Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Post Vancouver

Life after WUGC 2008

It's been more than a month since we've been back from Worlds and it's flown by just as quickly as the event itself. The memories are vivid highlights of the week.

* Ground breaking webcasting we did with Ultivillage
* Match Diesel smashing his fists on the walls of the commentator booth in frustration/excitement (and then not exactly admitting this on his blog)
* My being in a hot tub with two sexy but completely vacant women on my birthday while spraying
Allison and our expensive camera with cheap Champagne for 'effect' and somehow not getting sh*t for it.

There's too much more to mention.

The entire year leading up to WUGC2008 is a blur. started partly as an excuse to go to Vancouver and watch the worlds best players play the game we play. Who wouldn't want that? Tom and I talked about that Tom and I did for WUGC 2004 in Turku. Back then Tom went alone with a rather large group of volunteers including some now GB stars like Caesar, Brummie, Danny Hoyle and more. I stayed home and did editing :(. We thought we'd update the delivery method and reduce the man-power this time. Our purpose would be to create some video podcasts of our time there to give people a real feel for the event. I thought... 'I would enjoy that if I wasn't there.' Great! We had enough forethought this time to start early, actually learn how to do video editing, learn how to properly use a microphone and camera, and try to build up some viewers in advance so we weren't just there suddenly doing all this work recording and reporting and editing for 10 viewers a day. Tom and I found our areas of expertise, him mostly in front of the camera and myself mostly on editing and camera work. It all worked really well producing an Unplanned/Fantasy Football meets Waynes World style of show.

Fast-fowarding ahead to just over a week prior to WUGC, Tom and I were bricking it because we'd had no response from the WUGC staff in spite of contacting them well in advance. Tom had been turned down for the official announcers job (yes the guy, 2nd only to Tony Leonardo, who has done more event and Ultimate related commentary and public speaking than anyone in the world was looked off) and we thought this was going to end up being completely guerilla coverage with no support at all.
Enter Ultivillage. Patrick (Dick) Cloutier emails us and he's watched the commentary trailer kindly made for Tom by Si Williams and loved it. He doesn't know boo about me but wants us together to do commentary on the first ever webcast for the show-game between Canada and Great Britain!!! Whoah! We've got contacts, we've got free broadband, we've got VIP access and media passes. We're in.

What a week it was! I highly recommend going to an event like Worlds as a spectator. You've got the highest quality Ultimate being played non-stop to an extent that you can't possible watch all the games you want. Vancouver was beautiful and made me slightly homesick for the first time in years and the event itself was executed as smooth as you could hope for and more.

This may sound ridiculous or obvious but BlockStack has a tendency to make it all up as we go along. We thought for this though, we'd get some real planning in. Not to be. Once again we found ourselves pouring over the schedule each morning at the all you can eat buffet breakfast (sweet!) and planning the day which was loosely around key games. Unlike other events, at first we weren't allowed to film games because of the Ultivillage DVD deal. We were going to have to be more creative for sure. In spite of the additional pressure, most of the planning went to into the bin and we were filming primarily using distraction as our guide. If our attention was gathered by something then surely viewers would want to see this. Brilliant. Distractions plus big games = podcast: and we did this daily, spending most of our evenings at the computers editing hours of video into 30 minute shows while the ladies fetched food and drink. Credit to our ladies Alli and Catrin for putting up with all this.

So all is going well and suddenly Ultivillage come to us with a proposition. Do commentary on new daily webcasts from the show pitch and also for all 6 finals on Friday and Saturday. YEAH!!! Whoah hold on! How will we do the podcast if we're webcasting the whole time? With Difficulty. We brought in a few friends (Chris and June) to join the regular crew helping to film some stuff for us in the final days. Perfect! We did the commentary and it was a blast! Tom and I came up with new techniques for double teaming the play by play when you only get a semi-correct roster 5 minutes before. This largely consisted of one of us starting it off and forging on until we didn't know/remember a name and using a description and a switch of commentator. "HUGE SWING ACROSS THE BACK TO THE GIRL IN THE DISTINCTIVE YELLOW CAP... ...MELANIE HILL WHO MAKES A GREAT BID ON A DISC TROUBLED BY THE WIND"). It was great.

