Thursday, 28 June 2007

6 Million Piece Jigsaw

After a year of filming we have almost finished shooting for the new DVD ‘Committed’. We've travelled to locations all over the British Isles capturing loads of fantastic climbing.

And now we have over 70 hours of High Definition video footage, which equates to 2,400 GB's.

One of my poor hard drives

So now two months of editing lies in front of us, approximately 500 hours sat in the edit suite between now and the end of August.

Why does it take so long?

Most folks don’t understand the edit process… I certainly didn’t until I spent 150 hours editing ‘Fools with Tools’ back in 2004. ‘Fools’ was just a 15min film made from about 7 hours of footage.

'Fools With Tools', 2004... 150 hours of editing for just 15 mins

After ‘Fools’ I came up with a rough rule of thumb:
1 min of video takes about 10 hours of editing (when I say editing, strictly speaking, I mean all post production (ie editing, colour correction, video effects, narration, animation, sound mixing and general messing about in post!)

So, Why does it take so long?

Think of the film as like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are made up of video frames, (25 per second).

One piece of the Jigsaw, a frame of James Pearson on Trauma E9.

So for our 70 hours of video that’s:
70 hours X 60 mins X 60 secs X 25 frames per/sec = 6,300,000 pieces!

An hour long film is made from 90,000 frames (60 mins X 60 secs X 25 frames/sec).

So imagine opening a jigsaw box and spreading 6,300,000 pieces around the floor of your living room and then trying to select 90,000 of those pieces to make up a picture. A jigsaw like that should keep your granny busy well through Christmas and into new year.

Ok, to be fair, editors often deal with chucks of video, several seconds at a time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t consider every frame and justify it’s presents in the film.

Editing our recent trip to Pabbay.

When folk talk to me about Committed, they often say: "sounds great, can’t wait to see it."… yea well, I can’t wait to see it either. With all that in mind, I’m going to get my head down and get back to my jigsaw puzzle! I’ll see you in September!

"...that’s a bit of Sky…. that’s a climbers hand…"


Wednesday, 27 June 2007

E11 clip on the BBC

Some of you may well have noticed that there is a brief clip from E11 included in the BBC's trailer for 'Summer of Sport' that they are playing several times a day (all throughout the summer, I guess).

Mixed in with clips from lots of other TV sports, about halfway through there is a shot of Dave MacLeod's horrendous upside-down fall.

Dave MacLeod, mid-air, falling fast, upside-down and beanie flying (Taken from E11)

It is strange to have climbing included with mainstream sport on the TV. The reason? Well, on screen there is a clue. Text mentions a 'Live Climb broadcast'. Coming soon. (Hopefully there won't be any 70ft falls when that happens).

I'm not sure whether this trailer is running across the whole UK or just Scotland? Anyway, there is also a second brief climbing clip in it too which I think is of Scott Muir. Not sure if that is our footage or not. We filmed him in Austria 18 months ago and that was used on the TV, but I think the clip used is UK?

Scott Muir on Game Over, Drylands, Austria [hot aches images]


Friday, 22 June 2007

Pabbay - 'Hard XS'

Pabbay [all photos copyright Hot Aches Images]

Last week we headed to Pabbay, an uninhabited island in The Outer Hebrides. The filming objective this time was to capture some true 'adventure' first ascents on the huge sea-cliffs.

The small island measures about 2 miles across and was once home to over 100 hardy Scots. Now it is uninhabited and ownership has passed to the NTS, National Trust of Scotland. It is quite a strange place to spend a week. Visitors to the island are few. In fact the NTS restricts numbers to only 12 at any one time, and the visitors all tend to be climbers.
The first route on the island was put up in the mid 90's by some German climbers who were on a yachting holiday and spotted one of the big cliffs.

