Making the Skateboarder Documentary Waiting for Lightning

Exclusive interview with director Jacob Rosenberg on how he created the film using Adobe Premiere on HP workstations with Canon 5D MkII DSLR cameras, 5K RED Epic

By Robin Rowe

Waiting For Lightening, jumping China's Great Wall on a skateboard

Waiting For Lightning, jumping China’s Great Wall on a skateboard

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 2012/12/13 – “Our primary shooting cameras for our interviews were Canon 5D MkII,” says Waiting for Lightning director and Bandito Brothers CTO Jacob Rosenberg. “We had three cameras per shoot on Waiting for Lightning. We had Super8 film, Hi8 video, 34” video, DigiBeta, VHS, 8mm video, ProRes 1080p film transfer files and 5K RED Epic footage. We use HP Z820 and Z1 systems as well as HP mobile workstations. Software-wise we use Adobe Production Premiere, Avid and a handful of visual effects software tools as well as Blackmagic Da Vinci Resolve.”

The Bandito Brothers’ new film Waiting For Lighting, about skateboarder Danny Way, premiered in ten U.S. cities on December 7th and is available for iTunes download.

“Danny Way has always held a unique spot in the cannon of skateboard legends, but having known and grown up with him, I was privy to all the social, psychological things that made his legendary status so incredible and ultimately narratively compelling,” says Rosenberg. “As a skateboarder, I am a fan of any documentary that delves into the skateboard world, but as a filmmaker I am fascinated with psychology, drive and personal stories.”

Waiting for Lightning, HP and Adobe are sponsors of the Machima Film Festival. Anyone who votes for his or her favorite film during the festival is entered to win a Z1 system ($5k value) or a year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud ($600 value). HP is giving away three Z1 workstations. Voting for a favorite film using the hashtag #MIFF enters you in the contest. The winner will be announced on December 14th.

The Bandito Brothers has used HP and Adobe technologies in the creation of their previous movies, such as the action film Act of Valor. “The biggest challenges on Waiting for Lightning were ones that we have grown accustomed to on documentaries like this,” says Rosenberg. “Previously we undertook a massive post workflow for Dust to Glory…organizing, digitizing and converting all the various frame sizes and frame rates that exist. We used Avid for our main editorial, but we conformed and onlined and  finished using Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. Premiere ended up accepting all of these camera formats in their raw codecs and frame rates so it was easy to tweak the online to get the best result.”

“CS6 is just much more peppy than it has ever been,” says Rosenberg. “The editing shortcuts are more sophisticated and Media Encoder is used almost all day everyday. We also had a mildly sophisticated animated title technique so using dynamic link we could actively update and affect animations and titles in After Effects or Photoshop and have those changes ripple through our master online in Premiere Pro.”

Canon media was downloaded on set and the digital files renamed based on the camera number, subject and clip, e.g., DWAY_A01.

“Our primary infrastructure at Bandito is PC-based so the Z1 fit perfectly into our platform preference,” says Rosenberg. “It is has become increasingly cost prohibitive to consider using the MacPro and iMac systems for true high film workflows. The fact that the Z1 can be updated with drives, RAM and has very fast processing power was a big plus for us. The Z1s have become great all-in-one workstations for editing a specific type of job or going into the field and wanting a smaller, more contained processor footprint.”

Every editing and VFX workstation at Bandito Brothers has an HP DreamColor monitor  calibrated to Rec709 color. “We graded the film using Resolve and that specific grading system can be mapped to our 2K Chrystie projector or 1080p 444 Panasonic plasma monitor,” says Rosenberg. “I really like the size of the Monitor on the z1, for editing HP and even 4K material you can do a lot without feeling like you need an extra monitor.” The Z1 machines at Bandito Brothers sport three USB ports and some have two internal drives in a RAID configuration.

“One of the biggest challenges in creating the HP Z1 Workstation was finding a way to incorporate all of the crucial components of a traditional workstation into an all-in-one design,” says HP Workstations global product marketing manager Mike Diehl. “On top of all that, we made it quiet and tool-less. The Z1 is truly a first of its kind in the workstation market. In order to make this a true workstation, without compromise, we had to include integral elements such as an Xeon processor, ECC memory, professional 3D graphics, and performance storage including RAID support.”

HP engineers overcame challenges and made innovations in creating the Z1.

“The Z1 uses an industry standard mobile graphics spec [MXM] which is usually screwed down to a large notebook’s motherboard and chassis,” says HP workstations senior mechanical engineer Owen Richard. “In the Z1, the MXM card is bundled into a cooling assembly that had to have enough cooling capacity to prevent its fan from running too loud, snap in without tools, be a major design component in the system, and be held securely enough to not wear out its gold contact fingers during our vibration tests. We tried a lot of different card retention strategies. We strive to provide our customers with workstation systems that will remain reliable for five years, far beyond the typically available consumer or enterprise systems.”

Waiting for Lightning is the inspirational story of visionary skateboarder Danny Way. The film follows his journey across many cultural and ideological boundaries to attempt the impossible, to jump China’s Great Wall on a skateboard. From the producers of  Act of Valor, Step into Liquid and Dust to Glory, Waiting for Lightning is a Bandito Brothers production in association  with  DC Shoes, directed by Jacob Rosenberg, written by Bret Anthony Johnston, edited by Carol Martori and produced by Max Leitman, Darryl Franklin, Jacob Rosenberg and Hana Ripperger-Suhler. The film features interviews with Travis Pastrana, Laird Hamilton, Rodney Mullen, Mat Hoffman, Ken Block, Rob Dyrdek and Tony Hawk. It’s released by Samuel Goldwyn.

Waiting for Lightning is showing in select theaters and available on iTunes.

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