Winter X Games Aspen 2013

This is my 3rd year at the Winter X Games and finally, by the power of sponsorship dollars and manpower, we were a well oiled content producing machine. If you couldn’t tell by the TV coverage, GoPro had a huge presence this year.  We had about the same amount of media crew this year as last; however, this year we had big dollars going into the overall branding and location/time slots for our content & logo placements.  Also this year was the first year athletes were willing to wear the camera and throw down – some even during competition thanks to the light and small form factor of the HERO3 combined with the frame mount.

GoPro comes to X Games as 4 main entities that largely perform separately.  We have media (my spot), event team, social/PR, and sports marketing.  Media team works in direct relation with ESPN’s TV crew and staff.  We’ve got a trailer in the TV compound with around 12 of us total.  We had an equipment manager, producer, 2 editors, 2 assistant editors, a snow team leader, and 2 shooters.  I was more of a roamer this year helping out wherever I was needed.  Event team is responsible for driving the big truck out there, setting up the booth in the festival village and doing all of the local activations around the event and town.  Social & PR work somewhat with media but most of the time on their own getting photos and talking to local media & reporters.  The social team posts up to Facebook, Twitter, and other websites to generate buzz surrounding the events.  Lastly sports marketing are the guys that make deals with athletes and coordinate them for filming, athlete signings, and PR events.

Aside from amazing branding all over the event we also had a new all-star cast of athletes to bring in the new year.  Our snow team at X Games already consisted of Shaun White, Tom Wallisch, Tucker Perkins, Jamie Anderson, and Eric Willett.  This year we added ski superstar Bobby Brown, snowboard superstar Torstein Horgmo, women’s slopestyle champion Kaya Turski, snowboard slope athlete Sage Kotsenburg and a few others.  Working with ESPN and the athletes we scheduled to create 8 course previews that would air on TV during the related event.  Each course preview is around 50 seconds and is created to give the GoPro POV perspective of the course.  We did ski slopestyle with Bobby Brown, Women’s slopestyle with Kaya Turski, snowboard superpipe with Shaun White, snowboard slope with Sage and Eric, ski pipe with Tucker, big air with Torstein for board, PK Hunder for ski big air, and freestyle snowmobile with Justin Hoyer.  Alongside course previews we also gave athletes the option of wearing a camera during competition.  When they did it we’d run the footage directly to ESPN during the show, cut it, color it, and deliver it to TV to air the full run before the 2nd half of the competition.  This was the first time this has ever been done at Winter X Games and it was super cool.  Eric Willett wore it during slope qualifiers and big air finals, Tucker Perkins wore it during pipe qualifiers and finals, and Jen Hudak wore it during women’s pipe finals.

One of the most common question we got on our videos and at X Games was about everyone wearing the HERO3 with the new frame mount – it’s the super low profile mount that doesn’t waterproof the camera.  Truth be told, with the frame mounted on the front of the helmet of an athlete it’s finally low profile enough and light enough that it doesn’t bother them.  We had everyone from Bobby, Eric, Shaun, Sage, Torstein and Tucker throwing double flips wearing the camera on their head which was a huge first for us.  With the frame, the camera can actually tilt backwards against a QR buckle farther than the housing.  This enabled us to mount the camera directly to the front of a helmet (on the vertical part) and tilt the camera far back enough to get a good view.  Mounting this low also takes away the ‘Teletubby’ look of a GoPro sticking up on a helmet.  The cameras themselves are actually pretty resilient and if you’re not falling it will most definitely be fine in decent weather – just be careful of the lenses hitting hard surfaces.  We had a few of the cameras come off of helmets in the frame from falls and they were still fine after bouncing through the snow.  It’s probably not recommended at all times but if you’re confident in your skiing/boarding and the weather’s good there’s no reason not to rock a frame on the helmet.  I encourage people to go test out the weight differences in housing vs frame on your head.  For the average skier it’s not a big deal but if you’ve trained for double and triple flips and anything can throw you off, it’s a huge help.  Most of the time you’ll forget the frame/GoPro combo is on your head.