Sitting in the sun shine talking crap about your favourite sport with a good buddy, watching some great games, all the time receiving emails from around the world telling you what a great job you were doing. It's hard to imagine things working out better. We'll post some of our favourite emails in a future blog post. But rest assured if you did email us that we read every email that came in and almost all of them made us smile.

Unfortunately our finals episode did suffer in the end because of our own lack of attention to filming and especially our lack of editing time for it. Two days of finals footage and we had to check out of the compound the day after only giving about 6 hours editing time max. Not enough.

We're calling it a big fat success. I can't believe we haven't celebrated what we've accomplished yet. Two guys knowing nothing about modern video editing, camera work, how to podcast or even how to present a tv show ended up with VIP media passes at WUGC 2008, being
the faces and voices of the first EVER Ultimate webcasts with Ultivillage and released daily shows from the event with tight editing and interviews with all the top players in the World!

We're a little pleased with ourselves at the moment. This is the reason for what I said in the beginning. It's been a while since BlockStack has popped up and is enjoying a much needed break.

To put some perspective on the what we've accomplish and the price of it, here's some stats on the show so far
Total number of Shows: 8 in Vancouver, 2 in Copenhagen, 4 in Paganello, plus 6 on the sofa.
Hours of footage recorded: 55
Hours spent editing (appoximately): 160
Money spent on equipment: £2000 +- £100
Money spent on travel: £2,000+ each
Most watched show: WUGC 2008 - Monday Masterstroke (Ep 4)
Total views (all shows): 38,000 and counting

We just need some time off to gather our thoughts, restock the holiday time and save some money and maybe take a nice bath. We'll be back.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Day 2 - Columbia is the new Japan

We've made it through the first day of proper play and what a day it was. At a first glance, outside of the showcase matches, the schedule looked as if it was going to provide a series of expected results that would be far from news worthy. How wrong could that have been!

Columbia was the team to beat today. We personally witnessed the Columbian junior women's team defeat the USA junior women's team by a 3 point margin with full pitch rush celebrations for each and every point while simultaneously the Aussie junior girls took away the Canadian scalp. Those two victories left the junior girls division wide open.

In the open division we saw GB face off against the Columbian Open team and as tipped by Brian Gisel the tournament director for WUGC, they were more than a surprise package for the brits. In a controversial match filled with little disagreements the GB men offered a rocky start which the quick to go airbourne Columbians enjoyed. Great Britain tightened it up stretching the points difference at the tail end of the game to end it 11-7 in their favour. The left feeling a bit rattled, and more determined to return on Monday in force.

The New Zealand women's team seem to be taking advantage of what appears to be a mis-seeding (14th) by taking down everything in their path. They're going to continue to upset teams on their way to a potential quarter final.

Good news for us today was that Ultivillage seem keen to extend their webcast service by adding live webcasts each night from the Spirit Enclosure pitch showgames. That'll be a huge benefit to those at home and should be great fun for us as they want BlockStack back on the commentary. Spread the good word about that and register for UVTv asap at

Don't get me wrong here, we did some many expected results from, Japan destroying the Netherlands to USA's Sockeye taking Finland to school.

All in all a great day. We found the beer garden, talked with loads of people for the podcast and even got permission to film ultimate for the show again. Ep3 should be great.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Day one round up

What a great first day. Highlights include:-
  • Bangra lessons with 4000 people all doing the moves at the same time
  • 20 Mexican waves
  • 4 hour live web cast literally watched around the world
  • Philipino dancers
  • Parade of Athletes
Giving out an email address to the people watching the webcast wasn't something we had planned, it just seemed like a good idea. It turned out to be one of the best things about the opening day, for me personally.

Being able to get the instant feedback from people enjoying your work from Columbia, Dominican Republic, Malaysia, Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia, as well as right across Canada and the USA, was amazing. It really made the experience.

The opening game between GB and Canada was good fun to watch. I think GB surprised a few people. They certainly took points from Canada with some ease when things clicked.
Both teams made quite a few errors, GB just made a few more. Canada won 17-15.

Canadian handler Kira Frew and utility player Brandon Wong were the stand out players. GB had great performances from Mark Davin and Anna Wilkes, but there were no weak links. If GB eliminate the mistakes they can do amazing things.

