Ray-Ban’s Stories Video Glasses by Facebook. Review and Unboxing.

Ray-Ban partnered with Facebook to create these wearable tech glasses that come in 3 different frames with 20 color combinations. The packaging and case are extremely high quality and low profile which I love, and the glasses look just like my regular Ray-Ban Wayfarers which is amazing. Setup is as easy as just turning them on.

The glasses come with dual 5 megapixel cameras. The left one records high quality photos, or 1:1 video perfect for social media. The right camera is used for depth perception for post effects in the app. Behind that lens you’ll find the on off switch and on the other side a status indicator light. There is stereo sound, and a 3-mic 360 audio pickup and an invisible touch bar that controls the camera, phone and music. The battery will last a solid 6 hours on one charge, and the case will hold 3 additional full charges to keep you juiced all day long.

Internal memory can store 500 photos or 35 30 second video clips. To take a shot It’s either voice activated or you can push the button at the top of the frame like you’re scratching your temple.

Using the glasses is second nature. I found the quality to be amazing for these seemingly no profile tech, and found some extremely useful applications like when cooking. I especially liked how no one seemed to care I had them on because they look just like regular glasses, especially if you have the clear variety. The app, which I’m sure will expand, has some cool features, like turning photographs into different 3D images, or to quickly create montage stories with music for sharing on social media. While not waterproof, they are definitely well built and lightweight so that you forget you even have them on.

Downloading the footage couldn’t be easier. In the time it took me to put the glasses down the clip was already transferred automatically to my phone to the dedicated View app. The app is super easy to use and comes with a lot of features that help you create stories quickly and simply. Once you’re happy with your creation you can save it to your device, or, very simply share it in a multitude of ways. Since it’s Facebook tech, sharing to Instagram is completely seamless.

So overall what do I think about the Ray-Ban Stories? I think they’re pretty great. Most wearable tech tends to make life more complicated, or tries to solve for something no one asked for. In this case, the glasses do a fantastic job of recording and sharing life’s moments without getting in the way. I do a lot of documentary work, and one thing that I always battle with is what happens to people when you take a camera or phone out … they change, it is inevitable. With these glasses you can minimize your influence on recording a situation, which results in a much more authentic experience. They’re light weight, great looking, and frankly kinda amazing.

The Stats and Specs:

dual 5mp camera
photos 2592×1944
video 1184 square 30fps
invisible touch bar on the side controls the camera, phone, and music
360 audio
voice recognition
clear UV and blue light blockers, transition lenses or classic shades
6 hours battery, three charges in case
500 photos 35 30 second clips
cost: $299 and up

Taste Awards Gift Bag Snack Review.

I’ve been nominated for 6 Taste awards this year, which is amazing, and as a little bonus, we were sent some lovely gift bags filled with ambrosia. Panache Chocolates, B3Bar (Bacon, Bourbon, Banana), Toffarazzi, Toni’s Toffee, Mel’s Maple Bourbon Pecan Toffee, and a special appearance by Hazelnut Hill’s Salted Hazelnuts. This was a blast. Links below to all the products, this is an honest review although how can I ever speak badly about a toffee … I mean c’mon. Much love and thanks to the Taste Awards … (I won 3;)

Please check out the films that won: The Oldest Restaurant in the World: Sobrino de Botin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U1XSwfTMQs

The Rarest Cookbooks in the World: Italy in Bocca: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgtEiIsTwrk

Thanks for watching!

Panache Chocolates: https://www.parkplaceleawood.com/store/Panache-Chocolatier/2138968909/

B3Bar: https://www.luxxchocolat.shop/product-page/b3bar-bacon-bourbon-banana-salted-caramel-bar

Toffarazzi: https://www.dgzchocolates.com/toffarazzi-toffee/

Toni’s Toffee: https://tonistoffee.com/

Mel’s Maple Bourbon Pecan Toffee: https://www.melstoffee.com/product-page/maple-bourbon-pecan-quarter-pound

Hazelnut Hill: https://www.hazelnuthill.com/hazelnut-hill-just-hazels/salted-hazelnuts

The Best Drone Case – DJI FPV AND Mavic

I recently got into the FPV game purchasing the DJI FPV Fly More combo because I, like many seasoned ops, want that fast action movement that you simply cant get from a non FPV quad copter like the Mavic. While I have mixed feelings about the new FPV drone, I need a case that can hold both drones, and man it’s not easy to find one, but, I did. The best one, and it is, perfect. A small miracle.

The Lowepro Dual Case is a magic little box … it can hold both drones plus a bunch of added goodies. You can set it up in a bunch of different ways but this is what I got to fit in mine:

  • DJI FPV Drone
  • DJI Mavic Pro 2
  • DJI FPV controller
  • DJI Mavic controller
  • DJI FPV googles
  • 3 FPV batteries
  • 3 Mavic batteries
  • 1 FPV goggle battery
  • extra props, cables and filters

So you basically can put two drones, with three batteries, all your extras, all in one bag. Best part is besides taking off the props on the FPV drone, everything goes in assembled, meaning you keep the antenna on the goggles and the joysticks on the controllers. For me I need to have these guys up and flying quick so that’s a big deal.

