Walter the pocket yo-yo

Walter is a curmudgeon.  An old man with a mustache who can’t help but taint everything with his weathered opinions.  He is the type of friend who you ask to proofread your homework, because you know he will hold back nothing in his critique.  His retort will lack modesty; he will condemn your rambling prose, because he believes you have potential beyond what you have failed to express.  He will make you aware of your own nclumsiness, and it will sting.  You may wonder if you could ever meet his expectations, and someday you just might, if you practice.  So please, don’t be afraid of Walter because he is honest and frank, he has your best intentions in mind.

The concept of the slimline yo-yo isn’t new or revolutionary.  Usually they are sharp, awkward and mediocre.  The sort of yo-yo that hampers its ability to do anything well because it is supposed to do it all.  The Gator Jam, for example, was a fun, odd little yo-yo that was wholly unpopular.  Because if you’re going to do single A, why not play with something that specializes in string tricks?  If you’re going to loop, well, you get the point.

But Walter isn’t about excelling or outperforming.  It will a be yo-yo that requires no thought.  The obvious choice when you aren’t in the mood to make a choice because, hell, it fits in your pocket, it matches your current outfit and it will carry you through your day with the utmost consistency.

Walter’s shape is being stolen from the great Tom Kuhn, whose Silver Bullet is a triumph of aesthetic.  Being one of the earliest incarnations of ball bearing and aluminum, the SB2 now seems quite antique.  Walter has more useable gap than the strictly ‘modified shape’ Silver Bullet.  He has a slight butterfly curve that is soft and round to ensure no sharp edges or discomfort in pocket or play.  His profile, a pair of rotund parabolas, is nothing extreme or even innovative.  Instead, Walter is a yo-yo to play with because he isn’t special or fancy, merely a reliable companion for those days when you’d prefer to think about your job or your schoolwork or the girl who you’re trying to court.  So please, don’t think Walter is an attempt to redefine or reinvent the slimline.  His shape is a modern, simple declaration of utility.

Inside we’ve got a lot of work to do.  Because I’nd prefer those who decide to pickup Walter not to have to worry about how well he is going to come back or how smoothly he will do triple kwyjibo when you’re trying to recreate Jason Lee’s Lakewood performance for your mother’s sewing circle.

Of course, in an ideal world Walter would be perfect right out of the package, in that magical zone between response and smoothness.  Not unlike the twelve to thirteen minutes you get out of a duncan pad when it feels like god has kissed your little plastic yo-yo and you could do any trick and end it with a flyaway.

But as is the nature of physics (damn you physics!), Walter will not be a miracle.  Likely, he will punish you for every mistake you make for say, fifteen minutes or so, and then gently convert to the magic zone mentioned formerly, thoroughly smooth, yet unquestionably responsive.  And you lazy and/or newbie types can sand it down until it is unresponsive and takes a triple bind to come back.  And those of you who don’t want to worry about it should be able to simply play with it day in and day out and have a nice tug response that lasts for a few months before you replenish the source of friction.

Equally important is the ease and simplicity of how you restore Walter to new.  I don’t want anyone sticking their fingers together with liquid silicon or ruining their mother’s tablecloth because the god damn squeeze tip has dried up on whatever goo aids his response.  So the intent is that Walter be tug return, beyond smooth and his response be easily rejuvenated.

There is little concrete being said at this point because, honestly, it is unknown exactly how these ambitious goals will be accomplished.  But the bar is set high because if he is going to be a curmudgeon, he must be consistent and reliably so.

There is a lot of work to be done.  The quest for simple usability is one of trial and tribulation.  Walter cannot have his flaws disguised by features or gizmos, because he has none.  His playability must be thorough and unfaltering, therefore all faults must be found and defeated in the prototyping stages.  There is a long road ahead until Walter can be packaged and in the hot little hands of the public, but like Walter, one must be patient and contemplative in their endeavors.  So alas, I will leave you with one final, resonating note: if any part of this rambling summary interests you, please don’t hesitate to send me an email to discuss further.  I am friendlier than Walter will ever be.

Excerpts from an early Walter sketch
Excerpts from an early Walter sketch

Demo reel from University

Spencer Berry Demo Reel from Spencer Berry on Vimeo.

This is the demo reel I graduated from University with.  Most of the footages comes from two projects: The Snout and The Fisherman.  Both of these films are incomplete and I will continue to update the site with their progress.  See the Project bar to hone in on information for either film.  As of this reel they are missing soundscapes, color timing, and fine grain editing.