100m abseils ! Tony Stone - a white speck 2/3rd down the rope

Thereafter development began to increase and The Great Arch even featured in the BBC series The Edge, with Lynn Hill and Dave Cuthbertson paired together to climb one of the most stunning lines in the country. 'To Be Continued' E7 7a - as the name suggests, is still awaiting completion.

The Great Arch, Pabbay

The ethic in this part of Scotland is for routes to be climbed 'ground up' and on sight. This means no top-rope practicing, it also means no inspection of the line on abseil or cleaning away of loose rock.

Ali Robb seconding Niall McNair on the first ascent of Jonny Scuttlebutt) E5 6a

Ali Robb

We embarked on the 15 hour journey on Saturday with a strong group of Scottish based climbers. A drive to Oban and then 3 boat rides finally deposited us on the shore. With no phone reception and with no VHF radio, some dubious looking flares were the only chance of attracting attention if anything went wrong.

Tom Charles-Edwards, Fiona Murray and Tony Stone at the start of Prophesy of Drowning E3, next to The Great Arch

The first couple of days went well. Unfortunately they went far too well. We had filmed several routes, a first ascent along with some hard onsights. The weather was perfect too, but there was definately something wrong...

...The climbers were breezing up the routes. Niall McNair put up a new E5 without even breaking sweat. Dan McManus made the second ascent (onsight) of one of Niall's own E7s (Geomancer) and made it look easy. Fantastic stuff? except that it wasn't E7 after all. Niall himself seconded it after Dan and agreed, just E6 6b.

Dan McManus onsighting 'Geomancer', originally E7 6b, Pabbay

Elsewhere the other climbers were also having a great time on the sun-kissed walls. This was definately very very bad.

Diff and I had a crisis meeting.

The movie we are making 'Committed' has 20+ cutting edge routes, hard ascents where climbers are pushing themselves to the limit. But here on Pabbay the footage we were getting would be more suited for a tourist video. Climbers cruising up routes unfortunatly makes for rather dull viewing.
Then on the fourth afternoon it finally happened.
One of Niall's major objectives for the week was on. He had spotted a possible line up a huge unclimbed cliff. On previous visits to the island this cliff was always wet, but by this afternoon it now looked dry.
Niall McNair on Pabbay. Mingulay in the background.

Teaming up with Dan McManus, Niall started up the overhangs on the first pitch. After some strenuous bridging to place gear he rocked over leftwards on crimps, fighting like mad. This was it. With no chance of reversing those moves the only option was upwards. With every metre gained the consequence of failure increased.
These are the moments in climbing that we both fear and relish. Past the point of total commitment it becomes a battle of mind and body, experience countering fear, instinct and creativity solving the intricate puzzles ahead. The ticking clock of muscles tiring prompt both decision and agression. Onwards, each move across ancient rock untouched before by human hand.

Niall McNair on the first pitch of Redemption Ark

Those of you that know Niall will be aware of his distinctive climbing style. Reminiscent of Johnny Dawes he has tremendous ability to adopt different shapes with his body, feeling his way through moves with great creativity. At last he finished the pitch, ecstatic about the climbing and quality.

Dan McManus on the second pitch of Redemption Ark

Next it was Dan's turn and he had been dreading this, for the next pitch - an exposed traverse - was to be his. Following a band of shattered looking rock he just knew this was going to be loose and chossy. And so the epic commenced...

Huge Wall. l-r, Tony Stone onsighting and E4, Diff on abseil filming, Dan McManus on pitch 2 and Niall McNair belaying.

...After trying a few different ways to cross the rockband, eventually the second belay was reached. 5 pieces of gear at the belay, all rubbish. As Niall arrived to swap over the lead rack a warning not to weight any of the gear.

Pitch 3 was even worse. Niall removed loose rock from every hold, blocks flying down past the head of a very worried looking Dan. Now with his faith completely shattered, expecting every piece of rock he touched to just break away, Niall gibbered his way through more hard moves before at last reaching easier and more solid ground. A 'Mick Fowler-esque' adventure. Topping out at 10.00pm. Fortunately at mid-summer it's light until 11.30 in these parts.

