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Go behind the scenes as Danny MacAskill controls the weather with an app on his phone

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media
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Last fall in Control Your Climate, Danny MacAskill took the weather into his own hands with a mobile app that let him tweak trail conditions to suit his unique riding style. Danny Mac made it snow, stopped a rainstorm, iced over the sidewalk, harnessed the wind to sail up a climb, and cleaned up his bike in the end under a mini storm cloud. Now his special effects team shares how it was all done.

Danny MacAskill’s Control Your Climate trail weather app

The whole project was pretty much just an advertisement for German heating & cooling equipment maker Eberspächer. But that’s not to say it wasn’t fun to watch.

And realistically, who wouldn’t want to be able to stop the rain so we could ride on a sunny day? Point of fact, apparently not Danny MacAskill actually. Read the interview transcript below for more details, but suffice it to say that Danny really like to play in the mud!

Behind the Scenes: How Danny MacAskill controlled his own climate

But alas, even though he DOES have superpowers on the bike, he DOES NOT have the ability to manipulate the weather from an app on his phone. Danny MacAskill, his sports marketing team over at Rasoulution and Cut Media’s Creative Director Scott Marshall, the folks who created the ride video, all sat down to talk about how it all worked…

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media
c. Cut Media, all photos by Dave Mackison

If you want to learn more after you watch those clips, here’s the transcript of their full interview:

RASOULUTION: Hi Danny, hi Scott, hope you are well. This project was filmed quite a while ago, but it’s just too good and quite different to what you normally do, so it’d be interesting to get your perspective on the process of filming and everything around.
First of all, isn’t it a little ironic to produce artificial rain in Scotland?
DANNY MACASKILL: Haha, yeah for sure we normally get all four seasons of weather in one day in Scotland, but unfortunately it’s too hard to predict so we had to go with making it all artificially.
SCOTT: It’s, something we all had a laugh at but as Danny said, the challenge with Scottish rain is you can’t predict where it’s going to appear and for how long. We can have blue sky and sunshine and it could still rain. Always best to have a few rain sprinklers on standby, even in Scotland.

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media

RASOULUTION: Danny, this clip looked like you had a lot of fun during filming. How did you experience this shoot? Was it a lot different to other projects?
DANNY: Yes, we had a lot of fun making this film. It was my first time that I‘ve used artificial weather or special effects during filming which was really different but also had its own challenges.

RASOULUTION: Scott, have you ever worked on a set with that many special effects with Cut Media?
SCOTT: We’ve worked on a few projects now with various levels of special effects. The challenge with this project was the amount of setups we had to create with practical effects and digital visual effects in such a short period of time. We had to try’n execute set builds, practical weather changes and digital VFX plates, as quick as we could in the four day shoot to allow Danny as much riding time as possible on each setup.

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media

RASOULUTION: Danny, what was the most fun feature to actually do proper tricks with?
DANNY: One of the most fun features had to be the puddle scene, where we basically got a giant sheet of perspex, dressed it up to look like an icy puddle and I was trying to do a 360 skid over the top of it.
First of all, the set looked really cool. The special effect guys had also done some features like this in Game of Thrones. It was a lot of fun for me because it was a trick I’ve always wanted to try. The idea for the trick in the beginning was to do a 360 skid across the whole perspex. I didn’t manage to quite get that because of the length of it, but the friction between the tyres and the plastic was pretty cool and we could control it with water, so I had a lot of fun although it was quite scary at the same time.

RASOULUTION: Scott, what was the most challenging scene in terms of production in the video?
SCOTT: An easy question to answer, the snow! We knew the snow scene was going to be a big setup because we were attempting to make everything practically. The snow covering the park, the ramps built from ice blocks, full size snowmen and following snow from the sky. It was all very ambitious including the riding Danny wanted to achieve. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it work but, as we mentioned earlier the weather in Scotland can be very unpredictable and on this day it was. As we attempted to turn our location into a winter wonderland we were hit with torrential weather. Rain and wind blew through and attempted to ruin everything we were making. The snow which is made from a biodegradable paper, was washing away revealing the tarpaulin base layer. It became clumpy and unrideable. It didn’t look like snow at all on camera. We lost most of the days shooting as the rain wouldn’t stop leaving us with only the afternoon to try’n make something happen. In the end we had to scale back on what we wanted to create including the riding which was really frustrating for everyone involved. But, we worked through it as a team and made the best of the challenging situation.

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media

RASOULUTION: Danny, would you ever consider using special effects to fake some of your tricks or do you think this will be something we might see more often in the future?
DANNY: For me special effects is something I’ve actually tried to stay away from in filming especially any CGI generally. It was fine in this case of course, the Eberspächer project ”Control your Climate“, because the special effects were only used for the actual setup, as the ice and the fake snow. As soon as I would use any special effects to fake riding that would not be OK for me, because I’ve worked so hard over the years to do all the riding for real, I think it would overall damage my image. Furthermore, it is not fair on other riders if you are faking your riding. All the riding that you see in this piece is for real, just the setups themselves are dressed up to make it look like different weather.

RASOULUTION: Scott, were there a lot more people involved than on other projects with Danny?
SCOTT: We definitely had more people involved than we traditionally do on our Danny projects. That came down to the concept being very ambitious and needed outside expertise to help us make it happen. A lot of our previous projects with Danny have taken less crew spread over more time. For instance the shoot for Wee Day Out in 2016 was spread out over 3 months with a crew of 6 people. Gymnasium released this year was shot over 4 solid weeks locked in a gym hall with a small crew. It all comes down to the idea for the film.

RASOULUTION: How many days did the whole shoot take?
SCOTT: In total we spent around 4 days shooting the project.

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media

RASOULUTION: The visual effects probably took a lot bigger part than in most of your other projects. What’s the percentage of shooting days to post-production days?
SCOTT: The edit and VFX days definitely dwarf the shoot days on this project. I’m not sure the exact total of post-production and VFX days but maybe between 4-8 weeks in total. Rendering photo realistic versions of the ice freezing the pipe took a long time.

RASOULUTION: Danny, living in Scotland you are of course used to changing conditions. If you could choose one of the effects for real – which one would it be?
DANNY: Being able to turn the rain on and off would be the coolest. Actually, I really love riding muddy trails so I would probably use it for good being able to turn on the rain for mountain biking.

Danny MacAskill 'Control Your Climate' trail weather app special effects, photos by Dave Mackison of Cut Media

RASOULUTION: Has this clip and the process of filming regarding special effects inspired you for possible future projects?
DANNY: Yes, for sure. It was a very creative project to work on. It’s a really cool thing to collaborate with other people that are extremely good at what they do. At this time, it was Artem who did all the special effects. I’d love to do some stuff with artists in the future whether that’s real kind of sculptresses, architects or musicians. So stay tuned and follow my social channels.
SCOTT: A project like this definitely gets you thinking of new possibilities for future projects. Ideas that we were maybe nervous to imagine before. But the one thing that we defiantly took away from a project like this is, remembering that no matter how crazy or big the special effects are, the riding Danny creates is still the most important part of any film.

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