Silver Surfer by Jacob Sutton

The L.E.D. Glowing Silver Surfer

A project by London based photographer Jacob Sutton.

 Fashion photographer and filmmaker Jacob Sutton (www.jacobsutton.com/index.php) swaps the studio for the slopes of Tignes in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France, with a luminous after hours short starring Artec pro snowboarder William Hughes. The electrifying film sees Hughes light up the snow-covered French hills in a bespoke L.E.D.-enveloped suit courtesy of designer and electronics whizz John Spatcher.

I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness. I've always been excited by unusual ways of lighting things, so it seemed like an exciting idea to make the subject of the film the only light source.

Sutton, who has created work for the likes of Hermès, Burberry and The New York Times, spent three nights on a skidoo with his two Red Epic cameras at temperatures of -25C to snap Hughes carving effortlessly through the deep snow.

Filming in the suit was the most surreal thing I’ve done in 20 years of snowboarding. Luckily there was plenty of vin rouge to keep me warm, and Jacob’s enthusiasm kept everyone going through the cold nights.

The music is by shervin shaeri @ mutant jukebox, while NOWNESS.com, launched in 2010, is the editorially independent website of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s leading luxury group. NOWNESS approached Jacob to make this kind of film months before the actual shooting, and Jacob came up with

... the idea of approaching snowboarding in a more textural aesthetic way that felt more emotive and expressive. I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness. I've always be excited by unusual ways of lighting things and it seemed like an exciting idea to make the subject of the film the only light source.

The shoot of course was really challenging, also because of the temperature around -25C. They shot for between 6-8 hours a night for three nights, using two skidoo's to ferry them up the slopes then two cameras followed Will (in the glowing suit) down the mountain, one hand held by James Sweet (snowboarding cameraman) and Jacob shot with one from the back of a skidoo.

Flat Cat productions produced the suit for Jacob, its an experimental technology and required quite a bit of testing with a number of prototypes. John Spatcher, Suit Designer, said about the project: "The initial design was for a suit with passive reflectors, using a tracking mobile light source. Several concepts were explored but trials indicated that contrast ratios between the subject and background would be unacceptable. Also, in practice, the changing distance between the light source and subject would vary the apparent luminosity of the subject. It was decided to actively illuminate the suit using led strips powered by batteries. First trials with the leds applied to the suit with 40mm pitch showed a castellated effect at the profile edges so the pitch was reduced to 25mm to partially eliminate this effect. Further trials indicated that this would be acceptable and the final design embodied this method.   Suit fabrics were little problem, the main requirement being a smooth lint-free surface to ensure good adhesion for the led strips. Some research regarding battery energy at low temperatures and safety considerations during sport maneovres led to Nimh being chosen. Temperature tests at -18degC proved satisfactory. Leds are more efficient at low temperatures than warm ones. From the start of the project until delivery of a final suit just over 300 man-hours were expended." (from www.nowness.com)

By Giacomo Margutti