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Capturing The Ultimate Test Drive: A Conversation With Fluid Film’s Founder Paul Barranco

By: Marjorie Galas

Imagine spending 110 days on the road, driving over 18,000 miles as you circled through  thirty-three US states and four Canadian Provinces.   For producer Paul Barranco and the crew at his company, Fluid Films, clocking this kind of mileage is just a fraction of what they do to make engaging client content.

A production and development company dedicated to creating “commercial and artistic visions in all forms of media production,” Fluid Films was recently contracted by the Kaleidoscope Agency to create the “Toyota Ever Better Expedition.”  For the project geared towards highlighting complete functionality of Toyota vehicles in every type of driving condition, Barranco and his crew accompanied nine Toyota vehicles and over 140 engineers and team members in a cross country, and cross continent, experiment.  The goal was to expose the vehicles to ultimate temperature and terrain extremes.  The expedition took them through sixty-two cities on the 110 day tour.  While their coverage may be featured in some upcoming commercials and advertisements, this expedition was primarily focused on providing internal Toyota staff and engineers comprehensive video studies.  The staff will use the results primarily to provide the highest quality performance and durability in Toyota vehicles with commercial usage of the cross-country footage as an added bonus.

“It was the ultimate test drive.  They wanted their cars in as many environments as possible, from extreme heat to below freezing, inclines and all sorts of roads,” said Barranco.

Barranco has made a calling card of shooting fast action and extreme conditions.  His first “action” gig was in Fiji covering a world surfing tournament.  Barranco and his crew spent two weeks creating daily five minute webisodes.  The job required speedy turn around in both capturing compelling footage and editing and engaging short form narrative that fully captured the spirit of each day’s events.

“We’d edit on the fly in the field and get it to the audience fast,” recalled Barranco.  “The key is very effective planning.  We really trimmed the fat.”

The success of the webisodes resulted in three more years covering the Fuji surf event, as well as sporting events around the world, including China, Micronesia, New Zealand and Costa Rica.  While Fluid Films is open to any commercial production, their ability to capture intense action for companies, including Subaru, resulted in securing the Toyota Ever Better Expedition.

Prior to starting the production, Barranco met with the agency to review the needs of Toyota and the production schedule.  In addition to the 62 cities, the tour would require stops at twelve Toyota plants, six regional offices, two private distributors and fifty-seven consumer event days.   The tour was broken into a summer and winter leg, with two months off in between.  Barranco and his team spent time outlining their schedule to ensure they would not only be capturing the required automotive footage needed by Toyota, but also some more creative footage that would add interest and atmosphere to the experience – footage that was often shot over the weekends between traveling to new locations.

Recognizing the need to be nimble, Barranco and his team decided the Sony FS 7 (“It has great depth of field,” remarked Barranco), equipped with Prime Lenses made the best camera choice.  The team packed three cameras – two that were regularly utilized and one as a back-up.  They also used thirty Go Pro cameras to cover every possible angle of the automobiles.

“They worked flawlessly,” said Barranco.  “Once one came off a car but was retrieved and still worked fine.”

The first leg of the shoot began and Texas then moved up the East coast, highlighting areas including Tennessee’s “Tail of the Dragon”, a stretch of road that includes 318 curves.  After stopping in Boston, they traveled up to Niagara Falls then went west, traveling up the Rocky Mountains in Colorado hitting 14,000 feet elevation.  They followed with some off-roading as they made their way to Utah and Arches National Park.  After passing through the Grand Canyon, they drove to California’s Death Valley.  After traveling north through California and Oregon, they circled back around ending in the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

The second leg of the tour, or the winter leg, including stops throughout Canada, Nova Scotia, Michigan and Alaska.  Barranco recalls a 253 mile stretch of road that was pure ice in Fairbanks, Alaska – a road generally reserved for semi-trucks.

“The locals were laughing at us.  They thought we were crazy,” said Barranco. ”We had nine Toyotas, a few support vehicles files with tires and extra supplies in case the cars needed them.   Every vehicle made it.”

While keeping the equipment functioning in every temperature extreme was important to Barranco, the safety of his crew was at the top of his list.  Ensuring they had proper clothing for diverse weather conditions, ample hydration and nutrition was always included in the day’s shooting outlines.

“We had a guy in a dogsled taking his shoes off because he couldn’t feel his feet,” said Barranco.  “That’s dangerous to do when it’s minus twenty below zero.  Safety was what I was most concerned about.”

To learn more about Fluid Films and their productions, please visit: