system has a one touch, telescopic, single arm design and an automatic self leveling system for smooth booming shots. This keeps the subject horizontal which allows you to focus on the momentum of your panning moves. The SunJib is also compatible with Konova’s highly regarded slider system to create very unique, low angle sliding / boom shots. The included transport bag also makes it very travel friendly for all situations. Traditional jibs have always been a hassle for me to build and break down but the the Konova SunJib definitely hits that sweet spot of portability and professional grade camera moves.

We spoke with Peter from Konova for an in-depth demonstration. For more information on when the SunJib will be released, please visit Konovaphoto.com