The result. Redemption Ark, E6 6b XS. Those not familiar with that grading scale suffix, the 'XS' stands for 'extremely severe', or maybe it should be 'extremely stupid'. The first pitch was quite brilliant. Finding the line and climbing it clean, on sight is extremely impressive. There after - not to be recommended.

Those damn Bonxies (Great Skuas), is that how you spell it? Anyway they do like to dive-bomb you.



Thursday, 14 June 2007

Alien Rock and The Old Man of Stoer

Being in the right place at the right time is pretty damn important in our line of business.

Last week we were lucky enough to match our diary dates for climbers with a heatwave in North Wales. This week the only part of the country that seems to have been dry has been the far north west of Scotland... where by coincidence Diff was doing a bit of filming for the BBC - on The Old Man of Stoer in fact.

The Old Man of Stoer

Diff was far better qualified to film that one than me, having climbed it twice already. And this time some nice mountain guides rigged a tyrolean traverse so he didn't even have to get his feet wet.

Meanwhile I escaped the rain to do a photoshoot in Alien Rock, Edinburgh.

Here's a picture of a route that every local will know; one of Reuben Welch's 'permanet' moulded resin creations that has been testing climbers for 12 or so years now.

Kev Shields at Alien Rock, Edinburgh

Bet all of you that have climbed it didn't realise it was that steep. Oh, how the camera CAN lie (if the photographer works hard enough)


Sunday, 10 June 2007

North Wales Filming

Gear sorting in North Wales

We're back in the office for a few hours between filming trips. The last 8 days have been spent in The Peak District and North Wales. There’s a lot to write about and plenty of photos, so I’ve broken it down into two further blog posts below.

The trip started in The Peak where we had a few pick ups to shoot as well as a complex photo sequence for some special effects to go in the new movie. More of that later.

We don’t normally get time to climb when we are away filming. But the first few days were pretty relaxed and we headed to Stanage on a scorching afternoon.

Dave and Diff on The Pebble

Emma attempting Green Traverse

We then headed to Llanberis and had a spare day before the climbing talent arrived so we met up with some friends and spent a day working out how to climb on slate.

Slate Wierdness, a F7a+ at Bus Stop Quarry

With the focus back to filming the next 5 days were to be amongst the most complex and challenging that we have ever done. With 3 climbers lined up to be filmed on various hard routes all in different locations it was going to be a scheduling nightmare.

When climbers have objectives at their personal limits then they can’t hang around waiting for a camera crew. Everything needs to be right; weather and climbing conditions, skin, preparation. The next few days were to be a whirlwind of reconaissance and rigging, filming and de-rigging.

Many thanks to Emma Sutton who gave up a week's holiday to be camera assistant for us. Invaluable and good fun too.

So below is a report in two parts:

The Indian Face and Trauma

The Indian Face

Cloggy. The Indian Face follows the large slab (centre right of picture)

First we caught up with Dave MacLeod who had travelled to Wales with his wife Claire.

The Indian Face at Cloggy is a route that has attained almost mythical status. Put up by Johnny Dawes in 1986 it was possibly the world’s first E9. The steep slab climbing is apparently not that hard by modern standards but the meaty E9 grade is merited by the combination of poor protection and the huge number of delicate fall-offable moves.

The line of The Indian Face

The tales of attempts on Indian are quite terrifying. John Redhead reportedly took a 70ft fall on it, cartwheeling down the slab but saved by a poor RP placement that held. In more recent times another climber on a variation stayed off route onto Indian Face and unable to move up or down had to endure a 4 hour epic, eventually untying his ropes so that his partner could go to the top and ab down to rescue him.