Out on course we had myself, Caleb Farro, Matt Cook, Trenton Pasic, and Zak Shelhamer filming and taking photos.  Matt Cook was hired as the main photographer on hill getting follow cam photos and shots of athletes around the games.  Caleb was the follow guy in charge of all of the follows on slope and big air.  He also did the follows of Shaun in the pipe preview.  I did some filming around the slope course as well as the course preview for Tucker in pipe. Zak is the leader of the snow crew so he knew where everyone was at all times.  He comes from a background of snowboarding and is best friends with Eric Willett so that relationship is easy to manage.  All of us pretty much knew what had to be done each day so it was an easy crew to work with.  The shooters got the stuff we needed and the editors were always on point getting their stuff done.

Aside from course previews we also had a pretty cool Shaun White slopestyle piece air on ESPN prime-time Friday night as well as on Nightline later that night.  We’ve got a production artist, Hart Houston, that solely focuses on filming and editing for Shaun & GoPro so he put that piece together.  I helped coach through the edit a bit here and there and did the coloring post-work on it.  The other two main editors for this trip were Connor Toumarkine – head editor of Shreddy Times (Mike Wilson Quadruple Backflip rope swing video anyone?) and Kyle Camerer.  They killed it on the course preview front – knocking it out of the park.  All I had to do this time around was peer over their shoulders every once in a while and give a thumbs up to approve.  Check out some of the work we all accomplished last week:

Video: Shaun White Slopestyle Piece - "You Wrote the Song"

Video: Bobby Brown Ski Slope Preview

Video: Eric Willett & Sage Kotsenburg Snowboard Slope Preview

Video: Torstein Horgmo Snowboard Big Air Preview

Video: Shaun White Snowboard Pipe Preview

  • Brian

    How many of your H3’s freeze up on you while filming important evens like X-Games? I have to take my battery out somewhat often with my one H3.

    • We are always using custom and untested FW so there is always the chance of freezing. Definitely had particularly higher percentage of freezes this time around – I want to say it has something to do with the updated WiFi build, but I can’t be sure. Either way definitely feel you, it’s not that awesome and I report everything directly back to the engineers asap

    • Agreed. I just got back from a snowmobile trip in the upper UP, and it froze up on me a few times while trying to shoot some pretty awesome scenery. I had to wait ’til we got to a bar to try and fix it.

  • Great summation of GoPro at Xgames. I loved seeing all of the GoPro contributed footage this year. The company is growing so fast. I wish I could be a part of it! I’ve loved using GoPros, and as soon as I get enough money, I’m going to get a Hero3. They’re so sick! The Hero2 is great, but with each new camera, the possibilities expand so much! You do great work, Abe. I love your USC vids, especially The Trip and the Parties in the Park. I’m still learning a lot in production and even more in post. Watching your work gives me something to shoot for. You’re definitely one of my media heroes! I’d love to work with you one day! Keep up the good work. I’ll try to somehow get you a link to my new videos from skiing at Breck a few weeks ago. Sill editing. Your projects have definitely influenced my style – though I’m still years behind! Take it easy man!

    • Thanks Kidron! Stoked to hear about your excitement! Shoot me your video once it’s done!

  • Aaron

    This was easily the best X Games and sports broadcast I have seen to date. So much GoPro footage, so much awesome branding and advertising, and the course previews were just insane to watch in full HD on my 60″! Job well done to everyone who made this the most enjoyable X Games ever to watch. One question though, what was the cord going into the LCDport of Shaun’s chested H3?

    • Thanks Aaron! For most of the course previews we’ll put a chesty on and mic them up (with a lav). The cable is just the standard USB to audio jack, then we have a mini lav that we’ll stick on the outside of the chesty strap.

      • Aaron

        Ahhh okay, thanks! And I def need to get a USB-Audio and the Frame for when I go snowboarding for my second time ever on the 9th! Never been skiing before though. And yeah I thought it was something plugged into where the LCDbacpac plugs into because of the angle haha. Keep up the good work!

  • Hey Abe! Again a great pleasure to read! Did the battery life get any better with the new FW? When I was on the slopes in January (around -5 degrees Celsius), they lasted for about 45 minutes I think (without WiFi). Had three with me (currently have four, ordered new one since), which gave me roughly the battery life of one HD2 battery. Really annoying when it’s snowing, it’s a craftsmanship not to get any moisture in the case when switching batteries haha. Are you going to do more tutorial videos anytime soon? And, don’t know if it is possible, it would be awesome to see a video about your life as a GoPro employee, ‘a day at the office’ or something! Thanks for all the information so far, and for your comment on my video! 🙂

    • Nah the battery life is pretty much at the mercy of battery power. There are other things that could potentially be done to help save battery but those would all be while the camera is not recording. Unfortunately the camera is such a powerhouse it uses so much more juice to film at such high res’s and frame rates. And yes working on tutorials. Got a lot of projects in the works. Thanks!

