The Nightman cometh: LED suit makes for ethereal snowboarding
By C.C. Weiss
February 17, 2012
Night snowboarding usually equates to grueling pre-dawn slogs up backcountry routes or short, icy turns under stadium-like lights at small resorts. Nowness.com has put a new spin on those traditional forms of night riding. In this stunning piece of film, a unique LED suit is employed to turn the subject into a powder-slashing apparition.
Nowness describes itself as "the digital leader in luxury storytelling," explaining that it attempts to convey inspiring stories of contemporary culture and lifestyle across many genres. In putting together a snow sports film, the site turned to filmmaker Jacob Sutton, a photographer and filmmaker more at home in fashion than sports. Sutton decided that he wanted to take an original approach to snowboard filming, something that's getting more and more difficult to do in a genre that's become overcrowded with film crews.
"I wanted to approach snowboarding in a more textural aesthetic way that felt more emotive and expressive," Sutton explained on Facebook. "I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness."
The one-of-a-kind LED light suit was designed by Flat Cat Productions. Because it was highly experimental, bespoke suit, it required a lot of testing to get right. In fact, an estimated 300 man hours were expended building, testing and fine-tuning the suit. In the end, they used strips of LED lighting powered by nickel-metal hydride batteries.
With the suit ready, Arctec pro snowboarder William Hughes got in front of Sutton's lens in Tignes, France. Over the course of three nights, Sutton used a Red Epic video camera and snowmobile to capture footage of Hughes lighting the night like a human torch. We're left with a mesmerizing, ethereal scene in which Sutton's "Silver Surfer" makes his way through soft, supple cold smoke, a shimmering pocket of clinical, artificial warmth penetrating the still abyss. The piece puts a whole new spin on "whiteroom," a term that describes the frosty confines of deep powder skiing.
"Filming in the suit was the most surreal thing I've done in 20 years of snowboarding," Hughes said of the experience. "Jacob's enthusiasm was what kept everyone going through the cold nights up the hill. He's rad."
Ordinarily, we'd think it odd to have a fashion filmmaker doing an action sports piece, but this shows that not only can it be done, it can be one of the most interesting sports films of the year.