Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Climbing Porn

Like all climbers, I watch climbing videos online through most of the common sites: momentum, blogs, modump, etc. I spend way too much time in front of my computer searching the Internet for inspiration and motivation as well as reading my friends blogs. Blogs are great, they add to the climbing community by contributing to a greater body of knowledge while validating a sport that needs to be blown up and taken to the next level. The photos, video clips, links, beta, and personal thoughts found on most climbers blogs brings the climbing community together…

Lynn Hill

I grew up watching Masters of Stone, Painted Spider, and Rampage. Ron Kauk, J.B. Tribout, Lynn Hill, Dan Osman, and Chris Sharma were my heroes as a 15-year-old gym rat. The movie scene was pretty limited then and there wasn’t much action online until ClimbXmedia started featuring shorts and trailers for upcoming movies. Then there were a million other media related sites and these online videos were incredible because they were free and there was a never-ending supply of new clips everyday that featured local boulders and routes. Instead of watching elaborate feature length videos about areas I was unlikely to travel to as a young climber with no money, I could watch short clips of local stuff that I could weekend trip to and actually climb on. Throughout my climbing career I have used videos as inspiration to travel, pull harder, get beta, or discover new music and ultimately to be more connected to the community.

I have just recently begun blogging and posting videos and pictures I have shot. As I start making videos of my own I realize how limited my knowledge of camera work, lighting, editing, and production value really is. I am very motivated to learn and hopefully create movies that not only inspire people to climb hard but to depict emotion and strength through artistic quality and to progress and aspire to be a better photographer and cinematographer. Climbing videos are the porn of the industry and like any good addiction, everyone is doing it… Watching, editing, critiquing… I have watched climbing industry filmmakers progress over the past 14 years that I have been a climber and I am very impressed… in most cases…

When I watch videos on Momentum or other online video sites I expect a certain level of quality and professionalism through shooting, editing, progression, etc… In most cases I see just that. Josh and Brett Lowell have made incredible progress with the Dosages and King Lines (obviously) as well as Cooper Roberts, starting with Sessions and now at Big Up. Chuck Fryberger has been a part of this impressive quality upgrade that has happened over the past few years with innovative ideas and a very good eye and don’t even get me started on Peter Mortimer… Incredible stuff.

All of the aforementioned directors and cinematographers have descent production budgets, equipment, and editing software compared to the average Joe with a hand held camera trying to catch their friends sending hard projects. Nate just recently bought a very basic video camera and we have been out shooting shorts of just about everything we climb on. The process has taught me a lot and also left me wondering about the select few “climbers” out there that are getting paid to make shorts for sites like momentum. A select few of these “professionals” making these videos seem to have made no personal progression over the years that they have been in the biz. Very poor camera work, terrible editing on playschool software, and no artistic vision has led to some awful video of very strong climbers crushing inspiring lines. But you wouldn’t know the lines were inspiring unless you have actually been there to see these boulders yourself because the quality of the video is so miserable…

I really like Jamie Emerson's approach to shorts: quick clips of sending, not a lot of fluff. These videos show the problem entirely and the climber and the holds, that's what I want to see in the 30 seconds I am watching a send. These videos inspire me in the moment of the send and aren't intended to showcase much more than the climb and the climber.

If you are going to make any money in the industry I would expect some personal progression. I want to see a desire to be better at that defining skill and a recycling of the money earned from making these movies to buy better equipment and software and to spend the time learning the techniques needed to become a better film maker. Having friends in the industry that pull hard and being connected to the community is a must but slopping together bad footage of strong climbers sending projects doesn’t do the climber, the problem, or the industry justice.

I am certainly no expert but having a new perspective on climbing video has really opened my eyes to the potential out there. Nate and I make shorts for our blogs and to show our friends and we are not being paid or published on influential sites like momentum. I go to sites like that to be inspired and close-ups of Daniel Woods back while crushing his projects just doesn’t do the trick anymore… I’m just saying…

Ok enough ranting…

This weekend I am heading to the Lily Boulders in Tennessee with a fantastic aspiring filmmaker, Jordan Shipman, and a few friends, Nate and Chuck Morris from Project Holds. There are piles of hard lines at Lily and we are itching to check them out! I have no doubt that Jordan will get some amazing footage even if we flail…

Till Then.

Jon G.


  1. once boot of doom 2 and world go pop came out, how is further progression even possible?

  2. you do have a point... progression is overrated anyways.

  3. way to not name any names, jon. ha.

  4. isn't that the point? There are plenty of "others" that fall into that same category...

  5. Jon, thanks for the shout out. Its an odd thing, because my priority has always been climbing rocks. Shooting and editing is just a way for me to support myself. I am not a film maker, and have never really been that interested in doing it. Of course I grew up watching all the classic movies. Its hard when you are out having a great session with your friends to be like, "hold on, can you do that move again", especially when you are trying to send your self! anyways, I figure the best I can do is just keep it simple. good luck in boulder, I'll see you there. jemerson

  6. I like it simple for the shorts. Nice work on Shaken not Stirred, good simple video too, well done. Hopefully there will be more high definition on sites like momentum soon, and seeing some of Pinto's work is inspiring and very well done. Swizzy looked like an unbelievable time. See ya at Nationals... Cant wait to climb on your problems.

  7. Jon, love that you're opening up this conversation. It was actually on the platter of things discussed where I was climbing today as well. I think opinions are as varied as the people who have them, but progression is never possible unless they are voiced...and heard. Bottom line is, video is becoming a way of life for all walks, and even the shittiest of shit sometimes has value. Personally, I like to think all video producers or video aggregators feel that their footage has some purpose, and I also like to think that it all does. Thanks for jumping into the ring (more like a circus ring, no fighting, just monkeys on trapeze), I enjoy your contributions!


  8. Jon, I've just discovered your blog and I think you have hit the nail on the head. When it comes to media the climbing industry is a long way behind other sports. Skateboarding is a good example, the early vids were basic but then people realised the potential and put effort into the film making process. Now you will struggle to find a shit skate vid. Hopefully as the bar is raised by the like of the Lowells, it will filter down to everybody else who is out shooting vids.

    However there has to be some editorial decisions being made by the sites that host vids. If they are paying for them the quality has to be good, otherwise it should be on Youtube.