Video: OneUp Has Fun With Stop Motion in 'How To Build a Self-Riding Mountain Bike'

No Rider. No Problem.

Mountain bikes are so good these days they almost ride themselves. But almost isn't good enough. We won’t stop until bikes really do ride themselves. Still in early development, our patent pretending Self-Riding technology has already unlocked advanced trail maneuvers and the auto-repair function is dialled.

We're still ironing out some bugs in our whip algorithm, but our dev team staffers Thomas Vanderham and Remy Metailler are working on a software update. Stay tuned!

Stop Motion Fun

As you probably guessed, this isn't the release of a new life-changing power to conquer rocks, roots, goats or robots. It's actually just the release of a new stop motion video that shows how our EDC Tool works. Local Squamish filmmakers Blair Richmond and Kyle James created the short and we were blown away by the process. Here's a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create 47 seconds of stop motion. Hint: it's a LOT of work!

A Look Behind the Scenes

Stop motion is an animation technique that uses a series of still photographs to create a video. Typical video plays back at around 24 frames per second, but stop motion is closer to 12 frames per second. At any less than 12 frames per second, things start to look more like a slideshow than an animation. So that means every second of video requires is 12 meticulously staged photos to create the effect of realistic motion. This 47 second piece is made from around 550 unique photos.

So, you can see that this is deeply tedious work. For each photo, everything had to be moved slightly: wheels rotated, suspension squashed and even the dirt and rocks had to move. The shots took anywhere from 5-45 minutes to set up and some took even longer. Another big factor was lighting, which had to stay exactly the same for the whole 7-day shoot. At one point in the shoot, Kyle, an experienced stop motion artist of few words and endless patience, laid it out plain and simple: "There's no easy way to do this. It just takes forever."

Building a Trail in The Garage

Blair and Kyle decided that building a conveyor belt was the best way to create a trail indoors. The conveyor let them keep the bike centred in the frame while and move the trail underneath it. They set a trail speed of roughly 8.5 km/h by shifting the conveyor 20cm per frame. This meant building a trail in 20cm increments on a little platform in a garage. The speed looked slow on paper, but a few test shots revealed that it looked great on camera. For the crash sequence, the speed of the conveyor was adjusted incrementally to make it look more realistic.

Making the bike move was another challenge. The pulleys from the canoe storage system in Blair’s garage held it in the air, a big C-Stand stabilized it and they used fishing-line for the more dynamic moves. Even then, sometimes the only way to make things work was to hold things in place manually and remove the hand in post production, which proved to be a big challenge. You can see the hands at work in the Behind The Scenes video.

A Slow and Steady Process

After a couple days of shooting, the guys got in a groove and developed a pretty good system. It wasn't exactly the same for every shot, and some were more complex than others, but they mostly followed the same six steps:

1. Steady the bike or lift the bike off the ground if necessary.
2. Pull the conveyor belt to create ground movement.
3. Reposition the bike to match the last frame and create natural movement.
4. Add loam, rocks and sticks to the front of the conveyor to create the next section of trail
5. Sit back down into the same seats so that lighting changes would not be picked up.
6. Take a photo.

The Shot That Took 2-Hours

Blair has a pretty good story from one particularly challenging shot: "There were a few times where things went a bit haywire, but one time during the crash sequence it took us two hours to get a single frame. We had the bike doing a forward flip and to keep it fully vertical everything holding the bike in place was cranked super tight. The pulley cords were taught, the C-Stand was bending like crazy because we had all the sandbags we could spare stabilizing it, and we had tons of fishing keeping the wheels in place. It was a tense moment! Then a piece of fishing wire snapped and the bike swung out of place... Totally crushed.

At that point we just had to stop, set the bike down and regroup. Ultimately we ended up needing to switch our mounting position around and after almost 2 hours of trying to make it work and readjusting the setup we got the shot."

2 hours for 1 photo (or 0.08 seconds of video). Yikes.

Video created by Imperial Post and Husky Films

OneUp Components, Squamish, BC.