Lexus Elevate

Lexus: Elevate

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UNIT9 partnered with Lexus and Team One to create “Elevate,” a cinematic VR experience starring Christian Vande Velde, who talks about his love for cycling, his life experiences, and ‘why he rides’.

Viewers see the world from Christian’s perspective, as he rides through a 360º view of the iconic mountains in Malibu. Using groundbreaking technology and camera work that is unique in VR cinema, you get a unique and unprecedented perspective of what cycling means to people like Christian.

“Lexus Elevate combines our passion for innovative technology and superior performance – characteristics that pro cyclists and fans appreciate. This film illustrates the effort and determination needed to become the best.”

Brian Smith, Lexus Marketing Vice President

“People who like to do extreme sports are 100% committed, there’s nothing else going on: there’s only one thing that exists and that’s riding your bike.”

Christian Vande Velde, Professional Cyclist

Before the finish line, before the podiums, before the accolades there is the training. Hours, months and years of solitary suffering and work on lonely roads. In our immersive cycling film we experience what it means to train and ride like a pro cyclist.

Lexus has always taken an innovative approach to everything they have done and to celebrate their sponsorship of the two premier cycling events they commissioned this film to premiere at Colorado’s US Pro Tour Challenge.

We wanted to make a film that explores this simple question, Why Ride, and decided our story should focus on the experiences of Christian because he is someone who spent a lot of time cycling in the location where we would film, and is an ex-world champion cyclist as well as a major force in the Tour de France.

We didn’t want to focus only on Christian the professional, but really capture Christian as a full human, Christian the young kid, Christian the amateur cyclist, Christian the father, husband, etc.

“Over the past year immersive technologies have wowed audiences with technical prowess but most experiences rely on gimmicks rather than storytelling and narrative. We saw this project as an opportunity to tell a personal story of a great athlete and show our client’s support for cycling and all road users.”

Alastair Green, Executive Creative Director

We filmed Christian during sunrise and sunset over three days using our own custom-built 360º camera rig. This allowed our crew to capture steady shots of Christian, with the camera attached to the bike or Christian himself.

Creating our camera angles, we were inspired by the massive cycling community on YouTube, who film their own rides on a weekly or daily basis. The second part is the edit, the majority of the VR projects out there use a single take approach – and they often go with the first-person POV approach.

For Elevate, we knew from the beginning that editing would be essential to bring this story to life. We all wanted to go for an experience that lives somewhere between a traditional film and a modern VR experience, with the best elements from both. Our story is about one man’s life, all of it, not just one small section.

We were focused throughout the project on on having a sense of chronology in our film, where you experience the story from sunrise to sunset. Within VR, this is unusual, that sense of time changing visually.

Post Production

Because of the rough terrain, it would have been impossible to capture Christian traveling at 40 mph on a carbon fibre frame bike, if we did not also have some very heavy post-production work done, including post-stabilising of the footage.

We had to stabilise and perfect shaky footage. It involved many hours of complicated stitching and finely detailed painting across three minutes of material for all six of our GoPros.

It took finely detailed work to remove all of our camera equipment (and their shadows) from view, through frame-by-frame painting across more than 3 minutes worth of material.

“The beautiful location, the calm meditative voice, the sense of movement and building tension from the music – it’s really about creating an emotional, beautiful film that motivates you to ride.”

Anrick Bregman, Interactive Director

Music & Sound

Music is half the picture.

The work done by Plan8 created a perfect companion piece to the visuals  – very early on in the process. Everyone who heard the music had this immediate sense that “this is the music’.

And having that music early on helped us focus – it set the tone for us on-set, and it created a very clear structure to work to from the moment we got into the edit.

The result is a combination of several layers, stereoscopic sound design responsive to where the viewer is looking, the calm meditative narration, the sense of movement and the tension that the music builds – together they create a truly impactful VR sound experience.

VR as a Medium

Virtual Reality as a medium is really about releasing the viewer from a limited perspective. You can look anywhere, you can make your own version of this film, because you have the freedom to have it be different every single time.
For Elevate, we wanted to go further than the VR work that is already out there. And rather than be purely innovative in the medium of VR itself, we wanted to create something that would feel innovative for the cycling community specifically.

Lexus Elevate proves you don’t need to sacrifice story to work with VR technology. A result made possible through a collaborative effort from client, to agency, all the way to the production teams. and of course, … our cyclist Christian Vande Velde.

“Lexus has pushed the boundaries once again and their latest project mixes virtual reality with filmmaking technology.”


Lexus Elevate is the next step in VR Filmmaking. Proof that the VR medium is a truly credible storytelling technology.

“I want to thank your wildly talented team – it was truly an awesome experience and one that I want to replicate ASAP.”

Al Green - ECD Team One