In our first collaboration with London based creative agency Design Studio, we were invited to create the audio for a series of short films showcasing Head’s latest skiing line. Each film captures a different aspect of the skiing experience from competitive to casual and features various members of Head’s own skiing team.
Our involvement began from the project outset and we found ourselves travelling to meet the production crew on location in the snowy skiing town of Äre, Sweden. It was the height of the Jon Olsson Invitational event, attracting professional skiers from around the globe to compete in impressive freestyle jumping at the Head Big Air event and blazing dual slalom runs in the Betsafe Alpine Challenge.
Our task was to capture the sound of the event itself and also more specific samples of skiing from both a third and first person perspective. With this in mind we really wanted to secure a sense of the raw and elemental aspects of skiing by recording the majority of material out on the slopes of Mount Äre. At peak season there was no shortage of material to be found. Ski lifts and casual skiers were a plenty and with a little effort we were able to locate quiet areas for foley sessions with rented ski equipment.
In order to afford us a broad approach we took a range of microphones; shotgun, contact and binaural. Our Sennheiser MKH416 shotgun mics were perfect for capturing the crisp higher range detail of ski’s cutting through snow, not to mention the foley that comes from cold weather clothing and apparel. These microphones are designed to discriminate against surrounding noise and earned their keep on a busy ski slope. In particular we were able to record several takes of onboard runs with the more experienced skiers in the group being able to ski with two microphone blimps instead of poles.
The contact microphones, courtesy of Jez Riley French, are designed to pick up sound vibrations via direct contact as opposed to free air movement. These proved useful in capturing a totally different perspective of onboard ski sound. By taping them on top of the leading edge of the skis we were able to record several takes of a more ‘internal’ feel to the run. Back in the studio these sounds were great for layering in to close up and POV shots for a more personal flavour to the sound.
The main reasoning behind the binaural OKM II Soundman mics was to see how a freestyle skiing jump would sound in first person. Despite protection from a face smock and helmet, the wind interference was just too much at the key moment. We were assisted by pro free skier Jesper Tjäder, an up and coming star in the world of free skiing. Whilst successfully capturing his preparation and departure, once he reached speeds of up to 60mph the onset of wind distorted the recording and we did not get the sense of spinning in the air as we had hoped. However with the entire ramp at our disposal we were able to record close up shotgun recordings of Jesper as he tore past and left the ramp. As an alternative to Jespers movement in the air, we binaurally recorded the white noise of a small river we stumbled upon. By turning in a circle the recording provided an effective 3D movement of noise and was actually used in the closing stages of the Freestyle film. Other binaural recordings were more successful in placing the listener in amongst crowds and ambient settings.
One of our favourite recordings from the trip came from positioning ourselves at distance from the event crowds and announcements. By moving far up the slope the shotgun microphones were able to pick up strong reflections of the noise bouncing off the mountain, creating a natural delay effect perfect for setting an anticipatory mood.
With the storyboards in hand, we identified several other areas of the films that required specific audio. Most prominently was a gym workout scene and we were fortunate enough to gain exclusive access to that very location. Despite our aversion to all things exercise, we were able to obtain largely unpolluted recordings of the equipment. Kudos to our Magnus for matching the speed of the pro athletes on the running machine (for about 10 seconds)!
With our audio material in hand we returned to the warmth of the studio to review our findings and begin preparation for the music composition. Each film had it’s own purpose and character and therefore the music followed suit. An upbeat indie track scores an energetic day on the slopes for three female athletes whilst a hard-hitting orchestral track illustrates the physical and mental preparation routines of the Head ski team. We also had the pleasure of scoring an epic electro-acoustic track that underlines the exhilaration felt by extreme off-piste skiers.