Cut Media are renowned for their unique videos and their launch video for the Santa Cruz 5010 during lockdown was no different.

It’s fair to say that lockdown pushed the Cut Media team in a different direction when it came to the Santa Cruz 5010 launch video, but unsurprisingly, they smashed it out of the park.

Pete had a chat with Cut Media’s Jonny Ashworth to find out the challenges of creating a bike launch video in miniature.

Photos courtesy of Cut Media.

Did you have a ‘regular’ video planned out for the 5010 launch before lockdown?

It’s funny you put ‘regular’ in inverted commas because we did, and were finding a plan was forming, but there was a risk of it being too ‘regular’. We were in the middle of scratching our heads over a trip with some of the best riders you’ll see on the 5010 when the realisation dawned that travelling would be unlikely. Back to the drawing board…

How many options did you mull before deciding on the finger bike idea?

“Ideas were floating around but we were hesitant to develop them too far only to realise they wouldn’t be possible. At the end of a call with Santa Cruz, a passing comment was made along the lines of: ‘And if restrictions mean we end up with Jonny fingerbiking in his garden, then let’s go for it’. We weren’t sure if it was a joke but I didn’t really care and after the call proceeded to film a test edit with a finger BMX I had in my loft.”

For some reason everyone seemed surprised at how incredible it was. Santa Cruz’s response was ‘put a logo on it’ and, although there was more to do than that, it was our go-ahead to move forward with the project.

Once you’d decided to go down that route, what happened next?

At this point the whole project was leaning on finding someone who could make a miniature version of the bike. We made contact with a guy in Poland I’d spotted on Instagram called Timchenko Taras. His models are insanely realistic and it was obvious we’d found the right person! Despite the language barrier, he made us three miniature bikes based off photos of the real one.

Meanwhile we were developing a script and plan scenes for the shoot, building a 1/12 replica of my shed, trailbuilding, ordering dollhouse garden tools, and of course, the remote-control car.

How many people were involved and what did they do?

From Cut Media we had Scott as remote creative director, Katie managing production remotely, Andre on camera, Gav on edit. My whole family was pretty hands-on helping build props, catering, camera assisting etc. Fred Murray shot photos and Keith White had the fun job of audio mixing real bike sounds, truck engine, squeaky wheelbarrow and the list goes on…

Merida Big.Trailtea

Did shooting in small scale throw up any challenges as far as capturing the action went?

Sore knees and lower back pain mostly. Avoiding feet being in the background was tricky and most shots felt a lot like playing Twister (probably looked like it too).

Technically, it was a fun task making things feel like full-size riding. A challenge we found was that action happened really quickly and often the bike would flash through shot in a blur. The obvious solution would be to move my hand slower but that meant roost wouldn’t pop and wheels would stop spinning in the air. We ended up shooting a lot at 50fps and slowing to 80-90% in post.

How long did the ‘set’ take to build?

Although not quite as time-consuming as real trail building, mini trails are tough work. It took a few hours to make the dirt jumps on my own and real techniques like spraying water to compress and sieving the upper layer helped. The shed was the biggest task though. So not to leave viewers guessing until the hand reached in, it had to be totally believable.

A model maker should have probably taken this role on but it seemed to make sense making it at home with the reference being visible from my work (/dining) table. Measuring the real shed; dividing by 12; cutting, staining, gluing & weathering took about a week in total. Model trains next I think.

What kit did you use to shoot the video?

The Sony FX9 was our main camera with Xeen Cine lenses. We also rented a Laowa 24mm Macro Probe Lens which fits through tight gaps like the shot unloading the bike from the truck. We then used a Sony A7S for the cablecam, GoPro for the truck POV and even a phone camera for the helmet peak effect on the POV riding shot.

How did you narrow down the kinds of riding you wanted to emulate in the video?

Of the whole Santa Cruz line, the 5010 was the best option for this concept. We debated building massive terrain sets with realistic trails but it seemed more fitting to embrace the backyardidness of how people use the 5010 in reality. Popping off rocks, making small kickers and even stacking pallets as a fun nod to how Danny MacAskill has been using his bikes during lockdown.

Favourite moments?

Discovering how well roosting the camera looked in slow motion over the roller in the dirt jump scene was pretty cool. The action was so fast to actually kick up the dirt so we didn’t really know if it worked until playback in slow motion. Another favourite is the first north shore shot with the red beetle. It looks completely believable as a real riding shot but there’s this huge beetle walking along the slat.

Any disasters?

Going OTB over the log? Frame snaps weren’t uncommon. Generally when shooting, there would be two bikes glueing while the other was being ridden.

Check out the Santa Cruz 5010 on their website here.

Why not read Aoife’s firs ride review of the new Juliana Furtado here too?

Check out Cut Media’s other work on their website here.