Bringing the outdoors to life…
A personal look into Chase Nation TV’s Sam Ubl
By Sean Zyra
Sam is a hunter, fisherman and family man from the great Midwest. He also owns the outdoors production company, Chase Nation TV, and two outdoors social media apps – Huntmore and Fishmore.
Sam, thanks for taking some time to talk with us about life, ambitions and your current projects. How’s everything with the family?
You know, as easy as it is to let a generic response roll of my tongue, things around the house have been challenging over the last few months. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer on her left side and underwent a large operation to remove the cancerous tissue. It’s been an uphill climb to making her recovery, and with an 11-month old son and a two-year-old daughter at home, let’s just say I’ve had my hands full. Nonetheless, we’re blessed to say the cancer is gone and Christie will be back to her old self very soon. They’re a lot of work, but we are also very blessed to have two incredible children making us smile from ear to ear daily, which is something we’ve needed more so as of late than ever.
From our past conversations, you seem to have always been interested in filming your hunts, what motivated you to start Chase Nation TV?
Have you ever watched a sunset so perfect you wish you had someone there to watch it with you, or witnessed something so enjoyable to you almost feel selfish experiencing it alone?
Filming is a way for me to bring my outdoor experiences home to share with others. As an outdoorsman, you bear witness to things in the woods, and on the water, that most will never see in a lifetime, at least not inside city walls. Even something as common as a sunrise, or a sunset, they just don’t look the same without the sound of crunching leaves beneath you as a big buck strolls by. If you’ve never watched an owl land on a snow traced limb an arm length away, or felt the pitter-patter of a tiny black-capped chickadee pivot on the brim of your hat, you simply couldn’t fathom the connection you could have with such an encounter. Seeing it and hearing it on film, well, that gets you close and sheds light on what it is that draws hunters into the woods – that it’s not all about killing, it’s so much more.
Having a camera to capture these moments and being able to bring these experiences back to life from behind the lens is one of the truest forms of storytelling. Post-production is a time sucker, but it’s also an artistic expression of how I want the story to be told as a way of giving the viewer the best experience possible.
Would you say there’s a main focus of Chase Nation TV?
Whitetail hunts in the fall, turkey hunts in the spring, and a few musky fishing episodes in the summer months are the meat of our production. Now and again someone from the team will draw an elk tag, or a billy goat tag, and go on a unique adventure that is outside of the norm for Midwesterners like us, but these productions only make up a few episodes in a season.
The production quality is top notch. Seems the hunts are all self-filmed or filmed by another Chase Nation TV member, but who mixes and handles the production side of things?
Thank you for saying so, we do the best we can with the footage we collect from the team and certainly work hard to put a story together to capture an audience. Post-production is done between myself and Brad Werwinski. Brad and I have slightly different editing styles, but we respect each other’s work and enjoy the subtle differences as artists should.
One of the burdens of producing our content is matching the film quality from one episode to the next. One team member may film with a DSLR and a POV camera, while the other may use a 4K professional digital camcorder and a handycam. The DSLR and digital camcorders are usually clear and professional with clean lines and color, but the POV quality varies by which brand and model is being used. We mix it all up, so some scenes may be better quality than others, but I do as much color grading and balancing as I can without taking too much away from the natural picture to produce good content that’s easy on the eyes.
I think one thing that makes us stand out is that we produce unscripted adventure free of sponsorship expectations unlike many of the more commercialized productions out there. It would be a shame if the reality behind our experience and the stories we’re sharing became derailed by shameless promotion – we’re not salesmen, we’re outdoorsman.
Where did you guys learn the ins and outs of the production side of things?
Trial and a whole lot of error. I started out using free windows software on an old computer, but I upgraded to Final Cut Pro X editing software on a 27-inch Apple iMac OS to handle 4K and 5K display. You stumble around a lot at first, but once you catch on to a few things you can lay down some simple edits.
I watch a lot of benchmark productions I’m aspiring towards and try to find ways of replicating things like clip transitions, audio balance, and color grading to improve the quality of my work.
One thing that constantly bugs me about my earlier work is the audio transitions from clip to clip. I can’t stand when the background hum is distinctly different from one related scene to the next, it makes my ears sad and distracts me. I’ve learned to detach the audio and overlap scenes and separate prominent sounds from clips to smooth the audio. This makes a huge difference in my opinion. An episode with terrible sound will fetch fewer viewer minutes, so the story you were hoping to tell falls upon deaf ears and a blind eye.
On the soundtrack side of things, where do you get your inspiration?
This is a touchy subject for me because I catch a lot of crap from perfect strangers, to those closest to me. Take my wife, for example. We sit down to debut a hunt film I just wrapped up on the big screen – que the cinematic soundtrack with the dramatic percussion. I’m still on the serious side of things hoping she’s going to love what she sees and hears, but instead she’ll make awkward sounds, like “dunn – dunn – dunn!”, followed by that face she makes when she realizes I might be offended and is sorry, but not sorry – know what I mean?
Then there’s the comments on social media outlets. I can’t say I’m offended by those, in fact, I really am grateful people take the time to comment – it means they watched it. Let’s face it, you can’t meet everyone’s musical taste, so I do my best to select instrumentals that prepare the viewer for the scene, and in other instances drag a neat scene out lacking vocal audio.
