Monday, May 7, 2012

TR-250 Build Video: the making of


For the last few years I've been lucky enough to snag a new Transition each year through their grassroots/dealer program. Each winter I'd research the build for weeks, finally place my order, and after a torturing wait, eventually come home from work to a big fat cardboard box filled with each individual part necessary for a new ride. Christmas as a kid has nothing on unpacking and building a new bike.

Last year I picked up a TR250 hot off the presses and thought it might be cool to do some sort of video of the build. I ended up doing a stop-animation type video made up of thousand of photos all lined up  and played in succession at a high speed. It turned out pretty cool and ended up getting a pretty descent amount of love around the Internet . After placing the my order this year, the thought crept in, "What can I do to one-up last year's build video?" My initial thought was that I couldn't. And then an idea came (from a little red devil standing on my left shoulder). How do you one-up a stop-motion video of building your bike?

With a stop motion video of the bike building itself.

I immediately wished I hadn't had the idea. I was hammered with how cool it would be if we pulled it off but how torturous it would be to to do it well. Of course, like they say on Inception, once the idea is planted, it's pretty much impossible to get rid of. So it was on. Unlike last time, when I set up my GoPro to take pictures every two seconds while I built my bike, this was going to take multiple cameras, multiple people, and a decent amount of planning. I enlisted my fellow Binary mates (Jarel and Wes) and we started to pull together a plan.


According to our plan, my bike would arrive Friday and we'd shoot the video in Jarel's garage Friday and Saturday before Jarel flew to Saudi Arabia for work early the next week. If we didn't get it done before he left town, it wasn't going to happen. It's prime riding season here in AZ, and I wasn't going to let that bike sit in a box until he came back. So, as any self respecting fanatic would do, I checked my bike's tracking number on my phone roughly every ten minutes all week. My excitement spiked when finally, on Friday morning, tracking showed the package was out for delivery.

Imagine my devastation when I checked the tracking number at lunch and it said "Undelivered. No one home."

The package required a direct signature, I was thirty miles away at work, and my wife had to step out for a minute. Just my luck for FedEx to make an attempt just then. Enduring the rest of my workday was an impressive display of discipline, I must say. I drove home in utter frustration, wanting to chew somebody out but knowing I was the only one to blame. I called FedEx three times to see if there was a way to get the bike. Nope.

About halfway home, I had the impression
to start watching for FedEx trucks, with this vague theory that if I saw one, I'd be willing to follow it for some distance. I live in the outskirts of the city, and there's really only one road back, so I knew the FedEx truck with my bike nestled in the back would have to go back the way I was coming. But the thought that it would be going back now, six or seven hours after trying to deliver my bike, was ludicrous.

At one intersection I saw a FedEx Home Delivery truck. I was tempted to follow, but I was pretty sure that was a separate service from FedEx Ground. So I pressed on. About a mile from home, I saw a Fedex truck turning left onto the main road at an intersection to my right. It was about to head the direction I had come from. I thought about throwing a U-turn, dismissed it, thought again, and flipped my CR-V around like a german sports car. Was I really chasing a FedEx truck hoping it would have my bike in it and I would be able to get it? Maybe I need an intervention. I was embarrassed, but excited.

I really hoped the truck would turn into one of the small neighborhoods branching off the main road. How far would I follow this truck back into town? What if it was all done and was heading back to the warehouse? Would I follow it for that long? I didn't have to wonder long. After maybe a mile, the truck turned into a winding neighborhood. I followed, keeping pace as we wound our way into the depths of a housing development. Finally, the truck pulled to a stop in front of a house. I stopped a bit back, wondering if I was making the FedEx guy nervous. When the driver came to the back of his truck and opened the right-hand rear door, I could see one measly little box sitting in the back of the truck. My heart sunk, but I held on to hope. I jumped out and walked up the man. As I did, the view behind the closed left door opened and there, against the side of the truck, was a big fat box with "Transition" plastered on the side. In a fit of disbelief, I babbled out some explanation of how that was my bike. In a  daze I showed the delivery man my ID, pulled the box from the truck, and then turned to my car.

How was I going to put a bike box in my CR-V?

It took a few minutes, but I figured it out. Then the real work began.




I've dabbled in stop-motion before, but I knew this was going to be a far more laborious undertaking. We had run a few test shots and had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, but we really had no idea how it would turn out. All I knew was that a long night was ahead. After clearing a space in Jarel's garage, we set up lights, laid the background on the floor, and figured out a way to mount my DSLR to the ceiling of his garage. It involved some holes in the drywall, a tripod, and some bungy chords. We ran a video line out of the camera, down the wall, and into a TV so we could see what we were doing, ran some more test shots, and then got to work, all three of us moving a few parts each, bit by bit, using a remote to snap a photo after each move, until the bike was built. Somewhere in the early morning hours we shifted to the riding portion of the video, which had a learning curve of it's own. I spent enough time on my left side in awkward poses that I was pretty sore the next day. We finally finished shooting and made it to bed around 5 a.m.




The next day I was able to get a rough idea of how the footage turned out with quick import into Final Cut. I was pretty stoked about the build portion, but the riding portion wasn't quite up to snuff, so we shot it again. It was then that Wes had the idea that we should have the parts explode off the bike at the end. I hated the idea. I couldn't believe they wanted to tear the bike down after building in the most difficult way possible. But, I knew it would be a great way to end. So we unbuilt the bike, picture by picture, and then we built it back up proper. And yes, I have had a chance to ride the bike that I built twice. And I love it.

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