Like always no one paid me or gave me stuff to write this… this is truly an honest review. Happy flying!

Rs

Roberto Serrini’s 2020 Year in Review

It’s March which means it’s Year In Review time cause I literally can’t even get it together these days and I’m a good 2 months late, not that anyone is really asking for these ridiculous recaps of what I did last year. I’m not even sure how I started these back in 2013, I’m sure it was a way to flex-without-flexing too hard but now I really cherish having them. Each year I watch the subsequent years and get a nice snapshot of my trajectory as a filmmaker and human. Spoiler alert: I’m nosediving.

This year is obviously a little different in some ways; lots less travel lots more at home creation, but overall you would hardly know that I spent most of it crying in front of the TV eating Trader Joes Potstickers watching RuPaul Drag Race. Hardly. There’s some highlights, like a new music video for Chris Sullivan (NBC’s Toby on “This is Us”) band Joseph the Spouse, the launching of One Man One Camera where I proved you can have it fast, cheap and good, and of course Italy In Bocca, the saving grace in this whole pandemic, which helped a few people get through this hard time through their stomachs.

Anywayz, what a year, and some really beautiful new projects and friends came out of the insanity which I am ever greatful for. Really just happy we got another 365 round the sun to play with.

Looking forward to ’21 now that we are all legal to drink. I have a feeling this will be a big year for booze;)

Rs

DJI FPV honest review

So I’ve been flying drones for almost a decade. I’ve been a fan of DJI since the Phantom, and have built my own rigs over the years. I have covered FPV racing which I love, but as a filmmaker I always gravitated to a classic cinema quad copter, like a Mavic. Recently thought, I decided it was necessary to get into the FPV game, especially after seeing shit like this:

So as a director, and someone that makes a lot of motorcycle content and commercials, I wanted to have the ability to get some shot like the video above. I decided to go with DJI FPV because I know the quality of the builds that DJI puts into their tech, and know that they offer a set of features that will make it easy to build up my skillset as an FPV pilot. What I discovered is that FPV is very different then cinema droning.

You can watch my breakdown or if you want the highlights here you go:

CONS

  • DJI FPV is BIG. Bigger then most FPV drones.
  • It’s expensive for something you most certainly are going to fly into a tree.
  • It’s heavy and can cause some serious damage.
  • It’s not buttery smooth video like you get from a Mavic
  • Flying is completely different then a cinema quad copter

PROS

  • It works pretty much right out of the box
  • It’s modular so replacing parts isn’t so hard
  • Video quality is excellent.
  • Controls are fantastic
  • It has three modes that let you learn easily

So, all in all, as long as you know what you’re in for, DJI has once again created a fantastic product that suits a particular need. Are there cheaper drones out there? Yes. Are there better drones to fly pure FPV? Yes. But if you’re just getting into the game, regardless if you have flown drones before, this is a fantastic entry if you can deal with the pricetag.

One tip you should heed… buy the insurance. I would be scared petrified to fly without it.

Happy flying!

New Orleans: I love you.

The following is a love letter I wrote to the city of New Orleans for Get Lost Magazine. At the moment, NoLA is getting hit pretty hard with COVID and besides my hometown of NYC, it’s one of the worst places affected. My heart goes out to everyone, especially the vibrant, loving, passionate people that makes New Orleans my favorite city on the planet.

It’s so much more than drinking and partying. There is an ecosystem of creation there that cannot be rivalled, that spills from art, to science, to soul in dizzying fashion. This is probably why they have perfected drinking and partying.

While this piece focuses on Mardi Gras, it really applies to any day of the week in New Orleans for Mardi Gras is always New Orleans as New Orleans is always Mardi Gras.

Besides the people of NoLA I dedicate this film to Lisa Dunn & Peter Boggia … two natives that took me in and showed me what real New Orleans magic is like. I also dedicate this film to Aubrey Rector & John Greco for being the simply the best there is.

Stay safe out there folks, and consider donating to the NOLA Relief Fund if you feel moved to. Otherwise just be good to each other.

-Rs

New York City, my birth city, is hard to beat. It has everything from glitz to gore, and will feed you well, in stomach and in spirit. There is no city as cool as new york.

Except for New Orleans.

New Orleans, or Norlans or NOLA doesn’t care what you call it. This city doesn’t know it’s on earth, yet its connection to humanity from gutter to steeple is unlike any other. There is something unique about NOLA’s beauty. both rough and gentle like satin covered sandpaper. Somehow vulgar in a very polite way. The streets here are lined with salty dreamers who wear their passion on their sleeve spilling it on cheap folding tables for wanders to consume. It’s a city where there is no such thing as an inanimate object; spirit here permeate every aspect of life.