The Snout will likely have another, third and final scene added to it, making it a triptych.

Words from November 2011

 

Thoughts from the age of the boutique yo-yo.

My name is Spencer Berry, and this is the first of, hopefully, many musings.  Chris and I met in an elevator at the world contest many years ago, and since have carried a slow but enthusiastic conversation via email and telephone.  I have been playing yo-yo since 2000, participating in few competitions but present in a slew of video projects.  I was an original Duncan Crew Member from 2001-08, and now study filmmaking in San Francisco, CA.  I am not a businessman or a profiteer, instead I play yo-yo, quite selfishly, for myself and my own creative pursuits.  The yo-yo community, to me, should put people before the dollar and friendships before elitism.  That being said, I am quite opinionated and am through writing about myself.

Ebb and flow is the nature of trends and the yo-yo community does not differ.  Manufacturers are constantly hoping to initiate and ride a boom, as Yomega did in the late nineties.  Post-boom, the community shrunk, leaving only the devout to carry on the tradition. Perhaps the dwindling sales is what allowed the last ten years to have such tumultuous shifts in the level of play.  The internet allowed people to breed tricks and concepts across ocean and land alike.  The dwindling population steeped in obsession, trick complexity grew exponentially, and yo-yo technology was forced to follow.

At the turn of the millennium, most players used plastic yo-yos because of their price point and playability.  At the time, yo-yos were designed to easily return, therefore players searched for balance between response (what brings the yo-yo back to the hand) and playability.  A common choice then was the SuperYo Renegade, which starts out over-responsive.  As the plastic wears, they become smoother and smoother until losing response completely.  Some continue to use their yo-yo past the stage of lost response, hence the invention of the bind, a method of adding additional string layers into the yo-yo’s gap, adding enough friction for it to respond.  Soon manufacturers began emulating this lack of response out of package, a solution that quickly became prevalent in the metal market.  Yo-yos began to return to the hand less easily, paving the way for more complex tricks.  This turn of events has dawned a new era: the age of the boutique yo-yo.

Boutique yo-yos are small runs of metal yo-yos, made by hobbyists willing to invest a few grand in their own yo-yo.  In the past decade, the number of independently manufactured aluminum yo-yos has increased drastically, creating a plethora of toys competing for player attention.  How, then, does a yo-yo manufacturer differentiate themselves in today’s flood of high end yo-yos?

This topic was the spine of many of my conversations with Chris.  He has been developing yo-yos, albeit at a varied pace, since 1998.  Each of his designs has its own unique nature.  Each model is innovative with regards to shape and size, targeting the corners of the one handed yo-yo market and their prices match their quality of manufacture and intricacy of design.  For example, the original Envy (their H-shaped model from 2007) is only lovable if the player is willing to give up all preconceptions of how a yo-yo should play.  It is heavy and  uncomfortable in the hand, but once at the end of a solid throw, spins with a fascinating stability.  It has a stubborn and decisive personality, traits that stand out among the rest of the boutique yo-yo market.  It is the Hspin originality and quality of manufacture that has allowed Hspin to survive in the ever changing yo-yo marketplace.

Chris has found it frustrating being a single, sometimes overlooked, manufacturer in an ever expanding market of boutique yo-yos.  While there will always be manufacturers that stand out, such as Yoyo Factory, with their trend setting schtick, or Anti-yo with their less is more personality, Chris’ desires to attract a wider audience require a drastic new endeavor.  Instead of rebuilding Hspin, Chris is establishing a new brand, Genuine Spin.  But how will this brand differ?

Simplicity, reliability and functionality are the key elements of Genuine Spin.  Instead of developing more yo-yos with stylistic, personal designs, Chris’ new brand will work to create ageless yo-yos for those who prefer usability to design and simplicity to gimmick.  These new yo-yos will be defined by shapes that are universal; yo-yos without laser engraving or elaborate design choices of any sort.  Instead, Genuine Spin will cater to the care free player who prefers new tricks before new toys.  They will be yo-yos designed to play simply and age tastefully, a throwback to the days when yo-yos didn’t use gimmick to get ahead.  The innovation is a return to modern playability.  To accomplish this feat, the input of enthusiastic players will be crucial, so please, contact Chris or myself with concerns or concepts.  Did I mention Genuine Spin’s entire line will be in the sub $100 price range?

Documentation of a life still living