When legendary Dutch cinematographer and film director Jan de Bont was approached to produce an art project which promotes the country’s HSL-Zuid high speed rail project, his concept of a 3D film of the route was technically challenging. But with the assistance of an Alcons Audio system, audiences of the finished film, Surfing on Light, enjoyed a complete sensory experience.
De Bont has worked on many high profile films, including Twister, Basic Instinct, Die Hard and Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Having covered road and sea transport as director of Speed and Speed 2: Cruise Control in the 1990s, it was appropriate that he should finally be able to turn his attention to a rail-themed project.
Filmed by cameras mounted on the front, sides and rear of a train, which traversed HSL-Zuid several times, the finished project involved the audience standing on a raised dais at the centre of four screens in Rotterdam’s LP2 venue, each showing the respective view. To add further realism, each was filmed and presented in 3D.
De Bont had to construct the soundtrack in post-production, which comprised a mixture of music, sound effects and drones. Mixed on an Alcons VR8 system in Amsterdam studio FC Walvisch - appropriately close to one of the city’s rail depots - the final presentation used a 7.1 system of seven VR12s flown at the top of the screens with two BF181 subwoofers in the centre.
“We had to devise a custom audio setup, as all four screens were equally important,” says the project’s sound designer Eelco Bakker. “The dubbing stage at FC Walvisch is big enough to fit the installation, so we used extra screens and slave bonsai drives for the video projection, then set up the speakers and moved them around until we had the right positions. It allowed us to mix in a situation that was almost identical to the final installation.
“I did most of the atmospheres and drones, with FC Walvisch sound designer Lea Jurida creating SFX elements, which I mixed using the Alcons setup. The VR8s are great because they are compact but deliver great power and clarity.”
“The sound was a very important part of the project,” confirms Guy Molin, who was in charge of overall co-ordination. “Jan wanted the stage to ‘rumble’, to give the audience the physical sensation of the journey as well as sights and sounds. To achieve that we placed the Alcons subwoofers against the dais and it worked really well.”
He continues, “What I really liked about the Alcons loudspeakers was that, although the presentation was in a large room, they gave the intimate sound of a small controlled studio. The volume was very loud all the time, but the sound quality was excellent.
“Jan was very pleased with the Alcons system, it played a fundamental role in achieving his aim of showing travelling on HSL-Zuid as an artistic experience, almost a three-dimensional tribute to the Dutch landscape that it passes through.”
With the initial showing of the project an unqualified success, several railway museums have shown an interest in presenting it, offers which are being actively considered.
“When we build the installation again, we would love to continue using an Alcons system,” concludes Guy.