The Hills are Alive with Bowers and Wilkins

Posted on November 9, 2015

Shooting speakers on location is always interesting, even more so when the product is the Bowers and Wilkins new 800 Diamond Series.

This being the most important range of speakers Bowers and Wilkins have produced in the last few years, no ordinary location was going to do them justice.  What was needed was something entirely different, something of a curve ball that would delight and catch everyone off-guard. We were looking for a clean and open environment, accompanied by raw and textured surfaces. So we set our sights on Switzerland.

Logistically this was always going to be an interesting exercise! With each large speaker weighing as much as a small adult, there was no solution other than to drive them over in purpose built cases. Luckily for me (and my back), two eager volunteers had already signed up for the journey – phew!  All I had to do was get my carnet over to the client and my kit to the warehouse to be packed with the speakers, before I jumped on a plane – a rather luxurious trip, in comparison to the journey of my colleagues.

Our location of choice was near Gstaad, somewhere around the 1200M mark. As we drove to the house, the view was of sweeping green fields, populated with cows looking suitably ruminative and with bells that jingled as they moved. Not a bad working environment.

The interior was comfortably, subtly and elegantly furnished, adding up to an overwhelmingly sensual experience – contrasts of warm, textured, raw wood panels, hard grey concrete walls and vast expanses of glass letting in the wonderful light. Our immediate problem though, was how we were going to move those very heavy speakers around on the soft white wood floor – we didn’t think it would be much appreciated if it looked like we’d been playing dodgems for two days. The smaller 804s and 805s could be lifted into position, but there was no way we could do that with the bigger 802s and 803s. Luckily we had planned ahead, with interlocking, plastic matting that ensured wheels didn’t dig in and leave tracks and grooves. A dedicated assistant had the extremely important job of ensuring the speakers were placed in the right place, at the right time, with no fuss and, mercifully, no indentation disasters, giving us a smooth running shoot in every way.

We used flash lighting, in combination with ambient daylight, to create a realistic but slightly enhanced sunny feel and indeed, at some points in the day, the whole location was aglow with the sun. However, even when it did cloud over, as it inevitably did, we were able to build up a look and feel with our lights that ensured the images didn’t flatten off in any way.

We’d obviously reccied the building, inside and out, before arriving for the shoot. However it wasn’t until we placed the speakers in the room, that the magic happened, and the simple beauty of the images started to emerge. It’s always fascinating to watch this process and it’s something I’ve talked about before – the unpredictable and wonderful ways in which technology affects and impacts on its environment.

In this particular case we had a forward-thinking speaker design, with beautifully expanses of smooth curved surface which, once immersed in this understated environment, suddenly exuded quality and power, and there was an instant understanding as to why the art director had opted for this particular property. It worked so simply, yet so effectively. Producing images that were completely different from previous ones was a calculated risk – but it paid off – in spades!

We spent two full days exploring different vantage points and making the most of specific set ups, where we could shoot all the speakers consecutively – great for creating large numbers of quality, usable assets for the client. All in all, it was a great location shoot.  One that I hope can be repeated again with even better results . . . because isn’t that what it’s always all about? Getting better and better still.