  • Great job Abe and everyone in GoPro team. It was amazing event. Even I’m from Slovenia I did a fly over there which took me around 15 hours just for the event, but guess what, it was worth it of every single dollar. Keep up the good work! Tho I got one question since I couldn’t ask you that there, on which camera settings did you record all those shots? 1080wide, 60fps? And what about protune, it was set on AUTO all the time? Thanks, and sorry for my ill english!

    • Wow! Far! A lot of our POV shots were done in 1440-48 with most of the rest of the shots in 1080-60. We also did a few follows in 720-120 narrow. We have a special production firmware that we use at events that is like protune on all the time.

  • Daniel As.

    Can i receive a GoPro? It doesn’t matter which one is, 1 2 3 :(. Now i wear a soft collar on my neck, but after i recover i want to take some shots and it will be a nice gift xD. Btw, Abe you have the most sick videos on youtube and I would like to join USC. Cheers

    • Haha sorry I don’t have any to give out at the moment! Stoked you want to go to USC though! Fight on!

      • Daniel As.

        What do i need to do to succed to USC?

  • Great job! Are you still editing in FCP 7? I can imagine that not being an ideal workflow for an event like this. I’m looking into fcp x right now for the ease of the background transcoding, although premiere and it’s after effects integration is nice as well..

    • Yeah we’re still in FCP 7 and its definitely getting very slow especially on timely turnarounds. My go to after FCp is premiere.

      • Thanks for replying! Will you transcode all media before going to premiere or work with the mp4 files straight out of camera?

  • Corey Alverson

    Awesome writeup, Abe! As a huge fan of GoPro it’s super cool to see a behind the scenes look to the major projects you guys are involved in. Keep ’em comin!

  • John M

    Abe, great write up man. I love your work. How were you guys able to get the GoPro footage from the athletes after their run so quickly? Did you guys just take the camera at the end of the run, and just hightail it to the trailer and edit like madmen? It left me bewildered to see that footage come up so quickly. Your team did an awesome job. r/gopro

    • Haha yes that’s exactly what we did. For pipe I’d be waiting in the finish corral, pop off his helmet, take off the camera and then literally run from the venue to the trailer, ingest the footage, cut it, stretch & color, then convert to ESPN’s DVCPro standard (which took forever to render even on our retina MBPs). The tricky part is we started 3D printing custom super low profile mounts for athletes that couldn’t click out but had to be unscrewed so that was always finicky to get out under high pressure while the athlete is waiting 🙂

      • John M

        Whoa, That sounds incredibly nerve-racking. Not to mention prepping files direct for broadcast. You guys pulled it out though. Bravo. Thanks for the reply!

  • Miguel Muniz

    Great videos Abe!! I’m not tired of seeing your videos again and again!! specially the USC ski videos!

    Greetings fron Puerto Rico!

    • Miguel Muniz


  • How did you get in to the commercial film business? I’m really interested and am looking at moving abroad for university. Did your time at USC help? Thanks. greetings from the UK!

  • JEFF D

    Hey Abe – Amazing write up and stuff as always. Question for you: What are the specs of the MBP’s /iMacs you guys use to edit the GP3 Black footage. I just got a Black and am really dissapointed with how jittery and generally unusable the footage is in my iMac. I know my macs specs are less than optimal – but before I drop 3200 on a new mac, I wanted to get an idea of what you guys use. Thanks!

    • I have a tricked out 15″ Retina MBP. Try downloading the new version of VLC, that plays back most black footage smooth – even my computer can’t usually hand it in quicktime. Once you transcode everything is great though

  • Brian yim

    hey abe, how do you get your footage so smooth and how long does it usually take to make an edit?

  • Efkan

    Hey Abe, thanks for this great summary, awesome work.
    I am about to buy a GoPro3 Hero Black Edition in these weeks and therefore love to get your information but …..

    here is One Question …… the picture with the girl has an unsharp background as if taken with a DSLR, how or with wich settings can we get this unsharp background result using the GoPro ?

    Cheers Efkan