Ten years ago, a pivotal change in ski and snowboard filmmaking was happening. It was a transition period. You could buy the season’s latest movie on VHS or DVD—depending on what player you had—and that transition is happening again today. But instead of going from analog to digital, it’s going from digital to virtual. With DVD sales slowing and more and more videos being released on the web via iTunes, YouTube, and Vimeo, the ski and snowboard video industry is going through another change. Two people familiar with these industry transitions are Jesse Burtner and Bryce Phillips. As a former pro snowboarder and creator of Think Thank, a snowboard video production company, Jesse is facing these challenges head on. In a different, yet similar way, former pro skier and founder of evo, Bryce Phillips, is dealing with the same DVD decline, but on a retail front.
The video landscape has changed greatly over the last two decades. From VHS, to DVD, and now to digital releases, the industry has come a long way since buying a new VHS at your local shop and opening the box to a grip of stickers and a free CD. Teasers were non-existent, and there was no such thing as a “limited digital release” or free online part. A lot of the time you bought a video blind, going only on last year’s video, the recommendation of a shop kid, or the packaging (à la Robot Food’s aluminum container). There were a limited number of people creating films, due in part to the expensive cost of film development and overall accessibility. With the birth of online video sites like YouTube, low cost digital and POV video cameras, as well as new state-of-the-art cameras, there has been a recent deluge of cheap, free, and groundbreaking video content.
With all this content, how do you make your project stand out, or for most people—sort through the mediocre to find the gems? Much as there was a time when people said the .com boom would be the demise of brick and mortar retail and how the Internet would kill print media, the same is being said of the DVD. But that didn’t happen. Great stores still exist and there is still quality print media, and the same is happening for ski and snowboard movies. Maybe it’s good that free digitally-accessed content is so prevalent, because it’s either not worth paying money for or doesn’t stand out enough in the sea of media. The same way that the Internet culled the print media and retail herds, it’s doing the same thing with ski and snowboard movies. Up-and-comers as well as tried and true industry pillars are adding additional content like books and bonus features, or following a narrative to create a richer experience.
Film companies like Sherpa Cinema and Brainfarm Cinema are utilizing the latest equipment, highest quality riders, and heading to the most exotic locations to create an unforgettable visual experience. While there are not a lot of production companies that can compete on that scale, there is still room for the little guys. Creative projects containing a compelling story, or including something special—either physically or emotionally—can rival any big budget film out there, in the same way indie films can blow out a Hollywood blockbuster. So maybe DVD’s aren’t dying. Maybe they are being thinned out in a survival-of-the-fittest market. It would have been easy to call the demise of vinyl records in the past, but records are actually a growing business now. When everything in our lives is digital, people are realizing how nice it is to have something tangible again.
This podcast taps into the minds of Jesse Burtner and Bryce Phillips to talk about the past, present, and foreseeable future of ski and snowboard video content. And while it’s easy to speak in absolutes about the “death of the DVD”, maybe Jesse describes it best when he compares the whole thing to a swinging pendulum. To some the future may look bleak, but to others, they see opportunity. With the massive availability and access to creating video content these days, the field is ripe with possibility.