29 May, 2019
In January, we were thrilled to present an artistic, energetic project by Nico Vuignier and starring Sam Anthamatten. Night skiing at its most brilliant, HEATSEEKER was a total hit. Now we’re excited to present the behind-the-scenes video capturing Nico’s and his team’s trials, errors, fails and successes as they made the video.
Nico first had the idea to create a video of night skiing in 2015. Originally, the plan was to light up the skier from above with a drone fixed with LED lights. He customized the drone and it worked perfectly... at first. The following two winters were spent tinkering with different drones, techniques and equipment to achieve his vision, including switching to FPV racer drones so the pilot could see where he was flying. But after two seasons of missed shots because of drone crash landings into heaps of snow and trees, Nico decided to close the chapter on this project. At that point, the idea wasn’t as unique as it once was and other people around the world had produced similar projects.
In the summer of 2017, he found some leftover flares from a previous project. His inspiration led the way and he enlisted the help of drone flyers, videographers and freeskiers like Sam to give the project another go.
Combining a few things that Swatch loves – FPV racing drones, freeskiing and creativity – Nico and his team attached red flares to the racing drones and used these to light up the skier and his path from above.
To get the shots they had to overcome some pretty major obstacles: flying a drone in pitch-black darkness, fog, cold weather, drone and flare malfunctions, blind landings, wind, issues with the handlamps and controllers. The list goes on, but so did the team!
To make it work, the team planned and practiced the flight plan during the day. After the sun set, the pilot was positioned at the base of the mountain and flew the drone fitted with the flare up to the skiers. “The pilots only reference point [was] the headlamp of the skiers. Just a little white dot in the middle of darkness,” Nico says in the video. After the drone arrived safely, the skiers lit the flare, which only burned for one minute, before starting their descent.
It’s an ingenious accomplishment four years in the making and we were proud to support Nico, Sam and their friends in capturing freeriding in a new light (literally!).