The Art of Flight


Picture credit: Scott Serfas/Red Bull Content Pool

Curt Morgan is one of the most famous producers in action sports films – in an interview with Ars Electronica he talks about the film “The Art of Flight”, which can be watched in the context of Deep Space LIVE at the Ars Electronica Center Linz on THU February 20, 8 PM, and SUN February 23, 2014, 1 PM in its 3-D version. Nearly 300 people were working on it to convert the 2-D snowboard scenes to an impressive 3-D experience.

How did you come up with the idea of shooting a movie about snowboarding?

I grew up as a snowboarder. Although not an inherited gene, it became part of my DNA.  When I broke my back riding I decided to pursue my second passion which was cinematography. I fell in love a second time. I made a handful of snow-related films and then one day got a call from Travis Rice who I had grown up with riding.  He encouraged me to come to Jackson Hole, Wyoming (US), where he lived and partner up on a film with him. The idea of building “our own thing” felt good so I pursued it.  Next thing you know I went from living in New York trying to figure out my life, to living in Jackson (where I still reside 11 years later). We started by forming a production company called “Brain Farm”. The first film we made was “Community Project”. Then came “That’s it, Thats, all”. Then “Art of Flight”. It has been quite a ride and now we are starting a new film in collaboration with Red Bull Media House that will explore an untapped facet of this amazing “so called sport”.

Curt Morgan (left) with the snowboarder John Jackson (right) at the film premiere of “The Art of Flight 3-D”.

Picture credit: Cameron Baird / Red Bull Content Pool

To turn this extraordinary documentary into a visual eye-catching sport experience you have converted the raw material to stereo 3D afterwards. How did you do this?

After creating “Art of Flight” the team at Red Bull and Brain Farm decided that with its commercial success we had to figure out ways to expand on the property. We made a digital TV series around the film and went on to create a 3D version of the film. It was quite an undertaking so we decided to partner with Venture 3D to bring our vision to life. It took a staff of nearly 300 people working for months to recreate every frame of the 2D film into a 3D version. I was quite skeptical at first but when they delivered a test of the trailer in 3D we were amazed.  I have shot proper stereo images in the past but this was just as good if not better in certain instances.  After countless hours of rotoscoping and post convergence we came out with what I think is a very cool 3D version of the movie.

At the Ars Electronica Center, we will show the movie in the Deep Space on a 16 by 9 meters big projection in 3D. What’s so fascinating about producing films?

Producing a film is a long process that takes time and some serious team alignment.  Every day is a challenge.  Its a very dynamic task that takes a group of people learning how to look into the future and stop the train from crashing before it goes off the rails. I think that’s what I like most about it, always being a problem solver and a solution maker.

Picture credit: Danny Zapalac/Red Bull Content Pool

You travelled to mountains in British Columbia, Chile, Alaska, Austria and more. Most of them are very uncomfortable places for camera equipment, you have to cope with low temperatures for batteries, different weather conditions and so on. How did you manage that?

It’s a process that is learned over time and although you get better at recognizing a problem and finding a solution, its never a dull moment.  We had many challenges that we had to overcome producing our last film but we made it out of the woods.  Looking back, most of the issues that we encountered were things that were unavoidable and once again that is part of the excitement of producing a film.  Whether it’s a glitch in modern technology or an unforeseen weather event or avalanche, you always just have to be prepared and do the best you can with the situation at hand. Its a never ending learning process.

What could be the next steps in experiencing these kind of adventure films in future?

Brain Farm is now producing five films in the adventure space with multiple crews working day and night around the world.  The biggest of them is the new Travis Rice story that I will leave up to your imagination for now but I can promise, it will be the next step in the evolution of action sports films. We are working on elevating not only the cinematography but the storytelling. Looking forward to an exciting future.

Watch the movie “The Art of Flight” on THU February 20, 8 PM, and SUN February 23, 2014, 1 PM, in the context of Deep Space LIVE at the Ars Electronica Center Linz.