“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.
Force Touch is now streaming for FREE
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.
Photo Credit: Katie Alexis
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo Credit: Katie Alexis
My original DIY Electric Skateboard is quite possibly one of my favorite things I’ve built so far and the feedback has been phenomenal. Every ride is an opportunity to discover inventive ways to capture the board on video. However, the communal experience of riding with other people is where the real fun begins. The performance gap between my DIY Single Hub Eboard and my Yuneec EGO is too wide so the only solution was to build another board. Do I really NEED more than one? Absolutely not. But the shared experience of riding with others is priceless.
DOING THE DUAL
I had the option to either replicate my original DIY Single Hub or go for something a little different. Perhaps a single belt drive or a dual setup. I ended up choosing a dual hub motor system. There’s a bit of a perpetual debate on belt drive vs. hub motors and it always comes down to personal preference. The stealth and coasting ability of the Carvon Single Hub is incredible. But the best feature to me is that it can withstand some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Harsh conditions during a Michigan Winter include rock salt, potholes, uneven pavement, snow, black ice, etc. Once I decided on using Carvon Dual Hubs for my next build, choosing the rest of my parts was fairly simple.
CHOOSING THE PARTS
JET TOMAHAWK “PEACE OUT” DECK
I knew this build would not be a mini cruiser like my last one, but I loved the quality of my Jet deck so I wanted to find something similar but with a longer wheelbase. I ended up going for the Jet Tomahawk because of it’s freeride design and variable wheelbase from 23.75″ to 28.25″. The Tomahawk shares similar wheel wells like my Jet Spud but has more of an aerodynamic, missle-like shape. When it comes to choosing a deck, Muirskate is a great resource for all things longboards. Shout out to Scott!
CARVON V2 DUAL HUB MOTOR + MATCHING TRUCKS + WHEELS SET
As I mentioned, the durability of the Carvon Hub is what did it for me. Jerry at Carvon knew how much fun I was having on a single hub but said a dual would be even more of a blast. Since I pretty much committed to a big boy board, I ended up going with massive 97mm wheels which is recommended for 10s-12s Li-Po packs. Like last time, the Carvons arrived on time with a clean, professional build all around – heavy duty 2250W brushless outrunner motors, 10″ black trucks with matching black anodized motor sleeves and ceramic bearings. There’s been some questions about why the motor isn’t completely hidden inside of the urethane and I would assume it’s to create the actual feel of riding on a wheel as opposed to riding on a motor. I haven’t tried the thin urethane hubs on an Inboard or Stary but I’d be hesitant about riding those anywhere but pristine, paved roads in California. Where I’m from, the roads are tough and I have no hesitation blasting through them with Carvons.
ENERTION 10S SPACE CELL BATTERY
The Enertion 10S Space Cell has been so reliable and convenient that getting another one was no question. I haven’t had the chance to perform any range tests yet but it’s more than enough juice for a full day of riding on single hub and it will be interesting to compare the duration with a dual hub. The new version of the Space Cell also features an improved power switch and Jason’s customer service is top notch.
OLLIN BOARD COMPANY VESC – OPEN SOURCE ESC SPEED CONTROLLER
I doubled down on the Ollin Board Company’s VESC, still the best electronic speed controller created specifically for electric skateboards by Benjamin Vedder. Like I said, I’ve been riding hard in single digit Michigan weather in some of the most adverse conditions ever and have had no problems with the VESC at all. Honestly I don’t even think about it, which is a testament to the quality (heavy duty wiring, clean soldering, military grade, gold plated PCB’s, firmware testing) and is also coated for moisture and corrosion protection. The price on the Ollin Board VESC has gone up a bit but with the warranty and repair guarantee, it’s well worth it. Also be sure to pick up a CANBUS Connector to power the VESC’s together.
FLITE TEST XT60 POWER Y-HARNESS
This 14AWG Y-Harness comes with presoldered XT60 connectors and is used to connect the dual VESC’s to the Space Cell.
TORQUEBOARDS 2.4GHZ MINI REMOTE CONTROLLER
Once again, I went with TorqueBoards 2.4Ghz Mini Remote from DIY Electric Skateboard. I’ve dropped it a few times and it’s still going strong. And it really does seem to last forever on only 2 double A batteries.
Some odds and ends that I needed to complete my build.
Like last time, I prepped the Jet Tomahawk deck by sanding away the paint job and spray painting it with glossy black. Covering those raw wooden wheel wells also looks a little better in my opinion.
Once the VESC’s arrived I programmed it with the BLDC Tool here and tweaked some of the settings based on my previous build. A few things changed when switching over to a dual configuration. Here’s my settings that I used for each VESC.
