Dueling Design Houses

Two Production Houses for cultish climbing videos are dueling it out and producing some of the coolest and emotive sports videos I’ve seen. The two houses are called Big Up Productions and Louder Than 11. The videos they produce are highly stylized to be simultaneously chilled out, powerful, and bragadocious. Watch just a few videos and you’ll get a sense for the type of music they tend to use – something you might expect to hear in a Amsterdam coffee shop or at a Thai island backpacker hammock farm.

One thing I notice with these videos are the overlay effects, often introducing text and such. If you’ve watched a news story you’ve seen how different broadcasts introduce people’s names and titles, it’s usually a bar across the bottom of the screen with text on top of it. It shows up and disappears with little fanfare, and often that’s a good thing. If you watch the daily show you also see a lot of photoshopping technology mixed in with stories, but aside from the opening sequence there is not too much computerized video effects. Most of the progress we see in video effects is devoted to movies, trying to make things look real. We also see a lot of animation on FOX Sunday nights or South Park but not as much, I think, in the use of video effects to add info or feeling to good cinematography the way these climbing videos use it.

Louder Than 11 uses some of the coolest effects I’ve seen for bringing in text to describe settings, routes, and people. These are often highly stylized and thematically specific to each video. In the video below they introduce the names and grades of the problems using an effect that I think they should patent. I will try to describe it here. It begins with two circles, one smaller and within the other. They appear over a portion of the video, say a rock or the sky, and take on the frame of that rock or sky when they appear though the rest of the video continues to move. This helps draw your attention to the element. The circles spin in opposite directions quickly at first, then slowing text shoots out from their center. Next they begin to spin in the opposite direction and suck the text back in. The images inside in the circles end up matching the video at the point they finish spinning. I can’t really explain it. I think they should start making powerpoint animations.

Big Up Productions is creating a franchise with their Reel Rock films that come out annually. One common effect they feature uses the incredible scenery the sport as the back drop for text and logos that seem to float over the landscapes. They also start on shots very far and zoom quickly in to the person who was initially unnoticeable. One clip that has me watching over and over again combines Radical Face’s Welcome Home with Ueli Steck’s speed record assent of the Eiger’s North Face (below). I love the cinematography when the song hits its climactic chorus. The angle of the slope is clean and perfect, his silhouette struggles up the mountain toward the relief and light of the ridge and the southern face. So cool.

I’m not sure if it’s a personal affinity to these videos and their aesthetic or if they are intriguing to more people, including non-climbers. People into the sport sometimes call these videos climbing porn. They’re shot in beautiful settings, they feature suspenseful situations and often young, fit people. There is not really anything erotic about them but I do think they are nice to watch. In any event, these two production companies are dueling to produce a vibe as well as documentation of the sports and places they love. We all win I think. Let me know if you get stuck watching more than you intended.

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