Despite the odd timing of the award this year, the college division threw down a solid crop of videos.
February 18, 2022 by Patrick Stegemoeller and Max Charles in Opinion with 0 comments
The 2021 college season was strange for many reasons, and one quirk of the schedule is the crowning of the Callahan winners after Nationals. The delayed voting may or may not have had anything to do with who actually wound up winning the thing, but importantly for our purposes it bought time for an impressive number of teams to put together videos for their nominees for this ad hoc season. We got several nice stocking stuffers from the college division during this past holiday season Nationals and even into the New Year, so we brought in video editor Max Charles to help unwrap and unpack everything from the year in Callahan videos.
Patrick: Say what you will about the validity of a National championship played with a bunch of teams missing and several people who haven’t been in college for multiple years, but at least one thing from this odd college season is reassuringly familiar: Callahan videos. Max, you’ve had your hands on some of the best reels of recent years (including one I’ve got ranked at #7 all time), what’s your initial take on the field of videos from 2021?
Max: It’s a strong crop, Pat! Perhaps the year of isolation and aching for ultimate was conducive to the creative process; the edits generally feel more crisp and tight than previous years. The average video length is shrinking to accommodate our waning attention spans, but I’m glad we have yet to see a Callahan nomination via Tik Tok.
Patrick: I am completely on board with the trend towards shorter videos, and I’m glad to see that editors are starting to see the wisdom in a “short but sweet” approach after the glut of saggy, overlong videos a few years ago. It’s not just that videos are shorter now, there’s less actual ultimate being played in them too, which I think is also a good thing. More B-roll, more interludes, more prologue… when done well, it all serves to elevate the plays that we do see and make all of the on-field action dramatic and emotionally resonant. Are there any videos that you think used non-game footage particularly well?
Max: First of all, I love seeing more teams each year with animated logos. The Darkside HBO spin-off has been around for a while, but it’s exciting to see MagnUM, Burning Skirts, Brownian Motion, and others establishing a recognizable, consistent image for their content. Build the brand!
Some of my favorite B-roll this year was Noah Chambers’ dinger in intramural softball, Maddie Pletzke’s tearaway sweatpants, and Michael Lee’s secret handshakes and sideline antics. We’ve seen skies, hucks, and layouts ad infinitum, so bringing player personalities in with B-roll is an effective way to present the individuality, character, and (dare I say) spirit that the Callahan award is also about.
Similarly, I find natural commentary from teammates or people who have shared the field much more compelling than some of the cookie-cutter broadcast commentary. Trent Dillon and Ben Jagt talking about Cole “Beef” Jurek feels more direct and organic. Hearing the UNC camera operator spout off a litany of nicknames for Anders Juengst immediately pulls us in and illustrates that Juengst’s lasting effects and interactions on Darkside were potent enough to garner at least three pseudonyms.
Special shout out to the USC Hellions and their nomination video for Mia Tess. It almost eked into my top 10 on the faux sports news intro alone.
Patrick: And while it may not be entirely original at this point, the MRI or X-ray of tragic knee/shoulder/ankle injury device always works. Johnny Malks probably has the most effective use of it this year, tugging at the heartstrings of everyone who wishes we could have seen what his college career would look like without back-to-back tough beat maladies that kept him out.
What do you make of that video in general? I feel like it’s one of the more polarizing ones this year, with some people arguing that it’s a little one-note, and others just gobsmacked by all those incredible hucks. And on the flip side of that same coin, what do you think of Azeez Adeyemi’s video which I believe didn’t have a single throw?
Max: The Malks video is officially the Disney version of Nick Lance’s (directed by Quinten Tarantino). Both phenomenal throwers featured over escalating gothic soundtracks, but one features smooth, gliding hucks and an effortless throwing motion (as if guided by the Force) while the other is rife with violent fastball hammers and recoiling flick hucks. The Darth Maul theme hits an extra gear after an interlude at three minutes, but it’s a lullaby in comparison to the epic, thunderous peaks of “O Fortuna.”
