After a month of work, stress, screaming, and much heavy sighing, the new DVD is finally complete. It successfully rendered yesterday evening around 5pm, the second of two renders I attempted (the first was a total disaster). I'd like to thank my long-time friend and chase partner Mickey Ptak for offering to spend his only day off next week coming down here to help me finish it, when I was still in crisis mode and couldn't get it to render properly. I'd also like to thank my friend Scott McPartland, who offered me a few setting tips that worked brilliantly on my second attempt. So now Mick can come down next weekend and just hang out with his buddy he hasn't seen in over a year.
The DVD is called "Distance To Empty", a title I've had since 2007. On June 6 of that year, my long-time friend and chase partner Chad Lawson and I were in South Dakota, busting like champs. Towards the end of the day, we were just sitting on some lonely dirt road, watching our chances for success fade away as the sun fell towards the horizon. I glanced over at his gas gauge, and noticed the words "distance to empty" digitally displayed below it. I thought that sounded cool, so I stepped outside with my video camera, and looked for a shot that went along with that phrase. I eventually set up the vidcam next to the car, at ground level, looking down the dirt road at a dying storm, its tower blocking the sun and creating those biblical type rays, the proper term for which escapes me at the moment. I included a small portion of the left front of Chad's car, mostly just the tire, which was off to the right of the frame. I took a bit of video, and decided that would be the cover if I ever made a DVD with that title. It was just trivial.
However, the title was never used and eventually I stopped considering it. Less than a year ago, I offered it up publicly to whatever chaser wanted to use it (something I've done regularly over the years), as I had decided I no longer cared for it. Fortunately for me, nobody pays much attention to those title seedlings I occasionally toss out. I had a change of heart, when it suddenly became obvious this title was now very relevant to our situation, both in chasing and in life. Back in 2007 it had just been a cool title, but now it had meaning to me. Since 2011, we've had some fairly trying times, that extend beyond just the pursuit of severe weather. Lots of frustration, anger, uncertainty. Lots of wondering if we would survive it all, as a couple and as people. But mostly, lots of wondering how far we could be pushed until we reached our breaking point. In other words, what was our "distance to empty"? The once trivial title had become a perfect fit. They say "what's in a name" (I left off the question mark because I've always assumed that's rhetorical), and I get that. But for me, DVD titles have to come from somewhere, have to mean something.
The DVD itself, as far as content, is raw. Very little editing (a long-standing staple of my productions), and this time I used very few transitions. The more I watched the demo, the more this video had the feel of a 1990s documentary, with a lot of getting in/out of the car, setting up tripods, and build up to the tornadoes. So, I thought the best way to keep the feeling would be to lessen the amount of flashy transitions and other gadgets I admittedly enjoy using. The video is sometimes erratic, and there is a noticeable shake to much of it, as my lightweight vidcam and tripod are often buffeted in strong inflow. There are bad contrast moments. There's 26 straight minutes of Rozel. There's a lot of wind noise. There's many things that many people probably won't like. But I love the organic quality, the charmingly unprofessional feel of this DVD. It's bare bones chasing with bare bones equipment, which epitomizes what my chasing is all about.
I wanted to make this DVD as real as possible. I left in the jumping in/out of the car stuff. I left in me trying desperately to get my tripod/vidcam setup as the tornado continues in front of me. I left in my running around with the camera, trying to get the shot I wanted. I left in the in-car stuff where we're just talking amongst ourselves before I point for the next shot. I included some "couple" moments where Bridge and I are just being who we are together. But there's also twin tornadoes, a tornado seen from the top of a 100-foot overpass, a nocturnal tornado shown in slide form set to beautiful music, a majestic 26-minute EF4, and a brilliant sunset rope. I'm very pleased with this DVD. Do I think others will find it appealing? Probably not. This is not the kind of video people are used to seeing on youtube. This is not a video full of close encounters and harrowing escapes. It's not a video full of crisp, steady HD shots. And it's not a video that features chasers as much as storms. It's just a humble little homebrew made with experience, reality, and passion.