Photo: Greg Dickson
Chris Beers is a name that I’ve been seeing pop up since the early days of the Midwest BMX videos. For one reason or another his name caught my attention. I think it was because I thought it was cool his last name was Beers. I don’t know. Either way, over the last year or so, his name has been popping up more and more between clips in edits and the edits that he filmed and edited. I caught wind that he was really good at doing motion graphics and that’s actually what he does for a living. Shortly after, he ended up doing The Union’s video pre-roll that a few of you may have seen. I was definitely curious about this guy, so I figured I’d see if he would be into doing an interview to get to know him a little better and find out exactly what it is he does. All I know is people into filming and editing or motion graphics and graphic design will like this one. Take a peek!
Name: Chris Beers
Location: Chicago, IL / Mundelein, IL
Sponsors / Hook Ups: None, but if I need something I can usually get it.
Years riding: 8 years.
What was it that first got you into BMX? Any early memories come to mind?
What really got me into riding was watching the X Games growing up. I just remember seeing Nyquist doing these crazy dirt runs at the time and all I wanted to do was get a Haro and start riding dirt. So I did what any kid would do, asked my parents for a bike. That didn’t get my very far, so I started saving up money. Eventually I had enough, so I went down to my local shop and bought a Haro Zippo. After that, you were lucky if you ever saw me off that thing.
Photo: Luke Mouradian
When did you start getting into cameras and motion graphics? Was it something due to BMX?
Cameras and motion graphics actually came at two completely different times for me. My parents had this really bad Sony Hi8 digital video camera I use to mess with all the time and when I started riding it just made sense to film what we were doing. I remember trying to put together these little edits and just using all these really bad preset transitions and effects. It was bad.
Motion graphics came a few years after I started riding. It was the Shook videos that really got me interested in animation and motion graphics. “Winteractive” had these crazy brain/microscopes floating through a cityscape and all the titles were composited into the footage. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I watched and re-watched those videos trying to figure out how they did that stuff. Aside from the motion graphics, the Shook videos just made me want to film and make videos even more. I remember the riding, filming, and everything else being so ahead of the game at the time.
When Chris started talking about the Winteractive video, Eli Platt’s part instantly popped into my head and I knew it needed to be embedded.
What was your original camera setup?
My original camera “setup” was my parent’s old Sony Hi8 digital video camera with a $30 wide-angle lens I picked up from Best Buy. The first real BMX edit I made was for the closing of my local skatepark, Triple R. A friend and I filmed the last two sessions it was open and I put together the edit.
What are you currently working with these days?
It’s funny you ask because I’ve actually never have owned my own camera setup. My good friend Grant Castelluzzo always had a camera equipment that I would just film him and all of our friends with. I kind of became the de facto cameraman, which I was okay with. Right now most of what you see from me is filmed with his camera setup, which consists of a Panasonic HMC150 and a Canon 60d DSLR.
Do you have a dream setup at all if you were to get one?
Canon just recently released their C300, which is quite the camera. Would love to get my hands on one of those. I’d settle for a Canon 5D MKII at the moment though. I typically spend way more time behind the computer than behind the camera though, so cameras usually come after computers.
How about computer setup? What kind of programs do you use to get the job done?
At the moment, I have a new 2011 27” iMac with a 3.4 GHz Intel i7, 16 GB of ram and dual AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics cards. That’s topped off with over 3 TB of external hard drives and a 24” second monitor next to my iMac.
For software, I spend the majority of my days in After Effects where I do anything from basic color correction and motion graphics to full on compositing of major 3D rendered scenes. For really heavy compositing though, I step into Nuke by The Foundry. Nuke is another type of compositing program similar to After Effects, but meant to handle much heavier compositing projects (think feature film level compositing). For video editing I use Final Cut Pro 7 and all my graphic work I use Photoshop and Illustrator.
Any sort of dream set up there?
What I have right now works really well for me actually. The only setup I could ask for besides this is a maxed out Mac Pro with solid state drives and a render farm to drop all my renders off too when I have heavy projects.
You went to college, right? Where did you go and what kind of a degree did you earn?
I went to college at The Illinois Institute of Art-Schaumburg and I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Art in Motion Graphics and Visual Effects.