I pay for royalty-free music to avoid the legal hassles that come with the territory, and even then, I still get notifications from outlets like YouTube that say a copyright claim has been filed. I must contest them, explain we are a non-monetized YouTube channel, and provide information containing the certified website and membership I pay for to download the royalty-free music. They go away after that, but it’s a time waster and a hassle I wish I could get away from.
Any new bands or singers you are hooked on at the moment?
You know, from a music standpoint I really like folky bluegrass. Some artists and bands that come to mind are Tyler Childers, Steeldrivers, Three Tall Pines, and Sturgill Simpson. Then there are times I’m listening to young contemporary country guys, like Taylor Ray Holbrook, Michael Ray, and Kane Brown. Depends on what mood you catch me in, but you won’t hear these guys on any of our productions until I get a chance to drink a beer with one of them and convince them to grant me written permission to use their songs.
Seems like you have a sizable staff on your Chase Nation team, how did you go about assembling the team?
There are thirteen of us today. The original film-crew was made up of the several of us who had stepped away from Wisconsin Whitetail Pursuit to pursuit something different, something wholesome and organic. Wisconsin Whitetail Pursuit had been acquisitioned and by an outdoor product company and with the new territory came the expectation to be brand ambassadors and that didn’t sit right with some of us. Each of us understood the goal of the new owner, but we built the Wisconsin Whitetail Pursuit name up organically and wanted to keep it that way. I dedicated myself to one last season filming for WWP and when the season had ended I parted ways and founded Chase Nation TV with the door open for my pals from the WWP team to come be a part of something organic again.
A few of the guys had buddies who were experienced behind the lens and were as hardcore in the field as the rest of us, so after a little convincing we brought on some new faces to give them a chance. I’d say Season 1 speaks for itself, every one of the guys on the Chase Nation TV has earned their spots. I really am proud of the whole crew and how dedicated they are.
The Chase Nation TV crew is unpaid – they do what they do for the very reason we stand for, which is to share their outdoor adventures because they’re passionate about it.
Seems you and the team get into some real nice whitetails. How do you keep it up every year?
This is one of those questions I could write a 1,500-word article on, but I’ll cut to the chase. If you want to kill big whitetails, you must be willing to get aggressive and go to them, not wait for them to come to you. Our guys maintain mobility throughout the season and aren’t afraid of getting in to tight quarters of a buck’s bedroom to catch him on his feet during legal hunting hours. All this combined with the basics of whitetail hunting, like minding the wind on your entries and exits, rarely hunting the same tree twice to keep the deer guessing, and adapting to conditions to maximize your opportunities.
So, if I were a hunter and wanted to get into filming my own hunts, where do I start?
Listen, I truly believe you’re only really good at things you truly love and are passionate about. If you have it in you, you know, a real fire burning inside you to invest yourself into the world of filming your hunts, you have to be ready to see the ugly side of it, as well. Like any solid relationship with another person, when you hit a rough patch you forgive and move forward. The same can be said about filming. You’re going to have days when you want to give up on the filming and just get back to the basics of hunting, but you’ll know you have it in you when you climb up that tree and feel naked thinking about the camera sitting back in the truck.
Where do you start? Go buy a less than expensive camera. I recommend a Sony handycam with a price tag of less than $300. Take that camera and film for an entire season. If you find yourself getting creative with your shots and paying attention to other people’s work to find ideas for improvement of your own work, that’s when you make a decision to go all in and buy a Sony FDR-AX100 professional digital camcorder and external mics for premium audio.
A part of the Raised Rowdy offerings include apparel. We have tossed around the idea of partnering with a hunting apparel company to release Raised Rowdy gear for the outdoorsman. There are many out there, in your experience, what companies do you stand by?
Legendary Whitetail. I wear outdoor apparel of all different brands without restriction, or expectation, so my opinion is pure. The team over at Legendary Whitetail is one of the most wholesome brands I know in the outdoor apparel world. They have great camo, awesome deer camp clothing, and who doesn’t love that logo?
Let’s talk about these apps you have created. A Facebook for the hunting and fishing community. Love the concept by the way. Are they gaining traction? What’s the future plans?
Both apps are available on iPhone (App Store) and Android (Google Play), and can be downloaded from our web-based landing page, www.fishmore.io, and www.huntmore.io. The user community on both apps is growing tremendously and by the day, which of course we love to see. I think what separates us from other fishing and hunting apps out there is not only did we create a homegrown AI framework behind the apps, but I’ve never had to police the users commentary because everyone treats each other with respect. Finally, a place a kid can post his first buck picture without trolls poking fun of him, or her, for the size of the antlers.
We are piloting the e-commercing feature this summer, so that’s our latest development – we can’t wait! There’s a number of outdoor companies on both platforms that are signed up for the initial pilot, so it should generate some solid growth for our community as these brands direct more and more traffic to the apps to generate sales.
From all of us at Raised Rowdy, thanks again for taking some time to talk with us. Looking forward to your new releases and this coming whitetail season. Best of luck!
If you would like to check out more, you have a few options.
Visit Chase Nation TV at: www.ChaseNation.co
You can also check them out on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram.
Or download either app by searching in either your iPhone or Android App store or navigating to: www.fishmore.io, and www.huntmore.io