More than two decades ago, Rusty From Maine became the avatar for all viewers shocked by Ty Evans’ departure from skate video norms.
“I just bought your video number nine, The Reason. Man, the opening montage there, no little captions with the skaters’ names on it? What are you guys doing? You know how annoying that is?” asks Rusty in a voicemail immortalized in the opening minutes of 2000’s Modus Operandi.
At the time, the lack of skaters’ names in a Transworld video was a jarring experience, when — for the better part of the preceding decade — 411VM had served up captioned names for all. Then again, such titling wasn’t always the case. Go into the distant skate video past to a time before name titles, and skaters had to play the same detective games we play now, albeit without social media clues.
Do such clues mean we no longer need to be told each skater’s name? Is it a simple aesthetic choice to leave titles out of a video, or is there a responsibility to let the world know who’s in what clip?
We spoke to four videomakers to find out where they stand on the question.
Each interview is condensed and edited for clarity. They are presented in the order in which they were conducted.
Phil Lavoie is a co-founder of Dime. He filmed and edited the majority of Dime’s videos, which make ample use of name titles for skaters.
I’m thinking specifically of Knowing Mixtape Vol. 2 — what were you trying to do with the name titles in there?
We don’t assume people know all the skaters by heart, because personally, I don’t know all the skaters in the world. If this guy comes on the screen for 15 or 20 seconds, I’ll write his name because he has a little section. And if he comes back later, I’ll write his name again because it’s the skater’s little part.
It reminded me of 411 Video Magazine, where — alright, a dude shows up in the “Chaos” section, then if they’re on the “Road Trip,” they get re-introduced. Did that ever cross your mind?
There’s really no reference to it. I always edit most of it, then do the final touches. I work a lot with Antoine [Asselin] — we started Dime together — he does another job at Dime right now, but when we’re about to put out a video, we link up and we make sure we agree on everything.
And especially with the titles, we’re like, “How are we going to do that?” It’s annoying when you watch a video and have no idea who’s doing the trick. I feel like it’s good for the skaters who put in all this work to be recognized for their trick.
I’m thinking just now… I come up to Montreal, I’m on a trip, I skate with you guys, I get a clip, you include me in the edit, it’s the only time it’s ever gonna happen — you don’t put my name in the clip. I’d be bummed.
Exactly. That’d kind of suck. That’s how we think and I think we’re pretty good at that.
Sometimes, the comments are jokingly like, “Ha ha, thanks for writing Leon Chapdelaine for the 10th time.” People joke, but if we didn’t write it, people would be like [nasal voice], “Who did this trick at 34 seconds?”
I’m interested in whoever it is. Let’s say you’re watching a random video: “Here’s Quim Cardona.” I’m going to pay attention — especially now that people have low attention while watching all this content that comes out.
Yeah, snap to attention when you see that name. Why do you think some people leave the names out of videos?
There’s definitely not just one reason. Sometimes it’s a creative, artistic direction. They want people to pay more attention to the footage than the trick, which I understand, but personally I don’t think it [matters]. It’s not like we’re watching it on VHS anymore and you have to press rewind. You can just drag the thing back.
I feel like it’s harder in Canada. For a long time, there weren’t any pro skaters from Canada. So maybe that’s in our nature to give credit where it’s due so the skaters get recognition. Maybe elsewhere it’s not necessary [because] they have the industry right there. I feel like things are changing — you can make it as a skateboarder in Canada. But that skater, we’re going to help him out and put his name in the video so people can remember that banger was his.
Dime videos always take four years to make and they’re 15 minutes, so we really use just the bangers. And the rest we post on Instagram, so we have a constant flow of online content. The very best, we take out the camera to film it and put it in the vault. So when that banger appears on the screen, I guess that’s another reason to add the names.
Aaron Meza works in a producer role for Nike SB. He previously worked for Girl, where he filmed and edited many videos. He was editor of Skateboarder Magazine; he made the FTC classic, Penal Code 101A.
Is there a time in skating or a particular video that you point to where the rules and attitudes around name titles switched up, where we started moving toward people leaving them out?
I grew up in a time where they didn’t have the technology to do titles easily. Even the early Powell videos, like Future Primitive, there was a little bit of recognizing who people were, but I don’t think the video tools were invented yet to make easy titles.
There was a little bit of that in the 80s, but I remember, one of the Ty Transworld videos — when the Transworld videos were huge — he had a montage where he just didn’t put the names of the skaters. And I feel like that was a slight turning point in that direction. I think it’s because when you have a montage… it’s distracting, it’s a pain in the ass of where to get [the title] in.
