Cycling Gets a New Perspective in Race Across the Sky 2010

Capturing a live sporting event that travels 100 miles in a single day — and climbs 14,000 vertical feet — is a test for any director. Having the chance to capture that event again, this time with 10 more cameras in the arsenal, turned out to be a great opportunity for that same director. Frank Matson, CEO of Citizen Pictures, directed last year’s Race Across the Sky, a film following the Leadville Trail 100 bicycle race and its winner, Lance Armstrong. Matson jumped at the chance to direct this year’s Race Across the Sky 2010, which follows a new cast of characters along the same grueling route in Leadville, CO.

The Leadville Trail 100 begins in the town of Leadville, 10,200 ft. above sea level. The out-and-back course winds along dirt paths and up several mountainous ascents before turning around at mile 50 and heading back into town. Having used 15 cameras to capture the race in 2009, Matson already had a good sense of where he wanted to put his set cameras this year. With a total of 25 cameras to work with in 2010, including a helicopter cam, a camera on a motocross bike, broadcast HD cameras, and GoPro point-of-view cameras, Race Across the Sky 2010 offers some new perspectives on a cycling race.

“The broadcast cameras were spread throughout the course, in different places where it made sense to position them,” Matson explains. “Every camera assistant also had a GoPro either on a boom pole, put up into a tree, or down low on the trail, and we put three or four of the GoPros on bikes that were in the race.”

One of the lead riders had a camera in his helmet, providing a view from the front of the pack, while several other cyclists mixed throughout the pack provided a different perspective of the race. Some athletes were also provided with HD Flip cams, so that they could create their own video diaries of the race.

“We tried to have cameras everywhere,” Matson says. “With the 10 additional cameras, we have different angles that you didn’t see last year. Plus, there weren’t any weather issues this year. It was a picture-perfect day without a cloud in the sky, so the helicopter didn’t have any issues flying at 13,000 ft., and that made it easier to cover. The photographers weren’t freezing, and their lenses weren’t wet.”

However, Matson had originally planned to have 26 cameras on the course. Citizen Pictures hired a cable-camera company to rig the ascent and descent of the Power Line Climb, a critical point in the race.

“We spent a day and a half rigging that cable cam before the race,” Matson says. “At 4 p.m. the afternoon before the 6:30 a.m. start, public service came and said we had to take it down because our cable was too close to the power lines. I was distraught at the time. We still had three cameras on the power-line course, but we really wanted a shot running down the cable as cyclists descended the loose, technical descent. Watching the film, you would never know that shot is not there, but I know.”

Still, as compared with last year’s inaugural film, Matson feels that, this year, his team captured everything.

“With 100 miles to cover, all at elevation, to feel like you got everything is a pretty big accomplishment,” he says. “There was a bad crash with the leaders at the summit of one of the climbs, and we just happened to be tracking the leader group with the helicopter at that time, and that turned out to be a big moment in the film. We were able to catch that.”

The most difficult part of the capture process, Matson says, came after the race was over.

“Ending up with 200 hours of raw footage to be cut down to an hour-long movie in six weeks is an information overload,” he says. “Trying to get your arms around it to pare it down to something reasonable in editing is a challenge.”

The result of that challenge is a film that offers some insight into the professional race but focuses mostly on the everyday riders who attempt to complete the grueling 100-mile race. Matson chose to focus the 2010 film on the stories of the everyday riders who tackled the Leadville this past August, and he believes viewers will walk away with some amazing stories.

On Thursday Nov. 4, Race Across the Sky 2010 will appear in more than 550 theaters nationwide through NCM’s Digital Broadcast Network. For tickets and theaters, visit

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters


The Latest in Sports Video Production & Technology
in Your Inbox for FREE

Daily Email Newsletters Monday - Friday