Azeez’s had no throws? I guess I hardly noticed with all the adrenaline pulsing through my veins when I watched it six times in a row. No throws may be a knock in the classical sense of the Callahan, but I’m not here to (or allowed to) vote on that. I think I may prefer the omission versus shoving in a couple suspect completed hucks to check the box and say, “Done. Perfect thrower.” Play to your strengths, be true to yourself! More on Azeez later…
Patrick: Here’s the thing, I hear you, but I love the Malks video. Really, I love it in spite of itself. As you point out, it does take some time in the build up, and lacks the precision and snappy editing characteristic of most of the best videos. It hangs too long on some beats and doesn’t give others room to breathe. But when Duel of the Fates really starts cranking and we get this tracking shot… I mean…
With the top knot and billowing jersey, you can see him as Liam Neeson, gracefully slicing his way through a horde of maple-leaf-branded battle droids.
Clearly, the song selection here for Malks is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Same goes for Alex Diaz, but in the aesthetically opposite direction. Any music choices that really stood out to you this year?
Max: From a high level, the music selection across the board has greatly improved over the years. Less cliche sports montage tunes and a lot more creative and intentional music choices. As you pointed out, I loved the Alex Diaz music. Not only does it set the tempo for Daiz’s fast pace on the field, but the clips are also arranged nicely around the lyrics. From the “up”s in a sky segment to the “on my finger” for the catched tip, the little details add a lot of fun to the viewing experience. Other videos that connected play and lyrics particularly well were Jasmine Childress’ in the Beyonce introduction and Bridget Mizener’s “Genius” field-opening blades.
Patrick: One quick music point in reference to Raymond Lu’s video: how do we feel about “High Hopes” as a song? I think it raises two issues, 1) some lingering associations with Pete Buttigieg and, perhaps more importantly, 2) it’s already been used in an iconic frisbee reel! Where do we stand on song ownership, vis-a-vis Callahan videos? Is it okay if the song is just from a non-Callahan reel? What about from a Callahan teaser, with Mia Tess biting the iconic Anne Worth teaser from last season?
Max: There are definitely some unspoken song ownership laws to the Callahan, especially for the finalists or other reels of high notoriety. There’s a natural connection between a song and a player, like the walkout music for a boxer or AEW wrestler, once a critical mass of people in our relatively small community have seen some of these videos. The exception to this is the John Stubbs / Parker Bray snafu,1 which worked out for Stubbs, but I also remember very little of either video2 and only the insufferable arguments about whether previous seasons’ accolades matter in the Callahan. But when I hear Lizzo outside of a frisbee context, it still snaps me to “this is the Shofner one!” or when I’m rewatching Django Unchained, I might hear a whisper of “Freechild saves the game!” somewhere in the distance. Consequently, no future Callahan editor in their right mind is touching “Good as Hell” or “Who Did That to You?” But I think music dibs are insulated to the Callahan (and maybe also the DNC): the single-player focus is unique in the grander scheme of ultimate highlight reels and I think that’s where the proprietary feeling is derived from. I think teasers are few and far enough between and less scrutinized than the nomination videos to garner that level of music possession too.
Side note: Like “Power” by Kanye West has been the trailer music for The Social Network, Fantastic Four, and Limitless, and that’s just off the top of my head.
Side note to the side note: what the fuck
Patrick: That American Airlines commercial must have been off the chain.
So considering music and everything else going on, do you have a favorite shot or sequence from this year?
Max: I’m always a fan of sequences that focus on a unique or less featured aspect of the game. Noah Chambers putting marks and defenders on the ground and Jesse Johnson hitting a player with the pull were things I don’t recall seeing in many nominations in years past.
For a favorite moment, it has to be the Childress celebration perfectly in sync with the beat. It’s too cool.
Patrick: Really can’t argue with that Childress celebration, or really almost any of the moments from her video where she straight up embarrasses people. We both have Jasmine’s reel high in our rankings and have plenty to say about it there, so I’m going to go with a sequence from a video that wasn’t as successful overall but contained for me the most effective moment from any video this year.
The camerawork here is awesome. We start tight in on Juengst and Dylan Villeneuve doing battle in the dump space, a back alley knife fight of jukes and countermoves. We’re sucked into this struggle, but once Ders gets the disc he rears back and launches it towards some unseen target. The shot pulls out and we see the rest of the action happening across the field, and a perfect huck ending the point some 50 or so yards away. It’s impressive visual storytelling, a reminder of the fine-edged contests happening all over the field that make up the bigger picture, and Juengst’s ability to see the pieces moving around the chess board while we are watching him dance.
Any final thoughts before we wrap up? Random shout-outs or last-minute slander you want to get in?
Max: Post-nationals Callahan voting is a nail in the coffin for the little guy. Down with the elites!