Actually, going back, the H-Street videos — they were such huge videos but they didn’t do titles either. Unless it was Danny Way, you were trying to figure out who the other people are. To this day, I’ll probably never know who’s doing this trick or that trick.
It always existed and it got cleaned up around 411. To have to slide in a name on one quick edit of one trick — it’s kind of clunky and it kind of sucks.
We’ve been criticized lately at Nike for not putting names. But you decide for aesthetics you’d rather not and the hit you take is people might not know who these people are, and they get frustrated. It’s definitely a little bit of a coin toss of how you want to approach it.
Speaking of that Transworld video, at the time, was that something that people were talking about?
I remember even saying something about it to Ty, and he was like, “Fuck it, it looks like a 411 if you do that.” I don’t know if that’s wild paraphrasing or if he said that at all, but it was of that sentiment.
In the following video, he used a voice recording of somebody complaining about how annoying it was that there were no names. So it was a real obvious statement immediately. Back in the pre-internet days, someone took the time to leave a fuckin’ voicemail.
Part of me was wondering if he made it more than it was by putting in that voice memo.
It might have amplified it even more. At the time, it was bold enough that somebody noticed. But I do feel like it could be a short-change to the skater because it’s all about putting yourself out there and getting some recognition for it, obviously. I sympathize with that side of it.
It seems like there’s so much being produced, that it almost seems like an inevitable evolution, just because of the mechanics you’re talking about.
It’s about the way videos are being cut these days. There used to be a black screen: “Jamie Thomas,” a quick shot of him pushing up a hill. It was very defined, where now, nobody wants to go to black, which is good. I think videos should progress, be a long seamless thing rather than cut to black, [then] name. We’ve moved past that.
Circling back to Constant, that Nike video catching flack…
Even some people at work were like, “Aw, I wish their names were there!” But yeah, that’s definitely the biggest complaint. Somebody always hates the music.
Is there an obligation at any point with videos to put the name in? When you’re promoting a product?
That is the point of making these things, absolutely. I work for Nike; it’s not just a skateboard company. It’s a very large company, but we don’t really get notes like that from higher-ups, like, “How are we going to sell Grant’s shoe if Grant’s name’s not in the video?”
I think because of the platforms, the name of the video lives on the YouTube page and it’s not superimposed on the video itself, at all. We rely on the YouTube description to really carry the weight of a lot of that stuff.
I feel like griping about names is kind of a VHS, cathode ray tube-kind of complaint. When you think about all the mediums where this stuff is showing up…
But it’s frustrating. If I was a kid, I’d probably be frustrated too. But that’s why God invented the comment section.
If you were to make Penal Code again, in this day and age, would you leave the name titles in?
I don’t know about the name titles, but I’d definitely know that you have to color-correct it, and you have to get the skate audio to be a little louder.
Grant Yansura owns and makes videos for WKND Skateboards.
Would you say there’s any obligation to put the skater’s name in there, for the work put into a clip?
I’ve never had anyone get mad that their — ugh, I don’t know. I guess I’m a titles guy, but I’ve never even thought about it like that. I’m sure I’ve done plenty of edits where I don’t do titles, so it’s not like I have this straight stance on it. I don’t feel an obligation, but I do want to try to get that person recognition.
Are there brand-building thoughts? “What’s good for the skater is good for me?”
For that, it’s more about showing their personality and seeing their face. That matters more, so you can get a feel of the person. I think of titles as secondary to that. But some brands think, “You should know our riders without having to see their names.” I don’t feel like you should know everyone who skates for us. It’s nice to give them the title.
With that “Street Fighters 2” clip, you had a video game motif, and did the titles that way. When you put the time in, what do you think that adds to the edit?
That was me trying to show the younger dudes’ names in a clever way. And if the trend is to not show their name, I’m definitely doing it the wrong way: full title with a portrait.
But I’m just trying to get people familiar with new faces, because when I watch a video, I feel so out of touch when I don’t know who the fuck is who.
I feel you, it is like a lame-duck feeling: “I’m so washed, I don’t know who this is, I don’t even know what Instagram handle to bring up.”
Yeah, and that sucks because people know people more by their Instagram handle than their name. Yesterday, we were talking about — see, this is happening right now — I can’t think of his name, but @8ballr.
And that’s not even an Instagram dude. I’m not saying I think he’s an Instagram skater whatsoever; it’s just how he’s marketed. I don’t know who’s fault it is, but for some goddamn reason, I can’t think of his name.
It annoys me when homie videos don’t have titles. I feel like that dude — that one clip is so crucial to them and their existence in that scene — just put their name with it. Even if no one really knows outside your city, it’s still sick to see a name.
