Q&A: Chris Rye / Props Road Fools

road fools, bmx, box set, defgrip, chris rye

Fast forward, people now have the opportunity to own all the memories in one box set. What made you finally want to put this bad boy together?

For a number of years I had actually been thinking about doing a Road Fools book, going back and getting all the photographs together and re-capping on all the crazy stories from all the trips. About a year ago, Marco decided he was done with Props and after some wrangling it worked out that I would carry on the Props brand without him. After all that was settled, I got serious about the book and began working on it in January of this year.

In talking with some of the riders about contributing stories to the book, some of them had hazy memories about events from the trips. I was talking to Keith Mulligan one day about some photos he had shot on trip 10, and had mentioned this. He said if maybe I could get all the trips up on private Vimeos, that dudes could hit up the links and re-fresh their memories instead of having to dig out hard copies. When he said that my first thought was “there's no way that's gonna happen” just because all the trips are backed up on various formats as technology advanced throughout the years, some on tape, some on DVD, some on hard drives. Only I know where they all are, so it wasn't like anyone could help me or anything like that. So just to get them all together would be a serious undertaking and was not something I had even remotely planned on having to do.

After thinking about it for a few days, I began to look around the archives and thought, “F-it. If this is what it's gonna take then it's gotta get done.” So after a few weeks I had all the trips cleaned up and rendered out, sitting in a single folder on my computer, and was starting to get them uploaded for the book dudes.

About this time, I brought my friend Rick Wagner from Milwaukee in to help work on the book project. I had a ton of riders to contact from all the trips, over 170 of them, and definitely needed some help with that. I had told Rick about the Vimeo thing and that I had all the Road Fools vids in a single folder for the first time ever. I don't know if it was him, or perhaps I thought of it myself, but doing a box set came up sometime around February. It had been something a lot of people had been asking about over the years, and the timing seemed right because we're doing the book anyway, so the projects would compliment each other.

I stepped away from the book for a number of months to concentrate on the Box Set project, which ultimately ballooned into a lot more than I had originally planned and took 5 months to finish. During that time Rick had been working on the book project, but now that the Box Set is done, I'm back on the book again.

The Box set will be Blu-Ray only, correct? How come you went this route?

People have been asking about this, and yes, it will only be available on Blu-ray for the simple fact that the 35 hours of content would require around 25 DVDs to hold everything, which is not economically feasible, and is just sort of ridiculous. With Blu-ray it took 3 discs. I gained the ability to utilize a more modern format, which has benefits technically and creatively with menu design, and also allows the mixing of SD and HD content on the same disc with a more efficient codec than DVD. Blu-ray players are really cheap nowadays, and all PS3s play them too, so it was really the only doable option for the scope of the project I wanted to put out.

What can people expect in the box set?

Damn, where to begin. For starters, all the SD Road Fools videos including 1-16, the 2 Rock-n-Roll Tours, and the 4 Best of RF vids. Then also the two HD ones, 17 & 18.

RF1 needed some special attention because of the fact the only master was on S-VHS and did not look that great compared to the others. To fix the problem I decided to re-edit the entire video, going back to the source DV footage tapes, recapturing all the clips, and creating a frame by frame match of the original (with a few extra clips thrown in here and there for good measure). After about 3 weeks I was done, and had a new DV master of the video for the first time ever, which would now match all the others. The re-edit also gave me an opportunity to re-master the soundtrack at much higher sample quality than the original, so I had to track down all the songs again and re-mix the audio, which think is a better mix than the original. At the end of the video, Dave Freimuth had put together a slide show, so I had to track down all the original photos again to re-scan them at better quality. That was a project in and of itself, just because those pics were from Dave, Joe Rich, Sandy Carson and myself from 15 years ago, so they were not exactly handy or easily available to scan. But all those guys were total bosses and helped find them and got them to me to use.

Then for a fun RF1 extra, Taj, Dave and I sat down together a night in Appleton and recorded a commentary track for the re-mastered version of the video. We probably sound like drunken jerks (or at least I do), but it was a good time reminiscing with those guys! It would've been amazing to have the full crew together to record a track that but it just didn't work out logistically. I can only imagine the track with everyone sitting in a theater mic'ed up together, no doubt that would've been classic.

In having started working on the book a bit before starting the box set, I already had a lot of photos scanned at high res, and had accumulated all the digital ones as well from the later trips. About 260 of them got used in these beautiful 1080p motion menus (another benefit of Blu-ray). Each of the 3 discs has its own main menu with photos from the trips on that particular disc, then each trip has its own menu with photos from each particular trip, as well as a song from each trip. People will have to sit and check these out, just sit back and let the things play and loop, they turned out really cool.

