Lighting Up the Night: Behind the Scenes of the Mesmerizing Biking Film 'Darklight'

Darklight
Sweetgrass Productions has done it again.

You may remember Afterglow, the hypnotic ski film that took the internet by storm last year. In case you need a refresher, it featured several world-renowned skiers, each wearing a suit lined with LEDs, as they carved their way down colorfully-lit mountainsides in the dead of night. To say that film was exceptionally beautiful or sublime doesn't do it justice. In fact, if you haven't seen it, stop what you're doing and go watch it right now. You will be glad you did.

The production company behind Afterglow, Sweetgrass Productions, recently took that same concept applied it to the sport of downhill mountain biking. This time, however, the Sweetgrass crew had even more toys, including an EPIC DRAGON, a MōVI, a cable-cam, and two grip trucks packed to the brim with generators, powerful lights, and colorful gels. The result is a new film called Darklight, which is just as easy on the eyes as its predecessor.

Check out Darklight in its entirety below:

And here's the behind-the-scenes film, which details the grueling three-week production of Darklight, and is described thusly in the Vimeo description:

Starting in early months of 2015, Sweetgrass assembled a crew of 27 and over 15,000 lbs of lighting equipment from 4 states across the Western US. During their time on set, the team had to overcome the struggles of 106 degree building conditions, rattle snake bites, 3 weeks of nocturnal living, and the mountains of logistics to keep 178 light fixtures running throughout the night.

Though both of these films have been sponsored by Philips (they're essentially advertisements for the Ambilight TV, which has LEDs around the back of the TV that dynamically change color with whatever is being displayed), they provide a great case study for what can be accomplished when brands team up with talented artists in order to produce something in the best interest of both parties. Sure, it would be great if filmmakers could afford to produce projects of this magnitude independently, but that's just not particularly realistic.

Anyhow, the team at Sweetgrass deserves a serious high five for their work on Darklight. It's an incredible accomplishment, both from a technical perspective and an artistic one, and I don't think I'm alone when I say that I can't wait to see what they produce next.     

Your Comment

11 Comments

Such a gorgeous film! This is one of those examples where you can only produce such content if you have all the necessary high end gear, but of course the team at Sweetgrass are incredibly talented to bring it all alive.

November 6, 2015 at 12:37PM

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Ciprian Dumitrascu
Director / DP / Editor
223

Looks really beautiful. As a cinematographer and a keen cycling advocate you'd think I would love this... but I don't.

I couldn't help but feel dismayed at the way this continues an outdated narrative of humans dominating nature. All of these incredible landscapes are reduced to nothing but props to be jazzed up with lights and then ripped through on bikes. Environments are manipulated so that these extreme-sports dudes can tear through pristine places, dirt and debris flying.

It's part of the old capitalist narrative that tells us that nature is there to serve us, not to be respected on its own terms.

Anyone else get that feeling or am I just a hippy howling in the wind?

November 6, 2015 at 4:58PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
1080

I think this is a beautiful marriage between nature and human creativity. The filmmakers behind this were probably inspired to do this because of their appreciation for nature and its beauty. Also, I don't see how lights and bikes disrespect or harm nature.

November 6, 2015 at 5:55PM

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Alexandra
Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker
505

Yeah, no. Fuck nature.

November 7, 2015 at 6:37AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1692

I found it hard to get through. I feel like I got the point early on and was bored through most of it. I was bored during the skiing one too. I don't really think colored lights are all that amazing and they certainly don't enhance nature. But clearly made by some fine filmmakers.

November 6, 2015 at 8:35PM, Edited November 6, 8:35PM

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agreed

November 7, 2015 at 2:37PM, Edited November 7, 2:37PM

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matt
857

you guys are nuts. if you think you can get the same look with a 5d and a little light kit your nuts..and one more thing the gaffer and his crew did an amazing job.. this is incredible

November 8, 2015 at 3:42AM

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I'd love a minute long spot of this.

November 8, 2015 at 3:13PM

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Brooks Reynolds
Director/DOP
631

Totally agree with you. Technically it's very impressive and the visuals are breathtaking in places but as with a lot of these types of film, when there is no narrative at all you just lose interest after a while.

November 13, 2015 at 4:41AM

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Jake Gorton
Producer
392

uhmm..... I may be dense and a bit too much of a naturalistic purist, but I just don't understand....
What does it all mean.
I can appreciate the technical hardships involved in doing this type of film making. I've had to do similar for wild life docs, just without all the color gels.
I just don't understand why bother.
Doing it for doing it's sake, or because you can get the budget, or to raising the profile of a sponsor through a thinly veiled piece of "Art" are all reasons I suppose. But do they really bring anything more to the table than just a brief moment of visual stimulation.... which I guess is reason enough these days. It's just does it really deserve all the "hype" that gets attached to it.

Not trying to take anything away from the technical efforts of those involved, I just see more and more of these "amazing" productions that offer nothing more than a technical challenge... but don't really offer more than momentarily interesting pictures.....
Another case in point to my mind is Robbie Madison's video of taking his dirt bike on a wave.. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Mr Maddison, but seriously again.. why.... if you want a dirt bike on a wave... get a jet ski.
Use a portion of the production budget on something truly awesome and film Robbie teaching some of the less fortunate kids of Tahiti some of his amazing riding skills...... oh, thats right, his sponsors don't sell their product to those kids...

Sorry, it's a rant I know. I just see the commercial concerns of some productions get way more credit than they deserve because they have the marketing machine to go with it.
Okay let the hate begin....

November 12, 2015 at 1:33PM, Edited November 12, 1:33PM

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Stephen Harrison
Lighting Cameraman
11

I think one thing that this discussion ignores is how difficult it is to make something that stands out aesthetically from the other films in the genres that Sweetgrass is working in. Snow/biking films have all looked pretty similar for a while now, any aesthetic advantage is gained by the ability of the riders, and their interaction with the terrain. From that point of view I think it is an incredible accomplishment. Kudos also for the amount of groundwork being put in to make something unusual.

November 12, 2015 at 7:56PM, Edited November 12, 7:56PM

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Pat B
74