With a background in aerospace engineering and martial arts, videographer Ted Petit was uniquely qualified to become cutting’s leading camera man!
While those fields don’t sound remotely related to equine sports or videoing, they are a large part of Petit’s journey that fostered an interest in videoing cutting shows. That, and the odd curve ball life throws at you.
It was 15 years ago when Ted was photographing a local cutting in California, when the owner of Video West suddenly died.
“I have trained in martial arts for 40 years. With the teaching aspects [of that] I would use video as a medium to film my students. So as far as using a camera, I was very familiar with that and having a couple of years of cutting photography under my belt, I guess they felt I was a good choice to try to go for Video West,” said Petit.
As the new owner of Video West, Ted has spent the past 14 years videoing cutting horse shows across the country. In 2015, Ted and his son Seth took over the contract to video the NCHA’s Triple Crown events as well as the Eastern and Western Nationals.
They brought with them their broadcast quality high definition cameras and equipment which saw a big jump in the quality of the videos and the webcasting.
Ted has more than a knack for working with this kind of equipment with 20 years of experience as an aerospace engineer for companies like Lockheed, and General Electric. Ted was a pioneer in developing flight simulation video graphics in the late 70s.
Needless to say, Ted has watched a lot of cutting! Like the judges, it takes a special kind of discipline to be able to sit in a chair for up to 14 hour days, keeping your focus on rider after rider without losing a beat.
With a black belt in Kamishin Ryu (a blend of Jiu Jitsu and A Kempo), Ted’s martial arts training helps.
“I’m very interested in watching the relationship of movement within applications. And so from day one, I was always on the lookout of seeing how the applications, with the riders and horses and how the movement [interacted]. So when I began to watch that, I really started to see the details that are involved in this phenomenal sport,” he said.
Ted relates much of his martial arts background to cutting. He is an inherited master of that system, where he was trained directly by his master and will in turn pass on that knowledge to his students.
“I see the same kind of application in the sense that a trainer that works with those around him, the lopers and [assistant trainers] to pass on the teachings,” Petit said.
Much of the training in martial arts is about reading your opponent and anticipating their movements. Petit said this also assists in videoing the runs.
“I get a feel for the flow of the cattle and if people watch they’ll see how I’m kind of leading the herd because I’m recognizing where the rider wants to go. I’ve been tricked sometimes but basically I do see that movement and I love working with that,” he said.
Ted said there is much that can be learned from martial arts such as how to focus.
“When I watch the pros, they very well recognize that ‘going to their place’ [skill], and what I try to share with amateurs is probably the biggest area I see them having problems with is that when they walk out because I’m watching through the camera lens, I look at their eyes. In Cowboy Church even I share this sometimes, I’ll say, I watch your eyes and I can see that you really have no idea what’s going on, they are darting all over the place and there’s no focus. Then they get distracted by all the voices of the trainers and then they begin to not understand what they need to be doing…so I tell them that they need to be able to come to that place within themselves and remember to apply the basics that they hear time and time again: don’t watch the horse, look at the cow, keep your target always out in front of you,” he said.
Ted said he has heard so many people say if they’d gotten out of the way and let their horse do its job, they would have done a lot better.
“A lot of the time, people overthink a situation, just like in self-defense, you overthink a situation and you turn out to be ineffective because you’re bombarded by all the surroundings. They need to just boil down to the basic element and stick to that.”
While Ted himself had a cutting horse he competed on for a while, time constraints forced him to give it up. One reason is Ted’s passions for animated films which harks back to his days in computer graphics. It’s a painstaking process where you create scenes frame by frame to make the movements.
“About a year and half ago I started training in animation as a discipline. I’ve got a mentor who was the animator of Scooby Doo and now animates Curious George,” Ted Petit said.
Ted is currently developing a short animated film that is a mystery based on a psychologist who uses ink blots to get into the minds of the criminally insane.
And if that isn’t enough to keep him busy, Ted has also developed the dexterity to combine two of his skills at once! While videoing cutting runs, Ted is also able to photograph them.
“Years ago, I started developing a rig that allowed me to mount my still camera above my video camera and I began to develop the technique and now I’ve been doing it for years. My right hand shoots the still photography, my left hand shoots the video and I blend the two disciplines together.”
Ted has taught other professional photographers the skill but he said they gave it up after finding it too difficult.
“You have to kind of split your brain a little bit,” he said, “it just comes from knowing both disciplines so well, I don’t have to think about it.”
If you’ve ever seen Ted Petit’s cutting photo’s, you’d be amazed to think he’s videoing at the same time. The picture is crisp and his timing is perfect, creating amazing action shots of horse, rider and cow. Check. Them. Out!
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