Send us your comments if you saw the webcast.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Journey to Vancouver

Travelling has become less enjoyable for me lately, not quite sure what it is but I think it's a combination of, tiredness, crampedness, dread at what I might have forgotten or might go wrong, and massive guilt about the amount of carbon I'm releasing.

I was tired, and I was terribly worried about the US immigration, but after a drive down to London, a Taxi to terminal 4, check in, a drink and some duty free shopping, we crossed the threshold to board our flight to Seattle and settled into NWA's comfy and well appointed seats. Each seat had it's own media player so you could pick from around 30 movies to watch at your leisure, pause and rewind too.

When NWA released "Straight out of Compton" I thought they could do no better. But since Ice Cube and the boys have started their airline they've gone from strength to strength.

The real fun started when we got to the US border. For those who haven't visited the USA in the last 5 years, they now use both fingerprints and a photo of your face to make sure they know who you are. When Cat (my wife) scanned her finger the computer raised it's eyebrow a little and went hummm. Soon we had a large red card stuffed into Cat's passport and were sent to go and sit in the naughty kids room with the other dodgy looking characters.

Security Officer Webb found the situation quite amusing which is a good job really or we might have just been turned around. The story goes like this. Last time we visited the USA was in August last year, we travelled with my Brother and his wife Clare. At the immigration desk Cat and Clare's finger prints and photo had been mixed up. So when we arrived at Tacoma International Cat scanned her finger, and a crack anti terror squad was put on high alert. It took a bit of explaining and a photo of Clare on my phone to convince Officer Webb that we weren't a threat to National security and it was in fact one of his Boston based colleagues that had ballsed up royally.

Photo of Tom next to Microsoft signOur stay in Seattle was brief but very enjoyable. Our hosts Al and Xumin, are friends of Steve and Alli, and made us all feel very welcome. We had a trip to an American Dinner, and a drive around Redmond, home of Microsoft. I have a love hate relationship with Microsoft, but it was very cool to see the campus.

We entered a Top Gear style race from Seattle to Vancouver. Steve and Alli were catching one bus and we were on another. Both buses were timed to leave and arrive within 10 minutes of each other so we had a "loser buys the beer" bet which we lost by such a massive amount that Steve was already supping his third pint with a smug Jeremy Clarkson face on when we arrived.

Our Quick Shuttle to Vancouver was neither quick or capable of orbiting the earth, but give me chance to have a good chat with John Liddicoat from Australia open. Fascinating to hear his opinion on Aussie chances, Japanese threat, North American tactics etc.

UBC is a dream university Campus, watch the show for a guided tour. There is secure Wifi everywhere and kick ass net access in every room. A better venue for our needs is hard to imagine.

Last night we had more sushi than 4 people could eat, for $49 dollars. That's ridiculous. Awesome value.

Its a big day today, I'm so excited to see GB Mixed play Canada. We are also doing the commentary and interviews for the live webcast on Ultivillage. You need to register but that's free.


Thursday, 31 July 2008

New Website live

The new website is released on the world. Check it out and if you find anything wrong, put it in a comment and we'll fix it. We're hoping the new site will allow you to keep up with all things much more easily.

Myself and Steve have been working very hard in preparation for the trip to Canada. Steve has got some awesome gear for us to wear and I've been sweating over a hot laptop make the new site. We're a good team. We've also got some "things we prepared earlier" which we hope you enjoy on the shows. We've also got CanterburyNZ back to help us out with some more sponsorship.

We've got a great set up in Vancouver. We're going to be right in the middle of the action with a base in the athletes village. We're also going to be working really closely with the guys from Ultivillage so you'll get to see some of their awesome coverage on the show.

Here's hoping everything goes well out there.

PS. Myself and my wife will be travelling by car and camping around BC for the week after the tournament, if you have any advice or tips on things to see and do please leave a comment.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Blockstack in Vancouver

Blockstack TV having been making plans to go to WUGC2008 in Vancouver for what seems like years now. To be honest the whole project has been building up to the World Championships this August. Both myself and Steve have been to a few big championships, they are always so exciting and this one looks like it's going to be one of the best ever.