I consider this a truly american city where “America” refers to its namesake Amerigo Vespucci, who upon reaching the correctly identified new continent quotes “The victor here eats their vanquished, and the women are intensely desirable being very lustful, [they] cause the private parts of their husbands to swell up to such a huge size that they appear deformed and disgusting”. That’s the feeling I get from this city.

What NOLA loves:

NOLA loves gas lamps.NOLA also loves it molding. NOLA really loves being covered in patina. NOLA loves in all sizes. From the grandiose to the two step manor, to the one step railroad, to the tiny bywater shack too adorable not to sigh a smile at. Perhaps what NOLA loves best, is a good party. A party to New Orleans is more than just a good time; it’s a hall pass from bullshit, where who you are, who you really are, is all you are allowed to show, and smiles become the only currency you need buy a good time.

In NOLA you quickly find yourself forging ahead with two best friends into the streets seamlessly becoming part of the fanatic fabric of festival. Without effort you are now part of the parade, among the fellow freaks and fantasy folk who seem to be there not only to entertain each other, but themselves. The streets are a river of color and shimmer where “spectacle” takes on a new meaning that forever removes it from your daily vocabulary. Here there is no wrong, or off color or incorrect, just the perfect marriage of fantasy working in reality.

These are not costumes like they are in other cities in other festivals. These are expressions, deep and obtuse who’s meaning shifts throughout the day depending on how much you’ve seen or how long you’ve been on mushrooms.  While it may all seem fractured and without curation, there is one common line that connects the madness. A bass line. A second line. A line of music that rumbles through the city, overlapping, fading in and fading out, driving forward and igniting movement. From the streets to the roof it chases you through the city relentlessly.

No city celebrates inebriation like New Orleans. They have perfect the art of imbibing and have found ways to reinvent the act of getting shit-faced a thousand times over. The city is a giant house party. Living rooms become street corners, and kitchens become oilbarrel bbq lined sidewalks. It’s BYOB and no one’s parents are home.

Bourbon street may be sluttiest street in the world. It doesn’t care who you are, you’re getting in its pants. An aroused army of revelers storm the street looting beads from every balcony, every perch, every outcropping. Here you see things you simply can’t explain, both comic and tragic in an Orwellian way.Here spirits run free, and there is dancing and magic everywhere. Where even dropped fishbowls of booze somehow don’t spill. Pure sorcery.  Then there are the parades; flotillas of frenzy that slice through neighborhoods, flooding the streets with the echo of stomping boots and screaming brass as you trip the light fantastic.

The quarter bell tolls and it’s time to switch up the scene, so you descend down frenchman to familiar caves filled with some of the best damn music you’ve ever heard. When that tires, you head over to One Eyed Jacks and perhaps fortune favors you by witnessing the legendary Quintron and Miss Pussycat break off a piece which sets off the dance floor stupid crazy. When you need to bring it down a notch, you mosey over to Saturn Bar to sing some sea shanties with the Valparaiso Men’s Chorusand whoever is left standing in the Bywater. When that quiets dies down you take it back to the beginning: back to the streets.

The cloak of night darkness is pierced by led lights and sulphurstreetlamp which guide the funeral procession to the parties final resting place. Along the tracks and down cobbled streets everyone dances the festival through the last stretches of town, clamoring and hugging lost friends found along the way. finally, reaching the levy, the frenzy ignites its primitive roots in effigy as you stand humbled.

You have been up now for 24 hours.

Many emotions, drugs, and experiences have passed through you and you find yourself in a Fellini film walking the crest of a levy in the purgatory of the party. Nothing makes sense which makes perfect sense. The movable feast begins to roll like a magnetized ferrofluid and collecting under a broken warehouse canopy you are presented a puppet show. It’s both callow and complex, much like this strange time, in this beautiful unique experience which is simply called, New Orleans.

How to Travel like a Travel Writer (and not kill what you love).

The world is being destroyed by tourism and I am the cause. There are currently 1.4 billion tourists out there and that number is only growing at an alarming rate. The world is addicted to travelling and I am one of the many pushers out there on the streets giving them their fix.

I have been travelling seriously since I was 15. An only son of two Airline parents I would hop a companion pass and take off with a few dollars in my pocket. Back then there was no internet, not smartphones, and the only information you had about a destination was what you brought in with you, usually in the form of a bent and beaten Globe Trekker guide that had 4 year old outdated information in it. It was an adventure to survive a city with every street a new possibility to have your mind blown. Not knowing what to expect was the greatest gift to travel.

arctic wide
Not sure what I’m laughing about here … I’m lost in the Arctic Circle and near death.

