After previewing Ken Block‘s latest video last month, the full “Titanium Strong Blackout” presented by Castrol EDGE is finally here. Created as the world’s first pitch-black racetrack with a course created from hundreds of beams of light, Ken Block, along with DTM drivers Augusto Farfus, Mike Rockenfeller and Lamborghini Squadra Corse test driver Adrian Zaugg, compete against the one-of-a-kind track. Working together to perform various synchronized stunts including a four-car-relay, other obstacles include the Laser Tunnel, Laser Drift, Slalom and Laser Box – all created out of light. One of the highlights is Ken landing his 2014 Ford Fiesta ST RX43 in a synchronized jump over Mike Rockenfeller’s Audi R8 V10, without using a speedometer and RPM, on a wet track due to rain. After shooting Ken explained:
“Blackout was unlike anything I’ve done before. It was like being inside an actual video game. The course would keep appearing and then disappearing as I was driving and attempting to coordinate my segment with the other drivers. It definitely wasn’t an easy challenge.”
Castrol EDGE partnered up with Marshmallow Laser Feast for the light obstacles, renowned for their work with U2, Miley Cyrus, Sony and Nike. LOGAN, who have previously worked with Ken on the Gymkhana 5 & 6 videos, were responsible for the video production. We sat down with director Ben Conrad to go behind-the-scenes on the Titanium Strong Blackout video and find out more about the unique event. To see more behind-the-scenes footage, head here.
How was Castrol EDGE Titanium Strong Blackout different to other projects you’ve worked on?
The main difference was that we have more drivers and there is this relay aspect to it so it’s really understanding the different driving styles, what each vehicle is capable of, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how best to use each driver and vehicle in the course. So working with Ken is a different story – I know very well what he can do, but there’s also always room for the unimagined. It’s all surprises with Ken.
How long did it take to plan the video?
It took a bit of time, we were in discussions as far back as six months. The main planning was probably a couple of months, and a lot of that is the nature of the job – it’s a very international kind of job across different countries, the drivers are all over the world, the production and the lighting guys and so on. We were on conference calls with all of the drivers and their teams and engineers, and for those guys it was different because they were driving vehicles that were stock. Different from Ken who’s driving a car that is tuned for a specific kind of driving, you know. They really did an amazing job, the Lamborghini and the Audi. I really applaud those guys because it’s really a tough job.
How did the concept come about?
It came from the Brooklyn Brothers in conjunction with Castrol’s team and I’ve done this type of thing before, so coming together with my expertise we sort of moulded it into a challenge that all four of the drivers could participate in, against the light.
What was it like working with Marshmallow Laser Feast on the lights?
Awesome, those guys are amazing. We’d actually done some work with them when we did Miley Cyrus’ (Bangerz) tour, so we worked with them on that and had a little time to get to know each other before we got into this project. So we understood where they were coming from. Another part that was really fun was the immediacy of the course – they built sensors in so that the car would trigger it, and then it would trigger the lights. You know they did things like that which are helpful for the drivers, because the drivers are not actors, they’re athletes. We wanted to reframe the competition not against each other, but against themselves, so Marshmallow Laser Feast were integral in essentially creating a character, and that character was the course.
From a filming perspective, how was this video different to previous videos such as the Gymkhana series that you’ve worked on before?
Being in the dark was very challenging, it’s a different thing. I wanted to approach this more cinematically, I didn’t want to do my usual blanket everything with Go-Pros and that whole thing. I think the nature of this lends itself more as having a cinematic feel to it with the lighting. I opted to put more concentration on specific angles. We had a specific path, like the car went from A to B and did a drift. So I could really focus my cameras and work with the great Director of Photography Joost Van Gelder who is amazing, it was a joy to work with him. So yeah this has a different feel completely, it was more about the emotion of the experience, of the driving itself. It’s more visceral and had more of a gut feeling to it rather than covering every imaginable angle like I usually do. I wanted to limit it a bit and I think the results are rare.