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Shooting Monsters On Location

From his Capri truck camper, Blake Shipman captures the action at the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Amsoil Arenacross, High Lifter’s ATV Mud Nationals, ESPN’s X Games, and more.  It’s time to put your helmet on, and get some air.

Blake Shipman, Action Sports video

In world of video production, the expression “run and gun” refers to the art of handheld video capture for action oriented events.  For example, in 2013 we literally chased truck campers around the Overland Expo West Landrover course to video that event.  We literally ran, shot video, ran, shot video, and so on.  That’s run and gun.

Taking this concept to an entirely new level is professional video producer Blake Shipman.  Since his early teens, Blake has been capturing the world of motorized sports and producing videos to promote the vibrant industry and community.  His break into the business came after a covert video shoot turned into a job offer that would change his life forever.

Today Blake travels the continent in his Capri truck camper following some of the most successful Freestyle Motorcross, Supercross, BMX, and ATV racing events in the world.  His incredible videos rack up thousands of views on YouTube and are seen on television all over the world.

For Blake, this is all a dream come true.  For the rest of us, it’s a remarkable entrepreneurial story of hard work, determination, and some good old fashioned truck camping.  Up the dunes, or down to business, Blake’s story will inspire.

Capri Maverick campfire

Above: Blake Shipman camping with his Capri camper

TCM: Tell us about your camping experiences and lifestyle over the years.

Blake: As a kid, my dad took us to Little Sahara State Park in northwest Oklahoma to camp ride ATVs.  Little Sahara State Park is about 1,500 acres of sand, which sounds small until you’re on top of the dunes.

We started out in tents and small tow-behind campers.  Then dad upgraded to an enclosed trailer.  The trailer had oil stains from machine maintenance, but it was still awesome.

While my days of camping go way back, my days of truck camping have been more recent.  My Capri has roughly 7,000 miles on it since I picked it up this summer.

Lake Texoma, Newberry Creek Marina, Oklahoma

Above: Blake’s Capri at Lake Texoma, Newberry Creek Marina, Oklahoma

TCM: What attracted you to a Capri?

Blake: The simplicity of the unit, and ease of use.  For travel, I am a logistical person.  The last thing I need is a lot of set up to get things to work.

Where most people go for an illustrious big space look, I like the compact layout of the Capri.  It’s a tiny camper, but its smaller size makes it more intuitive.  I don’t have to lug around a big camper, and it doesn’t hang off the bed of my truck.  Plus, the vintage look is great.

Capri Maverick truck camper, Blake Shipman

TCM: Your Capri is a short bed model.  What amenities do you have in your camper?

Blake: I have a microwave, refrigerator, and sink.  My water heater works on propane.  I have an exterior shower, television, Blu-ray player, exterior speakers, and a dinette that makes into a bed.  There’s pretty good storage under the bed and a 30 gallon fresh water holding tank.  I didn’t get a stove, but I might get one in my next Capri.

With my business always on the go, it’s nice to have a basic and simple camper.  I like to roll up, plug in, unload the camera equipment, and get to work.  Or, I can literally be ready to sleep in two minutes.  There is definitely that issue of a restroom with a camper like mine, but using a campground bathroom or my own designated spot is just all part of the adventure.

My dad has owned a 32-foot motorhome for three years now.  There is so much that needs to be done to get that motorhome ready to go.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve just hopped into my Capri rig, and hit the road.

Justin Berry, Little Sahara in Waynoka Oklahoma

Above: Justin Berry, Little Sahara in Waynoka, Oklahoma

TCM: What exactly do you do for work?

Blake: I do action sports video production.  I cover Freestyle Motorcross, Supercross, BMX, ATV racing, and more.  Everything I cover is on wheels with a motor.

The work is all sub-contracted for different media outlets.  For example at Monster Jam, a monster truck tour and television show, I am in charge of the opening ceremony videos and social media.  I also record video content to promote future Monster Jam events.

Above: Blake’s Oklahoma Supercross 2016 video

I have also done work for Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Amsoil Arenacross, High Lifter’s ATV Mud Nationals, ESPN’s summer and winter X Games, AMA Pro Motocross Nationals, and some work for GoPro.

If anyone is interested in my work, they can check out my YouTube channel.  I have also produced 10 off-road DVDs, three of which have been released at Walmart.

