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Thursday, July 23, 2009
Updated: July 24, 2:32 PM ET
Sage Advice: Cutting Room

By Sage Cattabriga-Alosa

Summertime is a time for fun in sun, a time for biking, a time for the river. Or, in the case of Teton Gravity Research staffers, it is a time for sitting in dark rooms and wading through hours and hours of footage from a cold, white place called winter.

Making a ski movie involves many factors. First, there's the capturing of images throughout the winter. The next step is the processing and logging all the of 16mm film, helmet cam footy and HD shots. Then, finally, a loose framework is created based upon review of said film and the editing process begins in earnest.

The crew at TGR works nearly nonstop—so it's summer but there's a flurry of activity and bustle around the office. In one room an editor is putting together a web feature called "Almost Live"—a series of web-exclusive shorts full of behind the scenes content, excitement and cliffhanger action.
On good days TGR's Steve Jones cuts million dollar deals before breakfast. (Other days, it's lunch.)
In another room a meeting is going on—they're discussing the new print ads. There is also a viewing of a nearly-final NBC piece—and that's happening in edit suite three. Edit suite one, meanwhile, the main edit center, pulses with sound and light as a rough intro for the big film—Re: Session—is being pieced together clip-by-clip and laid down over a dramatic song. Across the hall, T-shirt and hoody designs are being proofed, phone calls with sponsors are sealing the deal for next year's movie, and fine details are being worked out for navigating within TGR's newly-redesigned website.

Walking into all this is exciting and inspiring, but also I quickly see that one could become overwhelmed by the daunting task of, say, whittling down hundreds of hours of footage into a compelling exciting movie. This process starts during the "logging" phase, which is essentially cataloging the action in each shot, marking the time code, and grading the shot with an A to F grade.
Located at the base of the Jackson Hole tram, the TGR home office is part ski locker, part edit suite and part schwag emporium—not that all parts are equal.

The editor, supervising producer and I all sat down to further narrow down shots by watching all the footage I had been tagged in. It is extremely helpful to be involved in this process in case there is a shot or session that got left out or improperly logged.

The raw footage TGR had of me alone was over five hours. But with the help of the FF button, and some reflection on the season, we fairly quickly compiled a rack of shots. After the first stage of narrowing down we were still left with about 15 minutes of footage. So we continued to fine tune, eventually selecting only the "banger" shots.

Sometimes there's a shot I really like or was really attached to via memory during the winter, but because it's lacking in WOW factor I have to let it go. There are high standards, after all, and it's important to ask the question: "Will this shot help the movie as a whole?" After round two, we had a tight list of shots that the editor can now work with.

Luckily, despite the long hours and nearly endless workload, the crew takes periodic breaks to keep the stoke high and creativity flowing. So after we went through my footage we blasted off for Teton Pass with bikes loaded up in the back of a truck.

Teton Pass is a steep mountain pass that's the main highway in and out of Jackson. It's also a prominent recreation stomping ground for locals both in winter and summer. Several bike trails head off from various points along the pass, offering a well-balanced variety of trail styles. And there's nothing better than unwinding on the trail, catching air and hauling ass in the woods with your friends. Actually, it's a lot like that thing we do in the winter.
A surfer of gravity by winter and summer: Sage Cattabriga-Alosa.