Moritz Sieber and Elias Rüetschi are PeakFrames, specialists in action-packed, outdoor, extreme sports films.
Capturing trail runners in the remote and rocky Alpstein mountains of Switzerland was the perfect opportunity to put the Sachtler aktiv system through it's paces.
Trekking high into the Swiss Alps to transport viewers into a world rarely seen calls for dedication, fitness and lightweight gear.
Specialists in action-packed, outdoor, extreme sports films, Zurich-based production duo Moritz Sieber and Elias Rüetschi use their shared passion for outdoor sports to create films with a focus on authentic storytelling and emotion. As digital natives, their production company, PeakFrames creates energetic and entertaining content for clients including FC Basel, Swiss Railway and Transa Backpacking.
To capture trail runners in Switzerland’s remote and rocky Alpstein mountains for French sports equipment brand Salomon, Moritz and Elias used the revolutionary new aktiv8 fluid head in combination with flowtech75 and a Syrp slider. aktiv’s Lightweight design with precision control allowed the team to track the high-altitude action with super-smooth low-angle shots not previously possible.
We don’t like making films which are all about the shot and nothing about the story. For us, it’s important to really concentrate on storytelling and emotion. We like to work with people who are doing something special with an interesting story to tell, usually sports people – with our films we take the viewer into a world which is not normally possible to see. That’s the interesting part about our projects."
“When we are working in the mountains, we need to strike a balance between really smooth and stable camera movement and lightweight setup.” says Moritz, “That often means making a compromise, but with the aktiv head and flowtech we have a balance that works really well for us.” He adds, “We need to hike a lot or to ski, snowboard or mountain bike with the gear on our back. When you hike to the top of a mountain with 15 kilos of gear on your back and when you get there you are too tired to film – that is the importance of lightweight kit. You want to be fit enough to be creative on top of the mountain and not be completely exhausted. The Sachtler gear with our Canon C200, Wooden Camera rig, Anton/Bauer Titon batteries and a SmallHD monitor gives us a light setup, good pictures and enough power for an entire day.”
The need to be light and agile means that one piece of equipment usually left behind is the slider. “Being able to use a slider for some movement makes the picture so much more interesting.” says Moritz, “But in extreme environments, like mountains, we don’t bring a slider with us; it takes so much time to set it up. The SpeedSwap system on aktiv made it quick to switch between the tripod and slider and be ready to go. That extra time pushes our creativity.”
For PeakFrames, time is often critical. “For the Salomon shoot, we had to hike one and a half hours.” says Moritz, “We set out into the mountains at 5am, it was five or six degrees and windy so it felt even colder, and so dark we couldn’t really see what was around – the whole situation was exhausting then we needed to get some shots too.” He adds, “We need to start early so we can work during golden hour where there is a limited window of time for the best light. During this time, we need to be fast to switch between many perspectives while we have perfect light.”
In addition to the extra time gained with SpeedSwap, the aktiv head also features SpeedLevel, a unique new way to level a camera quickly without having to reach under the tripod to adjust a bowl clamp. “It amazed us at how fast we could work with this system,” says Moritz, “It feels smooth, it’s very easy to use and it’s extremely fast!” He adds, “It’s natural to use. Within one day I was already used to just simply lifting a lever on the front of the head, rather than grabbing for the bowl clamp underneath to adjust the level.”
Another advantage of aktiv having no need for a bowl clamp is that the flowtech tripod can be lowered flat to the ground. “We had to do several low-angle shots.” Says Moritz, “Normally we would need to do that hand-held, but that is not as stable as on a tripod. With aktiv we could go to the ground with no restrictions or limitations. Because it’s so fast and easy, we used it a lot to create interesting low and wide angles.” He adds, “For shots of the runner’s shoes coming towards the camera which need to be in a close frame, we created some great shots with the camera low down in the middle of the long grass as the shoes run straight towards it; we couldn’t do that with any other system.”
Everything about the flowtech and aktiv system is fast, it’s been great to work with the system. Next, we are working on a mountain bike project where we are going to show how a bike trail is built in the mountains, which is an interesting story – more like a documentary style. We are back up in the mountains, so we need lightweight stuff, aktiv and flowtech will be coming with us again.”