Let’s face it, most of what you read at car related sites, just like you do at sites for other interests, industries and hobbies, talks about the same usual topics. In the case of car enthusiast sites, the same cars, the same commercials, the same companies. Maybe that’s why it’s exciting when I’m ranging far afield of the automotive realm on the web and I come across something that I’m pretty sure will be of interest to TTAC readers and it also happens to be something that you probably haven’t seen anyplace else. In this case I was doing my rounds of some of the non-automotive sites I link to from Cars In Depth and I came across a brand new short dramatic film called The Sunday Morning Drive about a beautiful woman in a 430 horsepower Audi R8 racing more than 3 dozen sportbikes up a winding and treacherous 14 mile stretch of California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
Was I correct about it being of interest to you?
Ole Schell directs films and documentaries, and is based in New York City. His dad’s a writer, his mom’s a photographer and he grew up in an artists’ colony in northern California and later San Francisco. A graduate of NYU’s film school, he started out making documentaries including Picture Me: A Model’s Diary, Win In China (about entrepreneurs in China), and most recently Lil Buck Goes to China, about a Memphis hip hop dancer traveling to China to perform onstage with Meryl Streep and Yo Yo Ma. He and his work have been featured in many major publications, on major television and radio networks and have been distributed theatrically, on cable television and as an on-demand video. Picture Me won the best picture award at the Milan International Film Festival and it has been screened or broadcast in over 25 countries.
Schell told me that he’s always “loved cars”. In addition to his documentary and dramatic films, he’s also directed commercials including a spot for Wrightspeed featuring a turbine-electric powered truck racing a helicopter on the Bonneville Salt Flats, an aircraft stunt ad working with Sony Creative for Goulian Aerosports, and other commercials for brands big enough that they don’t need me to give them free publicity. His next film will be on a bit deeper subject, a man who survived the Burundi genocide. In the future he hopes to do “bigger and better projects in the automotive and motor-sports space.”
Combining his interest in cars, aircraft, and a desire to get his feet wet shooting in 3D, Schell dreamed up The Sunday Morning Drive about a fictional annual motorcycle road race on California’s Pacific Coast Highway that allows a high performance car to compete. Since it’s fiction, Schell got his friend, Australia based supermodel Kasia Grabowski (link almost safe for work), to play the driver. Schell didn’t have a large budget to work with but through careful planning and networking he was able to produce a polished product complete with aerial footage.
While I didn’t bother plugging all of Schell’s commercial customers, he’s graciously allowing TTAC to be the first automotive site to review the film so I will point out that all of the filming was done with either GoPro’s Hero 2 or Sony TD20 video cameras. The TD20 shoots 3d natively, and for the GoPros Schell used GoPro’s own 3D kit for the Hero 2 (the camera company recently introduced a 3D kit for the newer Hero 3 cameras), and, I believe Al Cauldullo’s “Superhero” 3D rig. GoPro kicked in some technical help with their 3D rigs, associate producer, Peter Paris Mars and his sportbike buddies provided the two-wheelers, and post production was done with Sony software and the assistance of Sony Creative and 3D consultant Al Cauldullo. By the way, if our Editor in Chief can tell his fans they’re welcome to send him presents like guitars, I will say that I have no objection if someone likes my writing and/or photography enough to give me a Superhero and two Hero 3s. Alternatively, I’ll be happy to review those products, in case Al and the folks at GoPro are reading this, hint, hint.
Now that the credits are out of the way, what do I think of the movie? Well, the plot is indeed fictional, since I’m not sure [spoiler alert, or is that a trigger warning?] that a car could actually pass all those bikes on such a tight, winding public road. The voiceovers for the airplane spotters are kind of cheesy (deliberately so, I believe, but then, as it is written, so is Cleavon Little’s radio announcer in Vanishing Point), and somehow Ms. Grabowski ends up losing her racing suit in favor of a nicely modeled blue bikini, so it’s not like we’re talking Shakespeare here. It’s a demo film and it’s certainly entertaining enough automotively that I don’t think you’ll find the 8 minutes or so a waste of time. A great, fast car, a pretty lady and one of the world’s great roads. What’s not to like?
How’s the 3D? Pretty good for the most part and some of the shots are pretty damn good. Particularly the low angle shots from the bikes, the car and the edge of the road are very effective, as are the shots from the wing of the airplane, capturing it, the racers and the cliffside road. There are a small number of 3D anomalies. Like Schell says, “3D post [prodution] is hard!”. It took about a year and working with 3D pros in five cities in the U.S. and Asia to edit down the eight and a half minute film. Nothing’s going to make your eyes bleed, but in a couple of spots I noticed some motion blur and once or twice something’s a bit too close to the cameras for your brain to resolve the extreme parallax. However, considering that Schell was working with what are consumer cameras, not James Cameron level 3D rigs, as I said, the results in 3D are pretty damn good. Fast, horizontally moving objects are one of the more rigorous tests of left-right synchronization and The Sunday Morning Drive captured that well.
I’ve embedded the 2D version at the top of the post and it’s cool to watch. I expect that now that we’ve posted it, The Sunday Morning Drive will start showing up on other car sites in the mono version. but I would recommend that you watch it in 3D if you can. The YouTube 3D player is compatible with any form of 3D you’d have at home, either with a 3D monitor, a 3D tv set to which you can port your computer or otherwise access the web, or with cheap anaglyph glasses. If you’re adept at the “cross eye” method, you can even watch in 3D without using any glasses at all. Speaking of 3D glasses, Schell and his associates have hooked up with IngriDahl, a company that sells a variety of 3D glasses formats in a variety of fashionable styles to put on a contest to win free 3D glasses. If you don’t care about style, I’ll send the first two dozen people who email me at email@example.com a pair of cheap red/blue (properly they’re red/cyan, but we won’t quibble about Pantone shades) glasses courtesy of Cars In Depth if you mail me the proverbial SASE.
With the advent of the internet, a number of car companies have started producing both long from versions of their broadcast commercials as well as short films. Audi comes to mind most quickly in that regard,but they’re not the only company. Also, 3D displays have started sprouting up at the major auto shows. In previous years, both Mercedes-Benz and Toyota’s Scion brand have put up polarized 3D flat screens in their booths and given out plastic framed 3D glasses that show attendees could take home and use at the movie theater when watching stereo films. At this year’s Detroit and Chicago shows, the video racing sim in the Honda booth used a head mounted 3D display. Nissan let you “build” one of their concept cars using a virtual reality HMD, which might have used the guts of an Oculus Rift unit. Just this week, when I visited the SAE World Congress, in Ford’s booth you could ride along as Ken Block drifts his rally car, and since the Oculus Rift goggles they used can do motion tracking, you could look around yourself in the virtual realm. Facebook just bought Oculus Rift for 2 billion dollars, seeing opportunities for virtual 3D beyond the gaming world. I won’t be surprised if Ford isn’t the only car company using VR with Oculus Rift headsets at next year’s auto shows.
Someone has to produce and direct those long form commercials and short films. Someone has to create the content for those auto show 3D displays, and while car companies are indeed major advertisers with substantial budgets, they’re not going to just turn some artiste loose with lots of money. That’s going to be up to people like stereographer Neal Nathanson and filmmakers like Schell. I think that Ole Schell’s done a good job at demonstrating that one can create engaging 3D video content at a professional level while still keeping within a realistic budget.
I’m looking forward to seeing Schell’s work in the future. He’s excited about the results with The Sunday Morning Drive and I’m sure that it won’t be the last time that he works with cars or with 3D (or with cars and 3D).
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS