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Picture Mill Throws CG into Drive

Visual FX and Tech

Picture Mill Throws CG into Drive

Vfx house Picture Mill pulled out all the stops to create an almost entirely CG opening credit sequence for FOX’s new primetime action-drama series, Drive. After airing a couple of episodes, the network is reportedly giving the show the axe, but it’s not for a lack of cool visuals.

Created and written by exec producers Tim Minear and Ben Queen, Drive has a diverse group of participants engaging in an illegal, underground cross-country road race with a $32 million prize and lives at stake. The 33-seconds opening sequence introduces the series’ ten main characters by having the camera fly in and out of six different vehicles. The actors are real but the vehicles and environments were all built digitally.

Picture Mill Creative Director Bill Lebeda and art directed by Brad Berling conceived the sequence, which begins with a rapid sweep across the windshield of the Dodge Challenger driven by series star Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serenity). The camera then seamlessly moves through around, over and under a series of other cars occupied by additional main actors.

‘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 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.’

Extensive previz was used to work out timing and camera movements for each shot before the actors were brought in and placed on green screen chairs. A Technocrane was used to shoot the cast and tracking markers in HD and the camera moves were fed into Bijou, 2D3’s 3D match-motion tracking program used frequently in conjunction with Maya.

‘The camera moves are then strung together by hand, not automatically, to create one continuous move,’ Berling notes. ‘Only then can we combine the live actors with the car, add the CG background environments and add our titles.’

The sequence, which took two months to produce, can be viewed online at www.picturemill.com.

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