Every once in a while I will meet a Disney or theme park fan that blows my mind. Martin Smith is definitely one of those people. He creates “Ultimate Tribute” videos of attractions that contain some of the best source audio and POV’s brilliantly edited together. In addition, many of his videos contain a gold mine of historical information from conceptual images to blue prints to construction and beyond.
Disney creates their own books and resources for attraction history, but in my opinion, none come close to what Martin packages together. As part of my continuing series on unofficial Disney, I got a chance to chat with Smith about what it’s like to create these videos. Along the way, I will post some of my favorite Martin Smith tributes.
What is your earliest memory of being a Disney fanatic?
My first trip in 1979, at age 7. I didn’t know what to expect but stuck in my head to this day are the WEDway vehicles going under Space Mountain’s lift hills and If You Had Wings. By my first EPCOT Center trip in 1987, I was a full on geek, having followed the parks opening via what press I could find. Being into computers and anything futuristic meant I couldn’t wait to visit. The first attraction we rode was Exxon’s Universe of Energy and the travelling theatre experience for the first time firmly planted the seeds of ride system and show technology interest.
When did you start recording attractions in the park and why?
Dad bought a Panasonic AG450 SVHS camera (full size, sits on shoulder) for our 1990 trip. I felt compelled to record as much as I could with a hope I could do some sort of holiday guide for no reason other than doing it. And thankfully, I did. Little did I know how valuable some of the footage would become. Dad worked in TV, as I do too, so I was used to being around cameras and recording equipment.
What was your first video about?
I got my first PC that had Windows Movie Maker in 2003. I thought I’d mess about with it and did a truly horrible edit of Test Track as a test. I then started to look through what we shot at EPCOT in 1990 and thought I could edit it together since I’d shot Horizons twice. Then I discovered IRC channels where people had source audio actually available to download. I put them together, threw in some information that interested me, and put it online as a thank you for the audio and lo and behold I found others wanted to see it.
There has to be a fair amount of research that goes into your videos. How long does it take to put one together?
Depends on the subject and how detailed I go. The web has made things easier of course, but even so it can take from a week or two to a few months of spare time of gathering information, images, drawing layouts, editing it all together and then doing some polishing.
They are also extremely well edited, what do you use to edit them?
Thank you! Right now I shoot on AVCHD using a Panasonic TM 300 and 700 and edit on Adobe Premiere Elements 10. Solid state recording is far better both to shoot with and to edit with than DV tapes which I used prior to 2009!
If you had to guess, how many hours of park and attraction footage do you think you’ve shot over the years?
Now there’s a question! Right now I have just under 300 hours of footage I’ve shot. That’s a lot when I use individual clips that often last seconds. I’m also lucky that I have friends in Orlando, Anaheim and Europe who help when I’m in town shooting a project or need extra shots.
What video has gotten the best response thus far?
I’d guess my Horizons Ultimate Edit, though others have been well received too.
Considering that your videos are a great source of Disney history, have you ever heard anything from the company about if they are used for archival or reference purposes?
I’ve been told there’s a copy of each in the archives and I’ve had several emails from Cast Members telling me they use certain edits as training material for the history of their respective attractions. I’ve also made good friends with quite a few Cast Members whom I’ve met by editing their attraction or show.
If you had to pick a personal favorite tribute video you’ve created, which one would it be?
Just one?! Spectromagic came out really well. I shot enough footage to make what I consider a full show edit. It’s a shame the year I was going to reshoot in HD it was gone. I also think Dan Warren managed to capture footage of The Haunted Mansion better than I thought possible. I’m proud of the details I was able to go into for Orlando’s Tower of Terror, and was very happy how The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular came out considering the pre-planning, cooperation and help that I had.
I am assuming you’re working on some sort of tribute video now. What can we expect next from Martin Smith?
Right now I’m releasing a Phantom Manor HD edit very soon. Dan and I are also working on the Star Wars Weekends fireworks, and I’m about 90% through a complete WDW Splash Mountain ultimate HD edit that has some great footage and audio.
Martin Smith is a class act. He creates all of these fantastic videos out of the goodness of his heart and doesn’t charge a dime. If you’re looking for Disney videos that are packed with great behind-the-scenes info, then check out his collection at MartinsVids.net.