BTS “The Flat Earth” with Ty Evans | Mantra VR
We take a deep dive into “The Flat Earth” short film, a groundbreaking passion project from visionary Director Ty Evans. It features skate legends Jamie Foy, Chase Webb, Carlos Iqui, Mike Pulizzi and Cody Lockwood. Mettle interviews Ty, and finds out what it was like to hit the road for several months and just go for it. Hint: it was awesome. The film has been a big success too, hitting #1 on the Sports Charts on iTunes.
Everything aligned perfectly for Ty in this production. He collaborated with some of the best skaters in the world, had amazing camera equipment and production tools. Ty used Adobe Creative Cloud with the original SkyBox 360/VR tools (now part of Adobe CC 2018), and Mantra VR for all the VXF.
The Flat Earth | Trailer
Q&A with Ty Evans, Director, The Flat Earth.
Nancy Eperjesy: You have quite a history of producing outstanding Skate Films. How did you decide on this film? Was it “let’s just get out there and do this”?
Ty Evans: Absolutely. I started my production company “Ghost Digital Cinema” about 2 years ago, and I’ve been doing commercial work to pay the bills and and that’s when it just dawned on me, that I had all this gear, and I’ve made so many of these films over the years, but never for myself.
N: Is most of your commercial work tied into skate films?
T: I still do some skate stuff. But most of my commercial work is outside the skate industry.
When I first started Ghost, we did a project with Apple and Nike. I’ve directed a commercial for Chevy that aired on the Super Bowl. I have definitely tried to do work outside the skate world on work that pays the bills. I love doing that too.
N: It must make it that much more special. To work on a film as a personal project
T: Yes. It’s a real passion project, as there’s no real financial gain out of making these films. For me it’s a fun time to go out and make a pure form of filmmaking. It’s just something I love doing and it’s also helping the skaters further their careers. And ultimately, I hope that some people who see the film would want to hire me for commercial work.
N: You figured out some pretty creative ways to use your camera gear.
T: Traditionally in filmmaking you have your basecamp and your crew and your camera package. I have a van that I’ve built out with all my camera gear and we have a big selection of tools to pick from, so it’s like a mobile basecamp. When we get somewhere, we figure out how we’re going to shoot it and what kind of tool we want to use, whether it’s a drone, or a ShotOver camera attached to the front of the car, or slow motion with the Phantom Flex. And now bringing 360° cameras into the fold, we decide how we want to bring those into the shot. It’s always about having the biggest palette to choose from. I think that’s the best way to approach it.
N: So how much of the film did you shoot with 360 cameras?
T: The last couple months we dove into 360 cameras. Michael Mansouri at Radiant Images was super helpful in getting us set up. We originally used the Obsidian by Kandao. We brought that with us for a couple weeks, and then we switched over to the GoPro Omni. The idea was to use it for the intro to the film. The title of the film, “The Flat Earth” has nothing to do with the conspiracy theory, but is used as an oxymoron. We used the Mettle tools to illustrate the concept, especially in the opening sequence where we see a little planet. It all came together organically.
N: It really works well for the intro. It looks like you really got your Mantra on for the effects!
T: Once I discovered Mantra VR and saw what was possible, it was the missing link between the 360 camera footage and the look I wanted. In each film I’ve made over the years, I try to bring something new to the table, and this was it. The way I could take my 360 footage and express my vision with Mettle Mantra VR tools was groundbreaking.
Mettle Tech Behind “The Flat Earth” | Ty Evans
N: We love what you did! At the end of the day, it’s all about creative expression. How did you use Mantra?
T: When I edit, I am listening to the music, looking at the waveform of the song, and trying to complement the sound visually. So to be able to use Mantra in Premiere Pro, in a timeline, in realtime and make adjustments and instantly see the results was key. It just sped up things for me. Traditionally it would have taken longer, if I had to go though After Effects. It’s a 360/VR plugin, but it worked so well in a 2D space as well. I was just so amazed that this plugin even existed.
N: Well guess what, there’s an update that adds flat support. We’ve been getting requests from customers for that feature. So let’s step back to the beginning. How long did this project take? How long were you on the road?
T: We started shooting in May 2016, and we finished shooting in August 2017. We were in the editing bay from August until November. It went live on on November 12th 2017.
N: What was it like being on the road?
T: I love being on the road. It’s the most amazing way to experience our world. You meet so many great people and get a good taste of life. We have a 15-passenger van with a SHOTOVER F1 on the front of it, and we look like storm chasers. It’s so funny hearing what people think it is; is it a microwave, a smoker, etc. When we tell them we’re driving around making a skate film they just kind of scratch their heads.
N: So most people won’t guess it’s a camera. That is pretty surprising! But you must often draw a crowd when you’re shooting.
T: The level of skateboarding that these guys are doing is so amazing. It often gets people watching. It’s pretty amazing to see it all.