I have watched the world, travel, and tourists change drastically over the last 20 years slowly building an acute awareness that we are destroying something that is not only a multi-billion dollar industry, but a true pure passion for most. Travel used to mean going someplace new, and more importantly, unknown. It meant discovery. It meant frequent bad meals, and quasi-dangerous hostels between getting lost, and very lost in places that simply had no use for another random person. However that environment yielded something that most travelers never even experience these days; discovery.

serrini_cambodia-101

Cambodian children seeing a drone fly for the first time.

For most travelers they have already taken the trip before leaving their laptop or cellphone. They have had a full blown case of FOMO from seeing it on instagram, they know what the best restaurants are and even what the food tastes like, they know all the cool spots, secret menu items, and wifi passwords before stepping out the door. At best they will be walking through a memory yet had, expecting everything, being let down often, and seldomly being surprised. They will fake excitement to everyone not watching them eat something online, and they will return unfortunately with all the satisfaction of finishing a series on Netflix. Paint by numbers travel is the status quo, and I have been doling out these colors for years. No more.

RS_Camaiore
Only getting lost let’s you find Il Matterello and the best tordelli you’ll ever eat.

I have extreme regret for what I did to destroy the world. Worse then what bankers did to our trust in economics, because I killed something living and breathing. There are so many voices out there forcing people to do this, see those, and eat that that we just seem to be running in circles of each other. Dreaded “top 10” lists are unnaturally formed, since most travellers only consider the most rated items on sites like Expedia, Kayak and Trip Advisor, which I have contributed nearly 1,000 reviews. I am the Baba Yaga of travel, and need to repent.

RS_Peru
Insert mandatory shot of Machu Picchu here.

Last year I experienced something that shook me to my core, how much I disliked Reykjavik, or rather, how much Reykjavik disliked me. A friend and I had won a contest to make travel films for the famed WOW airlines (which we single handedly took down) and part of the “prize” to work for them was living in Reykjavik for a few months. The experience was unlike any other, in so much as I have never felt more unwelcome in my life.

RS_wow_s
In the lobby of WOW HQ. Still not sure if this was meant to be ironic.

 

 

 

“We are drowning in tourists,” Guðmundur, one of the only locals that actually befriended me during my time there, passionately tells me over an 18 USD crap draft beer. “We can’t eat, we can’t drink, we can’t walk down the street. We are infested with tourists. And I hate you.” Harsh, perhaps a bit intoxicated words, but true nevertheless. Iceland opens its doors to over 2 million overnight visitors each year, which is 6 times the countries population if you can believe it. “The tourists are like locust. That are loud, and fat and only go to see the stupid waterfall or sit in a man made pool to take pictures.” Guðmundur clearly has had enough but his point is made. Iceland’s greatest export is tourism at over 40% of their GDP coming from travel. With the end of WOW air, the country faced yet another collapse in their economy, one that travel tried to save. It is wholly unsustainable however, and more gravely, destroys the exact thing people are coming there for, the culture. 

barcelona_web_B_R_201806011.jpg
See?! Culture!

Beer is 18 dollars a glass. A $5 foot long Subway sandwich is 25 dollars. Renting a car requires a down payment of 300k dollars. That last one isn’t true, but that’s the feeling you get. When I tell you it is easier to rent an apartment in NYC then go out to eat in Reykjavik I’m not kidding.

Worse of all the people don’t want us. They don’t like us. We make everything expensive for them, we crowd the streets, and we are consuming disposable culture. “We are only interested in the 5 year friend, not the 5 minute friend.” Guðmundur tells me is the reason why no one even wants to talk to me at a bar. They know I’m just passing through. 

13857
Making many new mates in Mindanao

In all my years of travel I have never felt so disgusting in all my life. Despite always trying to be a model tourist, there was no salvation here. It was a wake up call, that my love in life was threatening to implode on itself, and there is no way of stopping it.

There is, however, a way to avoid it. 

There is a way to bring back the discovery, a way to bring back that original, irreplaceable feeling of wonder that I have been trying to maintain for 20 years. It takes a little work, and definitely courage, but it for the most part will ease the pain of an over-touristed planet. People are going to be irresponsible. They are going to take the easy road and top-10 themselves to death never to know the true beauty of being a professional traveler. We can only lead by example, so here are my 5 commandments to being a good traveller.

1. Be nice.

I start with this as it is the most important tool in your arsenal. Niceness will always get you the most out of any situation, period. Flight oversold and you’re stuck? Don’t yell at the poor human that is in front of you. Be nice. They’ll help you out if they can, or they won’t, but yelling is never going to make the odds of that any better. Someone purposefully trying to be a dick to you because they don’t like your accent/shoes/man-bun? Be nice, because it’s an opportunity to open their world to a new perspective, or at the very least you’re less likely to get shived if that was their plan. Just be nice. In general everyone around the world will open up to you if you show genuine interest in who they are and their culture, and if you’re nice about it, they’ll want to share. Don’t be afraid, be nice.

