Whether he’s shooting commercials for Nike and Sony, or creating another Vimeo Staff Picked parkour video, Claudiu Voicu stands out as one of the best action sports videographers around. You only have to go as far as his homepage to see that he’s creating cutting edge videos that push the limits of current technology, from mounting a Hero4 in his mouth, to full speed rollerblading while operating a 20kg RED Epic kit, to making live action footage feel like a real-life video game using Premiere and After Effects. I was lucky to get Claudiu to wrangle some time from his busy schedule so he could share with us his unique insight into the world of action sports videos.
Enjoy the interview below and make sure to watch his latest video.
Who are you?
I’m a photographer and video guy who specialises in Parkour and Freerunning content.
Do you practice extreme sports?
At the moment I’m mostly bouldering and hitting the gym to help with my Movi/ Ronin handling capabilities. Still do a tiny tiny bit of parkour and freerunning but at a very basic level.
What’s the riskiest thing you’ve had to do while shooting?
Despite how it may appear, I don’t think we do many risky things. We’re very, very safe and cautious… although I did once have to climb a ladder to a rooftop with one hand – with the other holding the Ronin + RED Epic set up.
What’s the riskiest thing you’ve had to do while editing?
Not necessarily had to do, but I always put some stupid hidden bits in videos for people to ﬁnd. Funny jabs at mates, meme’s, etc. A few have yet to be found still. Also I didn’t save a project for over 10 hours once… that was pretty dumb. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while shooting? Oh man, I wouldn’t know when to start. We did a 23-man job in Dubai in 2010 and almost everyone was arrested at some point during the trip. I made a feature length video out of the trip for fun but it’s staying locked up in the vault for now.
What software do you edit with?
I’ve only ever edited using Adobe products (on Windows) as they’ve worked for me in terms of handling various codecs, ﬁle formats, and more recently native R3D support and great integration with After Effects.
What is your favourite kit to shoot on?
It’s gotta be a GoPro. RED’s are obviously incredible to use in terms of form, function and the ﬁnal image it delivers, but I feel I can be a lot more creative with a GoPro. The image the Hero4 gives you is great for the tiny package it’s in. I can run around with it my mouth, throw it in the air, drop it from heights, and mount it to pretty much anywhere I want.
Since you practice extreme sports, what insight does that give you when shooting/editing extreme sports videos?
The most obvious thing – and it really is obvious when it comes to shoots – is that we (extreme sports practitioners in this case) know our sports really well and therefore spend a LOT less time planning or thinking up which movements work best for a certain scenario. We’ve done this for so long that we know what looks good, what doesn’t and what’s feasible given the environment. I guess it’s similar to how dance choreographers are employed – they’ll know a lot better than the producers/director as to what would look good in that speciﬁc subject.
Does being in top physical shape help you be a better extreme sports ﬁlmmaker?
I recently did a cam-op job for a Dutch company where they required an inline skating Ronin operator. The rig was over 20kg (RED Dragon, FF, Wireless video, anamorphics, matte box and ﬁlters) so they had to ensure the op could skate at speeds without dropping the rig. I guess, in that instance it deﬁnitely paid off as I was told they couldn’t ﬁnd anyone else who could go at speed whilst operating that heavy load. In more general terms though it deﬁnitely helps climbing up to higher places with heavy bags of kit!
Is there one exercise that you can recommend for being a better camera operator?
Pull-ups. It’s the exercise to do to workout the back, core (with variations) and biceps. Even though I do have a gym membership I usually stick to body-weight exercises for functional strength. I think everyone should be doing pullups for general ﬁtness and strength anyway.
Is there one exercise that you can recommend for being a better editor?
I do 50 reps of Tinder swiping every morning to warm my ﬁngers up for some serious shortcut bashing in Premiere.
Why do you think there is a constant push for higher resolution formats?
Bigger is better! I see why a lot of people don’t see the point in it, and it would greatly vary on what the project is, but for me it offers greater versatility in what I can do in post. For example I shot in 4K or 2.7K for my Mirror’s Edge video despite the ﬁnal output being 1080p – and this was purely so I could stabilise footage without losing resolution, and do pan, tilts and zooms which were essential for some of the effects. When shooting on Dragon, I always shoot in 5K and 6K, and although I try and frame the shot perfectly at the time, there’s always the opportunity to reframe and do other bits in post. So no, it’s not necessary to make a better film – the idea/story is always more important anyway – but the more data you get to play with in the edit, the more creative you can be with the footage. Another little thing worth mentioning, I didn’t really care too much for exporting 4K renders but when I watched Chasing Light back in 1080p and 4K, the difference between the 2 was really obvious, and I’m sure when it comes to 8K I’ll probably think 4K renders look like crap. Above 8K though? Right now, I can’t see there being much need to go even better, unless we go into highly-realistic, pixel packed VR displays that pretty much replace our eyes.
Where do you see extreme sports ﬁlmmaking going in 5 years time?
It’s going to be VR-based. The next step will be using technologies such as Oculus to recreate the experiences all these extreme sports athletes have in the real world. I think everyone wants to try wing suit ﬂying without the risk of death, and if they can mimic that at home, or using a special simulators, then I think people will jump at the chance to try it. I personally feel extreme sports ﬁlm-makers are generally more daring, creative and accepting of new technologies and ideas than the Film and TV industries, so I really believe they’ll be at the forefront of pushing innovations in VR ﬁlm-making or whatever we may have in 5 years. I deﬁnitely see Red Bull Media House evolving into something bigger too.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In a Lambo. Nah I’m kidding it’s all about Teslas at the moment! Film-making wise I deﬁnitely want to have done a feature. It’s the next logical step up for me and I have all the kit and a lot of hugely talent friends to collaborate on it.
Tell us a quote from someone you admire.
I’m not really one for motivational quotes but this one from Socrates did stick out – “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”– It’s not really relevant to film-making but definitely for extreme sports. The reason I keep going back to making freerunning videos is because I’m constantly impressed at the progression being made by people around the world, and similarly so for other sports. Our bodies are truly incredible and it really is a shame for people to not want to push the limits of what we can achieve, and instead choose to chill at home eating doughnuts.
Share a piece of advice for an aspiring action sports ﬁlmmaker.
Just do it. Seriously, go out and shoot. Do tests, do cool stuff, play around and experiment. Learn as much as you can about the entire production process and it’ll make you a more versatile and creative person. I get the majority of my work through the exposure I’ve received from personal projects that I had no ﬁnancial reason to even do in the ﬁrst place. It’s also incredibly important to be active on all major social media channels, so don’t skip on that part.
What do you think of online video production collaboration vs. traditional in person collaboration?
I’ve worked this way a number of times now and it’s totally ﬁne. Skype video chats & screen sharing are pretty much the same thing as having a person sat next to you, and you can just fake a connection error when you get bored of them. I have friends at agencies in Paris and NYC and I just send them updated project ﬁles so they can have a play if they want as well. It’s just so easy and efﬁcient now.