Joined by director Neil Blomkamp, Sony unspooled high-octane footage of race car driving in a sneak peek at Gran Turismo, Sony Pictures and PlayStation Productions’ feature adaptation of the best-selling racing video game, on Wednesday during its CES press conference in Las Vegas.
Slated for an Aug. 11 theatrical release, Gran Turismo was lensed with Sony’s Venice 2 cameras using its Rialto extension system that effectively detaches the sensor from the camera. This allowed the filmmakers to put cameras in the very tight spaces inside the cars, just as the filmmakers on Top Gun: Maverick used this camera system to put these small camera devices inside fighter jets.
Based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, the Columbia Pictures film is described by the studio as the ultimate wish fulfillment tale of a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won a series of Nissan competitions to become an actual professional race car driver. The film stars Archie Madekwe as the teen and David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Djimon Hounsou, Darren Barnett, Daniel Puig, Josha Stradowski, Thomas Kretschman and Geri Halliwell-Horner. Blomkamp said he was attached to the project because the lead character was a real person with a “super emotional” story. Plus, “I love cars and it was this opportunity to shoot high-adrenaline car photography in a way that really excited me.”
Describing the approach that he and cinematographer Jacques Jouffret took to the movie, the director explains, “We used the Rialtos inside of the cars and the cockpits in spaces that typically you could never get an Imax-resolution sensor. So the Lamar prototype cars that we were filming in, in the third act in the film, had a tiny, tiny cockpit and we needed to be able to shoot left to right, right to left for race footage, and then neutral, all right up with the actor. So we had these tiny sensor blocks in there with small lenses right by the actor.”
He added that exterior shots also benefitted from the small and lightweight system. “Because they’re so light [we could] places them where we could actually simulate the Gran Turismo angles,” he said. “And then finally, the third person POV behind the car, we had a tiny Rialto camera on an arm that gave us a POV that was highly unusual.”
Also speaking at the event, Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group president Sanford Panitch reported that Sony has more than 10 film and TV projects in development and production with PlayStation Productions. And citing their Uncharted’s $400 million global box office, he said, “we’re pretty energized about where the genre is heading.”
Playstation Productions head Asad Qizilbash related that in adapting the game IP for the cinema, “we carefully considered how we appeal to both the longtime fans the game and newcomers. We balanced that with Uncharted and I think we were very successful.… Now with Gran Turismo, we feel it has all the elements to do that as well. It has this incredible, compelling true story. And it has an onscreen experience that elicits the same emotional ride gaming gives you, and also racing gives you. And for PlayStation, we really wanted the spirit and the energy of the game to be captured. Neill was the perfect filmmaker to do that.”
Sony also delivered gaming announcements at CES. PlayStation VR2 drops Feb. 22, and more than 30 games including Gran Turismo 7 will be ready at launch. Sony also announced development of a PS5 controller with accessibility in mind, code-named Project Leonardo.
Underscoring the interest in the automotive space at CES, Sony Honda Mobility, a joint venture between Sony and Honda aimed at developing electric cars, revealed its brand will be called Afeela as it rolled out its first EV prototype on Sony’s CES stage.
On hand for this announcement was Epic Games’ chief technology officer, Kim Libreri (who also happens to be an Oscar-nominated VFX vet). “Sony has been a great partner for over two decades using [Epic’s] Unreal Engine to create amazing games and more recently TV shows, concerts, and much more,” he said. “We’re working closely with them to help deliver connected automotive experiences that lead the way, not only in visual communications and safety, but also in entertainment.”
The CES exhibition floor opens Thursday.