We just hope we can bring you a flavour of what it's like to be out there

Our coverage will include:

  • Daily podcasts from the players village
  • Results from all the GB teams
  • Interviews with major players and teams throughout the tournament
  • Atmosphere from the players village
  • Myself and Steve inimitable style and sense of humour

Get a taste of what we are all about.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Anja Haman interview about GB Women trip to USA

The other day I heard that GB Women, had beaten Canada women while in a recent tour of North America. I had to find out more.

The original idea was to record a phone call with Anja Haman (GB Women player and coach) and video me on the phone, then edit it down to a sensible size and include it in the next show.

As it turned out, we chatted for a bit too long and syncing it with the video would have been impossible. Plus the sound quality was very average.

However the content is interesting, you can listen to the interview on mp3.

You can find out more about Anja and the other GB women at Check out those lovely photos.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Steve on the Couch

Just for all the kids out there who may have watched Episode #5 and thought, those guys are absolutely smashed and are filming themselves rambling on about Ultimate, please drink responsibly.

We're not saying that alcohol is cool and that drinking lots of it prior to doing anything is a great idea. It just happens to be that it works rather well prior to filming a internet TV show or even filming the same episode of an internet TV show for the 3rd or 4th time.

Really though this show was such a pain in the butt, yet at the same time a complete party to make. I would have loved it if Take 1 had worked. As it was, the night pressed on and what is normally around 2 beers/glass of wine for a show became 4...then 6 and now as a result I get to see how silly I look/act when I'm drunk watching this episode completely sober. I'm my drunk self's sober friend, slightly embarrassed yet thoroughly entertained.

All that said the entire blockstack experience so far has been a riot! Paga was insane, Copenhagen was awesome and the regular couch shows are more fun that we had imagined it would be. Also much much more work. Thanks for watching and expect some pretty outrageous stuff in the future.


Thursday, 5 June 2008

Adventures in Podcasting

Occasionally the rollercoaster ride that is Blockstack TV, takes a dip. The dip was the realisation that we had made another dud. The first recording of Episode 5 was so bad that even with 10 minutes chopped off the end it was still unwatchable. YAWN.

Problems included:
  • Too much self indulgent banality
  • Me and Steve fighting to have the last word (Steve usually winning)
  • No energy
  • We look bored
  • Even Clary wasn't very funny
Sometimes it may not seem like it but we do want to be professional in some ways, so we made the tough and time consuming decision to film it again.

That was last night at my house . Here's how it went.

  • Tom goes to post office to fetch new adapters to simplify mic cabling
  • Steve arrives with the rest of the crew
  • Test new mic adapters - thumbs up
  • Put camera on charge
  • Talk about loads of stuff, none of it related to show (iMac, growing tomatoes, blah blah blah)
  • Drink
  • New member of crew arrives
  • Have nice meal, more drink
  • Call Clary
  • Mic up and plan show (Do you think we should have done this earlier???)
  • 10.45pm start recording show
  • 11.20pm Battery goes flat
  • Check video to see where it got too, realise there was no sound all night!
  • Decide that we are going to do this thing if it kills us, more drink
  • Some crew goes home, rest of crew concede that staying over is unavoidable and get stuck into more drink
  • 12.15am Start recording show take 3
  • Nail it
  • 1.30am Play Star Wars Lego on XBOX 360
  • 2.00am Go to bed
Of course for every dip in the rollercoaster there is a high point too. The episode is good, Clary is brilliant, we had great fun making it.

I'm editing this one so look out for it coming up very soon.

Also you can now subscribe to the show through iTunes.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Making of Episode 4

The making of episode 4 has been a bit of an odd affair. Firstly it's important to note that it was filmed before Paganello, so there are a few mentions of Paga being in the future, obviously it is now in the past. We had to record an intro in a pub after practice to explain the problem, which Steve is going to strap on to the front of the show.

Episode 4 features our new agony Ultimate uncle, Clary. Clary is the oldest living Ultimate player, we manage to call him on the show and ask him about an incident from last years EUCF. Clary has to break off from his bathtime to speak to us, but it's well worth while. Got an Ultimate conundrum? Maybe Clary can help, what he lacks in tact he makes up for in wisdom. Send us an email with your problem and we'll put it to Clary next time we speak to him.

