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For your eyes only: shooting the Volvo R-Design

This post was written by Steve Trimingham and first appeared on the LINE blog on 20th August 2013.

Volvo R-designWorking with Volvo, as I have for the last nine months, you occasionally feel like you’ve parachuted into a rather stylish thriller about industrial espionage. Now, I do feel no-one would ever mistake me for a spy, but the projects I’ve worked on have all been launches of new cars and their technology, which in the automotive industry are jealously guard from competitors. The secrecy that surrounds the material I’ve worked with on the video shoots I’ve directed has made me feel a tiny bit MI5! Working on the interactive video for the launch of the latest version of the R-Design 60 cars sometimes felt like walking into a room and hearing Q say ‘Now, pay attention 007’.
The filming took place in the design centre at Gothenburg Volvo headquarters. The room we filmed in was big and white, with all views of the outside world blocked. The room also had motorised platforms for us to spin the S60 car. Having spotted this and been handed the remote control for it, myself and the crew decided to make the most of it on the shoot. I quickly took ownership of that remote and was the only one ‘qualified’ to send our car spinning on many takes. The car itself was brought to the venue on a special covered lorry designed to keep the beautiful lines and crafted details away from the prying eyes of motoring journalists. It had just been shipped from its marketing shoot, footage of which we would use in our final piece. This shoot was on the 4th Street Bridge in East LA, famous as a movie location. You’ll know it from the drag race in ‘Grease’ and the hair-raising truck vs. bike chase in ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’.
The day started well. We were working with a great camera crew from the Gothenburg-based company, Complete Media. They’d arrived earlier to set up a large rig of Kino Flo lights over the car. This gave us that very specific car advert top lighting style, making strips of light flow pleasingly over the contours of the car as we span it on the motorised platform. We had got the first two shots done when word came that an executive from the China division wanted to use the room to view the design progress of a Volvo so new we couldn’t be allowed to see it. We couldn’t even be told which model it was! Deciding to break for an early lunch, we swiftly vacated the room.

‘I never joke about my work 007’

Moments like this give you the sense of the stakes in that industry, the trust the client has in us and the privileged access we were getting. It also gives you the sense of how far ahead car companies plan. The car we were photographing was at the end of the design cycle, with many other vehicles at earlier stages of what is a very long process. After lunch, filming resumed and we spent the rest of the day working hard to get all the shots we needed to highlight the refined details that make up the new R-Design. The next day, with a hard drive containing the footage in my hand luggage, I boarded my plane back to the UK. On the journey home I felt both an enormous sense of responsibility to keep the footage we had shot safe and secret, and a growing excitement at the prospect of the complex post-production ahead. Working with an array of graphics and animation artists, we pieced together the various sources of material; blending together green screen footage of Björn Bodén, the designer of the car, shot months earlier, elements from the LA marketing shoot, and the design centre material we had just completed. The end result was an interactive video touring the vehicle’s interior and exterior design changes, allowing Volvo sales consultants to explore the many design details that make up the R-Design 60, a sub-brand of the main Volvo brand of which they are rightly proud. With hi-res graphics and commentary that communicated the passion of the designer Björn, the sales consultants could choose where they looked and understand how to communicate that passion to customers.

‘You will bring this back in one piece, won’t you Bond?’

At the end of the process of lots of hard work and long hours, the interactive video was launched in a wide variety of markets around the world and translated into 15 different languages. The feedback we got from the client was very positive. The R-Design team complimented us on our understanding and interpretation of the brand and we felt we’d done our part to protect the secrets and support the launch of an impressive and sought after piece of automotive design. Throughout my time on the project, I never lost the thrill of the secrecy – or the feeling of trust from the access we got to Volvo’s latest car launch before anyone else outside Volvo could see it.