You don't need to look, you just need to drive!
“You don’t need to look, you just need to drive!” The Femme Fatale gives a throaty growl as she enters your car. She needs to reach three addresses in Paris in a short amount of time, and it’s going to take all of your driving talents to get her there.
Thankfully – yes there’s an advertising message in here – you have the very handy Nokia Multimedia Car Kit CK-20W.
www.the-passenger.com, presented by Nokia, takes you through the streets of Paris in a unique mash-up of a driving game and interactive film.
In the fall of 2006 we were briefed by Hyper Happen on the launch of the Nokia Multimedia Car Kit CK-20W.
The first thing that came to mind was obviously a driving game, but driving games have been done to death.
We wanted to do something new and innovative. Just building another driving game wasn’t enough to engage users for a long enough period of time to showcase the CK-20W’s features.
As we tossed around some more ideas Cy Hogg from Karbon Arc, a Fuel Industries sister company, wondered if we could shoot a driving game in real video and give users the ability to drive around a city.
We realized that driving straight was going to be fairly straight-forward to program (sorry I couldn’t resist the pun), but being able to make turns would be tricky.
So, the next day Cy was driving around with his camera mounted to the hood of his car shooting test footage like a maniac.
After getting it back to the studio, the Karbon Arc team sliced up the video and used video morphing to stitch the different streets and turns together – and suddenly we realized we’d made it possible to freely drive around in true video.
The Driving Engine
Once the video was ready, one of our Flash Developers was tasked to come up with the driving engine that would allow us to navigate through the footage. After a couple of days, Jason had a prototype working and we where able to drive around the block.
We soon realized that we had come up with something really unique. We showed our proof of concept to the guys at Hyper Happen and they loved the idea.
Video, thanks to sites like YouTube, has the highest engagement time then any other type of content on the internet. But most video content isn’t really that engaging. You hit play, wait for the content to stream in, watch it and you move along.
Giving the user full control of playing back the video through driving the car introduced a completely different way to interact with the video.
“We didn’t want the experience to feel like a driving game, so we developed a story that would allow for a blend of cinematic scenes and interactive driving.” says Joel Grenier, Creative Director at Fuel Industies.
On Location in Paris
Our writers developed the story and characters to make the experience feel like an interactive film. Once we had the story written, KA packed their gear and headed to Paris for 10 days to film.
The driving was shot entirely on Ill de St. Louis with additional footage at The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Heliport de Paris.
Back at the Lab
Meanwhile back at the lab, Jason was working on tweaking the driving engine to get it to feel like you where really driving in Paris.
Our goal was to create the engine independent of the video so that we could work in parallel during the post production. We ended up using an xml file to store a reference to all of the individual video files.
This configuration file served as the GPS for our driving engine and allowed us to add streets to the environment very easily. It also kept track of where you where and what streets and intersections you were approaching. It took a lot of tweaking to get it just right.
There was a fine line between making it feel like you where turning down a street and that you were spinning in your chair.
After getting the film back to the studio in Ottawa, a massive amount of post production began.
I’ll never forget walking into the studio a couple of days later and seeing that the helicopter scene that at one point looked like it was shot in the late afternoon now looked like it was shot well into the evening.
An Experience to be Proud of
Over the course of January we continued to develop the site. With so many people and departments in production at the same time things quickly became complicated, but we did a really good job at managing everything.
And at the end of it we had a really cool, engaging and immersive experience that we’re very proud of.
About the Author, Julian Dolce
Julian is currently the Senior Creative Technologist and Lead Flash Developer at Fuel Industries in Ottawa, concentrating on creating branded online entertainment and immersive web experiences. As well, he also writes on his personal development blog www.deleteaso.com.