G33k on tour part 1 – Falling down, levelling up

I think I will remember Tuesday 8th Feb 2010 for quite a while. A series of experiences all came together at once and it made me feel incredibly fortunate. It is still work though!
The day was spent in Milton Keynes as part of a road trip feature for The Cool Stuff Collective. There was a very early 7am start, which given I live 120 miles away meant it was sensible to stay over the night before. It also meant I could catch up with my mate Mike Edwards, who normally ends up visiting us. It is amazing to hear his stories of keeping his racing motor bike team going, Mist Suzuki. As a team they do amazingly well with their results, but sponsorship and funding is always tricky. The passion, drive and results are stunning!. (Just in case anyone out there wants to get involved in making the team even more successful just give Mike a ping )
On Tour
So what was I there to do? I was there to talk about a couple of giant gadgets, to camera for the show. This in itself was a new experience. It is very different talking to Sy in the studio about something I have brought in, compared to addressing a camera directly about someone else’s stuff. The individual pieces to camera are also broken up into all sorts of orders, multiple takes, cut aways and given its a kids show some gags too. So take away the rest of what the day was about and I feel I personally levelled up in TV presenting, but there is always more to learn! It is different to the flow of standing on stage at a conference and presenting too. I tend to present, when on stage at a conference to an audience, a stream of consciousness. I have points to hit with a beginning middle and end, but very often I don’t recall exactly what I said. These mini bits to camera have to be much more punchy, whilst you get a few takes and goes that in a way puts more pressure on concentrating on the piece. The sort of filming we were doing also was being timed with some external events too. It sounds a doddle, turn up and talk, it is fun, but not what you expect it to be.
It is also a brilliant study in teamwork. The presenter is really just another paint on the canvas. The location, the look, the movement, the sounds, the paperwork/permissions and the vision of the combined piece all have to be combined by these guys.
They make the magic happen
Then of course afterwards all the footage goes off for editing, so lots of what is shot will not be used, but together everyone gathers enough extra material that can make a piece work.
So what were we filming? The aim was to create to on the road pieces about large gadgets and also do some action style filming.
The morning was spent indoor skydiving at Airkix. Yes that right I was thrown into an indoor skydiving chamber and had to learn quickly how to do it to some degree of competence, or fail horribly and make it funny for the camera. The production team at Archie had arranged for some demonstration flying too which included the World Champion, who held indoor and outdoor titles.
They went first, and to say we were all gobsmacked at the speed, precision and seeming madness of them would be an understatement. We did a filming tour of the building too, it is a massively impressive gadget generating huge wind forces.
I then got kitted up and my instructor got me going straight away. It is a surprising experience to suddenly be suspended in mid air. You body position becomes critical, you are a wing. The instructor stands, and sometimes flys in there with you. It is like Tai Chi at 150mph. You have to hold a position, both with and against the wind. The instructor uses hand signals to suggest moving arms, straightening legs. once a bit stable you can turn with the slightest twist of your shoulders. Straightening your body a little and you climb.
The chamber has a net you start on covering the lower section where the air is accelerated. There is a 30ft roof space and yes I did end up there in quite a surprising way, which I hope makes it to the film! Luckily it was so noisy I was not supposed to commentate or talk to camera whilst doing this too! It was incredible and a huge thanks to the Airkix staff and coaches for making the visit (and my first filming) go so well.
I did OK too I think 🙂

That would have probably been enough for the day, but…. we had some lunch and then went next door to the indoor snow slope, the SnoZone
So fresh from the rush of indoor skydiving and pieces to camera I jumped into my snowboarding gear and we spent a while on the slope doing more an more elaborate pieces to camera. John Marley (the director) was giving me some great advice on how to approach some of these. It was a brilliant lesson and I tried to absorb as much as possible. You can just talk to a camera and be natural, but there is a lot stagecraft to that. So I know there is lots more to learn.
After all the links, facts, figures, getting covered in snow I then had to see if I could still snowboard. It has been a good few years since I was up a mountain on a board.
Boarding View
When I was kitted out one of the guys there saw my g33k shirt and asked if I had a l33t too. Maybe I upgrade the shirt to l33t g33k?
However I thought I would still have the muscle memory and be able to give it a go. I have also been using the Kinect to exercise a lot, so i was confident that I had the strength (even after the sky diving) to get on with it. Still though it was a very nervous moment click the bindings and going down a moderately empty slope, but being filmed! Back heel turns were the easiest as usual but as I ride goofy and the filming was from the right hand side of the slope I was happy I could carve in. Though it all came back and I felt a toeside turn and it worked. I was pretty ecstatic 🙂 It may not be the smoothest riding but to drag that back after all the years and do it in a confined space with people definitely watch was a massive #win. We did not stop at snowboarding we did some headfirst sledging and bin lid sledging and a bit more boarding, then some more larking around shots. I probably should have stayed a while longer and boarded some more, but once we had wrapped the shoot I was pretty much done for. More mentally than physically. The day had been a blur of experiences, and I had to switch mental focus a lot. Another huge thanks to the guys at SnoZone
So yes that could be considered a jolly, and rather like all the other things that look like jolly on the outside, on the inside they are exciting, entertaining and hard work in completely different ways to how you might expect.

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