2. Be different.

I love Instagram. I love Trip Advisor. I love AirBnB. They tell me exactly the places to avoid writing about at all cost. If a country, a city or an experience is part of a top 10 then there is no reason for me to write about it. It’s had its moment in the sun, and I guarantee you there is better amatriciana, a better little museum, or a better secret bar just waiting to be discovered, mainly, because it will be yours, and the people there will be so happy to see you. SPREAD TRAVEL AROUND. That is your job as a travel journalist, to find NEW experiences for people to have, not to regurgitate well tread garbage. Sure some things need to be seen like Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia or Machu Picchu, but don’t leave out Amsterdam’s Cat Museum or a visit to the oldest lightbulb in the world. 

3. Be honest.

No one fails at vacationing. Or do they? I think failing is one of the most important parts of travel, yet, you would be hard pressed to find some of the most popular instagram accounts with anything less then impossibly perfect travel shots. This is garbage. Travel is hard. Bags are heavy. Communication can be difficult. Jet lag is real. Be honest. Be honest with your travel, and you will get so much more out of the experience of sharing it. If everything is so damn fabulous then how do you know it’s actually fabulous? Share bad experiences, and more, just be real with your audience about what is happening. Do they really have to eat this donut? Will it really blow their minds? I hundreds of reviews on Trip advisor, you know how many I’ve given 5 stars to? only 3. It’s no secret people find bad reviews more telling then good reviews. 

4. Be ready.

If you like to make things to make things while you travel like me, you know that having the right gear is key. Too much and you’ll weigh yourself down, too little and you’ll be cursing yourself for not bringing “that lens”.  Be ready. While technology changes constantly, I have a pretty solid set of tools I like to bring with me on any job. Here’s a quick little film I put together before my last trip:

And here is a rundown of the gear. Mind you I’m not sponsored by any of these brands. This is just my honest opinion from my experience as a traveller.

Sony A7rIII – light, fast, proxies on the fly, dual slot, sees in the dark.
24-105 Sony lens – great zoom lens, one lens to rule them all.
Zeiss CP 50mm macro – for the fancy stuff. great for portrait and food.
Sony A6300 – small B cam – great for incognito, also underwater.
CCTV lens – slap this on the the A6300 and you get some rad art shots
Lowepro camera bag – the greatest low-fi, heavy duty camera bag out there.
Travelpro Carry On Bag – low profile, indestructible, cheap and good.
Mavic Pro Drone – I’ve shot over 30 films around the world with this little guy.
Rode VideoMicro – super compact on camera mic
Sony URX Wireless Mics (lav) – expensive, but necessary for good interview audio.
BEATS wireless headphones – don’t know how to fly without them.
Holdfast Buffalo camera straps – hipster lingerie for photogs.
Bungee Strap – this 3 dollar hack that will save your back and give you smooth pans.
iM Corona Old Boy Lighter – the ability to start a fire is what separates humans for beasts.
Manfrotto 930 tripod – light, easy, small, nuff said
BANDANAS!!! – see the film. they have 1000 uses.
Eceen bag – great portable bag that’s good for day trips
Global Entry – a must if you don’t want to spend half a day at customs
Alka Seltzer – a must if you want to not worry about what you’re eating.
Moleskine Notebook – portable, never fails, and batteries never run out.
Belkin USB Powerstrip – you got gear, you gotta charge it, you need this.
TSA locks – probably useless but good piece of mind.

5. Be lost.

Perhaps the most important tip is to get lost. Getting lost is the only way to really discover anything about a place, and about yourself. If you research everything before you go, your experience will be predetermined. It is what is plaguing the world right now, channeling millions of people to the same city to eat the same meal in the same restaurant. How very boring, and dangerous, to the travel industry. Instead, be lost. Put the phone away, turn off the internet, forget the top 10 places and explore. Try talking with people that live in the city. If you are going to use social media, then reach out to locals for their advice. That’s what we did when we made films for WOW airlines  and while TripAdvisor, Travel & Leisure and Culture Trip are great resources, we wanted what locals knew best about their city in hopes to give intrepid travellers a more authentic experience. If you are running into other tourists at places on trips, you may want to rethink your strategy.

solo signs italy
Stay lost my friends.

They are simple guidelines I like to follow that hopefully will not contribute to the pandemic travel malarkey that is shrouding our world. I have always believed that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” but unfortunately it’s becoming less effective. Hopefully this is a growing pain of a world getting smaller, and people will become more savvy looking for real experiences other then just virtual instagram moments.  Finally, because I love “top 5” lists, I’ll answer the top 5 questions I get.

Q: Do you ever have any trouble with the TSA with all that gear?

A: Depends. There is no rhyme or reason when they will stop and search a bag of mine, despite literally packing it the same way for a decade. I do have TSA pre and Global Entry which helps a ton, but overall rule number one of “Be Nice” seems to be the only real salvation in a TSA situation.

Q: What phone carrier do you use? Is it not really expensive traveling as much as you do?