Riding the dunes in Oklahoma

Above: Riding the dunes in Oklahoma

TCM: That sounds like fun.  How did you get started in this line of work?

Blake: I have been riding ATVs and dirt bikes since I was 6.  When I was growing up, the ATV industry produced a video that came out around Christmas every year.  I begged for those videos.  That’s where this idea got started.

When I was 13, I would just go and shoot video of my friends who were also riding.  Before YouTube, it wasn’t as easy to get your work out and promote it.

Into my late teens, I was producing my own stuff.  I had no formal training in video production.  It wasn’t about the top name athletes, but my work was out there and online.  I raised awareness and have a presence in the sport.  I gained recognition, but not enough to be noticed.

Above: Desert free ride with Justin Berry

TCM: So how did you get your break?

Blake: In 2009, I took my video camera to an event.  The event staff deterred people from bringing in video cameras, but I kept it under wraps.

With the clips that I shot, I made a video and sent it to the event organizers.  They watched my video and, the following year, hired me to make another.  I would not suggest that approach to other people, but it worked for me!

Nothing proves you can do video better than posting your videos on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets.  Social media has helped, and it’s mostly free.  There is nothing more relevant than having high quality content out there that people enjoy.  That’s how I find new contracts.

Above: Blake’s Insandity Video

TCM: And the tours are your main gig?

Blake: Yes, I do three to four tours a year with a guarantee of at least six to eight weekends per tour.  That’s a full year.

Monster Jam has eight shows and three to four events at the same time.  It’s broadcast worldwide every weekend.  Thursday through Monday is my grind producing what I’ve captured the previous weekend and then traveling to the next event.

Each region has an event every weekend from the end of October to April, so I’m all over the place working at the Monster Jam events.

Camping in Indiana with a Capri Maverick camper

TCM: Are you able to attend all of these events in your Capri rig?

Blake: No, I often to fly to stay with the tour.  There are destinations to take the camper and I favor that, but it’s tough to get to all the locations in time.

When I left to go from Oklahoma to Illinois, I spent ten days on the road and I needed to produce enough content to make the trip worth it.  We had a week to produce three different video shoots, and I don’t think we had a single hiccup.

The camper helped because we were on a loose schedule.  For example, one day it rained and, because I had the Capri, I could work in the camper.

Blake shooting video on location

TCM: What do you do on a typical work day either on location or in the camper?

Blake: On show days I am up at 8:00am, even though the show starts at 6:00pm.  I’m up with the drivers shooting behind the scenes stuff.  At a moment’s notice I’m there if something breaks.  If a story is being made, I’m making it.

The day ends at 11:00pm.  I shoot all day and then shoot at the event that evening.  By midnight, I’m in the camper or in a hotel room.  I need to have at least one produced video done by Tuesday.  So, from Sunday night until Tuesday, I have to work on the video.

On Wednesday the video is on YouTube.  By the time Thursday rolls around, I go to the next event.  It’s a good thing the Monster Jam tour is only from October to April.  There’s nothing that comes close to the intensity of that work flow.  It’s a lot of hustle.

Editing video inside camper

TCM: It sounds like you do a lot of video editing in the camper.

Blake: I edit on the road if the schedule calls for it.  In the Capri, I set up in the dinette, hook up an HDMI to the HDTV, and use that to edit.

When I went to the Winter X games, I was out in a blizzard editing.  It would have not been the same experience without my camper.  I had to get out of the elements, and get the editing done.  Without my camper I would be struggling to get my job done.

Having the camper and all my stuff in one spot is a blessing.  It’s made my routine a lot easier.  I am able to get in the camper, do quick footage adjustments, and keep my equipment clean.

The places I go are not ideal for equipment.  They are rainy, dusty, or too cold to feel my fingertips.  A lot of the work that I do is in old arenas and stadiums during the winter.

If I’m editing on location, I can park near the docks of the stadium and stay on location.  I like the camper because I can lock the door and hide for five hours.  That’s another plus to having the Capri.

At the last event they had electrical hookups in the parking lot.  They also have generators that they’re running for the show.  The event parking lots almost always have electric because the welders need power.

For the most part, I try to edit in my home office.  Traveling and editing is not ideal.  I prefer not to dry camp with long projects.

