One of the most anticipated videos of all time was the new team video from Hyperlite and Sidewayz called Welcome. Did it live up to its high anticipation? Or fall flat on it's face?
Welcome is primarily the latest team video from Hyperlite, but it's also billed in the intro as a tribute to the "Welcome" family that built Radar Lake in Washington, which was bought by Herb O'brien and turned into the official testing grounds for Hyperlite products.
This video pays homage to that history by taking the Hyperlite pro wakeboard and wakeskate team and filming them on and off the water while they spend some time at Radar Lake. Each rider is given a significant section in the film. The riders included in Welcome are:
As you can see, a very talented group at the forefront of the sport of wakeboarding. They also tend to be an entertaing crew off the water, and Radar Lake was full of toys and activities for them to wreak havoc upon.
It's a formula for success though when you take top-notch riders, throw in a top-notch location, a top-notch film company producing it, and finish it off by having Pat Panakos build the rails for the lake. A dream week to see.
As technology improves it's become easier and easier to make a wakeboard film. Get a nice digital camera, some video editing software, DVD authoring software, and then find some decent riders to go shoot. In one sense this is great because it has allowed many more videos to be made, more riders to get exposure, and given all of us many more options.
However, because it's easy to make a wakeboard video, doesn't mean it's easy to make a great one. You can tell from the start that Welcome is a top-notch video. First, it's shot on film, which seems to be falling by the wayside as digital improves. The clarity and color in film still can't be matched though, and the vibrant colors of Radar Lake and the scenery come through well.
The editing by Joey Meddock is also very good. The video is "supported" by numerous still shots of the same moves as taken through the cameras of himself and Josh Letchworth. It's a very unique style of editing which adds to the feeling of the video. Still shots seem to show so much more emotion than live video, so it's a nice touch that I really liked.
Ronn Seidenglanz and crew also know how to shoot footage. The angles are superb, the lighting is great, and the whole thing can just be summed up as "beautiful". It's been a while since we've seen a video that looked this good.
Welcome is longer than most of the shorter 30 minute films coming out. It clocks in at a little over 40 minutes. While there is many off the water clips, they aren't long ones. The majority of the movie is on the water action.
The music Welcome has a bit of a classic rock feel overall, but it pretty diverse when you look at the actual artist list. The music was strong and interesting throughout.
Radar Love - Golden Earring
Cross Eyed Mary - Jethro Tull
Desperations Gone - NOFX
Out of My Head - M. Ward
Little Wing - Jimi Hendrix
3030 - Deltron 3030
Moanin' - Ray Charles
Safety Dance - Men Without Hats
Anxiety - Black Eyed Peas
Golfer vs. Boxer - Amon Tobin
I Could Hurt a Fly - Built to Spill
The cinematography and unique location alone make Welcome worth the viewing, but it's just a bonus when you know you've got a good portion of the best riders in the game to watch.
One thing that should be remembered though, is that most videos are shot over a long period of time allowing for ample time to get the best tricks on camera. Welcome was filmed in a few days at one location. So, if a rider wasn't feeling it, or was a bit banged up, it makes it harder to really get the top notch stuff on film.
Because of this, it seemed like Welcome lacked a little bit of the very high difficulty tricks, and seemed like there were a lot wrecks shown in the video. I'm not sure if all the wrecks were there to fill up time, or if it's just the style they wanted to portay. It shows the human side of these outstanding professionals, and there are some great wrecks, but I probably could have seen a lesser amount.
Intro - The intro to Welcome is a collage of all the riders doing various tricks mixed with still pictures all set to the grooving song Radar Love, which fits nicely since the name of the lake is Radar Lake. It sets the tone well.
Scott Byerly - Byerly is the mixed rider of the group as he seems to spend significant time wakeboarding and wakeskating. No matter which it is, he does it with style. His highlights include a huge Toeside Off-Axis 540 with the late indy grab like only he does it, shuvits onto a flat rail on the skate, and a huge Toeside Backside 180 on the wakeboard. He also tries to conquer the huge long and kinked rail numerous times on the skate, but fails. The falls are fun to see though.
JD Webb - Webb is the youngster of the group, and is very adept at both rails and wake to wake tricks. Memorable moments include a super tweaked out Crail Bating, a big double up Off-Axis Toeside Backside 360, 911 Kryp, handle pass KGB, Toeside Off-Axis 720, and some smooth and difficult jibs on the rails.
Shaun Murray - Murray is getting to be a gristled veteran at this point, and it looks like he's even getting more "fun" with his riding and trying to keep things unique. One trick that stuck in my mind was a boardslide up the big kinked rail, gap over the flat bar, and backside lipslide down with a backside 180 out with a wrapped landing. He also does a nice heelside switch 360 where he lands wrapped, a tweaked out OHH with a tail grab, backside Method 180, some land boarding where he rides on the grass for a long time, a heelside 720 off the double up, and a crazy grab in front of a gorgeous sunset.
Erik Ruck - Ruck may have the best intro to his section as he gets an intro song from Shaun Murray who seems to be imitating Adam Sandler to some extent. He freestyles lyrics while playing the guitar and it ends up being pretty funny. Ruck blows up with his trademarked Melan Mobe, Method Backside 180, Toeside Off-Axis 720 off the wake and a few off the double up, and a Heelside Off-Axis 720 off the double up.
Brian Grubb - Grubb gets funky to a good beat and shows versatility on the wakeskate with huge airs and flatwater tricks. A Toeside one-footer, Toeside Indy Shuvit, Backside 180 wake to wake, Backside boardslide shuvit off a rail, heelside wake to wake Method, Heelside Indy Shuvit, Heelside One-Foot wake to wake, Body Varial and Switch Body Varial, Heelside 180 Shuvit 180, and other assorted tricks all show up in his section.
Parks Bonifay - Parks section was interesting as it was set to a jazzy tune from Ray Charles, and really didn't have any wake to wake stuff from Parks except for numerous wrecks of him trying tricks. All the successful clips seemed to be showing Parks' mastery of the rails, which is obviously apparent. One highlight was a Baller Backside Lipslide 180 out on the flat rail.
Chad Sharpe - Sharpe gets mixed to the 80s hit "Safety Dance" but doesn't stay that safe on the water. He knocks out a Toeside Batwing with a tail grab Pete Rose, Huge Melan Crow, numerous Front Mobes, Toeside Backside Off-axis 180s, Method Hoochie 180 type thingy, some 720s, and a Toeside Off-Axis 900 off the double up to cap things off.
Danny Harf - Harf starts out his segment by getting trapped in the portable bathroom, which is always good for a laugh. He makes up for it on the water with a Toeside Indy 360, Toeside Backroll to Blind with a nose grab, Toeside Off-Axis 720, and Toeside Off-Axis 900. Not bad for a week's work.
The bonus features on the Welcome DVD include a browsable directory of products from the film's sponsors such as Hyperlite, Accurate, and Fluid Concepts. It also has trailers of past and future releases from Sidewayz Distribution, there's some good stuff to see in there.
Welcome is a great combination of riders, location, rails, filming company, photographers, music, and editing. It's easily the most pleasant to watch video we've seen in a while, and it's extremely professional. The only weakness is that with the shortened filming time there were probably lots of tricks every rider would have liked to have landed on film and didn't get to in time. We highly recommend it though, as it's one of the best films in recent memory.
You can order Welcome Now from BoardFlix.com or order the Welcome/Under the Radar Combo which is the DVD packaged with Josh Letchworth's coffee table photo essay book of the trip to Radar Lake. Save a few bucks and get the DVD and the collector's book.