Motor Max: 60.00
Motor Min: -30.00
Bat Max: 15.00
Batt Min (Regen): -12.00
Absolute Max: 130.00
Startup Boost: 0.030
APP CONFIGURATION – GENERAL
Controller ID: Input “0” for VESC 1 and “1” for VESC 2
Enable Send status over CAN
APP CONFIGURATION – PPM
Enable Multiple ESCs over CAN
Enable Traction Control
Then, I binded the TorqueBoards remote to the receiver. Be sure to bind it properly to enable fail safe. If not, the board will go full throttle when you turn off the remote which is a major safety hazard. Next I added a JST cable to VESC 1 and the CANBUS Connector to connect VESC 1 and VESC 2. I also added some hotglue to all the connectors to prevent the connection from coming loose. Finally I added some velcro on the bottom of the VESC’s and the receiver. This will keep things secure inside of the enclosure.
Next I prepped the Enertion Space Cell battery by adding velcro to the top. I found three strips placed equally across the length of the battery was enough.
On the other side I added weatherstripping as a cushion. This side faces the skateboard deck so it’s important to have a little bit of cushioning to guard against vibrations.
Next I prepped the RunPlayBack enclosure with corresponding velcro strips for the battery, VESC and receiver. I’m really happy with the size of this enclosure and the two piece design. Everything fits like a glove, especially the VESC’s.
I carefully placed the Space Cell into the enclosure, making sure to align the power button, charge port and voltage display with the corresponding holes and connected the VESC’s with the Y-Harness. I also added a small flap of rubber as a cover.
The Carvon Hub Motor and wheels were next. I picked up some 1/4″ Khiro shock pads and 1.24″ DBS Dank Bolts to mount the trucks to the deck. Finally, with everything in place I secured the enclosure using #8-32 machine screws, washers and nuts from Home Depot.
Although my original DIY single hub eboard gave me the confidence to attempt another build, moving up to a dual build was no simple task. By doubling the major components, everything had to be bigger and beefier – from the choice of my deck to wheelsize to the enclosure. Once complete, I realized I created a beast – a literal land missle that dwarfs the nimbleness of my single hub board. I’m not quite sure I could use this as a daily cruiser but for the times when I have a lot of open road to let loose, this is the perfect build, especially as a weekend warrior.
However, no matter how you slice it, moving up to a dual build isn’t cheap. Doubling the price of a VESC and hub motor presents a challenging value for those who are looking to get into DIY. Starting on a single hub build is more affordable and will definitely give you the confidence to move into a dual build if you crave more power.
In my first article, I said that building a DIY electric board made me a better person and I still believe it. In only 2 months I’ve been able organize a local DIY eskate group called A2ESK8, engage in interesting conversations with the online DIY community as well as local tech and maker folks who find electric longboards fascinating. Right now the big barrier of entry is the price. But like drones and other electric vehicles, once manufacturing costs go down and battery technology improves, eboards will become more accessible. Until then, pushing the limits of emerging technologies is a blast and now that I have a second board, it will make that experience even better. So whose ready to ride? #A2ESK8
Last week Arbor Day Pictures aka Nancy Mitchell, Hannah Mitchell and myself participated in YPSI24, a 24 hour shootout competition where we won second place amongst 40+ entries. It was an awesome experience to witness so many filmmakers of all levels express themselves using a variety of video techniques within experimental and narrative storytelling.
However, with a 24 hour time limit and a 3 person crew including myself (2 of whom were acting on camera), it was vital that I assemble an equipment package that worked for our story. Too much gear and I’d risk a lot of unncessary setup and breakdown time. Too little gear and I’d lose the visual storytelling that was essential for characterization. We were super honored to win an award and it may not have happened without our 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit. So here’s how we did it.
A few weeks before the shoot, we bounced around some preliminary ideas, some that either proved too difficult or too time consuming. Finally, the night before YPSI24, Nancy assembled all of our initial ideas into a creepy story about supernatural revenge. Next, I fleshed out the summary into a rough, 5 page script which would be our blueprint for the day. We all agreed that the concept would remain loose in order to incorporate the YPSI24 “ingredients” that we would be given. Creating a script as a guide for our shotlist/schedule was definitely a critical part of our planning.
For Camera A support I went with the heavy duty yet light and portable 8.5lb ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs which are typically built for jib cranes but work great with a Manfrotto fluid head and Konova K3 slider as they can hold up to 80 lbs. It even has a super convenient mid level spreader for added stability and adjustable rubber or spiked feet for all kinds of terrain. At $120 shipped, the ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs are an exceptional deal for the quality.
Lighting was very minimal as we were mostly daylight dependent. For the ending interior shots we used a pair of budget friendly ePhoto 600 CN600HS LED Lights with Kayo Maxtar V-Mount Li-Ion Batteries. The Kayo Maxtar is a new addition to my kit and one of the best V-Mount battery options out right now. Fully charged, the Kayo can power these lights for up to 6 hours straight. Very impressive!
