We loved working with Tomek Olszowski and Bartek Hlawka on this project in set in Croatia, for Mercedes-Benz’s #MBvideocar campaign – the raw power of the car as it roars through the otherworldly setting of a remote island makes for a dynamite short film.
Thanks to Tomek for this detailed look behind the scenes of an extraordinary piece of work!
The idea was simple – to create the feel of another world. No trees, no natural green landscapes…we wanted volcanic black sand or rocks, some raw, unearthly and hostile place to be a setting for an insanely extravagant car.
We found the perfect location in a high mountain pass between France and Italy, and sent our concepts to Mercedes, who loved the idea and gave us the green light to use one of their their monster-engined new models – the AMG GT S
However, by this time, our Alpine location was under several unexpected metres of snow….We needed plan B! So we fired up Google Earth and began to explore…
That’s how we found Pag and Rab – two islands in Croatia with spectacular roads to their ferry harbours. They made the perfect choice for our vision: the harbour has lots of free asphalt space, there’s sea water to keep the ground wet, and the traffic is limited because of the ferry schedule.
So I jumped on a plane from Cracow to Stuttgart, picked up the Mercedes AMG GT S model and drove it to Croatia. By the way, the car is awesome – not only a great powerful toy to play with, but also enough comfortable to travel. Very nice experience.
As the November weather was very unpredictable we were worried if we would get any sun in Croatia. The forecast looked strange – on Pag we had a window with great weather – sunny and 18°, but 20 km away on continental Croatia it was snowing and 5°C .
And actually, that was it exactly how it was! I was driving on a Croatian highway at 3 C degrees, in heavy snow, feeling pretty depressed. And right after emerging from the 6 km long Sveti Rok tunnel…the winter was gone. I had full sun and temperature jumped from 3°C to 16°C! How is that even possible? The answer is simple: very strong wind blowing from the sea – and that wind was to cause us problems.
Studio Tecza Production drove from Warsaw to Pag Island in our tech car with all the necessary equipment including cameras, tripods, rigs, lights and grip.
We had a Nikon D800 camera to shoot handheld surrounding shots, plus a PhaseOne XF 100mpx tethered to a computer station. We wanted to shot many rigshots, as I just received my custom built carbon fibre 8m long pole back in Poland.
The first day, we were tech scouting the harbour on Pag, preparing the car and planning our schedule according to the sun position.
Next morning in the harbour, we started the shoot early, pumping sea water to make the ground wet. The light was so beautiful that when I saw first shots in CaptureOne I just instantly felt in love. I had wanted to keep a natural feel, and there was literally nothing I could improve.
We had lights, flags and other equipment but none of it was needed in these conditions.
We had planned to set up some rigshots on the road as the sun rose higher. Unfortunately, the aforementioned strong wind complicated things. We managed to get only one proper rigshot as the wind was so variable, and when it was blowing we had to wait.
Stills Shoot 2
Next day, we started by shooting the rocky parts.
We had scouted some nice spots where the car would look unexpected and strange, but were still accessible.
We did some panning, and wide landscape shots with the car small in frame as well.
Fortunately the wind started to weaken in the afternoon, so we had some time to mount the rig and take another shot.
The raw material felt really great. I was proud of my rig gear, it was the first serious test for this equipment.
I loved the images produced by the new PhaseOne model, and I wanted the colour to be still more unorthodox and unique. I knew the only guys that would understand were Recom Farmhouse!
Director of Photography Bartek Hlawka and his team had arrived on the first day of shooting stills in their oldie but goodie, Subaru Impreza GT 🙂 This car had a real mission, not only to bring the guys and equipment from Warsaw, but also to take a part of the shoot as a pursuit vehicle. We collaborated closely, discussing everything before each lap up and down the hill.
Photo production showed that the road was almost like a movie set from a zombie apocalypse movie. We saw maybe 3 cars every two hours and it became clear that it would be a lot of fun having a road for ourselves.
We started recce from a drone to get to know all the bends and their surroundings. The weather was windy, so it wasn’t an easy task. After doing almost 100km over a 5km section of the road, we knew every centimeter of it.
Finally we chose the harbour as our starting point for all the shots and also as a location for the final shot.
Our trusted Subaru was very brave on the preproduction day, but the real stuff was to come.
We planned two shooting days for images, and one for audio recording. Next day we arrived at the first location at 5 am and the view was breathtaking. We already knew that we have something special in our hands. After only a few kilometres it became clear that if we wanted to show speed on the screen the only was it to drive… fast.
We drove 700km in total on the spectacular 5km course during two days of pure pleasure! Combined with hard work and a lot of a high-speed driving, it was a filmmaker’s dream come true. The weather was capricious but it gave us an opportunity to shoot in different conditions.
Most of the shots were made on a gimbal attached to a Ditogear Vibrafreek stabilizing arm. We chose a Sony camera to have low light capabilities and combined it with vintage Japanese lenses from the 70s. It gave us a nice analogue feel with a lot of information in the image to do the grading.
After intense two days, we were ready for audio recording. Sound design was always meant to be a huge part of the finished video. We mounted microphones on the exhaust and in the interior, and recorded flybys to have as many options as possible.
With the shooting complete, we moved onto the editing, sound design and colour grading.
Bartek Hlawka edited a first cut and composer Michal “Lieke” wrote a powerful and atmospheric piece of music for it, which inspired the further editing that would tell the story in an interesting way.
Starting with abstract shots of an almost unrecognizable silhouette of the car before dawn, and gradually transitioning to a bright day, we combined all the shots from different weather conditions into a coherent sequence. Then the plan was to overwhelm the viewer with dynamic and dense editing of images and sounds to the point where we felt we had to stop and breathe a little bit…and finally reveal the car and all its magnificently curvilinear design for a few final seconds on the screen.
Lieke completed the atmospheric music and sound design, with the sound of the engine as an integral part of the story.
The colour grading by Christoph at Recom Farmhouse was the final touch, enhancing the feeling of being out of this world and bringing the shots together as a coherent whole. The challenge was to harmonise footage shot in with different lenses, lighting situations, and wildly varying weather conditions. Fine-tuned and polished with painstaking care, the united piece flows flawlessly as a story of a perfect day’s driving from dawn till dusk.”
Client: Mercedes Benz
Direction: Tomek Olszowski
Director of Photography: Bartek Hlawka
Colour Grading: Christoph Bolten / Recom Farmhouse
Music: Michal Przybylski “Lieke”
Chase Car: Karol Szymanski
Production: Piotr Stefanski – Studio Tecza
Assistants: Adam Bonarski, Adam Gocel