These days, touring our National Parks System isn’t exactly reserved for retirees in giant RVs. Sure, the blue hairs are still around, but thanks to the NPS resurgence in 2016 — it’s centennial birthday — folks of all ages are visiting each of our 59 national parks in droves. But then again, wouldn’t it be nice to have a wide-open schedule (like those senior citizens) and be able to leisurely indulge in all the wonders that each park has to offer?
A pair of Georgia brothers have found a way to do just that. And, thanks to their creative eye and a heap of 8K video, they’re sharing it with the world, one edit at a time. The project is called More Than Just Parks, a brainchild of Atlanta’s Jim and Will Pattiz. And after watching one of their mesmerizing web shorts, we were instantly hooked and wanted more.
So much, in fact, that we tracked down the Pattiz bros for an interview to find what exactly inspired this passion project of epic proportions…one that most of us could only dream of. Because that’s what the parks — and the Pattiz’s videos — are all about: dream-like landscapes, miles of untouched wilderness and the opportunity for adventure around every corner. Let’s dive in…
THE RED BULLETIN: So what sparked this idea?
WILL PATTIZ: About four or five years ago we visited our first national park on a spur-of-the-moment road trip with friends deciding it would be cool to see the Grand Canyon. We drove from Atlanta, where we’re from. Along the way we stopped off I-40 at Petrified Forest National Park. Our lives were forever changed. Stepping inside a national park is like setting foot on another planet. It is awe-inspiring — it takes your breath away. Coming from the East Coast and driving/hiking through a place with such a unique and incredible landscape was life-changing.
We thought to ourselves, “How have we never been to one of these places before?” Which quickly evolved into, “How many other people have never been to a national park?” And finally, “We’ve got to share these places with as many folks as we can!” And More Than Just Parks was born. The name is intended as an open-ended challenge for folks to get out there and experience the parks for themselves. These places mean so much to so many and they mean different things to different people. If there were a subheading for our project it might read: “What they are is up to you.”
National parks are a great place for adventures. What was your most exhilarating experience while filming and where did it take place?
JIM PATTIZ: We’ve had a lot of exhilarating experiences through our travels. We’ve hurdled across boulders in Joshua Tree, slid down giant sand dunes in Colorado, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, rafted down the middle fork of the Salmon, climbed frozen waterfalls and watched the northern lights dazzle in the night skies of northern Minnesota…and so much more.
If I had to pick just one though, facing down a bear in Grand Teton was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget. My younger brother Tom and I were hiking ahead of the crew and came upon a large black bear somewhat suddenly. As we tried to capture it on film from a distance, he darted out of sight. Suddenly, he appeared again on the trail a very short distance away. We made a break for rest of the crew as the bear gave chase. While normally you wouldn’t ever win a footrace with a bear, we were lucky that the rest of our group was very close by and the bear only bluffed to scare us off. Those sorts of moments remind you just how wild and unspoiled national parks can be.
How do you plan each visit to maximize your experience in the park?
WP: Before we ever set foot in a park, we spend countless hours researching so that by the time we get there we’re ready to roll. We scour the web looking through blogs, forums and photo galleries in an effort to find all of the spots that best define the park’s essence. We make calls to local experts, speak with park officials and really do our homework to make sure we miss as little as possible. From there, we devise shot lists.
You use a lot of time-lapse techniques. How much actual time with the camera rolling goes into making a three-minute edit?
JP: So much! Days and days worth of footage gets poured over and eventually whittled down to those final three minutes. The cutting room floor can get contentious once you start deciding whose shots make that final edit.
You’re shooting in 8K. Was there a learning curve when moving to such ultra-high-def equipment?
WP: There’s a bit of a learning curve any time you upgrade technology but moving from 4K to 8K hasn’t been especially challenging for us. If anything, I’d contend it makes the editing easier as it gives you more flexibility in cropping shots and selecting the exact portions of the frame. The major drawback is the amount of data it consumes and the amount of RAM it eats up when post-processing.
Which is your favorite edit so far? Why?
WP: My favorite edit is actually our most recent film, “Voyageurs 8K.” It’s actually the shortest film we’ve produced to date at 2:57, which made it nearly impossible to fit everything we wanted in. I especially enjoyed it because it’s so much different from any other film we’ve done. One thing we want to do with this project is not only show the diversity of landscapes within each park, but also the diversity that exists within the parks system. In doing so, we want to give each park and each film its own unique feel. With Voyageurs, we chose a track that features prominent vocals for the first time. Typically, we shy away from vocals as we want the focus to be on the park scenery but here the lyrics and style seemed to fit the park and mood perfectly.
Which park proved the most challenging to film at?
JP: Some parks require some serious hiking, others require some creative filmmaking. But in the Badlands with sustained winds of 25-30 mph and gusts of 60 mph you pretty much throw out the rulebook. We had several camera set-ups upended and came to the realization that timelapses were going to very difficult. We ended up finding crevasses within the actual Badlands to film from where our cameras and freezing faces could be sheltered from the howling winds.
59 parks seems very ambitious. Realistically, how many of these can you produce in a year?
WP: So far we’ve been producing five or six park films each year, which is ambitious. It’s basically a film every other month or so. It’s tough because in order to give each park it’s due we spend two to four weeks in each one filming and then about a month editing.
Of the parks you’ve profiled thus far, which would you say is the most diverse?
JP: Easily the most diverse park — and one of our favorites — is Washington’s Olympic National Park. Olympic is unlike any park on the planet offering glacial mountain peaks, old-growth rainforests, lush river valleys and over seventy miles of wilderness coast, all within a day’s drive. It is basically like four different parks in one. It was because of this amazing diversity that we chose it as the first film in our project.
What is the ultimate goal with this project? What are you trying to show people?
JP: This project started out as a simple effort to showcase the wonders of America’s national parks. Our aim is to inspire people to visit these incredible places for themselves and hopefully care about them so that they can continue to inspire future generations.