Skater and Filmmaker Chris Ray captures the DC Skate Tour with Wooden Camera and SmallHD gear

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This story was originally written and published by Wooden Camera

After a tour hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, longtime filmmaker and skater Chris Ray made his way to North Carolina to capture the footage needed for the 2021 DC Skate Tour.

“It was really my first tour in 2 years. I’ve been filming skateboarding for 15+ years, so to go this long of a pause and switch cameras during the pandemic made me a little nervous.”

We spoke with Chris about his experiences returning to the tour, the challenges that come with shooting skate video in public spaces and the Wooden Camera and SmallHD gear he used to get the shots he wanted.

Tell us about the DC Skate Tour, what’s that experience like?
“We travel to multiple cities and we create content, it's very organic. Skateboarding comes from the streets, nothing is staged, it's very run and gun, especially on my side. You have to be ready when you’re working around the athletes. It’s not your typical movie set where you go ‘ok guys, we’re gonna be here at 9:00 and you're gonna jump down these stairs, and I'm going to capture it because the lighting is perfect’. It's a real skateboard tour even though we’re a big company, it’s pretty funny to think about.”

What does a typical day shooting this event look like? What challenges come with it and how did you overcome them?
"We wake up around 10:30 AM, grab some breakfast then immediately start skating and shooting. There are days we don’t even eat lunch because we are spending the entire day at a location getting shots. I think when you’re on a skateboard tour there can't be a full plan, we obviously know where we’re gonna go and we know what we’re looking for but we don’t have permission.

Our biggest challenge is that we’re skating locations where businesses are open and there’s people that don’t want us to. We don't have permits, we just have to deal with it. If the lighting isn’t great? That’s too bad. We just have to get the shot anyway because the talent is feeling it. For me it’s like second nature though, it’s what I grew up doing and it’s just normal to me.

I would love to see somebody who doesn’t skateboard come out and experience it. I know my wife would freak out if she saw that I run into the cops 5 times a day. She would just be stressing on this, you know? It’s just normal for us."

How do you build a run and gun rig for shooting skate video? How do you decide what gear makes the cut?
"This tour specifically was interesting because of COVID. It was really my first tour in 2 years. I’ve been filming skateboarding for 15+ years, so going this long without touring and switching cameras during COVID made me a little nervous. I didn't have time to test my setup, so I jumped into a tour hoping it would work and it did.

There’s not much setup time when you’re on these shoots, so for me that was the deciding factor. ‘What is going to be most convenient and quick in case we’re getting kicked out of a spot and I need to build my camera as quickly as possible?’ Convenience was the key on this one.

Having a handle, a cage, and the monitor, kind of keeping everything pre-built as much as possible in my bag is important. I just want to be able to switch a lens, turn that thing on and go."

What gear did you use day to day? What camera did you use and why? Is that your go-to for a project like this?
"So the important thing when filming skateboarding is that you have to have a really good handle and cage for it, so I'm using the Wooden Camera C70 Unified Accessory Kit. It’s super important because I think what a lot of people don't realize is that when I'm shooting skateboarding, I'm actually also on my skateboard. I'm holding the Mini Top Handle and the camera close to the ground following the skater at a spot. It’s something a lot of people don't see behind the scenes of, but that’s how I'm capturing these tricks. I’m riding with them, so you obviously want a kit and a handle that’s very secure because you don't want to drop your $6000 camera on the ground."

"On this trip the majority of the stuff was shot on a Canon C70. On a skateboard trip, working for a company, obviously you’re there to get tricks, but we’re also getting other things like brand heat, lifestyle shots and product shots. Really the majority of our content is coming from these trips with these athletes, so I'm using a camera that works great for action sports, cinematic shots, slow-motion and beautiful cine shots. I also wanted something that felt ‘run and gun’. Like I said, we’re pulling up to skate spots and we just have to pull the camera out, turn it on and be ready to go. That's the most important thing. There’s not a lot of setup time because if people are feeling it, we want to be able to just jump right into it."

You also mentioned your rig having a monitor. Which monitor is your top choice for this particular rig and setting?
"The SmallHD Indie 7 monitor, which has been absolutely beautiful. It’s great in the sunlight and it’s a good size."

So when the guys are looking at the footage afterward or they want to preview the trick we just got, it's a very clear image. I actually think the image quality looks so good, they’re even more excited when they watch it on that screen because to them it's a flat screen TV they’re looking at."

What are some features of the Indie 7 that you find most useful?
"When using the Indie 7 with my Canon C70, I am able to use the monitor as a reference guide and run a 9:16 guide in the middle of my 16:9 frame. This is huge for me because it is reminding me that while I’m getting shots, I can use that guide frame for Instagram Stories or TikTok. The histograms and focus assist are the next helpful features that I use on projects."

You mentioned earlier that this is what you grew up doing, what got you into film? Did you always intend to combine skating and filmmaking or did it just work out that way?
"I was a skateboarder first. I remember in middle school, some friends came to me and asked, ‘We were going to make our own skate video, do you want to be in it?’ and it was like a dream come true."

"I was a skateboarder first. I remember in middle school, some friends came to me and asked, ‘We were going to make our own skate video, do you want to be in it?’ and it was like a dream come true. I never thought that was even possible and I was so excited about it. I was probably more excited than any of the other guys that already started on it. I kind of felt like it wasn’t happening, so I took a lead on it and I was like, “I’m gonna make this video happen, I’m gonna take it seriously”. I caught myself being the one that was always filming and that’s just what it turned into; ‘I’m gonna make this video of my friends and I. How we’re gonna make it- I have no idea’. You didn’t have access to editing equipment like you do now, so I figured I would go to a business and pay them to edit it.

I just kind of turned into the filmer. Growing up I didn’t know that you could film skateboarding for a living because it sounded like a dream come true. I didn’t necessarily grow up knowing that that job was a possibility or that dreams can come true like that, so it was a shocker to me when I found that out. It’s still mind blowing to me and I still to this day, wake up and I say ‘oh I’ll probably get fired today because I have the best job in the world which is super funny, but it’s still going.'"

Check out a clip from Chris Ray’s DC Skate Tour footage below and follow him on Instagram to stay up to date with his current and future projects.