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Strobing is another consideration in the Imax format because the negative's path is horizontal. "Objects moving across the screen too fast will be almost unwatchable," says Neihouse. "In order to reduce the amount of strobing, you must either slow the subject down - not an option on a NASCAR film! - or overcrank the camera to slow the subject down on the screen. But Simon wanted to show the fantastic speeds these cars a capable of, so we decided not to overcrank anything. By panning with the cars and keeping them in the same relative position in the frame, we were able to reduce [strobing], and by following the cars we were able to make the background blur out, which enhances the feeling of speed. At other times, we simply let the cars drive through frame, allowing the motion blur to add to the sense of speed. Another trick we used was to film the cars either coming at or going away from the camera. We never had to undercrank the camera to make the cars seem faster. They were plenty fast at normal [filming] speed!"

The filmmakers couldn't shoot car to car during an actual race, so those shots had to be staged. To accomplish the shots, they used the Roush camera car for car interiors and a high-speed camera car from Fast Track, a high-performance driving school based in Harrisburg, North Carolina, for car-to-car and POV shots. "While shooting the car-to-car scenes from the Fast Track car, I rode along to operate the camera/remote head," says Neihouse. "I always wore a full driving suit and helmet and was in a racing seat with a five-point harness. The camera-car driver was Sheldon Holman, Fast Track's chief instructor, and he did a great job of being safe while putting the camera right in the middle of a pack going 150-plus mph - quite a feat, considering that he had more than 600 pounds of camera and remote head at one end of the car or the other.

"Throughout the shoot, safety was the first thing on our minds," Neihouse continues. "We tried to stay on our toes and watch each other's backs, and NASCAR did a great job of keeping us in areas where the chances of something happening to us were low. That didn't keep us from hanging out over the pit boxes on the Shotmaker arm, though! The most dangerous area was the garage when the Cup cars were on the track and getting ready for the race. There's a lot going on, and cars are moving in and out of the garage area fairly quickly. And it's not just the cars - the crews are moving quickly trying to get things done on the cars and they're not accustomed to giving way to camera crews.

"On most race days, we split up into two crews, one in the track infield, the other in and around the grandstands. On other days, we'd leapfrog between the two cameras on the Shotmaker and the dolly; while loading one, we'd move to the other. We used the B-camera unit, which was supervised by producer Lorne Orleans, to shoot the large-scale scenes during the races, which meant wading through the throngs of fans and getting on top of the grandstands, onto a Condor or up on scaffolding - none of which is easy with a 265-pound camera. Everyone went the extra mile during the shoot."

The result, says Wincer, is a film "unlike any previous racing documentary. It reflects the danger, noise and fun of NASCAR racing. And of course, 3-D Imax is in a class by itself when it comes to involving an audience. This film blazes a new trail."

Gary Jones was the B-camera operator on NASCAR 3D: An Imax Adventure.

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© 2004 American Cinematographer.