Do you think college is important for this kind of career field? I feel like it would shorten the learning curve at least…
This is a question that comes up a lot in my industry actually. Honestly, a lot of people I work with never went to school for what I did. Some have a fine art background and some are completely self-taught. School was a great place to meet the people I needed to know and learn what was expected of me in the industry. Aside from that, anyone can go on the Internet and watch tutorials to figure out exactly what I do. It’s no secret and it’s definitely not magic. That being said though, just because you know how to use some programs doesn’t mean you’ll get a job either. You can be really good and still not get work simply because you’re impossible to be around.
What kind of advice do you have for people out there who would like to get into the motion graphics business?
Be motivated. Be passionate. It’s a fast pace industry with a lot of people trying to get into it right now. If you’re in school, don’t compare yourself to the kid next to you, compare yourself to the professionals you see doing movies and commercials. That’s the only way you’ll get better. Most importantly, be humble and learn to take constructive criticism. Trust me, you’ll have clients rip your work apart and most of the time they have no clue what they are even talking about.
Speaking of business, you are one of the lucky “self-employed” people, right? Do you stay pretty busy with that? You whipped The Union’s pre-roll up for us….
I use to be self-employed, but now I’m just part-time self-employed. Let me explain. For most of the year I was a full-time freelance artist. I was in and out of a few studios in Chicago and Milwaukee working for one or two projects and then moving on to the next studio. In between those jobs I would work directly from home or on the road. In August I was asked to take a full-time seat as a compositor and motion designer at Leviathan (lvthn.com), which is a studio out of the west Loop of Chicago. Since then I’ve been working there full-time and picking up other freelance gigs on the side for the weekends and after I get off work at night. I work a lot.
Who are some of the brands in BMX you have had the chance to work for?
I’ve done work for Profile, Madera, The Level Below, The Union, Woodward, and The Hunt. I’ve also filmed and made some edits for Mutiny as well as Profile and Madera too. 2012 is looking like a good year though, lots of possible projects on the horizon with a few new companies.
What about outside of BMX? Have you had many opportunities yet?
Most of my work has been done outside of BMX actually. I’ve worked on commercials with various studios for clients like The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois State Lottery, Milwaukee’s Summerfest, Hoosier Lottery, Dick’s Sporting Goods, The North Face, Callaway, Samsung, Balfour, and Dodge to name a few. I’ve also helped work on some projection mapping for Amon Tobin’s ISAM tour.
Where can people check out some of your work? How should brands go about contacting you?
I’ve been pretty awful at updating my online portfolio lately. I’ve just started building a new website with all my most recent work, but I’m not quite finished yet. It is live though, so feel free to take a look…
If brands are interested in getting in touch with me, they can reach me at…
Let’s say a kid is about to graduate high school and wants to get into the motion graphics field, is it cool if they contact you to ask questions?
Yeah, that would be fine. I’m always willing to share my experiences and advice if it will help someone out.
So you definitely grew up in the Milwaukee and Chicago scene. Do you feel like that has played a big influence on your life? I feel like the crews in both cities are loaded with good riders and filmers and editors.
Growing up in the two scenes definitely influenced my life back then. Back when midwestbmx.net was still around and in its prime it was a huge inspiration to me to go out to ride and film. It gave me a place to actually show what we were doing instead of having to putting out a DVD. It seemed like everyone knew how to film and edit back then and I think that was mainly because of Midwest BMX. Couldn’t even imagine as many people around here would be into filming as they are without Midwest BMX being around back in the day. It also didn’t hurt that there was always someone to film going off back then too.
Being as busy as you are, do you still find much time to ride these days? Where can you usually be found riding these days?
No, I unfortunately don’t get to ride as much as I use to or want to now. I like to try to ride at least once a week if I can, but sometimes (especially in the winters) that doesn’t always happen. If I’m on my bike though, you can find me either riding street in Milwaukee, 4Seasons skatepark, or riding street around Chicago.
You have been killing it lately with some videos you put together like the Grant Castelluzzo edit that dropped a few weeks back. Are you working on any other videos that people can get psyched for?
Thanks man, I appreciate it. Glad people are enjoying the edits. Unfortunately, I’m not working on anything new right now.
How about edits of yourself? Any plans of getting in front of the camera again soon?
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t really get to spend as much time on my bike as I use to, so clocking clips of myself doesn’t happen often. I think Grant C has clips of me lying around on his computer somewhere in a folder, but most are ancient at this point.
What’s one trick you have never been able to do in all your years of riding?
