Behind the scenes of the Galaxus Four Hills Tournament
November 2020 seems like so long ago. There I was in the office, sipping a coffee with my colleague, Thomas Kunz. We had just published a video about a leaf blower – it was time for a new project. Suddenly, Tom asked me if there wasn’t anything we could use my Hot Wheels tracks for. After all, they’d been lying around the office for almost half a year. The Youtube channel 3Dbotmaker randomly popped into my mind. It’s a channel that stages different kinds of races with toy cars. Tom was immediately on board. It was clear from the start that we didn’t want to copy 3Dbotmaker’s videos. They were the perfect inspiration, but we still wanted to create something new. A few days (and several ideas) later, we had our project: we were going to stage a ski jumping event. Namely, the Four Hills Tournament, which has been known for decades.
But could we really manage it? There was only one way to find out. Tom and I grabbed our tools and got to work. We were going to build a small test track in the office. We stuck together a few elements, attached that above an office partition and bent it into a kind of ramp. After several attempts using various toy cars, we had our answer: it was certainly feasible, but also unpredictable. The angle of the jump and the weight of the vehicles both have an enormous influence on the flight path. The jump always went off smoothly, but the landing was a surprise every time. And we realised that this wasn’t a project to be completed in a few days. It would take a few weeks of work.
A starry-eyed start
Fast forward to the end of November. Time to start building. We want to create an authentic mountain backdrop for the ramp, so it’s not just standing in the middle of nowhere. We have a vision for it, but no concrete plan. I’ve never done anything like this before, and neither has Tom – a classic case of learning by doing. The scenery is supposed to be made up of two parts: the ramp with mountains in the background, as well as the landing slope, complete with spectators and a village.
We gather any materials we might use from our immediate surroundings: an office table, a pallet and loads of cardboard boxes. And we grab a trolley from our Zurich shop to use as a pillar for the cartons. Its metal grate is perfect for attaching all sorts of things.
To give the landscape a structure and to be able to paint it later, we cover the whole thing in papier-mâché. We let it dry overnight. The next day, we notice that the softened cardboard has shrunk. Our mountain scenery is full of cracks we have to repair before painting, which means putting in another half a day's work. We begin to realise that the tight schedule could blow up in our faces. The first jumping event, taking place in Oberstdorf, is supposed to happen in just four weeks. By then, everything has to be shot, set to music and edited. It’ll be a close call.
So, we step it up a notch and put in a few night shifts. When we’re not busy building in the basement, more ideas are buzzing through our heads. Despite working overtime, our to-do list keeps growing. For every task we cross out, two or three new ones are added. We get little sleep and, when we do, we find ourselves dreaming of landing angles and ramp design.
One and a half weeks have already passed and we’ve just barely managed to complete the skeleton construction. Tom and I are at a crossroads. If we build everything the way we want, we won't get the project done in time. But to get it done on time, we would have to throw out many details and simplify everything to the extreme. We need help.
Marketing team to the rescue!
We hope to convince just one or two people to help us with video editing and graphics. To our surprise, we get far more support than that. More than ten people step in, helping out with absolutely everything. From creating graphics and logos to finding sponsors to broadcasting on social media channels.
We’re both overwhelmed by this support and a little panicked – the project has just grown to new dimensions. In the beginning, Tom and I find it difficult to delegate tasks. But we quickly realise it's worth it. We can now focus exclusively on detail work on the ramp and filming.
Shooting and sound
To prepare for the video shoot, Tom and I watch live ski jumping broadcasts. We quickly realise we’ll need to set up several cameras to capture all the shots. Six, to be exact. Four of them will give us static shots: one at the top of the ramp, one in the middle and two on the landing slope. The fifth camera will be used to film handheld footage of the entire jump, while the sixth camera will be used to create detail shots of the cars before and after the jump.
Shooting the four jumps goes pretty smoothly. Since each car only does one jump per event, we quickly have the raw video footage ready. Editing it, however, will be a Herculean task. Six camera perspectives, eight vehicles and four jumps each – that’s several hours of footage and quite a few gigabytes of data. Fortunately, we can count on Manuel Wenk to cut the video. Our saviour!
But before we publish the videos, one last key element is missing: the soundtrack. Tom spends hours going through sounds and noises in various audio libraries. But engine sounds, crashes and music are nothing without our two top commentators, Simon Balissat and Tim Eppler. They breathe life into the Four Hills Tournament and give the videos a finishing touch.
The result is a sporting event that’s second to none. Four jumps full of excitement, action and surprises. It may sound pretentious, but we’ve done it: we’ve made ski jumping sexy again. And now, just in case you've read through this entire article but haven't yet watched the jumps, you’ll find them all in the article linked below:
The most wonderful month of the year
It took a good month from initial idea to final product. A month full of ups and downs. The line between euphoria and dysphoria was often blurred. There were times when Tom and I could hardly keep from grinning. We felt like little boys in absolute paradise. But we were also faced with unexpected problems time and again, and often worried we wouldn’t finish our undertaking in time. Our tight schedule led to quite the sleep deprivation, and we definitely missed out on family and friend time. Despite all the struggles, this month was undeniably our highlight of 2020. So:
Tom, thank you for the fun times. All our helpers, thank you for your active support. And Galaxus, thank you for giving me the best job in the world!