A: Google Fi on a Google Pixel. Before Google Fi I had AT&T for my iPhone, and yeah, it sucked. I did buy a cheap Samsung that I could pop a local SIM card in, but that was a pain too. Google Fi changed all that as I can literally go anywhere in the world and my phone works for the same data rate. It’s a game changer.

Q: Do you need a permit to fly a drone in all those countries?

A: Yes. You do. Legally. Drones are amazing tools that really take travel filmmaking to a new level. The key with them, as with anything, is be professional. I am FAA and IAA certified and licensed. I never fly in dangerous areas and don’t break laws. More importantly I don’t ever fly if I’m going to annoy someone or ruin their experience. Drones are loud, and people don’t like them, so be invisible, be quick, and be safe. 

Q: Are there any specific clothing brands you like?

A: Socks I like Stance. PrAna also makes great travel gear that looks swank, great jeans and pants and shirts that don’t wrinkle. Buck Mason makes great lightweight clothes that look good dressed up or down. Duluth makes great tactical underwear. Yes tactical underwear.

Q: Do you know any travel hacks?

A: Hmm… well one thing I do is always keep an old hotel key with me in my go bag. Reason being is that most modern hotels these days require you put a key in to get the outlets to work, and if you’re charging batteries, then you best leave a key in while you’re out. 

How WOW Air did it different.

Last summer, a friend of mine and I won a contest from WOW air to travel the world and make films for them. Half a year later they abruptly cancelled all service. Coincidence?

Dear God I hope so. One thing I can say having worked closely with them is that WOW certainly did things differently, for better or worse. There were aspects of their corporate culture that were mind-blowing in how relaxed, open-minded, and forward thinking they were. They had all the flexibility and energy of a kid right out of college, and were a company that acted on passion and creativity, which is exactly what this contest embodied to me.

brad_rob_wow_air_-68
I’m not sure if this was meant to be ironic…

The question I get the most from colleagues is “why the hell would I want to win such a contest? You’re an established commercial director, and you are basically making content for a brand for free”. They have a point; this type of contest was perhaps geared toward a much younger, novice filmmaker/traveler, but fortunately for me I have a standing mentality of a 25-year-old, which comes from a serious amount of meditation and training (e.g. I still drink Car Bombs on dates). I have always been electrified by travel, with the same level of excitement as a 16-year-old Robby going to backpack through Europe for the first time, however, what I had now is the experience and skill of  professional working in advertising, which was really driving my curiosity to see how this project would work.

Brands going directly to content creators is a trend that is seriously disrupting the advertising industry, and this contest was. This type of “direct to source” work is as interesting to me as it is frightening. As a content creator it’s liberating; to be able to take a vision without compromise to completion, without the sometimes sluggish weight of an agency weighing you down. At the same time the structure and machine that is an agency or creative production company is an extremely important resource in creating top quality content, as is the support you get in bringing an idea to life. Either way this trend wasn’t diminishing any time soon, so I was eager to see exactly what it could produce.

It was clear to me from the beginning that the real prize of this contest was being able to create a large body of work for a global brand without compromise. WOW gave us full autonomy, to a concerning point even. They gave us the login information to their Instagram, YouTube, and Website, and told us to post images and videos when we wanted, without review. No review? It’s like I had died and went to editor heaven, which scared the bejeezus out of me a bit. Regardless it was clear that we could make this project anything we wanted it to be, so we decided to push it right to the limit.

As a travel writer I am acutely aware of how the internet has created this echo chamber for travel experiences. As soon as something “hot” hits the scene, there are thousands of articles and videos about it, creating an unnatural surge to that destination, be it a city, restaurant or even dish on a menu (I’m looking at you Burger at the Brindle Room). This is the dark side of travel journalism, a power so great that it can destroy the very thing you wish to share with the world. So, in a conscious effort to bring something novel but equally amazing to our audience, we wanted to focus on experiences that were more enigmatic and authentic. To do so, we reached out to locals through WOW’s extensive social media network which proved to be our golden ticket.

Being able to be in direct communication with our actual audience is a dream any marketer or creative wishes to never wake from. We were able to ask actual locals where they go, eat, and see, places and experiences that you won’t find (yet) written up about on giant opinion generators like Yelp or TripAdvisor. This was the real deal, and would allow us to create a library of unique quality content so prolific that it could be the answer to any travelers query, covering must sees, must eats, must drinks, oddities and tips and not be just an echo of what was already out there.

HOW WE WON A “DREAM JOB”.

