by JACK on NOVEMBER 23, 2013
If folding bikes and electric bikes share any one distinguishing characteristic, it is that they’re both totally awesome and really fun to watch on camera. When I first saw my friend Peter demonstrate the Brompton Bike to me, I felt a little like a kid who has just seen a magician disappear his pet Bengal. “I could have sworn there was a tiger there a second ago…” Like the tiger, the Brompton bike has great stage presence and a darn good act, and seeing it do its thing I forget I’m an adult and get an irresistible desire to clap my hands and yell something like “Whaaaaaa!!!?”
Choosing a bike and creating a narrative
Anyone who has been to the circus knows that there’s more to the magician and his tiger than meets the eye – there’s also a production crew, lighting specialists, camera men, countless hours spent planning and editing.
Before a NYCeWheels video is shot, shop owner Bert and manager Peter pick out a folding bike or electric bike that they both love, choose a NYC location that will provide a fittingly beautiful backdrop for the bike, and begin to plan out the “arc” of the video. Most videos, while prioritizing the exposition of the folding bike or electric bike in question, also hint at a “story line” that helps give direction to the shots, and place the viewers within a more dramaturgical context.
The Formula s18 video, for example, starts with Peter in Dumbo just below the Brooklyn bridge, ends with him leading off towards the bridge’s entrance, and has shots of him riding north on 1st ave in Manhattan interspersed. This gives the general impression of what it would be like for a rider living in Brooklyn to commute into Manhattan, which is exactly the kind of thing a folding bike like the Formula is meant to do.
Lights, camera, helicopter drone
While the folding bike, or in the case of the photo to our left, electric bike videos themselves tend to be around 3-4 minutes in length, this is a very small percentage of the total film shot, an edited final product pieced together from 6 -7 hours of footage. Often a single scene will be shot simultaneously from several angles to provide better cinematography. One camera may be set at wheel level, to give closeups of the folding bike’s frame and components while, in the meantime, Bert circles Peter with his electric brompton bike, holding a “still cam” in one hand.
Then of course, there are the aerial shots, taken by a helicopter drone. Bert, after countless hours of practice, has become very adept at piloting the drone, and executes shots from hundreds on feet in the air, as well as hovering just a few meters from the rider. As Peter says, “one of the hardest parts about making the aerial shots seem natural, is not looking directly at the robotic flying machine hovering right by your head. ” The drone, which is around 3 feet in diameter, also has a fairly limited range, and can only be up in the air for a few minutes before it must land for a change of battery, so shots have to be executed correctly, and carefully planned out to get the most footage out of a single take.
The new Stromer St1 video featured below was one of the most extensive NYCeWheels videos made to date, featuring three separate electric bikes, with multiple aerial shots, the result of more than 8 hours of filming.