Picture Mill Takes the Wheel for Fox TV’s “Drive” Main Title

Picture Mill has designed and directed the main title sequence for Fox-TV new action-fueled prime time drama ‘Drive.’ The all-virtual 3D sequence sets the stage for the wild ride of the series by introducing ten main characters; six vehicles and two show creators in a scorching and seamless 33 seconds. Created and written by Executive Producers Tim Minear and Ben Queen, ‘Drive’ is the story of a diverse group of participants joined together in an illegal, underground cross-country road race with a $32 million prize awaiting the winner.

The sequence, created by Picture Mill Creative Director Bill Lebeda and art directed by Brad Berling, opens with a rapid pan across the windshield of the Dodge Challenger driven by cast members Nathan Fillion and Kristin Lehman, across to a mid-70 Firebird occupied by Mercea Monroe and driver Riley Smith. The camera then swoops under the vehicle and pans up inside the Impala driven by Kevin Alejandro and J.D. Pardo, who then look out the window to reveal cast member Emma Stone in the back seat of her father Ford Taurus. The camera then pans through the back window, turns over and around and into the large windshield of a new LR3 driven by Rochelle Aytes and Taryn Manning, then moves down to a spinning hubcap that transitions into a driver seat of a minivan occupied by Melanie Lynskey. Finally, the POV moves to the rear of the minivan which sports a metallic ‘Drive’ logo, then widens out and elevates to show the cars speed off under a freeway sign that reveals the names of Queen and Minear.

‘We knew going in that we would have to spend an equal amount of time with each character, leaving less than two seconds for each cast member,’ says Art Director Brad Berling. ‘All these magical transitions were going to have to be very quick and the choreography very fast and expressive in order for this to work.’

Picture Mill design team boarded and submitted a series of proposed graphic solutions, involving everything from satellite surveillance to time-lapse photography. In the end though, it was decided to build a sequence that would not only take the audience right into the action of the race, but also suggest the virtual environments of the show itself. According to Berling, ‘We developed a method of blocking out a seamless series of camera moves that would allow us to give the cast and the cars equal importance.’

uge emphasis was placed on the previz process, which was used to work out every possible element in advance before a single frame was shot, including timings and camera movements for each shot, character and vehicle modeling, color design, texture mapping, and BG element design. In addition, primitive shaded views of the characters were placed in the vehicle models to provide position and determine camera moves for the final renders.

Next, the entire ‘Drive’ cast was assembled for a live action shoot, directed by Picture Mill Creative Director William Lebeda. Seated in green screen chairs and shot in HD, each actor had to instantly communicate the character attitude. ‘Showing the actors, even for those couple of seconds, is an important shortcut for viewers, especially if they haven’st followed the series from the beginning,’ says Lebeda. ”sDrive’s is a show about people in conflict; it not a car chase.’

Utilizing a Technocrane, a highly customizable telescopic crane, the actors were shot against a green screen with tracking markers that matched the size and locations of the vehicles. The camera moves were then fed into Bijou (www.2D3.com), a 3D match-motion tracking program used frequently in conjunction with Maya. ‘The footage is loaded into Bijou, which analyzes it and recreates the camera movement in the 3D environment,’ says Berling. ‘The camera moves are then strung together by hand, not automatically, to create one continuous move. Only then can we combine the live actors with the car, add the CG background environments and add our titles.’

Once the transitions were complete, light flares, streak, and motion blur effects were added to create the impression of high-speed driving. Finally, Picture Mill designed a metallic type treatment that moves in the same seam as the camera movement, so that as the camera shifts past each cast member, the type moves right along with it.

The sequence took two months to produce, and Lebeda describes the style as ‘realistic yet stylized. The cars are merely the backdrops for the show intimate and sophisticated character portrayals. It was a tough job, but also a delight to work on.’ To view the full sequence, go to www.picturemill.com

Additional Picture Mill credits go to Executive Producer Ty Van Huisen, Designer Ken Pelletier, 3D Modeler/Animators Bryan Thombs, Jon Block and Scott Signore, 2D compositor Josh Novak and Producer Christina Hwang.


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