TCM: We can relate to that.  What kind of equipment are you using to record the shows?

Blake: My main video camera is a Sony FS700.  It’s a professional camera that uses interchangeable lenses.  I learn everything hardest way I can.  It’s hard to explain how many hours I’ve been behind computers and cameras.  Once you learn hardest stuff, everything else falls into place.

I also have a DJI drone system and camera.  I never use GoPro.  I used to work for them for the AMA series, but my job was to edit footage from the helmets the riders were using.  The broadcast would go along for a lap on the racer, and then I’d take it and edit for ABC or NBC.

DJI drone photo of Capri Camper

Above: A photo taken with his DJI drone camera

TCM: Why don’t you use GoPro cameras?  They seem like a natural for your work.

Blake: Every person has a GoPro and there is not a shot you can do that others haven’t seen.  The drone gives you a different perspective, but a lot of people have them.  The drone is a favorite of mine, but it turns me into a lazy shooter.

Recent outdoor office near track

Above: Blake always asks permission before flying his drone

TCM: With the relatively new laws about when and where you can fly a drone, have you ever had any issues?

Blake: If I’m flying a drone for a rider at his facility, and there’s not a public audience, and I’m not near an airport, there are no issues.  It’s on private property.

If it’s at an event, there could be liability and insurance issues.  Some show promoters are more lenient than others.  Some of the new software updates will restrict you if you are near an airport, and the drone will not take off from ground.  I ran into that for the first time this past weekend.

I take it up frequently, and use it at events, but I always ask promoters ahead of time.  You definitely have to consider the general public when flying a drone.

Towing a RZR and 450R

Above: Towing two RZRs and 450R

TCM: Tell us about your own personal truck camping.

Blake: My hobbies are camping, riding, and traveling.  My camper is a big part of that.  It’s actually inseparable.  I love riding.  Sometimes I tow a 12-foot flatbed with a UTV and an ATV.

Polaris RZR Little Sahara, Oklahoma

Above: Blake with his Polaris RZR in Little Sahara, Oklahoma

I actually choose to not go to some events because I know people will ask if I brought my camera.  People will expect me to film if I’m at a riding event even if I’m not working.  The first time went to Monster Jam and didn’t cover it, I felt like I should be working.

Towing RZR and Capri Camper

TCM: You need an “Off Duty” shirt.  Where have you been with your truck camper that you would recommend to fellow truck campers?

Blake: As far as destinations I’ve visited in my Capri, I’m a big dune enthusiast so obviously northwest Oklahoma.  I have also been to Lake Michigan with its mixture of beach and trees.  And I have enjoyed the falls in southwest Indiana where the camping is very affordable.  All of those spots are highly recommended.

Driving back from Detroit, I hightailed it out of town and got to Indiana at 10:00pm.  I was going to drive straight back, but we were getting tired.  In the middle of nowhere, I saw a campground sign and I pulled off.  It was pitch black.

Waterfalls on way back from MI

Above: The waterfalls Blake found by surprise in Indiana

When I woke up in the morning there were beautiful trees, gravel, and barely anyone around.  Surrounded by the beautiful scenery, we had breakfast.  There was no agenda.  It was one of the prettiest places.  I didn’t have to take a plane to get home from Detroit.  This was much better.

TCM: Who is traveling with you?

Blake: I usually get a good friend to travel along on work trips.  As for riding ATVs, there is never a shortage of people who want to tag along.  I’m always in good company with the camper.

Capri Camper and Toyota Tundra

TCM: What are your truck camping plans for the future?

Blake: I’d definitely like to check out more of the west including Arizona near Flagstaff, and I would like to see some Colorado country.

Most Capri owners are into the rodeo lifestyle, but there’s so much more to the Capri Camper than that.  I want to show that Capri Campers are also useful for other things, like what I do.

Blake’s Rig
Truck: 2012 Toyota Tundra SR5 , Crew Cab, 4×4, Gasoline, Single Rear Wheel, Short Bed
Camper: 2016 Capri Camper Maverick
Tie-Down/Turnbuckles: Bolted inside truck
Suspension: Air-bags for support
Gear: Trailer Hitch Steps, I modified to position a foot toward driver’s side for better door enter/exit

 

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