LOS ANGELES — Corridor Digital (www.corridor-digital.com) is a small production studio founded in 2009 by Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer. The duo specializes in action, sci-fi, comedy, and music-related content, with an emphasis on visual effects.
Currently, the studio places much of its focus into online viral video content, developing anything from short-form parodies to long-form dramatic narratives. Their goal is to eventually move into long-form narrative content while remaining true to the character of its viral work.
Both Gorski and Pueringer grew up on movies like The Matrix and other spectacle-driven pieces, and began creating films as early as their days in middle school.
“It was the early 2000s, a time when camera equipment and technology was becoming, from a financial standpoint, more accessible for people like us,” Gorski recalls. “We didn’t need expansive editing bays or costly gear — we got our start working with cameras that were more affordable and software-based visual effect packages like Red Giant.”
Red Giant’s plug-ins have been gracing the team’s work since Day 1. The duo has been using effects such as Trapcode Shine, Particular, Magic Bullet Looks and many others to spice up their work. While the guys have since graduated to higher-end equipment, they’ve held to their roots as independent filmmakers, creating high quality content — and that means keeping tools from Red Giant in the pipeline.
Fast-forward about a decade or so, Gorski and Pueringer head out to LA to edit a low-budget monster movie they shot together in Canada. “We spent about a full year editing and doing visual effects for this feature project, and it didn’t get released anywhere,” Gorski recalls. “It was going through the standard process for film releases — selling it to multiple territories, trying to get it on DVD or Blu-ray. We spent a year working on this project and we were looking at another year before people could even watch it because of the whole process of selling films.”
At the same time, around 2008, one of their good high school friends, Brandon Laatsch, was working with Video Game High School star Freddie Wong, going full-force on their YouTube channel. “We were sitting with the finished movie while our friends were making content that was instantly going online and being watched by thousands. We saw the instant gratification you can get from posting that stuff — an immediate audience to respond to your work. It was something I was craving. That was our launching point for getting into that style of content. That’s how everything really began.”
To help kick off their careers as online filmmakers, Gorski and Pueringer struck a deal with their friends, who allowed them to post Corridor’s first viral hit, Modern Warfare: Frozen Crossing to their already popular YouTube channel (Wong then had 17K subscribers, a massive following in the early days of YouTube). Part 1 of the three-part movie, a Call of Duty fan-film, got a million views in just one day. “It showed us that we had the potential to make viral videos and make a living in this space.”
In 2010, Gorski and Pueringer officially set up shop as Corridor Digital, pumping out hit after hit with films like Minecraft: The Last Minecart, Dubstep Guns and Superman With a GoPro. To date, they have more than 3.1 million subscribers, with nearly 300 million total views and counting.
“Dubstep Guns, which came out in 2011, performed really well,” says Gorski. “It’s pretty much just a Red Giant demo real; literally every other shot uses Particular or Form. We went a bit nuts using the Red Giant plug-ins on that one. It was the only way we could have gotten it done so quickly, because the plug-ins are so easy to use.”
In fact, when it comes to visual effects, the duo reports that Red Giant plug-ins are used in just about every film they produce.
“We use a lot of Particular, and the whole Keying Suite,” Gorski explains. “It’s hard to point out one tool or project overall — we use so many, so often. Magic Bullet Looks comes into play in pretty much every project. It’s the fastest and best-looking way to do a lot of cool lens effects. I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t use Red Giant’s chromatic aberration tools.”
While turning out YouTube sensations with factory-like precision takes a great deal of creative genius, it also requires a high level of technical abilities with top-of-the-line editing and visual effects software to get the job done. Enter: the Adobe Creative Suite. Corridor Digital employs Premiere Pro for all of its editing, “mainly because we use a ton of different cameras in our workflow, and Adobe handles it all flawlessly.”
Gorski and Pueringer
Specifically, they mainly shoot with a Red Epic, Sony FS Series 100 and 700, and GoPros. Switching their workflow to Adobe Premiere meant they wouldn’t have to pre-render and transcode every single file before editing. “We’re constantly making sequences that use Red, GoPro and all kinds of mixed media, so that’s been one of the biggest time savers,” says Gorski. “We dump everything into one sequence and edit it all together.”
“We tend to edit in 4K, but we’re mixing so many things,” Pueringer continues. “We’ll get GoPro footage at 2.7K, and we’ll be shooting 5K and 4K on the Red for various shots. Then we might bust out a drone and get some shots with the drone’s proprietary camera, which shoots in H.264 format. Luckily, all the different formats play nice in Premiere, and we don’t have to worry. Adobe takes everything raw in native format and can read it all together.”
When editing is complete, the duo take their work over to Adobe After Effects, where they do all their compositing and visual effects work. There, they use the Red Giant plug-ins they need to accomplish Corridor’s signature VFX. Gorski and Pueringer explain that they also use Red Giant tools for utilitarian tasks — simple things, like using Key Correct’s built-in light wrap filter. “Any time we do any sort of compositing, we’ll bust out the light wrap filter. The color matching features are also extremely useful. Red Giant offers a lot of great tools that save us five minutes here, ten minutes there. When all stacked together, it makes our workflow so much faster,” says Gorski.
“It’s really nice that so many of Red Giant’s plug-ins are cross compatible with Premiere; it allows us to preview effects from suites like Magic Bullet or the Keying Suite and test them out in Premiere before moving over to After Effects,” adds Pueringer. “That saves us time and makes the process way less technical and a lot more creative and intuitive. Generally speaking, there are a lot of really handy tools in the Red Giant packs these days. It’s like salt and pepper — a little bit here and there in your food and everything tastes much better at the end of the day.”
After they’ve built everything in After Effects, Corridor renders all the shots, brings them back into the Premiere timeline, then exports to Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve for color grading and mastering.
From the moment Gorski and Pueringer made the decision to bypass the traditions of Tinsel Town by making their films immediately available to millions on YouTube, they’ve been an online sensation. Today, roughly five years after Corridor Digital got its start, the team has grown to include producer Jake Watson, along with a slew of additional filmmakers the team is constantly working with.
Their films continue to get hits (and generate money) each and every day – a factor that’s played a huge role in their growth over the past few years. Their brand of films are heavily influenced by video games and has – you guessed it – attracted the attention of video game companies.
“We’ve been able to increase revenue and generate more popularity through partnerships with video games and sponsors,” Gorski explains. “It also allows us to work with more people and effectively make better content. And while we are working with sponsors so to speak, we still have amazing creative freedom on something we are able to make a living from.”
Though production has increased at Corridor Digital, Gorski and Pueringer have actually found themselves doing less short-turn projects than they were in the beginning. By bringing on more creative talent, they are able to focus on a wider variety of work, including larger projects, like Shadow Of Mordor, a film based on Lord of the Rings, which took them two months to produce as opposed to the typical two-week turnaround. “It all depends on the scale of the project, and it all comes back to creative freedom,” says Gorski.
“It’s a big step, a big shift for us from what we’re used to,” he says of the new projects Corridor is taking on. “Until about a month or so ago, Niko and I were doing almost 100 percent of everything creatively, but because of a few larger projects we’re getting involved with, more people are taking over directorial and creative roles. At the end of the day, it’s super important to keep the channel and the style of content consistent while we’re expanding out into other projects. One thing is for sure: we plan on keeping Corridor Digital going for years to come.”
What other projects, one might ask? “We won’t be getting too traditional; we’re aiming for Netflix and other Web-based streaming services. For now, there’s still a lot of opportunity and areas to explore.”