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Picture Mill Takes the Wheel for Drive Main Title

Picture Mill has designed and directed the main title sequence for Fox-TV's new primetime drama DRIVE. The all-virtual 3D sequence sets the stage for the wild ride of the series by introducing 10 main characters; six vehicles and two show creators in a scorching and seamless 33 seconds.

Created and written by exec 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-'70s 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's 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's 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," said art director 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's 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."

Huge emphasis was placed on the previs 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 Lebeda. Seated in greenscreen chairs and shot in HD, each actor had to instantly communicate the character's attitude. "Showing the actors, even for those couple of seconds, is an important shortcut for viewers, especially if they haven't followed the series from the beginning," said Lebeda. "DRIVE is a show about people in conflict; it's not a car chase."

Utilizing a Technocrane, a highly customizable telescopic crane, the actors were shot against a greenscreen with tracking markers that matched the size and locations of the vehicles. The camera moves were then fed into bijou, the 3D match-motion tracking program used frequently in conjunction with Maya.

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 described the style as "realistic yet stylized. The cars are merely the backdrops for the show's intimate and sophisticated character portrayals..."

Additional Picture Mill credits include:

* Exec producer: Ty Van Huisen* Designer: Ken Pelletier* 3D modeler/animators: Bryan Thombs, Jon Block and Scott Signore* 2D compositor: Josh Novak* Producer: Christina Hwang

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