By Tyler Doepker
For my essay, I am going to explore all of the different aspects that are involved in making a wakeboard film. I will explore the template most films follow; they are similar to most other films because there is a build up to a climax. However, they are different because there is no story line. Next, I will go into the soundtrack of the film. Having the proper song choice for each section is very important and can make or break each section. After that, I will discuss the different filming techniques that cinematographers incorporate into the films and their benefits. Finally, I will give my opinion of where I think the wakeboard film will be heading.
First, I will discuss the template of a wakeboard film. In every wakeboard film there will usually be three important sections. The first section of the film needs to be a good one. This section needs to draw a viewer in; the filmmaker will either make a creative opening, or have one of the top rider sections first. There is an equal share of creative opening and rider section openings. With the creative openings, the one that stands out the most was a song and dance routine with all the wake boarders in “Global Warning.” There have also been different stunts that have not been done before. An example of this is in Rewritten, the Hyperlite team film. They had one boat send out rollers and then 10 other boats drive perpendicular to it to create a double up. All of the riders did the same trick for the first hit, then after that it just showed them all hitting the double up in a row and doing different tricks. That scene was impressive because it takes perfect timing to hit a double up and they had 10 people do it in a row at least 10 different times. If they do choose to put a single riders section, it is usually the second or third best section in the film. Again this is because they want a section that will captivate the viewers so they continue to watch.
After the opening, the intensity usually gets turned down a little. I am not saying that the tricks they are doing are not at the same caliber, they might just be a lesser known rider or a new up and comer. In these parts they will also show clips of different trips that the riders have gone on or different rail sections. These vacation clips usually don’t have as good of wakeboarding, however the back drop to where they are wakeboarding make these scenes equally as interesting. The rail sections are hard to make a focal point of the film, unless it is something so crazy and big that nothing like it has ever been done before. Rail sections are hard to pump up in the film because it is so technical. The average viewer does not know how hard it is to hit rails. The fact that the riders make it look effortless, does not help make it more appealing to the average viewer. If the viewer does know how hard and technical rail riding is, they would appreciate it and could view that as the main section of the film, however they need to make it appealing to the masses so more main stream tricks becomes the focus of the film. Also, if the film is longer than average, which is about 30-40 minutes, there will usually be a big attention grabbing section at about the half way mark. This section is usually a big name rider doing hard tricks to get the viewers back into the film.
At the end of the film, the last section is usually the best. This section will usually be given to the most notable rider in the film. They will be doing the hardest tricks, and the craziest stunts. The last riders section in the film is usually there to end the movie with a bang. Getting the last section can be very beneficial for a rider’s career. They are often pretty well known already, but getting the last section can catapult them to the top of the wake industry. The last section will be the most fresh in the minds of the viewers and that can lead to a larger fan base, which can lead to more sales of their products. It can also lead to more publicity from the hype of the film. There are even some riders who only rely on film parts and don’t compete at all.
There are many different types of music out there, and picking the right music for each section is very important. For the most part each type of rider has their own type of music that accents their riding best. Of course there will always be exceptions to these grouping, but I feel for the most part these groupings hold true.
West Side Riders often have rap music playing during their sections. Most of West Side Riders come from California and have strong “street” influence. Their street influence makes them concentrate more on style than technicality, they would rather look cool doing easier tricks than looking sketchy doing technical tricks. I think that their style also influences their music choices, which is usually mellow rap. I think the rap aspect caters to them going big because rap lyrics are usually pretty intense, and the mellow beats cater to the fact that they are going for style and not the hardest tricks.
Grooms usually have up-tempo exciting music playing during their sections. Grooms are the young up and comers, usually in their first or second film parts. The young guys coming up are from all different backgrounds, their influences are also all over the place. Their riding styles usually vary quite a bit as well. However, they do have one thing in common; they are all looking to generate excitement about themselves in the wake industry. Out of all the different types of rider’s music selections, this is the one that holds true just about every time. If there is up-tempo music playing while they are riding, it will leave an impression that they are an exciting rider to watch.
Free riders do not compete in contests; they make their name from their film parts and other publications. Free riders take the West Side Riders mentality to the extreme; they always have the best style in their video parts. They often do tricks that intermediate riders can do, but they do them with so much style that they look better than just about any advanced trick. Free riders usually have laid-back music, which works perfect with their riding style. Free riders are more worried about their overall style; they often sacrifice most difficult tricks, but add in their own style to make the trick their own. The laid-back music that they have playing during their sections often lacks speed and intensity, but introduces their own unique sound to make it their own.