Dave MacLeod working Indian Face

Indian Face has had just two repeats, firstly by Nick Dixon in 1994 with most of the protection pre-placed. Nick also put up another E9 just to the left, harder climbing but no ground-fall potential. Several days after Dixon the third and last ascent was made by Neil Gresham, reportedly with the protection placed on the lead during a previous attempt.

Claire told us that Dave had been psyching himself up for 6 months to climb this route. We filmed the first day’s proceedings and at first it all seemed to be going to script. Dave top-roped the route clean and seemed to be finding the climbing easy. The verdict on the protection wasn’t that bad either. A cluster of RPs at 20m up but all very small sizes; some of them seemed good and should hold provided they didn’t snap under a big fall.

But something was wrong. Dave was not his usual self. He was quiet and withdrawn taking long walks between working sessions on the rope. The atmostphere at the crag was tense.

We returned the next day. Dave top-roped again even more comfortably, able to stand easily to place the RPs. And then up there on the ropes, half way up the route we filmed a fascinating interview.

One of the themes that we explore in the new movie Committed is why there have been so few bad accidents in top end trad climbing. Part of the answer is that there are actually many occasions when climbers say ‘no’ and don’t risk their neck.

For Dave’s explanation you can read his blog and of course see Committed when it comes out this autumn. - My take on the decision is that Dave realised if he had gone for the lead he would be doing it for the wrong reasons. The style of climbing wasn’t his forte and wasn’t what he enjoys. To risk his neck on a dangerous route that he didn't feel totally psyched for would be wrong. Do you climb for the media and CV enhancing ticks, or do you climb routes that you really enjoy?

A sneaky method to get the film crew up to Cloggy - steam power.


The line of Trauma E9 7a on Dinas Mot (taken from the Hot Aches helicopter, obviously)

We recently filmed James Pearson make the second ascent of Leo Houlding’s Trauma E9 at Dinas Mot. Afterwards I talked with Dave about the line. Steep hard powerful climbing is very much Dave’s style, the line is also superb.

James Pearson on Trauma

Dave MacLeod at the foot of Trauma (in red T Shirt)

So back down from Indian Face we deposited Dave at Dinas Mot whilst we all went to the pub. Three hours later he returned and the transformation was dramatic. Back to his usual excited, psyched self.

Dave MacLeod on Trauma (photo copyright Claire MacLeod)

After a rest day he spent a few hours working the route whilst we filmed elsewhere. We had ‘booked’ an ascent for 6pm so rushed up to film him. Despite conditions being non-too ideal Dave despatched the route, though not without a good healthy entertaining fight. – Great climbing.

Dave and Claire, all smiles after the ascent. The steep nose of Trauma in top of picture.



Lord Of The Flies and Pretty Girls

We had a long standing arrangement to film one of the best female rock climbers based in the UK. Jude Spancken is an F8a sport climber as well as a very strong trad climber. On-sighting is her trad preference so we met up to film a couple of superb E6s in the Llanberis Pass.

Jude Spanken on Lord of The Flies, The Cromlech, Llanberis Pass, North Wales

Lord Of The Flies at The Cromlech is a route that anyone climbing near around that grade would aspire to. A fantastic line in a spectacular location, a full 35/40m (110ft) pitch with a reputation for being quite bold.

Jude is one of the most graceful climbers I have ever seen. The ascent was beautiful, precise, effortless.

Jude attempting Pretty Girls Make Graves

The next day in marked contrast she went to climb Pretty Girls which is a mean, nasty, tough E6 6b that she promised would involve plenty of slapping, fighting and screaming! (She had seconded it several years ago so it wouldn't be a true on-sight) We weren’t disappointed, great fun. Thanks Jude.

Jude is also an excellent photographer, see her website.

Also that day we filmed Kev Shields on a route that, well, we don’t know what it was actually. Kev’s climbing grade is not as high as others in the movie, but leading up to E4 without any fingers on his left hand is pretty challenging and inspiring stuff.

Kev Shields topping out on his route (??) in the pass. Photos: Claire MacLeod