Who is the greatest Ohio expat of our time? Okay, okay. It's Lebron. But who is the second greatest Ohio expat of our time? Since by most standards of measurement Louie Vito only counts as half a person, that prestigious designation award could only go to Kyle Decker.
Usually manning the business end of the lens, Kyle's talents lie in capturing wet, hot, young American talent as a cinematographer for Level 1 Productions. Last year, I had the opportunity to work with Kyle and watch him turn the subtleties of "ski porn" into stunning imagery so this summer I took the opportunity to sit down and talk with him about what motivates him behind the lens.
Stan Evans: What would you say is your specialty?
Kyle Decker: I love working with dollies, cranes, cable cams, I roll around in an SUV that has a large amount of equipment in it at any given time. Being from Ohio, my biggest contribution to Level 1 is filming urban but I want to explore more in the backcountry.
How did you get involved in cinematography?
I started out editing films of my friends in Ohio. The quality of the shots I had to work with was lacking a bit so I ended up spending more time behind the lens. I was in school for marketing but I've always been interested in the technical aspects so I took a video editing class to see if I could hone some things in. Ironically I knew more from editing low budget ski films than many of the film students.
How did you come to work for Level 1?
That is kind of a funny story. In the spring of 2006 I was invited to the Orage Masters. They had a video-editing contest along with the skiing event. I worked with Mike Hornbeck. At the time we were just two random kids from the Midwest, but we ended up winning. Even beating [Level 1's Josh] Berman. I won a laptop in the contest and Berman picked me up as an intern to help editing. The rest is history.
What is the thing about your lifestyle as a ski cinematographer that most appeals to you?
Probably the travel. Going to Finland, experiencing the architecture, culture; all the little things in between, from the street signs to language barriers. Or the other side is exploring BC, I am scratching the surface in Canada. It is a constant battle with weather there but endless terrain.
Any new cine techniques you are working on?
I'm constantly experimenting with lighting. A huge priority for me is portability of equipment. There is always some new piece of technology coming out, everything from DSLRs to homemade rigs. It's fun pooling ideas with like-minded individuals and coming up with contraptions.
What does the future hold for you?
I'd like to get into music videos perhaps, I like creating visual imagery that is fast-paced and entertaining. Other than that, just pushing myself. Each year we ask the athletes to step up their game and I think the cinematographers should do the same.
What new technologies in mainstream filmmaking are having the biggest
impression on you?
I've lately been impressed with the use of Cineflex rigs, remote control 1080p helicopters, dollies, booms, and more shallow depths of field being used to enhance the action to give it a more polished look. It's important to use these tools tastefully, and avoid taking away from the action. Using these tools in winter environments is where the limitations often lie. Sometimes terrain alone is hard enough to access without bringing these toys along with you. However, camera technology is rapidly becoming more affordable and compact.
Check Kyle's work this fall in Level 1's upcoming release, "Eye Trip."