Fancy shooting an action film? Well, if you want to have a car chase with any real impact then you’ll need a Russian Arm. This gyro-stabilized camera crane has been used on countless movies and commercials and took pride of place at a recent Lexus Through The Lens, an event in Miami aimed at showcasing the company’s high-tech luxury agenda.
And, for anyone into photography, filmmaking and innovations on the tech front then this shindig was about as good as it gets. It also illustrated how a company that started out selling high-end motors has now evolved into a business that is innovating right across the product spectrum.
Before we get stuck into the event in detail, however, check out this short video we put together highlighting some of its standout moments:
For Lexus, it’s not just about selling cars anymore, but about offering a complete lifestyle experience. And, to do that you need to offer up your wares in suitably stylish surroundings, with picture-perfect backdrops and products that throw jaw-dropping shapes. As a result, Lexus assembled a formidable collection of photographers and filmmakers to enable it to capture the essence of what the luxury brand is all about.
It offered journalists a chance to dip their toes into the world of professional stills and movie shooting too, with tips, tricks and techniques from pros including prime movers Gavin Bond and Greg Williams. There were surprises aplenty, including photojournalist Williams stating that he shoots with his Leica on Auto for much of the time, giving many less skilled photographers a real feelgood factor and that black and white is the best way to squeeze the most out of tricky shooting sessions.
The first of many ‘wow’ moments during the day came as the sun began to rise over a cutting-edge property in Biscayne Bay. Dubbed the ‘Lexus Mansion’ for the event and worth many millions, the incredible house was used as the perfect backdrop for shooting the LC 500 and LC 500h hybrid models, complete with Brit photographer Gavin Bond offering advice to journalists who had been persuaded to coax a supermodel into action in front of an equally gorgeous metallic red Lexus.
However, out back, it was the emergence of the Lexus Sport Yacht, complete with the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Mr Akio Toyoda at the wheel that had people nearly choking on their coffee and sumptuous snacks prepared by Lexus Culinary Master Michelle Bernstein. This one-off design is constructed from super-lightweight Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic and comes packed with high-tech controls. Piloting the craft is done via a central console, which houses the wheel and throttle controls, while an enormous touchscreen panel display offers up GPS navigation, digital charts, surface radar, underwater sonar and a raft of lighting and entertainment systems.
Below deck it was a similarly sumptuous story, with leather seating, hand-crafted wood finishings and a posh loo hidden behind a small door. There’s a sofa that can handle six with ease, while a two-burner stove, sink and surreptitiously hidden fridge covers meal and drink needs with ease. Meanwhile, the entertainment system has been developed by Videoworks of Italy, who’ve delivered a fully integrated network that offers 4G, Wi-Fi and WAN. Audio fans are satisfied thanks to Revolution Acoustics surface-mounted drivers while the ceiling panel acts as a transducer. Power comes from a Mark Levinson Reference digital amplifier.
More impressive for fans of power is the fact that this fully-loaded 12.7 metre innovation-fest features a pair of five litre engines sitting underneath a transparent cover at the stern. They’re actually the same as those that fitted in the Lexus RC F, GS F and LC 500 and they deliver a similarly potent but silky smooth burble. The minimalist design and bruising power output pushes it to a top speed of 43 knots or 49 miles per hour.
Not long after, at the Palm Beach International Raceway, a collection of motor racing drivers showed off what they could do in front of the camera, while being hotly pursued by a team of filmmaking professionals. Central to capturing the action was a menacing matt black vehicle with the aforementioned Russian Arm mounted on top.
This clever piece of kit looks a bit Heath-Robinson, but it’s been specifically designed to let filmmakers get those super-trick shots during car chases in the movies. Inside the car being chased were a collection of cameras and mounts to capture the interior perspective, while a directors area adjacent to the track showed the pictures coming back in on a couple of huge TV screens.
Thanks to the arm, which has a gyroscopic gimbal on the end with a camera mounted to it, no shot is too difficult for the crew to capture while packed inside the vehicle. It requires lots of teamwork between vehicles, but the end result shows why these guys work on many of the biggest movies in the business.
Lexus had plenty of their hottest new cars on hand to act as stars of the show, with a Lexus GSF in the Russian Arm ring, a trio of LC RCFs hurtling around the very cosy go kart track area and a handful of LC 500s on the main circuit, with the star turn being an eye-popping metallic brown V8 example. The latter area also gave journalists a chance to get behind the wheel and do a turn while trying to emulate the lap times of the pros, although nobody could really touch the one done by sportscar champ Scott Pruett in the RCF GT Concept car.
Later, back at the Casa Clara Mansion, Lexus again reminded us that they’re not only keen to sell cars but to offer a complete lifestyle experience. There was the house to marvel at, with its dazzling array of high-tech fixtures and fittings. There was also an appearance by the Lexus Hoverboard, but the real icing on the cake was the white LC 500 parked in the garage, which Mr Toyoda had earlier fired up and blipped the throttle repeatedly, much to the annoyance of passing neighbours.
Shortly after, a photography shoot at the top of the iconic Miami car park at 1111 Lincoln Road allowed Greg Williams to share more of his tips for capturing premium products and models using lots of smoke and the fading sun on the horizon. The stark concrete pillars and moody lighting allowed even the most inexperienced shooters to get at least one shot.
Staying with the movies, Lexus kept one more trick up their sleeve for the evening event, hosted at the very funky Faena Forum gallery with the reveal of the Lexus Skyjet, from the soon to be released sci-fi action film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Actor Dane DeHaan was up on stage too, though was rather upstaged by the single-seater Skyjet design featuring a distinctive Lexus grille. This admittedly non-working machine comes from a world set 700 years from now and features as the key pursuit vehicle in the new movie. Topping all that off was a supermodel in a Lexus Shape-Shifter dress, which added a neat though slightly surreal twist to the air of innovation going on.
Like many automotive manufacturers, Lexus has been quick to realise that it’s no longer just about selling cars and your customers and fans are no longer just car people. These days, they’re just as likely to be fans of the latest tech, boat owners, culinary enthusiasts and, hell, even skateboard folks. One thing they all share in common though is a taste for style and innovation, for which Through The Lens provided just about the best experience possible.