Tailwhips, without a doubt, have tormented me the entire time I’ve been riding. Been able to get them under me for years out of boxes and on flat, but still can’t get my front foot back on. Maybe one day.
What’s your go-to always on lock trick?
Footjams and icepick grinds to hop over. Growing up riding with Grant, the footjams shouldn’t surprise anyone (Haha!).
Do you get to travel much? Any places you are looking to go ride at some point here soon?
When I was in college it felt like I never left Illinois or Wisconsin. That was mostly because I was completely broke. This past summer though, I went out east two times, once to Jersey and NYC for two weeks and another time to Woodward. Because what I do for a living, it’s pretty easy to take off large amounts of time to travel, so the next few years I’m going to be trying to take full advantage of that. Trying to get a trip going over to London sometime next year, if not to ride then to just for the experience.
Let’s say you get a fat budget to take 5 riders of your choice anywhere in the world for a week to film. Where do you go, who do you bring and why?
I’d probably be cliché and go to Barcelona. Amazing weather and amazing spots, who wouldn’t want to go there? Honestly, I’d probably just bring the 5 people I have the most fun riding with which are: Grant Castelluzzo, Mike Hinkens, Brandon Hoerres, Andrew Kuntz, and AJ Anderson. Riding for me has always been about having fun and hanging out. I’d rather document and produce something that shows my interpretation of what BMX is. Obviously my interpretation is how most people who ride feel too, so not breaking any new ground there.
Do you feel like you might not be where you are today without BMX?
I don’t know where I would be without BMX to be honest. Even though it doesn’t take on as big of a role in my life now as it use to, it still molded who I am and given me a lot of friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Not to mention all the insane experiences I’ve encountered along the way that I probably would never have had without BMX.
BMX also showed me it was okay to be so insanely passionate about something to the point where you eat, sleep and breathe it everyday. This idea helped me more than I can explain when I was in school. I understood how much work it actually took to be the best at what you do and how many hours you need to devote in order to achieve your goals. Without BMX to show me this early on, I don’t think I would have been as successful in what I’m doing now.
What are you usually up to when you aren’t riding and working? Are you talented in anything else?
If I’m not riding or working I’m most likely sleeping, playing Call of Duty, or trying to teach myself new programs. I’m quite the nerd, but it works for me. I use to shoot photos, but I rarely find anytime to pick up camera to just shoot photos anymore.
I heard that Pabst was a proud sponsor of the Beers family. Can you confirm or deny this?
Unfortunately, this is not true. The rumors can be put to rest once and for all. Thanks for letting me put the record straight on this one.
Since I know you have spent some time at Cans in Milwaukee… What makes a good night out for you? Are your much of a partier?
Actually, I’m not much of a partier. Every once in awhile I’ll go out to the bars with some friends from work, but since I don’t actually drink I usually just chill or mess with the drunks. A good night out is hanging out with friends, laughing, and having a good time. It really doesn’t matter what I’m doing though, I’ll usually find someway to have fun.
What’s something about yourself that might surprise people?
Most people don’t know that I’m actually a pretty big Formula 1 racing fan. Also, on a daily basis, the amount of caffeine that I consume is bordering on disgusting.
What’s the last song you heard, movie you watched and website you visited?
Song: Vanna “The Same Graceful Wind”
BMX Website: http://blog.defgrip.net/
Industry Website: http://motionographer.com/
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Thanks to Grant C. for always letting me use his camera equipment. Thanks to Mike Hinkens and Matt Coplon for coming to me with Profile and Madera’s motion work. Thanks to all my friends and anyone that has let me stay at their place while I was on the road. And thank you Kurt for interviewing me.
Anything else you want to say?
When it comes to being a freelance artist, know how much you’re worth and more importantly know how much your time is worth. Once you know that, don’t ever take work that is offering less. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a project because the money isn’t right. It happens too often to freelance artists where clients take advantage of the artist because they think they have all the power. Fact is, the artists have the power and if you take a job that isn’t paying right, you’re not just hurting yourself, but all freelance artists as well.
Check out this 2010 Motion Graphics Design Census that was done awhile back. The results in the census show that, on average, most artists in the industry are underpaid and overworked. LINK.
To see more of Chris’ work, hit his website CargoCollective.com/ChrisBeers. Below you can find some of his past work and some different influences of his work from other artists.
Go to TheHuntBMX.bnqt.com for more videos.
Here’s some of Chris’ picks for artists he’s influenced by.