TT3D: Closer to the Edge Review

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by Steve Withers Jan 30, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    TT3D: Closer to the Edge Review

    3D brings you closer to the hedge!

    TT3D: Closer to the Edge is one of those documentaries that does exactly what its title suggests and shows you the world famous TT motorcycle race up close and in 3D. For those that can’t make the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man to watch the race live or perhaps don’t want to for fear of their own safety, this film offers the next best experience.

    This British produced documentary was, perhaps not surprisingly, made in conjunction with CinemaNX, the film production and distribution company that was set up by the Isle of Man government. The film was directed by Richard de Aragues and covers the 2010 TT races using a combination of native 3D cameras and some archive and in-race 2D footage. The film is narrated by actor Jared Leto and charts the build up to the 2010 races and then documents each of the five races and their results.

    For those that are unfamiliar with the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Race, it is a motorcycle racing event held annually on the Isle of Man and for many years it was the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world. The current course covers 37.73 miles, winding its way through the streets and roads of the Isle of Man and there are four preliminary races before the final Senior TT race. What makes the TT unique and so incredibly dangerous, is that the racers are traveling at 200mph through narrow, twisting streets, roads and lanes that are flanked by stone walls and even houses. No wonder there have been so many deaths during the race’s 100 year history.

    The film primarily follows five of the principle racers - Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson, John McGuinness and Conor Cummins - interviewing them to gain an insight into what drives them to take part in one of the most dangerous races in the world. It is these interviews and the racers’ reckless dedication and extreme risk taking in pursuit of becoming ‘King of the Mountain’ that gives the film its emotional core. These interviews reveal a group of men (and women) who will risk everything in the pursuit of their dreams and also gives a look into the world of these adrenaline junkies who live and breathe racing. The film shows how they fund their activities through sponsorship, as well as how they develop the bikes and how they prepare mentally and physically for a race as dangerous and demanding as the TT.

    Whilst their dedication and commitment is never in any doubt, the majority of the racers suffer from being rather boring and uncomfortable on camera, so the documentarians must have dropped to their knees in thanks when they first interviewed Guy Martin. Quite simply, Martin is the star of the film and his good looks, charisma and ease in front of camera really bring a much needed sense of fun to the proceedings. Guy Martin is something of a maverick in the racing world but his infectious sense of humour and unique outlook on life immediately warm you to him, even if he is slightly bonkers. It is his quest for victory at almost any cost that gives the film its narrative drive and as you begin to realise the risks involve you start to wonder if Martin will still be around by the final credits.

    The film also spends a great deal of time interviewing those on the periphery of the race, specifically the families of the racers and the toll that their obsession takes on their personal lives. There are also interviews with the organisers, the locals and the fans, many of whom come from all over the world. The film reveals how for more than 100 years, riders and spectators have flocked to the Isle of Man in search of thrills, glory and triumph. Through the narration and the riders own voices, the film explains how the TT has always required a commitment far beyond any other racing event, and since the race began over 200 people have made the ultimate sacrifice in their quest for glory. The 2010 races were no exception and the film cleverly mentions early on that there were fatalities that season, thus generating a great deal of real tension as the the final race approaches.

    The film was shot using native 3D rigs based on two Red One cameras and the results are often spectacular. The camera rig was attached to a bike to give the audience a feel for what it is like to ride around this course at 200mph and the adrenaline pumping results are incredibly effective. There are also 3D cameras at the actual races getting amazing footage of the bikes roaring past the camera only a couple of feet away. It makes you realise how unbelievably dangerous the race is, there are no safety barriers, no run off areas and if you make a mistake the consequences will most likely be fatal. Whilst most of the film is in 3D it should be noted that some of the material is in 2D, primarily where the filmmakers have had to use footage shot by other people or where they have used archive footage of some truly horrendous crashes. Obviously the 3D camera rigs are far too big to be attached to a bike during actual racing but there is plenty of other 3D footage of the races to make up for that. The interviews are all conducted using the 3D cameras and are carefully composed for the format, as are some beautiful 3D shots of the course itself and the rugged vistas on the Isle of Man. There are a couple of instances where the filmmakers convert 2D images into 3D, particularly in the case of still images from one spectacular crash that wasn't caught on video.

    There’s no question that the use of 3D technology gives the documentary a visceral immediacy, especially to the race footage, that mere 2D couldn’t possibly convey. The 3D visuals and the immersive surround sound really places you in the middle of the race and the sense of speed and danger is conveyed with remarkable clarity. That’s not to say that watching the film in 2D is a pointless experience but 3D has to be the preferred format. As with Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, it is exciting to see documentarians using 3D in order to give their audience an experience that they otherwise never could have had.

    In the end, TT3D: Closer to the Edge is a fantastic documentary that gives you a fascinating insight into the world of professional motorcycle racers and the kind of mentality that is prepared to take these incredible risks. It also shows you, in no uncertain terms, just how fast, exciting and ultimately incredibly dangerous the Isle of Man TT really is. This is undoubtedly as close to being in the actual race as most people would want to be but thanks to the use of 3D cameras we are afforded a rare opportunity to see what it’s like from the comfort and safety of our sofa.

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