The heavy hitters that usually have the most notable section in the film usually have up-tempo music playing. They have the most exciting riding in the film and it would seem weird to have high intensity riding paired with any music that does not keep the intensity level up. The heavy hitters keep the tempo at a fast pace for the same reason the grooms do. They want the viewers walking away with a positive view on their section and think about how exciting it was. The only difference is that they already have a good name for themselves.
There are many different filming styles to consider when making a wakeboard film. Each of the different styles can show the trick in a different light, one way you shoot it can make the trick look average, and the same trick shot from a different angle can make it look completely different. That is why a trick may be shown from two or more different angles, or a trick clip may be edited together from two or more shots to get the desired shot. The cinematographers are often experimenting with different ways to film, but I will go through the main techniques they use now.
Filming from right in front of the rider being pulled on a tube from the same boat was a popular choice back when wakeboard film first started coming out. This method is still used in the modern films; however it is being used less and less. It gives the viewer a close up look to what the rider actually is doing during the trick. However, it does not show the amplitude of the riders very well. That is the main reason that it is not used as much anymore. With all the advanced in the technology in the wakeboard industry riders now fly much higher and farther, so shooting close up shots takes away from that. Another way they used to film was from in the same boat. This method often had water splashing in the front of the camera and it would also be very unsteady from the vibrations in the boat.
Filming from a tube evolved into shooting from a chase boat. This style is now the most popular choice of the cinematographers. It has the same benefits as the tube with being able to focus on the rider and really capture the whole trick. However, it can also stay far enough away to get a good view of the amplitude the riders are getting. Another advantage with a chase boat is that they can be as close or far away as they want. They also have the luxury of filming from either side or from straight behind.
Shooting from a helicopter is becoming more and more popular in wakeboard films. This method literally gives unlimited options for the angle of shooting each trick; they can do multiple takes and pick their favorite one. This method also gets rid of having to deal with the vibration from shooting in the boat. The major down fall to this option is that it is extremely expensive. Wakeboard films do not have a huge budget, so they cannot afford to shoot the whole film from a helicopter.
When shooting a rail segment there are a few other options you can use to film it. When it is possible setting up a boom is the best way. You can make sure the angles and framing is all right before you start shooting because the riders are hitting a stationary object. This method is smooth and consistent; however it can get over used. Another option is doing a panning shot from a stationary camera. The only downfall to this choice is if it is a long rail, it does not have a long focus shot where it is a good close up. The last option is mounting a camera on a zip line. This method gives a fresh look at what is happening; it is equivalent to the tube method for behind the boat. It can get a lot of good close ups of the board and you can see the technical side of the tricks. The down fall is also the same as shooting from the tube; you lose the amplitude of what is going on.
Wake cinematographers are always searching for new and innovative ways to film riders. For wakeboarding film enthusiast this is a good thing, films will also always be evolving. However, the era of feature length wake films is starting to fade out. With good cameras becoming less and less expensive, more and more people are putting together short viral videos. This is a bittersweet feeling for the viewers. On the one hand, they are getting more opportunities to watch their favorite riders, and it is in a timelier manner. On the other hand, sitting down and enjoying a compilation of the top wake boarders in the world is become less common. There is a bright spot for the fans that feel this way, when a new film comes out it usually has a much higher budget than in the past. This leads to higher quality films being produced that are more entertaining to the viewers.
Either way a person is to look at it; wakeboarding films are evolving at a rapid rate. However, the one thing that will always remain the same is there will always be fans anxiously awaiting these films to come out.
These photos are taken from the wakeboard film Defy. The top one has the cinematographer riding on a tube filming the rider. It shows how close they really are during this type of shot. The second photo is of the camera crew filming from a chase boat.
The first clip is the trailer for the film Defy, the most recent wakeboard film to come out. This clip incorporates many of the different filming techniques. It also does a good job of leaving the viewer wanting to see more. The second clip is Parks Bonifay’s section from the film “12 Honkeys.” It is arguably the best section in any wakeboard film. It is an older film so the quality is not as good; however, the cinematographer does a great job showing the amplitude of the trick. Also, the song chosen is perfect, the intensity of the song keeps up the intensity of the riding.