Kidding. But kind of. I think the change of timing is a net positive and the results will hopefully better and more fully represent the College performances that the award is meant to be evaluated on. But I hope the later timeline, if it persists, doesn’t deter non-Nationals teams from nominating, commemorating, and making creative video collages of their leaders’ best moments.
Along that thread, shoutout to all the creators and players nominated — it takes courage to put your work out in front of everyone to judge. The highlight video is a fun medium and it’s enjoyable to learn a little bit about new, up-and-coming players across the country through these homages.
Shoutout to this:
Minor slander to the Eric Li video for blowing out my headphones. Otherwise, sick video.
And lastly, I’m calling out Cal Poly SLO. No nomination or video? I always look forward to what they come up with.
Our Top 10 Lists for the Year
1. Azeez Adeyemi – edited by Bryan Xian
There’s probably some German word that perfectly describes the cocktail of emotions that this video brings me, but it’s some combination of happy, motivated, amazed, and “?!”. The chaptering of this tour-de-force keeps the video moving and engaging, while ramping the tone from playful to focused to full-on swagger. The effects are well-thought-out, intentional, and enhance the experience — particularly the minor zooms on beat drops. The light-hearted edits remind us that ultimate is a fun sport, even at the highest levels of competition. And the player, Azeez, is an absolute joy to watch fly around like he’s playing on trampolines while we’re all stuck on the grass. He effuses a special energy; you can see it in the way he enlivens his teammates, and this video lets us viewers in for just a few minutes on what it might be like to team with Azeez. It makes me want to play some ultimate.
2. Jasmine Childress – edited by Mika Leslie
So. Much. Character. As I mentioned earlier, the music accompanying this reel is so in sync with the player it is celebrating and that resonance creates a truly beautiful experience. The lyrics and clip selection align wonderfully throughout and help further pronounce Childress’ skill, joy, and passion. I could easily imagine watching sections of this video on a Jumbotron. I would argue that this is the most impressive athletic display in all of this year’s videos, but it was nice of the editor, Mika Leslie, to include the final clip to assure viewers they are voting for a human.
3. Bridget Mizener – edited by Ella Juengst
Between the upline cutting tree, blade throwing angles, uppercut hand blocks, and acceleration form that would make a sprinting coach shed a tear, this edit does an exceptional job at detailing all the facets and details of Mizener’s game. This is the visual representation of what people think they are describing when they vouch for their captain to make a D-III All-region team on the Ultiworld forums: literally good at everything. It’s well-segmented and easy to follow, so you can turn off your brain and simply enjoy the amazing play.
4. Kevin Tien – edited by Simon Covington and Kevin Tien
I love this edit. It’s clean, the plays are perfectly timed-up to the twangs of the guitar, so viewers can anticipate and follow the big play moments. No time feels wasted, every clip has a purpose and shows a relevant aspect of Tien’s impressive play. Slo-mo is used tactfully and the still shots with the camera shutter audio feels natural and additive. I could’ve done without the unclear commentary on the endzone shimmies (it was naturally set up by the previous clips!) and the transitions in the opening segment are a little blocky but those aren’t deal-breakers. Start to finish, very well done.
5. Anders Juengst – edited by Jack McCleary
This is the most viewed 2021 Callahan video at the time of writing, and for good reason. A winner of three championships in the last year (a triple crown perhaps?), the overlord of the front cone, and the best Men’s player nominated this year, in my opinion. The music choice compliments the play well; give Juengst just a little bit of an edge and he will turn it into an “oh my” moment. The contrast of the acoustic guitar and electric riffs works in concert with the controlled and suddenly destructive speed of Juengst. There is some commentary, like the “no upline” easter egg and the cameraman’s exhausted “he’s so fast” that are fun, enhancing moments, but there are also many instances of distracting, empty sideline noise.
6. Alex Diaz – edited by Mary Ramada, Abbi Shilts, Emma Ellefson-Frank, Olivia Gibbs, Sara Zhang, and Xuan Feldman
“Brevity is the soul of wit.” The D-Co editing team shows that you don’t need six clips of the same type of huck to make a dynamic, complete player profile. Two minutes thirty of action and minimal filler. Tight.
