By this time next week I'll be passing 100 hours of work on this years issue of Smashmouth Magazine. For those of you who didn't know, I originally pitched the idea for this at a Muskeo Hitmen Board meeting. The response, by in large was luke-warm. The initial response was awesome, "Ya! thats a great idea". The tide changed when I explained what we would have to do to make it happen, "...That sounds like a lot of work..."
It is a lot of work. From top to bottom, it is a team effort. Doing interviews, collecting information, taking pictures, doing the layouts, heck - just finding stuff to talk about that you didn't talk about last time can be a task. So I mentioned the idea to Chris Chudada in a conversation and said if I had more help on it, I could make it happen. Long story short, Smashmouth Magazine was born. Now even with Chris helping out, I'm faced with managing and developing virtually everying I mentioned above on the magazine. I don't usually do this because I like people to get hit with the 'WOW-Factor" when the open the magazine...But I won't give away much...and I don't think many people actually read this stuff. So here is a little look at how all of this comes together
Chris: All of the teams were whining because their wasn't anything about them in the magazine, so I want do a little team feature on every team this year.
Eric: If there wasn't anything on the team in last issue it is because when I asked for teams to contribute something to the magazine - No one answered. It's their own fault.
Chris: I know, But I want people to buy it so let's do it. Barutha ( the league announcer ) came up with a format and basic layout...what do you think
Eric: I like it...but its boring. Let's take it up a notch. What if we did it like a scouting report...but for fans. Not overly detailed but give them a look from a coaches perspective.
Chris: I love it - Go!
Chris: Oh, I would also like each feature to have like a helmet graphic...Can you do that to?
Phase 1: The info & Mock Up
Collecting the info was by far the most frustrating thing I have to deal with. Chris and Barutha venture out to collect info on teams...as much as they can. They send it to me, and I say I need more. They say - That's all we got, can you work with it? Like an idiot, I say yes... Here is a snap shot of the info I usually get, this EVERYTHING they came up with on the Muskego Hitmen. This is what I get to work with. The general idea was not to tell people something they already know, but present information that coaches like to get on teams - Who are the studs, how do we stop them, what do they like to do... all that good stuff. None of that was in the stuff they sent me. So I go back and try to figure it out for my self.
I start by basically pasting the document in to the layout and moving a couple things around. Cutting out the boring stuff and clearing out white space. Removing the logos. I'll slap a couple pictures in there and get a feel for where this is going...It's not going anywhere - It's still boring. Then it hit me! A couple years ago, I was talking with Brett about redoing the website. I wanted it to try to capture the randomness and chaos that is organizing semi-pro football...And kind of poking fun at what it is we and coaches do. Well why not do that with the mag? It would be a lot easier than on a website.
Phase 2: Photo retouching and clean up
The next step is to track down photos of all of all of the players we are "Scouting" and figure out how I am going to use them. Well since every team has a photographer and they are all mandated to submit copies to the league, this should be a snap, right?! Well, most of the teams didn't do that, so I have very limited resources to work with. Luckily, Jeff is the man and takes a lot of kick ass pictures that we don't ever put on the site - mainly because they don't have any Hitmen guys in them. And...you know...that's how photographers make money - Take pictures and sell them!
So I take all of the photos that Chris and Jeff can get to me and I dump them all in to lightroom and start retouching, color correcting, removing dirt, fixing the light and blur, removing things I don't like, adding the things I want. A lot of cut outs and dropping players back into certain things. No pictures is ever perfect or the way I like it when I get it. The sky isn't blue enough, that red is too red, its too dark, not enough contrast...too much color, the grass looks like dirt, or it's too yellow. Photo retouching takes up a lot of time when you are talking 200+ photos. Plus, photos taken at night never look to great. Dark, gritty, lots of glare from lights. You can clean it up to a certain point. But you can't shine a turd. It also becomes a challenge when you don't really know what you might be doing with the photo inside the magazine. It always helps to have something in mind before you start this. But hey, I'm on a time crunch here...and im the only one doing it!
Take this photo here for instance:
- The grass is too saturated compared to the rest of the photo.
- Bump up the sky
- Bring down the grass
- I want to use this as a backdrop...there is way to much color
- Bleach pass - Black and white filter, bring down the opacity
- Select orange color range - leave skin tones
- Overlay the orange colors on top of the bleach passed photo
- I want a vignette...
- Create circular selection...invert it. feather it out
- copy the edges and past if over the top a couple times play with blend modes.
- Picture number 1...done.
And we'll do something like that for every picture...
Phase 3: The Design
So with these scouting reports I wanted to capture the essence of semi-pro football while keeping a dry sense of humor about it. So What is Semi-Pro ball? Is it really organized? Yes and no. I
think many times people just throw crap together...put things off and scurry to get it done at teh last minute a lot of the time. Coaches tend to be absent minded professor types. On game day they appear highly organized and can bring a group of 50+ testosterone fueled meat heads to their knees. But what happens leading up to that point?
There is quite a bit of procrastinating. But there is also a lot of work. Some very detailed and informative...Some -not so much.So the look I came up with is just that - Chaotic. Hey, it's how we work. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this before in a magazine. In the first issue, I actually went out and bought a bunch of magazines from sports to home decorating to get a feel for how magazines were done. I came to the conclusion that they are done how ever the hell you want it done. So that's how this is going to go.
This snap shot is the only peak you are getting, so soak it up. With the exception of the lines on the paper, nothing on these pages is "Stock" where you could go out to flickr or istock and download a copy. I'm pretty proud of that. I kind of surprised myself with that. Not only does it capture the chaos, but I think it really falls inline with what "Smashmouth" is all about. Grittiness, rough around the edges, but effective. Click on it and you'll see just how some of those things all came together. Did I mention that I don't do this for a living?!
Phase 4: completion
So it's not 100% done, not by a long shot. You remember those helmet graphics Chris wanted, well I have most of them done, but I still have a few to go. I did double duty and used them for the new website as well. They turned out pretty good. But also very time consuming. Did I mention that I don't sleep much? And then - The rest of the magazine. These report things are only 1 section. A lot of teams still don't have information which I'm sure I'll have to track down or just exclude them from the magazine. I'm not sure what will happen with that just yet.
I don't really do much of the writing, but it will have to be proof read again. Not only for spelling and grammar, but for readability and to see if how it is pieced together actually makes any sense. Hopefully it turns out pretty good and you guys like it.
So is it worth it? the teams seem to like it, but they aren't really eager to help out. The ones that do/did tend not to follow instructions very well and I end up spending a good week telling them that they need to do it over. I think last time Chris only bought 150 or something like that and they sold out. Jimmy Medrano has my only copy of that issue. Hey Jimmy, I want that back! I suppose if it sells out, it must be good? I think most guys will just buy 1 and pass it around the team...Whatever. The ultimate goal is to get more exposure for the league, increase that professional appearance and bring in more money, more fans and all of that good junk.
Will there be a Volume 3? I'll tell you this much; after all of the frustration with this one, we were close to canning this project. Real close. I had to talk Chudada out of it. I suppose I wish people would pitch in a little more...well pitch in period. The design work is a heavy cross to bare on it's own. Taking an hour to put something together, answer a couple emails or do an interview...not so much to ask, is it?