N: When I was watching the film, I kept waiting to see someone fall – sorry – some of the stunts look so difficult to do. How dangerous is it?
T: As skateboarding progresses and evolves, these guys are pushing the limits of what’s possible. Luckily these guys are so well-trained that they can get out of precarious situations. We’ve been making skate films since mid-90’s, and the majority of the guys get away scott free.
N: Is it hard to get your shot?
T: Not really. It’s the same as any other sport. This is what these guys do day in day out. It’s such a fun thing to do, this is what these guys live for. There’s something more to it than just riding a skateboard. You talk about runners high. There’s something there when these guys push the limits of their physical abilities to accomplish something that’s never been done before.
Ty Evans adjusting the SHOTOVER on the van.
The SHOTOVER in action.
N: So it’s looks like a lifestyle more than a sport. You shot in 6K for parts of the film. Did you master at 4K?
T: The majority of the film was shot at 5K with a Red Epic. We did shoot some on 6K and 8K. We transcoded everything to 2K ProRes Proxy We edited in that timeline and then we onlined our raw files to UHD 3840×2160. That’ where we brought in the Red R3d files and the Phantom .Cine files. From there, since we shot 5K, we could still do the pan and scan technique.
We had a 12 core Mac Pro. We had a lot of effects. We had Mantra on top of resizing, color, on top of different layers and effects. We would render segments at a time. We would queue it up in Media Encoder, so we could see how long it would take to render each frame. If we got an error, we could see the actual frame that was causing a problem. Then we’d go onto our timeline and see what was happening on that frame and try to correct anything that could be causing an issue.
N: Is this your highest res film so far as far as your raw assets?
T: We’ve done little projects before in 8K, but this was the first time we’ve done a film with 8K material mastered to UHD.
N: How did you find that? Is it more of a challenge?
T: I think working with transcodes at smaller scales with a powerful computer really helpful.
We had two 12-core Mac Pros, one 8-core Mac Pro, an iMac, and a Mac Book Pro all connected to our media raid. And then we used the Sanlink2 Thunder Bridge thunderbolt to 10 Gig ethernet connection. That worked really really well for us. Especially when we were in the proxy world, we were cooking. And then our main 12-core computer is what we used to do the final online.
Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro with Mantra VR for effects.
N: Do you think it was worth going to 6K and 8K and going to 360 on your project?
T: Absolutely. I bought an LG 4K OLED 65 inch TV, razor thin. I watched the UHD that I spit out as an H264 with 100 data rate, and it looked beautiful, it looked insane. It’s crazy. Seeing it at that level
We played it at a theatre in 4K, and in my opinion the OLED TV looked better. The painstaking process of working in higher rez is night and day to HD.
N: One of the cameras you used shot 1,000 fps – the Phantom. What was it like for the skaters to see their moves in slow motion.
T: It was a love/hate relationship. If something is slightly off, it will show in the shot. Other times, they would come over to watch what they had done, to see exactly how they could improve things, almost like an Olympian watching slo-motion feedback to improve technique. I love the Phantom, I think it’s amazing to slow down time that much.
N: So how close to deadline were you tweaking the edit? That’s something I’m always curious about.
T: That was like hours. You need to turn in everything a good 6 weeks before it’s available, so we were tweaking things right up to the deadline.
N: Is there anyone that you collaborated with, who really helped you out?
T: Yes. Scott Connally (The Astronaut’s Guild) came over to my house and gave me a crash course in SkyBox and AVP and GoPro VR. I had shot in 360, and I called up Scott and said “Hey, I don’t really know what to do with this”. He has helped me out for years”. Ben Bernard (Mixed Lotus) told me about Mantra VR, which was in beta when I started, which turned out to be a key component in my software tools. By the time I was finishing up the film, I was using a release version of Mantra, since it had been launched. Jim Geduldick connected me with the guys at GoPro so I could get support with AVP, and they sent me the new Autopano Video 3.0 and that worked amazing. Those three people layed the groundwork for me.
And then of course our post team was crucial in making it all come together. Matt Henry helped me edit the entire film. He absolutely killed it and it was amazing watching him learn and progress with these new tools. Cleigh Reed came on and helped dial in our workflow and did all the amazing color. The new IPP2 from RED was night and day from the old color science. Mike Poore and Sam Sosnowski came on the last couple of weeks and helped with all the last minute editing as well. It was seriously the best team I could have ever asked for. The final week was insane; it was all of us in a 15 x 15 room staying up with no sleep to the final push. Im glade we made it out alive!
N: That’s amazing. Congrats again on your film!
Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro with Mantra VR for effects.
Ty Evans is Founder of Ghost Digital Cinema. Self-taught, Ty is known for his breakthrough work over the last 2 decades, including Transworld Skateboarding videos such as Feedback (1999) and Modus Operandi (2000). And more recently Pretty Sweet (2012), and We Are Blood (2015). He has also co-directed several films with Spike Jonze.