7. Raymond Lu – edited by Ashwin Pothukuchi
The fact that some of this was performed with one hand in bubble wrap is spectacular. Splitting the reel into two songs and sections (a theme in a lot of videos this year) is a useful tactic to guide the viewer from the precision hucks to a flurry of agile cuts and the breadwinning, HD clips. There is a lot of creative flair in this reel, like pulling into a cinematic aspect ratio on the last big sky. The effects add to the action and intensity that comes with Lu’s play. While it’s a joy to watch Lu leave the defense in the dust and put the offense in a rut, there were moments where it was difficult to find where the play was happening. Some zooming in, focusing effects, or ordering — let me refer you to this excellent Jay Clark advice column — could’ve helped set the stage a bit better.
8. Mathieu Agee – edited by Levi Tapper
As soon as I heard “Wellerman” begin, I was certain I was going to hate this one, but dammit, it works. The separation Agee earns on offense and erases on defense against some high-velocity matchups is astounding. The talent on display is undeniable, but I think we have still yet to find the best way to highlight the deep-cutting speedster archetype. Visually, jogging onto hucks and run-through blocks on two feet don’t pop off the screen like a layout block or a hospital pass dunk. I’m dubbing this the Christian Johnson for Callahan — Sea Shanty Remix.
A minor note on jersey colors and continuity: the first drop in the song is a massive layout on a deep cutter in a black jersey, but it has been preceded by three clips of Agee cutting deep in a black jersey. For pea-brained viewers who don’t recognize Agee in 720p, like myself, the natural assumption on first watch is that Agee is still in black about to catch another deep huck and consequently some of the effect of the incredible block is lost.
Am I suggesting that Agee’s team should throw him floatier garbage? That he should slow down for more poster and layout opportunities? That Colorado should demand that their yellows are darks and their opponents go white? Yes, but that’s mostly because I’m mad he makes it all look so easy.
9. Rachel Wilmoth – edited by Jordan Stockdale
Clutch catching galore. Wilmoth is tallying blocks and And-1 grabs on a seemingly bottomless Who’s Who list of college and club ultimate. The swarms of players converging on the disc had me repeatedly asking myself, “how does she get this one?” I loved the doctor theme and the “Water Me” joke, but with both songs together the video runs a little long and I noticed a couple repeated clips.
10. Coleman Tappero
I appreciate this submission for having the lowest clips per minute of any on my top 10. The combination of a sub-three-minute video and featuring ten or so longer throwing clips can be a tough recipe for making an engaging product, but this works well, mostly by virtue of the music selection. The ambient verses compliment Tappero’s sound execution with the disc, and the brass kicks bring home the blocks, spikes, and athletics. The text and effects were corny and there were some random mouse icon sightings from screen recordings, but it was a unique experience compared to the average high-octane Callahan video and serves as a nice reminder that smooth throws aren’t boring when framed well.
1. Jasmine Childress – edited by Mika Leslie
Here’s the thing about this video: more than anyone else this year, Childress is just straight up embarrassing people out on there. She joins Lisa P, Jeff Babbitt, Marisa Rafter, and a few others in the proud lineage of Callahan nominees who make their opponents look like feckless rubes for even stepping on the field with them. The sensory experience here will make me forever regret that I watched it for the first time on my phone, and not just because it turned my iPhone into a heap of smoking ruin.
There are a few moments where the wonky pacing of clips and some filler plays deaden the video’s momentum, and some of the fast forward/slo-mo effects make the frame-rate issues with the footage stand out. But these minor editing quibbles aside, I anticipate that of all the videos from 2021’s crop this one will stick with me the longest. It does that thing the great ones do: it offers a fresh, personal take on a player. That kind of emotional connection you build with the audience by portraying what this person’s plays means to them, and should mean to you, lasts longer than even the most spectacular blocks and goals.
2. Raymond Lu – edited by Ashwin Pothukuchi
Really love the advancements in filming and editing that allow for a somewhat under-the-radar player to get the big-screen star treatment in a way we weren’t seeing a few years ago. Truly, the whole thing feels cinematic.
We have seen the cut from live-action into a still shot before, but I don’t know if the technique has ever been as used as well as in the title card sequence where we go from over his shoulder on a layout D to an amazing reverse shot of the block. It’s an unironic cinematic rush.
Take all of the great editing work from Pothukuchi, package in some bonkers hucks and ankle shattering moves from Lu, and you get a phenomenal Callahan reel.
3. Bridget Mizener – edited by Ella Juengst
Reads like almost a remix of last year’s award-winning Anne Worth video given the amount of footage the two reels share and the structural similarities. The Pleiades have clearly figured out how to present their nominees in a confident, overwhelmingly competent light.