There's also a heap of exciting sofa based chat, photo news, some emails, and my photography section which I hope you find useful. If you have further questions about photography
then feel free to send them in, if we think that answering them in the show will be useful then we'll do just that.

One of the things we've learnt from Paganello is that simple is good. Our one mic, one camera solution didn't give is much scope for messing around with fancy camera angles, but it did mean we were fast. Easy to set up (approx 90 secs), and easy to move around (only one cable).
By contrast our home sofa set up involves two wireless mics, two receivers, a mic mixer, numerous cables and things that need to be plugged in and several batteries that can run out. It take us about 45 minutes to set up and we do a ten minute sound check before every episode, even then we have issues. As you can see from this episode where both my mic and Steve's mic take it in turns to go dead. We may well be trading down to a simple cheaper wired mic solution in the future, probably before Episode 5.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Blockstack at Paganello Review

I've finished cleaning sand out of my bag. I've had some sleep. I've reflected on the amazing time we had. I've even watched the 4 days of coverage from the Rimini sands.

Both Steve and myself worked our socks off all week. We had less sleep than anyone. During the finals we commentated on all 4 games. We were still defrosting Steve's hands an hour after we left the beach and you may notice that some of the camera work is a little shaky due to shivering.

With everything considered I think we did a decent job of capturing the character and atmosphere of the event, but our opinion is not really that important. What is important is what you the viewers thought of it.

Get your commenting fingers ready and bust out your feedback.
  • What was your favourite bit?
  • Did any of it bore you?
  • What did you want to see more of?
  • Did you get a feel for the tournament?
If you could also include in your feedback whether you were at Paganello 2008 and where you are from it would really help us.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Paganello TV...4 days to go

Friday will mark the release of Paga TV Episode 1, straight from the beaches of Rimini Italy!

With Paganello being probably the best beach tournament in the world, this is both an intimidating venture for us as it'll be the first time we'll be knocking out episodes with only hours of editing time, AND, we'll be very susceptible to adverse weather. I've checked and found that it looks like rain almost every day. Not good.

All that said it'll still make for some good viewing. People don't want to see others lounging about on sun drenched beaches sending mocking text messages to those still home saying 'wish u wer here ha ha'. Viewers want to see adversity. I've been to a Paga with howling winds, 5-10 deg temperatures and while we bonded as a team, I don't recall being so cold while playing before or since. This time in addition to my own health, I've got a few thousand pounds of video and audio equipment to protect as well. Hmmm.... all that said we're going to get some great footage regardless of the conditions of the play, the players and the scene and at the very least it can't be anything but entertaining.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Episode #2 - The Making of

Little do the viewers know but there are actually two complete versions of Episode #2. Both of them cover the same material. The first one we recorded on the Thursday before the release was meant to be 30 to 45 minutes long as we'd tried to learn from the massive over-run on Episode #1 and cut down our skeleton significantly.

Well...the bevy for the originally E2 was Capirinhas from Brazil! We chatting way too long about these, Tom went on and on about his snowboarding holiday and generally we just rambled about nonsense way too much. The reason being...our precious crew wasn't there for this one. It was a full DIY podcast for Tom and I and we screwed it all up.

To quote Tom after watching the editing version (already cut from 75 minutes to 50 minutes) " I just keep saying the same thing as you using different words! ".

Rather than release it we decided to bin it keeping only the advert for 'Ultimate BlockStack' we shot at the very end of that Thursday (lookout for more stuff like this in future episodes!). There was so many things wrong with it. Even the sound was crap again.

So...Sunday night we brought in the crew and trimmed down the schedule with actual times and hit it again. We also decided on filming photonews as a separate thing because of the laptop lag. That was a good idea. Having the crew to wave at us when we were faffing, going off topic or running out of time was so helpful. I think it really rocked. We switched drinks to a nice Banrock Station wine as well which we thought was a great environmental move until we filmed it and realised mid discussion it had a massive carbon footprint. Oops. Oh well. So we nailed a 30 min episode on the nose. Lets hope we can keep it up and speed up the editing as well!

Friday, 25 January 2008

BlockStack does GB Open

GB D again
Originally uploaded by BlockStackSteve
I went down to the GB Open practice that took place at Loughborough University with the plan to film some practice stuff, maybe get a bit of action on film to, with some clever editing , give those who watch the clip a bit of a scare and also get some interviews with the players we can use as profiles on the show.

