The Art of Mix-Making: The Introduction
The Art of Mix-Making is a four-part series looking at the artistic intersection of basketball and video editing. Parts 2, 3 and 4 will run later this week.
I don’t consider myself a common NBA fan. I doubt anybody who comes straight home from school to immediately start working an article about how good Paul Millsap is, or whether or not point guards are truly the dominant position in basketball, can consider themselves a “common” fan. I’m not exactly a special or unique fan either, there are plenty of basketball junkies like me. There are fans all across the globe who take their love of NBA basketball to the next level, and express their “next-level” fandom in different ways. I write about basketball. I write about the players, the teams and the league. I analyze, I joke and I pray that you all enjoy it. Others purchase season tickets and scream their lungs out every night in support of their favorite team, or cover every inch of wall in their room with portraits and posters of their idols. And then, there are mix-makers.
A basketball ‘mix’ in its technical definition is a combination of NBA/college/high school basketball highlights with music playing over it; with or without some cool effects. If you’re an NBA fan with even minimal access to the internet, you’ve seen a mix before. In fact, even if you don’t have minimal access to the internet, you’ve seen a mix before. The NBA often plays a short 30-second one created by the league’s video editors right before a national-TV contest in order to get you excited for the following match-up. If you’re an NBA junkie with even minimal internet access, you’ve seen a ton of mixes before. Done right, these simple five or six minute videos will keep your eyes glued to the monitor, your heart racing non-stop and your jaw resting on the floor under you. When fully understood and appreciated, mix-making is an art.
“Watching highlights on SportsCenter is one thing. But what separates mixing from just highlights is the emotion that it can bring out in people. It’s a creative way to convey the story and emotions that a basketball game can have. It can suck you in, even if it’s for 3 minutes and if done right, you feel like you are watching a movie. And for basketball fans, seeing their favorite player’s top plays or game winning shots done cinematically with epic music makes that video a must watch.”
Those words were spoken by Max Frishberg, the man behind the popular YouTube account, Maxamillion711. Max’s channel has grown to be arguably the most popular portal on YouTube for basketball mixes. What’s not arguable, is the amount of effort that goes into these mixes, some of the most impressive you will ever find. When I asked which mix he would show to fans if he could only display one, he responded:
“It probably would have to be this mix I made in 2009 -
I was born and raised in Portland, OR and have been a Trail Blazer fan for as long as I can remember. So when the Blazers asked me to show this mix at their 2009 downtown rally in front of thousands of fans, it was a dream come true. I think this mix sums up what kind of mixer I am and what speaks to me. My heart and soul went into making this, and when I saw the video of fans watching it on the big screen and reacting the same why I do, it solidified my love of mix-making and makes this mix stand out as my favorite that I’ve done.”
When Max says his heart and soul went into this mix, it’s very hard not to feel it when you’re watching. The top echelon of mix-makers have a way of triggering every single emotion that churns through our body when we watch basketball, leaving us insanely hyped, with tears in our eyes, begging for more, and often all three. Like writers, the best way for mix-makers to best form their craft is to tell us a story that we’ll listen to. And when it clicks, there isn’t anything out there quite like it. Mixes capture everything we love about NBA basketball, while delivering those feelings in a fashion that’s poised, professional, exciting, entertaining, and masterful.
There are no limitations with mixes either. Mixes can get you excited for an upcoming season. They can visualize an unforgettable story. They can recap a remarkable finish or career. They can take you through a historic year or series. They can define what greatness is about and what it takes to be a champion. These are just a few examples of the array of amazing possibilities when it comes to the right pair of hands creating such a magnificent piece of art.
You’ll notice how I’ve been calling mix-making an art. Because to me, when done at it’s best, this is completely indisputable. The finished product is breathtaking sure, but what the viewer doesn’t recognize is the meticulous process that goes into making a great mix and how these great mixes stand out from the rest of the pack, like any other art form. I asked Joe, the man running another great YouTube channel for mixes “Jzspartan” about mix-making being considered an art form:
“Like real art, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Everyone that sees a mix will make judgement if it’s art or not. Not all mixes are ‘art’ anyways though. It’s a case by case basis. Some are very well created and beautiful, some are just terrible. Some mixers are notable for creating art, usually the best of the best, who take their passion very seriously.”
When he says seriously, he means seriously. Creating a mix is easy, crafting a work of art is not. It requires constant assessment, grueling hours combing over every detail, striving for perfection. Anything short of this for the mix-makers who “take their passion very seriously” is unacceptable. When asking Joe how long it takes him to make a mix, he answered:
“Some mixes take me a week, some take months. I guess if you averaged it out a month would be a good guess.”
I asked Max the same question:
“A good solid month for me. The longest part is just collecting the footage. When I make a decision to do a mix on a particular player, I record all of his games and scour every sports network to get all the angles I would need. After I have enough footage, it takes roughly 4 weeks of editing.”
These weeks are filled with strained eyes, tests of patience, endless amount of mouse clicks and keyboard clacks, perseverance and frustration. Trust me, I know from personal experience. I took a dive in the pool of mix-making quite a few years ago, but because of technological limitations and a lack of both skill and talent, I stopped. The courageous adventure that is mix-making, dedicating your efforts and time to sharpen every frame, of every second, of every minute until the entire mix is without mistake or hitch, is tedious. But once the mix is finally done, the entire grind is well worth it.
“When I see that excitement from fans today when I release a new mix about their favorite player, it is a very great feeling to see their enthusiasm. When I read comments like ‘this made me tear up’ or ‘this sent chills down my spine’, it really hits home for me.”
Fans very much do enjoy watching mixes, it’s extremely difficult not to. Yet why are the large amount of spectacular mixes so… hidden? They aren’t all over basketball Twitter, or basketball blogs, or anywhere really. Mixes are almost a secluded piece of awesome in the basketball world. It’s a shame, even a crime. An art form so impressive, difficult and truly beautiful in the eyes of basketball fans, very much moving along unnoticed in the basketball universe.