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A RED, a slider, an abandoned stadium: behind the scenes of Red Bull’s most popular video of 2015

So how do you go about filming BMX stunts in an abandoned sports stadium? Alex Horner filmed the video above for Red Bull in the abandoned Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Featuring 19-year-old BMX sensation Tyler Fernengel, the video that resulted has received nearly 5m views on YouTube. Here he describes how his RED camera package and trusty Trost slider helped him get the shots he needed.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.01.20 AM
Alex Horner on location at Pontiac's abandoned Silverdome

“I’ve shot a variety of projects with Red Bull over the years. This time, Ryan Taylor and I were approached to co-direct a video that would bring life back into the abandoned Silverdome with BMX. And, we had the creative freedom to tell the story the way we wanted.

Action sports can be challenging to shoot because nothing is guaranteed. The rider may be having an off week, or they could get injured during filming. There’s only so much that we can control and plan for – including the weather. We had four days to shoot the Silverdome spot, and we had to be careful about how we did it. Most of the setups were physically taxing for Tyler, and we could only film two or three of them in a day. It wasn’t worth pushing him to land a trick on the first day if it meant he’d sustain an injury for the rest of the shoot. He was having troubles with his ankle to begin with, but he powered through it. To top it all off, the temperature was in the low 40s that week, which made a lot of things easier said than done.

A lot of the setups were elaborate and technical. There was no room for error – which can be stressful for an athlete, especially when the camera is rolling. But with Tyler, we were able to pull off a series of incredible shots. He’s the most professional athlete I’ve worked with.

That tripod plate is really screwed in, right? Right?
That tripod plate is really screwed in, right? Right?

Since the Silverdome doesn’t have elevators, we needed to be as light and nimble as possible. Our small crew consisted of the build team (ramps), producer, assistant camera, sound, gaffer, grip, drone operator, Ryan, and myself. We had a Sprinter van but also a golf cart on hand to shuttle gear to different sections of the stadium.

The RED Epic and Scarlet Dragon with Nikon primes and zooms fit the bill for this shoot. And, since YouTube supports 4K resolution, we had reason to finish in 4K. The Scarlet was our dedicated Movi M15 cam, which spared us from having to wait 45 minutes to switch cameras. The Trost slider was also a must-have. With that, we pulled off shots that would have otherwise involved a jib arm or a dolly.

Alex's Trost motion slider mounted on a dolly.
Alex’s Trost motion slider mounted on a dolly.

I bring the Trost Motion slider to just about every shoot. Most of the time it’s on a dolly with the Mitchell plate – usually a Super PeeWee III or a Fisher 10/11. I use it for slider moves, but also to reposition the camera quickly and easily. Instead of moving the dolly, I can slide the camera left or right with a simple adjustment. I also use it as an offset arm to shoot overheads, and through car windows – all while still being able to reposition the camera. It’s all the more useful because it has a variety of uses other than a slider.

My RED Epic Dragon weighs around 20-25 pounds once I have it built, but the slider handles it with ease and allows for smooth adjustments with zero play in the sled. While the Trost Motion can be on the heavier side for travel, I strap it to my F-Stop bag when hiking in remote locations. With a set of carbon Manfrotto sticks, head, a 100mm half ball, and a monopod for support, I can use it anywhere. It sets up in five minutes.

For lighting we squeaked by with two lamps running off Honda putt putts: the Arri 1.2 HMI, Joker 800 with octabox, and 1×1 LEDs. We were able to use natural lighting for most of our shots, except for the stairwell section, which was completely dark.

Without sugar coating it, the Silverdome shoot was a grueling four days in tough conditions. But when you have the right gear and it all works perfectly – cameras, sliders, lighting, and a solid crew – you end up with an awesome story to share. It’s all worth it.”

For more of Alex’s work check out his website here.

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