I’ve been told that titles are annoying to do; you finish the edit then you have to do more work. When you do something that’s substantial and pretty rad like in that “Street Fighters” edit, do you ever think, “Ah shit, I’m putting all this time in and Little Johnny’s just going to watch this once and then it’s onto the next clip?”
I think if you go into it with that mindset, then it is going to be a clip that is forgotten about. Titles are not hard, but I will say a problem with putting titles is there’s no half-stepping, because then you have to put everyone in.
In that “Street Fighters” video, I was trying to get the titles to play out of an actual arcade machine, and I didn’t even really want to see the whole arcade machine. I feel like you’d be able to tell that it was legit playing on an old 8-bit screen.
So I went to this arcade shop that’s next to our warehouse. The people were super cool. They all got together and they were trying to figure it out — they’d never put a high-definition signal into an arcade game to play it off the screen. They spent an hour with me trying to figure it out, and then came to the conclusion that it’s possible, but they’d basically have to invent some setup. And I had one day before the video came out. So I went home and filmed it off the computer screen.
I finished everything at 7 in the morning and had to premiere it at 9 because I’d already told everyone that time. The last thing I did was the titles, and there are so many spelling errors.
That’s partially an argument against titles right there.
Yeah, but also who gives a shit? Let’s chalk it up to it gives it more character if there’s errors. There’s a word for it: Endearing.
Bill Strobeck films and edits videos for Supreme. He also does Violet.
Photo by Jared Sherbert
“cherry” was 2014. You’d made some online edits, and I don’t think those had titles, but that was the biggest video of the year and it had no names in it. What was your thinking behind that?
I felt that aesthetically there wasn’t enough footage for some people to have a name in there. Obviously videos like the FTC video — so I can compare something really quick — there was one trick and it was the dude’s name.
I felt like everyone was doing names, and I didn’t want to have the name in the corner to take away from you getting glued to the video. And especially with “cherry,” I wanted you to watch it and go back like, “Who was that?”
When I started making YouTube videos really early, I didn’t know if I was going to have my own platform. I was in this apartment with two other people, and I had nothing to do all day, but I had all this footage because I worked so fucking hard being out filming all the time. And the people I filmed, I felt like they were important in skateboarding. The personalities were really big, and they were people I wanted to see.
Most of the videos definitely were with big names: Anthony [Pappalardo], Dill, Gonz, A.V.E, Alex Olson, Dylan, Kalis and Stevie. You knew who those guys were, but every now and again, there was that little hit of “Who was that?” And I felt like it made it better.
I still don’t want to see names, really. Some people have whatever names, some names are sick. It’s like, “Dude, does everybody need to know that name?” Everything comes down to aesthetic for me and what I feel at the time that I’m making it.
I love that video. On that aesthetic front, I don’t want to say people mimic that lack of titles, but you see it if you watch videos, and it works for skaters like Dylan and Alex. But if some kid is making a local video out of Albany, should that guy put titles in his video, is it fair to the skaters?
It’s an aesthetic choice. Fair? Is it fair to the skaters in the video or fair to the people watching it?
It’s about the skating: the collage of it all, the way that it looks, the way that it flows and I didn’t want the names to mess any of that up. In my mind, it would. I did hear that there were kids bumming, like, “Why wasn’t there names?” But that’s why. You’re sitting there getting fuckin’ jammed up by it.
But as far as a local video, I guess if someone in your town is off the chain, you’d want [people] to know who they are to be able to get to the next level of sponsorship.
This is a little off topic: You doing all that zoom work in-camera?
Do people sometimes ask if you’re doing it in post or not?
Mostly I’m doing it in-camera. Let’s just put it on the line right now: There’s a lot of people helping me film. I’ve read comments: “Bill fucks up.” Some of those clips are not me filming, dog. I have done a few things in post because it aesthetically doesn’t fit the style I film. Like it doesn’t flow right because it’s way too different.
But 98-percent isn’t. If it’s Johnny [Wilson] filming or myself, it’s pretty close, but if it’s a local filmer, it’s like, “Damn, that was fire, can you send it to me?” I might have to work on it, just a little bit.
Titles, the camera work — does it all just come to aesthetics for you?
It just felt like everyone I’m filming — when I look at any of these people in person, I notice detail. I wanted to treat this like photography or making a photo book. The detail of it all was the reason it was special, and I’ve felt like skaters have always had the best style.
Even when I was younger, I got into skateboarding because of the style. I saw Natas with the bleached front of his hair, curled over, and I felt like he looked cool. And I was like, “I like skateboarding.” It wasn’t because I got out on a board and thought, “This is what I want to do.” I got into it because I felt skateboarders looked the sickest, and I still feel like they hold the weight.