Then, the maps! Throughout the years of doing the trips, I had made notes for myself to reference back home when editing – basically where we went and on what day. Sometimes the stops would end up on the box artwork, and other times not. So the history of all the days and stops was muddled and incomplete. I had to go through each video and create a comprehensive list with all this data. With the data I was able to create these cool as hell interactive day select map menus, in full HD 1080p. Each trip has its own one with its own map showing the cities and path of each trip. So when you scroll through the days of each trip, the cities light up in coordination with the day you have selected. This was an idea I had thought would be great to do, but it ended up causing all kinds of technical problems with the authoring software I was using, and I hit a dead end with Adobe Encore – it simply couldn't do what I envisioned happening with these map menus. That alone ended up completely changing the entire project into a two month long learning process, as the only solution to get the maps to work was to use another app, Windows only of course (running on a Mac in virtual mode), and it had a very high learning curve – it was like nothing I had ever used before. What I had thought would be easy ended up requiring all kinds of programming code and formulas to be written to make the maps work correctly. Luckily I found this amazing pro author dude in Germany who helped me get through it. He by chance had seen one of my forum posts with some questions, and we began a Skype chat that lasted about 2 months long while I stumbled through the technical aspects of the BD authoring process. He did all that for nothing, and for a complete stranger in a different country. I'm so grateful he was kind enough to help me, that's just not something you see too often.

Of course a box set isn't complete without all kinds of new bonus material created, and it was Frank from Dan's who said it would be awesome to have new interviews with all the original RF1 crew, which like Mulligan's suggestion above, was not even on my radar to do at the time. I really loved the idea though, so I started arranging to make those happen. I shot Dave in Appleton and Taj at my place (who just happened to stop by at the perfect time). Stew shot Joe, Aaron Nardi shot Jimmy, Veesh shot Robbo, and Joe shot Sandy – which I thought was pretty damn cool. Then after a bunch of sent hard drives I was finally able to get all the footage and start watching it. Ultimately all the RF1 interviews created some amazing bonus sections, one of which is a 24 minute Featurette – basically a mini-documentary on the first trip. In the course of visiting Dave to shoot his interview (he's a local to me here in WI), I was talking to him about the box set and what I had planned up to that point. We got to talking how to price this thing, which was sort of a tough thing to do. I had told him a price I had in mind, and he said to just go balls out and include as much as possible. I took his advice, which again ballooned the project into something much bigger than I originally thought. I decided to call it quits after getting about 150 bonus sections together. I mean, you get to a point when everything's covered the best you can do. Every trip has bonus sections, some new and some that were created back when the DVDs originally came out. In total there is 35 hours of content, pretty crazy.

And if people are really bored, there are a handful of Easter egg sections hidden throughout the menus across the 3 discs. One of them is a bit uncut, you could say – and again, Mulligan gave me that idea haha.

For the packaging I wanted to do something unlike anything we've done before. There are actually a bunch of different pieces that had to be created. The artwork for the Blu-ray case, artwork for the 3 discs, a little booklet with info about each video, a special sticker, and an outside case sleeve that's gonna be embossed. All those additions just kept pushing up the manufacturing costs, but it was to the point where I was like “I don't care how much it costs, I just want it to be awesome.”

Another thing I want to mention, which isn't a huge feature or anything, but something like a lot, is the promo trailer for the box set featuring re-mastered RF1 clips. Back when RF1 was made in 98, Jimmy had a bunch of music along with him on the trip, some great songs that ultimately made it into the video. Some forever changed my own personal music preference, and a lot of other people's as well. “Web In Front” by Archers Of Loaf stands out as one of my favorite songs from that era. Now of course the band is no longer around, but the singer Eric Bachmann still occasionally preforms the song acoustically. Last year I had stumbled across some of these recordings, and even though amazing, he does them solo and dry – that is to say raw into the mic with no processing or studio effects. So I took a few versions of him performing it live at different times, stacked different parts of the vocals on top of one another from different performances so he was more less backing himself up – but not just duplicated from the same take – to give it more depth. Then added some mastering effects to make it all come together, and it turned out to be a pretty cool mashup. I didn't know at the time, but the box set promo trailer was the perfect place for it to go, as a modern tribute to the original video, and to just how amazing that song is – even in acoustic form two decades later. People have asked where to get that version of the song from the trailer, and simply, you can't, because it only exists in the trailer.

  • Oompa

    Thanks Chris for all you hard work and documenting our sport in the best possible light. It is very much appreciated. Oh and the music…. awesome!!

  • Jimmy Le Van

    Hell yeah Chris! This was a great time for us all. The little trip to SC then Road Fools were probably the most fun times times of my life. Thanks for making for making our talks actually come to life. BMX would not be the same with out your work bro, much thanks !

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