BEHIND THE SCENES
INTERVIEW AND POV FOOTAGE
the breathtaking GoPro production showcases Scottish trial cycling legend, Danny MacAskill’s spectacular riding where no one has ridden before – across the rooftops of picturesque Gran Canaria in Spain. As Danny makes his way from the highest rooftop across all sorts of obstacles all the way to the ocean, we are treated to some incredibly immersive and vertigo-inducing action. We spoke to Danny and asked him to tell us a bit more about his new project.GoPro: You gained pretty instantly fame after releasing a clip six years ago. How did that happen?
Back in 2008/2009, I made a small film around the streets of Edinburgh on my trials bike. And when it got launched on YouTube it went viral. And from that point on, I was able to able to go on making a couple of films in the last few years and made a job out of riding my bike. GoPro: How often do you practice and how do you prepare for filming?
I’ve been riding street trials now for about 19 years and I usually used to ride 2-3 hours per day, whenever I can. But nowadays I travel a lot more than I used to, so the riding is a bit fewer and far between. For this project specifically I kind of went back a little bit to my roots of trials so rather than focusing on the tricks of my riding this has more to do with the practical riding. You know like staying on top of walls, practicing balance on rails and gaps, really practicing the precise sides of my riding, because I obviously needed that on top of the rooftops.GoPro: Why did you choose Gran Canaria?
First of all, I wanted somewhere that would be nice and sunny as the weather in Scotland has not been that good. Also somewhere nice and colourful that works really well on camera. We needed to find all this with nice, flat roofs, so I could ride atop of them and do gaps between the buildings. GoPro: You did some huge tricks in this video, how do you estimate the risk you’re taking?
The rooftop video I knew would be fairly high risk, but I have been riding trial for the last 18 years and you obviously start small, at curb height, with small obstacles and improving your skills to gradually move up on higher and higher walls. Then basically I tried to find riding in Las Palmas that was probably up to 80% of the difficulty level I could do low down. In the video, I am often riding on three or four story drops to my side but I am completely comfortable while I am up there. GoPro: What were the most special moments for you during the shooting?
Hard to say. I mean the whole trip was an amazing experience. We had a team of friends from Scotland who I normally work with in my previous projects. But also working with the GoPro production team was so much fun. Though the riding itself was on a quite high level so I had to be on top of my game. Really having the entire team behind me was an enjoyable time.GoPro: Did you get in trouble with any of the locals?
Not at all. Generally the locals in Las Palmas were really welcoming. We went knocking on the doors asking if we could get up on top of the rooftops, they were very welcoming and next thing would be I had to bring my bike up there. I think it would have been very difficult to do that anywhere else in the world. GoPro: What is special about this clip? What is the difference to filming with ordinary cameras?
Concept wise, I try to keep each film kind of different. I wanted to do a rooftop video for a while now. I knew how the rooftops had to be and to look like giving the viewers that kind of anxiety from the perspective they watch because you’re on top of some walls riding the edge of 3 or 4 story drops. I wanted to have something really colorful like the hill of San Van where it was mainly shot, there are so many different colors on the buildings. I needed some good music and I knew it would be a good video. And a shot that always attracts the viewer is the POV (point of view)-aspect. That’s where GoPro really makes the difference. But we weren’t just using the GoPro for P.O.V.-shots, we used it for the entire thing. We had various cameras running on the gimbal at once, trying to capture different stuff. We were even getting photos at the same time as we were getting these main flowing and cascading riding shots. That was really cool.GoPro: Any advice for ambitious GoPro filmers?
I’d say the camera is so versatile, just go ahead and play with it, see what works for you, it is fun trying to mount it all over the place! For my general riding I use a lot of straight POV because not many people have seen that angle of trials. I also love trying to find new places for the camera and that’s also the easiest way to avoid jump cuts in your edit. Just switch angles a few times while you’re riding and experiment with new angles. I’d just say play with it and have fun, see what works for you!GoPro: Do you prepare the storyboards by yourself?
Over the last few years, I worked on a number of different projects that were often mainly driven by myself. I am really lucky to get to ride my bike for a living. And making these viral videos has become a big part of my life now. It’s all I think about. When I ride in the streets of Glasgow with headphones in my ears, I very often think about what I could be doing next. So when we were out on the rooftops and have a good idea of how the film could look like, I suggested my ideas to the filmers and they tried to realize it. GoPro: Generally, how do you scout your locations? Do you have a special eye for architecture?
I spent a week just for scouting in Las Palmas before we were going to start filming. That was a real challenge since there is quite a maze of rooftops and it’s hard to actually get a view from above to see what there really is. We must have been on top of over 40 different buildings and out of these 40 buildings we found maybe 15 locations that we could do actually some riding on, because they had to have a start and an end point on them. Once we find the locations they fall pretty naturally into our timeline. You want to start from the top of the hill and end at the sea. They are in a kind of given order. GoPro: When filming how do you realize your own ideas?
That’s a tricky one. When you’re scouting locations, often you are there without your bike and you’re climbing all over these different walls, then it’s quite easy to call out what you think you can do. You stand there and see something like an 8 foot gap between the houses with a three stories drop and you say I can do that, I can backflip it here, jump over there. But then it’s a different story when you actually turn up that day with your bike, it might be windy, you may have the sunrise on a white roof and it’s really bright. But I work with a really solid team who is going to capture all the stuff. So it’s a case of me working through the staff, it’s all a calculated risk on top. When it’s on the ground you know you can do it easily a hundred times and not fall down the gap. So it’s kind of just working through and not fall off the buildings, that’s the main goal.GoPro: How long did the shooting take?
We filmed for two weeks altogether in Gran Canaria and it was just enough time. We didn’t have the best weather when we were there, but that’s always the risk in shooting outdoors. But
still, we were lucky; even when there were huge thunder clouds, on the one side and on the other side you could usually see blue sky. So we managed to make it look like sunny weather all the time. GoPro: What’s the most technical trick in the video?
I would say one of the biggest builds in the video was probably the end shot. We were starting on top of the hill and I tried to think of something good to end the film, what we call the banger of the video. So we built this scaffolding structure in El Roque and I come down off the scaffolding and do a big front flip into the ocean. I originally planned to do it from the very top of the building which would have been like a 28 meter drop and then discard my bike before falling into the sea. But the sea wasn’t deep enough at that point and we ended up moving it down a bit, which meant I could stand on my bike, which looked pretty cool. We only had the scaffolding for one day, so the pressure to do it was quite high, but in the end it worked out. GoPro: How many takes did you need for that shot?
The El Roque drop was really just one take. It was at the very end of the day and we were losing light fast, so I’m really pleased it worked out. I slightly over rotated the front flip and land face first, but it makes for a good shot on the POV clip (laughs)GoPro: You didn’t injure yourself?
No. I am not particularly scared of water. I’ve done a lot of different silly things into water in the past so compared to the idea of falling off a building onto the concrete this was totally fine. Or at least I thought that. In the end it took me a little bit of time to get myself together to go off the edge. But the water was warm, it just took me a while to get out of it.GoPro: What’s up next? What are your plans for 2016?
This year for me has been pretty good already. For next year I have various different ideas for films on my mind, it’s important for me to always try to do something different rather than
doing something you’ve already done, but you will have to wait and see.