Last June, while doing research for a travel show that partner Brad Stuart and I were producing in NYC, we came across this contest from WOW Air. The prize was an apartment in Reykjavik for the summer, 140 USD per diem, and hotel accommodations in the 8 cities they would fly us to making travel films for them. I had just bought the new Sony A7rIII and wanted to field test it for the show we were working on, so we entered. 30k other people did as well. We ended up winning with this film:

 

To say we were surprised is an under-statement. There were so many fantastic entries, from so many fantastic hosts, many of which with Instagram and YouTube followings well beyond ours. We were so shocked that when we got the call from WOW the first question we asked was why they chose us. They said they were not looking for a large social media following, but rather for a team that had a real passion for travel with the ability to produce high quality content. Flattery will get you everywhere WOW.

While we were extremely grateful, we still had to give it a good think if we should accept; it would mean leaving our lives for three months, not being able to work on paid projects, and would leave our NYC apartments vacant while still having to pay rent. Boo hoo I know, but realistically the per diem they offered would only cover basic costs on the road, not living expenses or rent back home, so. if we were going to commit, we really had to do something special with the opportunity that would be valuable to us

We decided we would need to produce a large catalogue of quality content that would explore places and experiences that were different from all the other travel films out there. The style and personality of this films would be unique as well; a mixture of comedy and reverence, grit and polish to keep viewers surprised and tapped in. These films would be intimate, authentic, and most importantly fun, and collectively would become a well branded showcase to model future work from.

We accepted the prize knowing that this was going to push the limits of what we had produced before, but with the electric excitement of being fueled by doing something you truly love.

SO … NOW WE LIVE IN REYKJAVIK I GUESS?

Just a week later Brad and I were living in Reykjavik, which was incredibly exciting. Packing was an interesting endeavor; squeezing items to live somewhere for 3 months and produce an entire summer campaign into two bags and a personal item really pushed my limits of economy packing. It was such a learning lesson I ended up making a short film for the travel mag I write for that goes over my absolute basics needed to get the job done:

The apartment we were given was a modern, minimalist AirBnB in the “God’s Quarter” right down the street from the outstanding Hallgrimskirkja Church. They furnished the fridge with WOW beer (do I trust an airline that makes beer? Yes, I guess I do) and something called “Hardfisker” which is fish jerky and is as disgusting as it sounds (but somehow better with butter, obviously).

Reykjavik is a fantastic city. Great food, beautiful bay, dynamic culture. Iceland as a whole is a marvelous gem, unique in the world. The locals are a bit over the tourist invasion with good reason, and can be a bit cold at first, but like any culture, with enough smiles (and buying of libations) they would shed their protective husk to reveal their true, friendly character. While we loved going to the public pools, and eating a Hlöllabátar after a night dancing at Pablo Discobar (great name), we really didn’t have much time to explore our new home as the travel itinerary was aggressive to say the least.

THERE IS NO SET IN JET-SETTING

Boston, Los Angeles, Berlin, St. Louis, Barcelona, Stockholm, Reykjavik, Edinburgh, Brussels, and Amsterdam … we would be in each city for 2-3 days, then fly back to Iceland for 3-4 to edit and plan the next one. This on repeat for nearly 3 months. We wanted to maximize the amount of content we could produce, and really cover as much as possible within that time, so this is what we did:

1. Research

Our main objective was to not be an echo of what was already out there; we wanted to highlight lesser known experiences that defined a city, that actual locals enjoyed. The travel writer in me has a love-hate relationship with the craft; I want to inspire people to travel, but I don’t want to kill the very thing that does the inspiring, which a flood of tourist can easily do.

So we would research the usual suspects like Thrillist, Time Out, Conde Nast, Trip Advisor, even Atlas Obscura for the must-see attractions, but most of our focus came through WOW’s far-reaching social media platform, asking locals what their favorite places were. This got us directly in touch with our audience, giving us unique and really fresh results that hopefully separated our content from the cacophony of ordinary that was already out there.

2. Contact

One asset working with WOW was having a global brand to produce from. There is something very empowering to travel with purpose, meaning, experiencing a foreign culture because it is your job. Being able to call a restaurant, museum or night club and tell them that you’d like to do a travel segment on them for WOW airlines gives you greater access, allowing you to go much deeper into the experience than if we were just a tourists. Experiences like getting the VP of Media Relations to give you a private tour of the Getty Center, learning pole dancing from a world champion, or filming a Michelin Star restaurant that has a staunch no media policy, was much easier with WOW opening the door, and Brad’s confident producing skills. We would end up making hundreds of fantastic connections, and be able to talk with the minds behind the life-changing experiences that make travel magic.

3. Strategize

Once we had our list of targets, ranging from food, to nightlife, to cultural experiences, we would plug them into a Google map like this, labelling each one in their respective category. Terribly boring I know, but this way we could see where in the city everything was, and logistically figure out how to do as much as possible in one day. I really have become my father.

RUN AND GUN WITH PURPOSE

A.B.C. Always Be Capturing

Coming from a documentary and editorial background, I relied on his type of high energy shooting and logging to guarantee we could produce all the films we set out to. The more cities we accomplished the more streamlined our process and gear became, and ultimately the less footage we would need to capture. To give you an idea, for Boston, our first city, we captured around 350 GB of material. Our last city, Stockholm, we topped out at 160 GB. It was like being on that show “The Biggest Loser” but instead of lbs it was kbs (I really have become my father even in humor, it’s official).

