Tri Ride's Vittorio Platania | Life, The Universe and... Mountainbikes
I've never met film maker Vittorio Platania, I only know him by his work...
I've never met Vittorio Platania, I only know him by his work. I know that after every World Cup there is a delay, a wait, anticipation…the days drag, but eventually the Tri Ride video edit comes out online. They are always beautifully filmed and edited, and they tell the story of the race. I needed to find out more about this Vittorio guy…
From Dirt Issue 124 - June 2012
Words by Mike Rose. Photos by Victor Lucas and Vittorio Platania.
What I found was an intelligent, humble, smart, honest and proud Sicilian. Confident in himself and his ability, but always asking himself questions. He’s not your average mountain bike film maker.
Dirt: So who is Vittorio Platania?
Vittorio: I am Sicilian to my bones. I have studied philosophy all my life, in which I also did my masters and PhD. Honestly, I still don’t know how I got myself into mountainbikes, I just know that it makes me very happy. I love MTB, even though, thanks to my love for it, I have had three shoulder dislocations, a broken tooth and four broken ribs. I make a very good impression of Marlon Brando in the Godfather…so they tell me.
When did you first pick up a camera and start filming?
I started filming almost as a joke with a very old Super 8 camera my dad owned, this when I was at school. At the time I projected my movies on a white wall. I still have that camera and I am seriously thinking about using it for one of my next videos. It would be very cool I think, who can beat black and white and 4:3 of super 8?>>
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I started filming videos in the World Cup to add content on my site TriRide, but I soon tried to make it become something more ‘professional’ to absorb some of the cost. I started enjoying this so much that this has quickly become my main activity. In truth, from the start I wanted this to become my job, I think I am really very lucky to have met people that have believed in me and have made this project possible.
How many years have you been travelling on the World Cup circuit?
This is the fifth year on the World Cup. The first two years I was only able to film a few of the key rounds. It is only in the last two years that I have able to cover the entire season. This year it will be my first World Championships and I am really excited just thinking about it. I can’t wait.
Which riders do you like to film the most and in what locations?
The list of riders is very long, and thankfully the World Cup is full of riders with a lot of talent. If I was really forced to name names I would say Sam Blekinsop, who, I think, has an incredible style, a mix of cool and fun and racing. The truth is that sadly I have not yet filmed any of the riders outside the racing environment, and it is something that I would really like to enjoy to do. We hope one day! If you ask me who I like to film outside the DH disciplines I would say, without a doubt, Mr Enduro, Jerome Clementz.
Who or what are your influences? Do you have anyone in the film/bike/magazine world that you look up to and get inspiration from?
This is not an easy question to answer. I would say that basically I define myself as an omnivore. I always try to find the interesting side in whatever I have in front of me. The same rule applies to my MTB videos where I always try to get inspiration from everything I see, more or less. If, again, I was asked to name some names I would mention Alex Rankin, I adore his ‘essential’ approach and speed of the editing. I think he has produced some of the best World Cup videos of all time. Clay Porter has also produced some amazing work…I think I have destroyed my DVD player with repeated plays of Between the Tapes. Among other things Clay has also organisational skills that are not common, he manages to put together a big production with a skill that I don’t think many have. In terms of style, probably one of my favourites is John Reynolds, his ability to get images of such high quality out of 7D is something I really admire. I always thought that the videos from Team Yeti were among the best in the circuit. I must also mention Rob and John Parkin, John Lawlor and Aaron Bartlett. These are all video makers that have produced first class work in the last few years.
On the non–racing side I love The Collective and Seasons, and I really think that, please don’t kill me for saying this, Life Cycle is one of the best videos on MTB of all time (I could explain why I think this but we probably do not have the time here now). I love the videos from Aaron Laroque, always very elegant and professional and I go mental for the videos of Silva Films, some of the best video makers at the moment in my view. Did you see the last edit with Matt Hunter? Incredible. These guys shoot with a very simple DSLR and show the world that videos are made of ideas and not necessarily of phantom cameras and helicopters!
If you ask me what inspires me more than anything else when I shoot I have to say cinema. I have always been a avid cinema fan. Some times when I was at University I could watch four or five movies a day (you can imagine how much I had left for assignments!). I go absolutely crazy for the things like the initial sequence of Police Captain Hank Quinlan by Orson Welles, the pixelated black and white in Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman, the close–up’s of Ordet and Dreyer, the camera movements in Rope by Hitchcock, the final monologue Rutger Hauer delivers in Blade Runner by Ridley Scott, the initial title sequence in Raging Bull by Scorsese, the eye close–up’s of Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone’s movies, the scene of Dart Vader’s death in The Return of the Jedi, the doves that fly amongst bullets in A Better Tomorrow by John Woo, the scene of the De Niro’s kiss to his brother Fredo in the Godfather part 2…I could go on for another 20 minutes if you want. These are just some of the films that move me, that inspire me, I would be so embarrassed to even mention my videos next to these names. It is simply the stuff that inspires me, nothing else.
How would you describe your filming style?
Describing my style may be a bit presumptuous from me, I would again probably start to mention the names of people who have inspired me and continue to inspire me and I would get embarrassed again! I will leave others to define my style, if I actually have one that is.
