For our latest Video of the Week, we had the chance to ask Chase Bartee a few questions about their film, “Notes From The Road”. Chase and his wife Aimee make up Tight Loops Fly, and have gone on a number of long trips in the past. Check out the full interview below to learn more about the film:
Fly Lords: When you set out on this trip, did you have an idea of the total amount of days you wanted the trip to last?
Chase: No not really. I think we set out with a kind of “drive till the wheels fall off” mentality, or maybe more like “drive till we run out of money”. In the end both those things ended up happening at the same time. We’d spent an entire summer (a little over 3 months) living out of our van two summers prior, and I think we’d hoped to be able to keep it up just as long if not longer this time around, but the road had other plans.
FL: What camera equipment did you use to make this film?
Chase: Our bread and butter on this trip, which has been our A camera for most of our fishing content was a Sony FS700. It’s kind of a dinosaur now, but when we picked it up it was a major breakthrough in the prosumer…ish market, and filled a major niche between consumer and cine-tier cameras. It’s really popular for sports and wildlife, because of its great high speed (slow motion) capabilities, and an “end-trigger” internal buffering system akin to the high end Phantom cameras, meaning you can press record after the action has happened, allowing you to capture only the stuff you want, stuff that can be really unpredictable, 10X slower than real life, in full HD. For something like rising fish or dry fly takes you really can’t beat it. Its form factor is a little heavy for shooting in the backcountry, but it’s a gem of a camera with a lot of great features, that I personally feel gets overlooked. In the hands of the right operator it can produce some really clean and even cinematic looking images as well. But I’ll let the viewers be the judge of that. We also had a Mavic Pro for aerials, a GoPro Hero4 Black for subsurface stuff, and an old Panasonic GH3 for the odd time lapse here and there.
FL: One thing that is very noticeable in this film is the natural audio. How did you capture such specific sounds? Was any of it added in post-production?
Chase: We get this question a lot. People always want to know more about our process for sound design, and the truth is there’s no secret. Just a lot, and I mean A LOT of time, effort, and attention to detail. That FS700 has a great XLR shotgun mic on it which does a great job of capturing audio on site, but one thing to keep in mind is that all the high speed footage is recorded silently, so any time you see something in slo motion in our films (which admittedly is quite often) we’ve had to go in and construct the entire soundscape for that shot from scratch. So while we’ve shot and recorded thousands of hours of audio and video in the field, which often comes in handy, we’ve also spent years building a library of “foley” sound effects. Theres no secret to that either. I’ve probably spent a cumulative month of my life scouring FX libraries for the best natural field recordings around. My collection is always growing, but I’ve definitely got a workflow now that is pretty streamlined. That being said, it takes a lot of work. If you walk outside, and listen, theres a ton of individual things going on; a car here, a bird over there, the sound of your footsteps, a slight breeze, the way that breeze hits the leaves etc etc. So if you want to paint a believable image in sound, you have to examine everything in the footage and try to replicate it in audio. You also need to be a good listener when you’re actually there to be able to recreate it in post later. I think a lot of amateur filmmakers, which lets be honest, due to the availability of high end cameras these days are constantly inundating our feeds with content, forget to give sound design the attention it deserves. It can really elevate your work, and narrative. I always think of it like this: people say that you “eat with your eyes” first, well I think that you also see with your ears. If I can close my eyes and listen to one of the scenes in our films and get a pretty good idea of whats happening on screen then I know I’ve done my job right.
FL: What was your favorite moment from the trip?
Chase: Its hard to choose on a trip like that because you’re just packing every day full of fun and adventures, but I think one of the major highlights was overnighting in the Yellowstone backcountry. It was the first time Aimee had camped in such dense grizzly country, and that’s been a major fear of hers for years. The fishing and the scenery were great there as well, not to mention the fact that so many fewer visitors actually make it into the backcountry, but it was definitely an important milestone for her, because waking up alive and healthy the next morning was a major confidence boost. One that would become really important going forward as we started planning more and more ambitious wilderness trips together.
FL: After learning about the mechanical issues with the van, how confident were you that you would be able to get home? Were there any issues on that drive back?
Chase: Not confident at all! Haha. We just literally didn’t have a choice. We do all of our own work on the van, but when you’re almost stranded in Yellowstone, a notoriously expensive place to be towed out of it, sometimes you have to make the call to bring in the big guns. We brought the van to shop in Bozeman, where they could use diagnostic tools we simply don’t have on the road. After a series of tests they basically told us they couldn’t believe we’d even made it to the garage. The infamous quote from mechanic was “Where you headed? Massachusetts? Yeah you’ll NEVER make it there. There’s no way.” Our options where to have the engine rebuilt there, or trailer the thing home, both of which would have exceeded 5 grand. We barely had the money for gas and said screw it, we’ll take our chances, can’t get any worse really. At least the thing is our home too so you’re never really stranded you know? In the end the van ran like a top the whole way home. It’s still all screwed up and needs a new engine, but those things never seem to let you down when you need them. They just keep going.
FL: What are your plans for the future? Any other trips coming up?
Chase: We always have a million things going on. Thew biggest thing right now is rolling out the release of latest feature film “Big Land”. In 2018 we mounted an expedition into the hear of Labradors interior to fish a river that had never been filmed before. We spent two weeks living out of canoes and camping in the bush. It was a major achievement technically speaking both in organizing the expedition and keeping camera gear working and charged, but we couldn’t be more proud of it. It ended being one of the wildest things we’ve ever done, and the film is by far our greatest work. So we’re really excited to be sharing that with people in the coming months. It’s dovetailed into some more Canadian projects this coming summer, and in the fall we’ll be moving into the van full time, and relocating west. In other words, lots to do!