To keep our sound kit as light and simple as possible, I went with the Zoom H1, Rode Micro Boompole, Rode VideoMic Pro, Aspen HQ-S Lav Mic, P&C Handgrip and an audio extension cable. Our rule was that whoever wasn’t on camera would be the Sound Recordist. With some easy to remember sound recording basics and having a kit this simple ensured that no one would have to be a pro to capture quality sound.
THE CAMERA A KIT
Having some early success with the latest Panasonic V-Log color profile, I decided to use my workhorse GH4 mounted with a Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and classic Canon FD glass – 20mm, 28mm, 50mm and 35-105mm. This combination would create a vintage, lived-in look that I thought would be perfect for a horror film.
I kitted out my GH4 shoulder rig with a Varavon Armor Cage, Aputure V-Screen field monitor, Fotga follow focus, Ikan Tilta V-Mount Plate and a Kayo Maxtar BP-GL175 Li-Ion Battery. With the Kayo, I was able to power the Aputure monitor and use it as a counterweight for the GH4. There’s also a convenient USB port located on the side which kept my iPhone charged at every location.
THE CAMERA B KIT
Our story included many scenes of walking through the woods so I wanted to incorporate gimbal tracking shots without having to spend any time balancing or breaking down the Camera A Kit. For this situation I went with the Ikan Fly-X3 Gimbal paired with the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera aka the $80 Chinese GoPro. Since these walking shots would include both Hannah and Nancy in the shot, it would leave me as the Sound Recordist. The Ikan Fly-X3 doesn’t have a 1/4-20 thread so I rigged a Joby GorillaPod to the handle and fitted it with a Rode VideoMic, Zoom H1, an audio extension cable and a pair of lightweight Auvio Headphones. With the shotgun mic I was then able to capture realtime location sound while also performing stable gimbal shots while walking backwards through the woods. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Another interesting rig we built was an Indy Mogul style DIY 3rd person POV action camera backpack. Designed with cheap PVC pipe from Home Depot, we mounted an Oben Mini Ballhead and the Xiaomi Yi on the rig to create the over the shoulder look during the “search” scenes in the woods. With the Xiamoi’s Wi-Fi app, I would be able to monitor the shots while giving direction to Nancy. We wanted to present an unusual sense of vertigo during these scenes since her character would become more desperate as day turned to night.
THE CAMERA C KIT
For a 24 Hour Shootout, it would be tempting to use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional as a shortcut for production value but we didn’t want to go that route. Our initial thought was that an aerial would take up valuable time that we could put towards characterization. Also, because of the hazardous weather conditions on the shoot day, flying a drone would prove too risky. However, nature was on our side when we had a small 10 minute window of clear weather. It was a tricky manuever as I had to fly through a 10 foot clearing in the trees towards a height that revealed just enough of the forest without showing any residential homes or highways. I fitted the Phantom 3 with a Polar Pro Polarizer Filter to prevent glare off the water and was able to get the shot in just two takes. However, flying the drone back to home point was nerve racking as I clipped a few small branches due to the wind and unstable GPS lock. Luckily I had Nancy and Hannah as my spotters on each side of the clearing to prevent the Phantom from going down into the water. The shot was definitely worth it as it created a vast sense of exploration for the Alice character, establishing the forest as a kind of supernatural playground.
THE POST PRODUCTION
We finished our last shot at about 11:30pm and after ingesting all the footage in Adobe Premiere, post production began at 12 midnight. By this time, I was exhausted but not completely tapped out. I knew that once I got past the hump of assembly I would go into creative mode, driven by pure adrenaline. With the help of a large iced coffee I finished assembly by 2:00am and edited straight until 9:00am. The GH4 V-Log setting was especially helpful in color correction for each clip. After dropping in the Panasonic Varicam 35 LUT, I simply adjusted exposure within Lumetri Color and did my best to match the Xiaomi Yi and Phantom 3 footage.
As the sun started to rise and the 10:00am delivery deadline looming, I did a few last touches and exported the file onto a flash drive. Since the YSPI24 rendevouz was a half hour away, I wasn’t able to do a final preview. At this point, I was completely delirious and just grateful that we completed our film.
YPSI24 was an insanely inspiring good time. From the cordial and energizing meetup with our fellow filmmakers to the hack-a-thon like shooting experience to the final screening at the 500 seat venue, YPSI24 reminded me of why I got into video in the first place. It wasn’t to win awards or make commercials. It was to tell a story using a language that didn’t require an army of people pontificating about the laws of Cinema. It’s a relief to know that the DIY spirit that’s shaped both my personal and professional life has never left me. Hashtag #setlife is not enough. Old traditions and new technologies are not enough. It’s the communal experience of being vulnerable with people that I care about which matters most. Check out our 2015 YPSI24 short “Always Alice” below and remember to always stay inspired!
Always Alice (2015 YPSI24)