By now you’ve probably seen Volvo Truck’s ‘The Epic Split’ spot featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which has rocketed to more than 51 million views on YouTube alone. The impressive stunt was months in the planning, a collaboration between agency Forsman Bodenfors and Folke Film. We take a look behind the scenes of the commercial.
The idea: “We wanted to show the full potential of Volvo Dynamic Steering, a world-first innovation,” Folke Film told fxguide. “So before we started the creative work, we interviewed the engineers that invented the system. In the middle of this interview one of the engineers said, “By the way, the other day I reversed with a truck and a trailer at high speed. I didn’t think it was possible, but with the new steering…” And there it was. Then we started to think about what could happen between two reversing trucks. When the idea to do a split came up, Jean-Claude Van Damme was the obvious choice.”
Planning: Folke Film researched the stunt for around five months. This included testing, building a safety system to support Van Damme and practising with the drivers.
On location: The spot was filmed on a newly constructed airport in Ciudad Real, Spain, that was not yet open for traffic. “We wanted road that was absolutely straight for as long as possible,” adds Folke. “And a smooth surface in great condition, preferably in a closed off area so we could work and prepare undisturbed.”
That location initially seemed ideal, but once shooting begun the production realised that the runway was slightly convex (a feature built-in so that rain would run off quickly). “This made it even more difficult for the truck drivers,” says Folke. “Apart from keeping the exact distance from each other, they also had to compensate for the gradient. The drivers from Volvo Trucks did an incredible job.”
Shooting the stunt: An ARRI Alexa was used for the all-in-one shot mounted on a Scorpio Arm Camera Car. Since the commercial shows an early morning sun, that left only a small 15 minute window to shoot. Van Damme was supported with a system of wires attached to his body. “But the wires was just for safety reasons, it didn’t affect the test or the stunt itself,” notes Folke. “In addition, on each of the two side mirrors we built a small platform, one for each foot, for Mr. Van Damme to stand on.”
Post: “Since all was done in one take, the edit was almost ready on set,” explains Folke. Once we had the shot it was just a matter of finding when we wanted to open up and when we wanted to end the scene.”
“We did the grade with The Mill, the colourist worked magic with the look,” adds Folke. “But Ed Wild, our DoP, and his team had paved the way so it was hard not to succeed. And after that the safety rig and wires were removed (by Swiss Stockholm), purely for aesthetic reasons. The tricky part was that when we tracked out in the shot and had the safety rig against the sky. And of course there was some reflections on the trucks that we needed to get rid of.”
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
Account handlers: Olle Victorin, Cilla Pegelow, Britta Malmberg
Art directors: Anders Eklind, Sophia Lindholm
Copywriters: Björn Engström, Martin Ringqvist
Agency producer: Alexander Blidner
Production company: Folke Film
Producer: Joi Persson
Director: Andreas Nilsson
DoP: Ed Wild
Post-production: Swiss Stockholm
Grade: The Mill
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