Well the first thing that went wrong was I got there later than I wanted and nobody was there! Thankfully there were tons of bags and discs all over the artificial turf pitch indicating I at least had the right pitch. Oh yeah they were practising on this high-tech artificial turf. Take a close look at any of the pics and tell me it doesn't look like grass. It was pretty sweet stuff. The give away was it was probably the only grass in England at the moment that wasn't flooded.

So, eventually they returned to the pitch after a bit of a team talk inside the nearby warmth of a meeting room. I then managed to get a few early interviews with a couple of the guys based on a bit of a script we'd written for them to answer.

The Script:
This was the plan...we'll right some questions on a piece of paper, they could read them all in advance, and then deliver the answers to the camera without pressure, cool and calm. Right? Not so much, however, some of the reactions I got were great, some were almost professional and others were near on autistic but nevertheless entertaining.

Afterwards I was excited and ready to film some action and was promptly told they were going to play offence vs defence and that I couldn't film it. : (. Bollocks. I can only imagine this was because they were aware of the vast appeal of BlockStack and simple knew that teams like Sockeye, Furious and Skogs would be glued to the broadcast looking for the Achilles heal of the GB team. Well because I know that all good players do watch the podcast on a regular basis this was a well founded precaution. So I didn't film. I did take a few good profile shots and out of about 250 crap pics I managed to scrape a few good ones as well. Thank goodness I brought my camera otherwise I'd have just be there getting very cold and wet. Afterwards I got a few good snaps and a couple more interviews, enough to make it worthwhile.

Personally it was superb because although I couldn't film the tactics of the open team I did get to watch and learn. So, look for the new book from BlockStack soon to hit good Ultimate shops near you 'How to Play Ultimate like Great Britain Open' and of course watch BlockStack Episode three for the GB Open featurette.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Episode 1: The Making of....

Originally uploaded by BlockStackSteve

Hosts: Steve Giguere and Tom Styles
Crew: Allison Baron and Cat Styles
Camera: JVC Everio MG505 3CCD Harddisk Video Camera.
Sound: Cheap wireless tie clip mics and a mixer.
Subjects: Photo News, Christmas gifts (The Powerball), Ultimatum, The Top 5 Ultimate Frisbee things of 2007 in the UK and the Great Barr Crawl Tournament.

Behind the Scenes:
We filmed this over the holidays. We had planned on filming it on New Years Eve and then ended up doing it just prior with the idea that we'd pretend it was New Years Eve but that didn't really work out. This was the first episode and we really wanted it to go off in a single take. That is the plan for most of the episodes so this isn't any clever editing and you can a real feel for the 'anything goes' aspect of it. The problem was our skeleton of a plan for it didn't take into account the ramblings that inevitably followed which made our plan of 30 to 45 mins extend into over an hour. Oops. As a result we release it in two parts.

We had all sorts of technical problems with the sound. First we had bought two wireless mics. We then found out the frequency of the wireless could not be adjusted so we could only use one at a time. We had an idea to get a two to one input jack and put both mics into one unit. Great right! Wrong. The mics had a special screw it connection so the whole time we're talking we're one wrong move from the whole sound contraption falling apart. That's mainly why we're trying not to move very suddenly the whole time.

The last issue really was the lighting. What you can't see is ever light in my house piled around us and aimed straight at the couch. The camera is placed just right so it seems to clip out all of them. The camera was actually the only thing that worked really well. I highly recommend it.

What else....the freakin dog kept trying to jump on us...the crew forgot to turn off their mobile phones so I had to filter out that...'dit...ditadit...ditadit....' sound thoughout the first half of the video. LOTS of white balance work and hiss and humm removal required on the sound but I think it turned out ok.

Oh one last issue was my mic was facing the wrong direction almost the whole time. You could hear me ok but not good enough.

Lessons learned: Sound is critical. We're getting another mic at a different frequency (this is getting expensive now) and we'll do more sound checks next time. Also...going on for over an hour combined with mulled wine = more rambling. We've got a better idea of how long things take now so we'll be doing shorted episodes more often.

We've got over 200 views on each part so far...hooray!