Mizener’s game is clearly not about the kind of big, explosive moments that fill up the reels of her competitors and this video knows that, choosing instead to highlight the way she bends so many aspects of play to her will. The music is expertly deployed, teasing Miziner’s just-below-the-surface swagger out into the spotlight. Quiet confidence is lethal on the field but can be tough to craft a video around, and this video expertly turns the volume up on all the things that make Mizener tick in a very effective way.
4. Derek Mourad
People might be sleeping on this one. There are ferocious defensive plays and really impressive throws, put together nicely with appropriate editing flourishes (the smash zoom cuts on the early layout blocks are particularly engaging).
I think the issue might be the song.
The Earth, Wind & Fire x Neptunes thing going on is actually kind of a jam, but it doesn’t seem to compliment the on-field action. Mourad’s plays are big and brash and his personality is fiery, while the song is silk. Maybe the idea was to temper the heat of the plays and allow for some other textures to shine, but it didn’t quite come together for me, which is a shame because the footage itself is among the best of the year.
5. Azeez Adeyemi – edited by Bryan Xian
All of the production flair here — the graphics, the text overlays, the screen rattling, the temporal boomeranging — could come off as distracting or even overcompensating if the subject didn’t have the juice to pull it off. But man, Adeyemi definitely has the juice.
Sure, there are no throws here, but there don’t need to be. The video’s point of view is not diminished at all just because there aren’t a few backhand hucks or inside flicks jammed into an already crowded production. If anything, there is perhaps a little bit TOO much going on already, with three songs and several different defensive showcases put on display. A touch overstuffed with some filler plays, and maybe one song too many (just the DNA section on its own could have been one of the best videos of the year), but you can feel the heat coming off of this one from the moment you click play.
6. Anders Juengst – edited by Jack McCleary
The player with the most hype coming into the college season after spectacular club and AUDL seasons, Juengst’s video won’t do much to add to his growing legend, but does a solid job of representing why Juengst has been such an important aspect of the new regime that’s been constructed down in Raleigh.
There are some really nice sequences that tie his small space dominance into the impact on the larger game, and a couple of spectacular bids that amp up the excitement factor. But there are also a lot of clips of him just blowing past people upline, and I don’t think we needed to see all of them to get the point across. Also, the song is… borderline unlistenable? Ultimately, this video lives on the strength of Juengst’s relentless approach to cooking defenders at every opportunity, but I just wish there was a little more room amidst all that relentlessness for it to breathe and do what the best videos do: bring us in emotionally.
7. Jessie Sun – edited by Akshat Rajan
Sun does some awesome stuff in her video. Not just the massive layout and circus catch from the intro that you’ve probably seen before, but several uber-crisp high-release lefties and nasty blades. Unfortunately, a lot of her best highlights come from the Stanford Stevenson Invite, second only to Rockford in terms of least aesthetically appealing place where ultimate is played. Not her fault at all, but that’s going to unfairly cost you.
8. Mathieu Agee – edited by Levi Tapper
Mamabird’s editing team packs a lot into under three and a half minutes here: we’ve got the entire Ironman intro and the narrated game-winning bookends sequence before we get to the meat of the video, leaving only about twoish minutes for most of the on-field material. And honestly, that’s about the perfect amount of time. Agee makes some spectacular chase-down blocks, a few nasty skies, and collects buckets. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t have to be, and the video makes sure to not overstay its welcome. I also love the smart touch of putting his headshot from the intro onto his shoulders when it’s a little unclear where your attention should be drawn to during a play.
As to the song: I am too offline to understand why it exists, but I thought it was fine? I did wish they matched up some of his skies to the little Mario coin-jumping accordion (I think?) sound. That would have been neat.
9. Everest Shapiro – edited by Sam Butler
I don’t think I entirely understand Everest Shapiro, but I do know that I respect the hell out of him.
10. Alex Diaz – edited by Mary Ramada, Abbi Shilts, Emma Ellefson-Frank, Olivia Gibbs, Sara Zhang, and Xuan Feldman
The editing and use of music get big plusses, but the actual quality of the highlights leaves something to be desired. No shade on Diaz as a player, run through blocks and clap catch goals count just as much as spectacular layouts, but the spectacle isn’t here. Of course, whatever is lacking in jaw-dropping plays gets made up for with personality and flash in a big way, earning this video a place in our hearts.
Who are now on the same club and AUDL team. Coincidence? I think not! ↩
Imagine winning the Callahan based on your performance and not your video?! Disgusting. ↩