On a technical point, what equipment do you use?
I use a Panasonic, a Canon EOS 7D and I am waiting a 5D Mark III. I am looking forward to the next couple of years where the technology should allow to shoot at 300 fps or 60 fps on 1080 at not too prohibitive costs.
You are widely regarded as making some the best (if not the best) video edits from the World Cup races. People love your stuff. What do you think about that?
Really? This does really make me proud and really, really happy. Clearly I do not think, in no way, that my videos are better than all the others. I had of course some great feedback over the years. I hope that people will continue to like my stuff this season.
What are the important elements to a good edit to you?
Whenever creativity is involved I think that the important thing is to try to be different. The best comments I receive on my World Cup videos are when people tell me that they are seeing something new or different from the rest. I am much more interested in this than in the comment that something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as these are very subjective concepts. I don’t know why it is, but the most stimulating thing for me when I shoot is to try to find the ‘trends’ and trying to get away from those, maybe actually in the opposite direction. I don’t do this because I think it may be cool to be ‘against’ as such, but simply because I honestly find it very stimulating, that’s all. In my life, as I said, I studied philosophy a lot (school, Uni and PhD), and this, I think, has built in me strong analytical skills, in essence I am always asking myself, “Why?". When I see something I tend to criticise it and try to find its weak spots and then I do the opposite, because the opposite of a weak spot is a point of strength…right? But what then, when I analyse my decision I criticise it again and there I go in circles. A good edit needs to have this in my view, it has to try to be free, analytical and creative as much as possible. The rest comes naturally. Being different makes things interesting, unique and special even though when you first see them they may seem ‘wrong’. I mean, would anyone ever say that Jimi Hendrix was a good singer? Well my brother would actually! However would you want to compare is version of Little Wing with any others? No comparisons there!
Does it ever become difficult trying to represent the same thing (mountainbiking) but in a different way?
Here we are again with the being different point. If you want to be different, you just have to be. Who says that the biker has to be filmed this or that way? Who says that the soundtrack has to be in this format? Who says that editing has to be coherent? The only way to film MTB in a different way is only one…to just do it. It may seem a little flippant remark but it works for me I think. However there is one golden rule I never forget, “less is more". Simplicity is everything in video making.
TriRide is a web magazine that covers MTB and particularly gravity. I love this world and, some years back with some friends, we thought that we needed to plug a gap of coverage in Italy, so we did it. We are really happy with what we made and the magazine grows every day, more than we ever hoped at the start. The internet has changed a lot of things, but will not change everything I think. The web has its peculiarities and has to be judged and utilised for what it is without thinking that the internet is the revolution. In fact it is often the opposite, the web has become the new norm. Everything has to be judged in balance. Nothing is completely good or completely wrong/bad in the world. I know just two things that are completely wrong – a Moto GP race where Valentino Rossi is not the winner and an MX race where Tony Cairoli is not the winner!
TriRide, by the way is also a tour operator for holidays in MTB. You should come to visit Sicily, it’s wonderful, especially mount Etna, the most active Volcano in Europe at 3400mt high. We have some DH tracks that would make the most famous traditional spots very envious, you only have to come to believe it.
Where do you think it is all going? Will magazines still exist in 10 years time, or will be all just be glued to computer screens, iPads and Smartphones?
Absolutely, long life to magazines printed on paper. The internet has certainly changed things, but with time, the good magazines will remain, I am sure. In my living room I have all the photo issues of Dirt and when we have guests we look back at them and have a great time talking through them. Try to do the same with a laptop in front of the fireplace, just doesn’t work for me. Printed paper also, I think, has a great smell, my Mac instead smells of plastic and aluminium, not the same. Joking aside, the internet is a different medium. Something that allows fast communication of videos and photos, so it is OK for this type of content. There is certainly space for good journalism but always of a certain type. Other type of content lends itself to other types of medium, that’s all. Maybe for sporting type magazines the argument is a bit more difficult, but I really cannot imagine my son in the future reading 1984 from a tablet rather than from the old copy that my dad bought and that I read. And if you think about it, in 2012 the world will end and whoever survives will have no electricity, so if we want the future generations to know about gravity we need a lot of printed paper!
What does the future hold for you?
This year I am working with the Trek World Racing team and I am really happy about this. It is a wonderful team made of some great people and professionals of the highest level with some of the best riders on the planet. It is a privilege for me to work with them. I will continue to produce for TriRide for the rest of the season together with another Italian video maker, Gianluca Ricceri. We have lots of ideas which we can’t wait to make happen. The website is doing great and we will be at many events this season. We have built, and are building, the team all the time and we are looking at 2013 with a lot of enthusiasm. I have to really also take this opportunity to thank Daniele Addamo and Francesco Mazza, two people who make this web project possible. Then there is the tour operator project which is handled by two other people, so I want to thanks Giuseppe Nicotra, a very good trail builder. Soon we will launch a new site dedicated to this which will feature the trailer of a new video called Trinacria (the ancient name for the island of Sicily). This will be a platform for the tour operator activities. You will have to come and visit us, you will not regret it. You will sample the best Sicilian cuisine and wines, test your skills on some epic trails and have great fun in a place where the sun is strong 365 days a year. I can assure you that you will have fun.