The gear we relied on was a Sony A7rIII with the 24-105 lens, an a6300 with a CCTV lens, two Sony lavs, a Rode mic, Mavic drone, and Samsung 360 camera just for fun. In the end we didn’t even bring a tripod because the stabilization on the camera and in post is so friggin’ good. With this boiled down amount of gear we could still keep it fluid and fast, but be able to produce the high quality content that we were after.

Each night we would dump and back up the media, and bring it into Premiere. The camera created proxies on the fly so we could easily deliver in glorious 4k while editing on a Macbook Pro. We would then write scripts for each episode, and record them into a pillow fort/sound booth on our Reykjavik kitchen table. I would mainly be cutting any waking hour we weren’t traveling, and Brad was in charge of producing, and distributing content on-line. We had fever dreams, never knew if it was day or night (mainly because the sun doesn’t set in Iceland in the summer), and forgot where we lived many times, but really could not have been happier.

THE END RESULT

10 cities, 3,149 photos, 2.5 TB of data, 1 tattoo, and 38,675 miles later we really couldn’t be prouder of the work we completed over the summer. We successfully produced over 100 full films for WOW Air in just over 3 months. If you’re doing the math that’s around 3 films a day. Some will say #shopped but the proof lives on the website travelguide.wowair.com – and we will be launching our own YouTube channel TravelClast this year with these films and many more.

For two people who love to suck the marrow out of the world of travel, I don’t think we left a morsel on the bone to pick. It saddens up deeply to see WOW air be gone in a flash, and really cannot believe that the “happy Icelandic low-fare airline” is no longer around to shuttle bargain savvy travelers to destinations usually unobtainable at such low costs. To us they were a visionary company that for better or worse moved boldly toward novel innovation without hesitation or remorse. They were spirited, and every employee we had the opportunity to work with lived with this passionate credo, which was truly refreshing to be part of. We’re just so thankful to have had the opportunity, and hope the work lives on like personal memories that can be enjoyed by anyone with a desire and passion for travel.

-Rs

About:

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and motion. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, and a licensed drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. 

Follow him @serrini

Drone. DJI. Mavic. Review.

So. This is my review of the DJI Mavic Drone.

It’s good.

Thanks for reading. Here’s a test video:

https://vimeo.com/220125414

Fine, here’s my pro/cons

Pros

• Ridiculously small and light
• Low Profile
• Great video feed.
• Amazing sensors/tech
• Fair price
• Quick to fly

Cons

• Setup tricky
• Too many variables
• Too many safeguards
• Movements very sharp
• Video not as nice as GoPro Hero
• Footage plays down chunky in Premiere compared to GoPro

Overall it’s amazing. Its a great little tool to throw in your bag and take with you wherever. It’s a little bit of a whiney Nancy when it comes to updates and settings; I had difficulty getting it set-up, but once done, it was up and flying quickly. That says it’s so damn smart that it simply wont fly if you’re in a place that DJI says you shouldn’t fly. For this reason I’m not selling my old Phantom 2 because it’s totally off the grid, and sometimes as a filmmaker you need to be unrestricted. 

All in all it’s well worth it’s plastic soul.

Introducing Vintage Camera Quest.

It’s Memorial Day, and I can’t think of a better day to launch my newest project, the Vintage Camera Quest.

What is it:

I’ve acquired over the years quite a collection of vintage and rare cameras. I love them. I love how they look, what they represent, and what they can do. So instead of letting them just collect dust I’ve decided to use each one for a week, and post a series of photos and a bit of info about the camera on Instagram and on a blog dedicated to the quest:

www.vintagecameraquest.com

I dedicate the quest to my Grandfather who introduced me to photography. I remember him always with some sort of camera around his neck, and it always fascinated me. Decades later I have made it an integral part of not just my career, but my character. Photography defines me as a person, allows me to express myself to the world, and is the basis of how I make a living, supporting me and my family. All this from a foreigner that fought in a war for freedom. For that I am forever grateful, and can only hope he knows truly how much he has done for me.

As a fitting inauguration, I decided to launch with his first camera, which became my first camera, the Kodak Brownie. I decided to post the first roll of film I took with it instead of shooting something new, just because I still had it, which is somewhat of a miracle.

I hope you pop over to the new blog and follow the Instagram account as I will be updating every week for one year. Thats right, 52 cameras, coming at you.

grandpa and me

Thanks again gramps, love you and miss you.

Rs

About:

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. The Vintage Camera Quest is an adventure through vintage cameras. Each week he is using one of his 40 collected cameras, developing and posting the experience here. Check him out on instagram @vintagecameraquest or subscribe to his blog www.vintagecameraquest.com – thanks for reading!