(PG) 3 1/2 stars A critic once said of the VH1 series Behind the Music, “The show is so good it even made Tony Orlando seem interesting.” My reaction to NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience is similar. I have never given a rat’s ass about auto racing, but the new 47-minute documentary is jazzy enough that it not only held my attention, but even left me considering tuning in to one of the races. Vroom, vroom: NASCAR in 3D Of course, to do that I’ll need to come to grips with my prejudice against the yee-haw good ole boy types long associated with the sport, both in the stands and behind the wheel. I know that NASCAR has gone upscale, but I still associate it with folks like the country cousins from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies. NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, uses knockout 3D photography to plant viewers right inside a car during a race. It shows how the amazing vehicles are constructed and introduces some of the biggest names in the business. No one driver is given special attention, though the late Dale Earnhardt is referred to in tones normally reserved for Elvis and Jesus. The film offers a brief history of the sport as well. Did you know it originated with bootleggers that grew bored outrunning the police and looked for a new use for their souped-up cars? To provide viewers a visceral racing experience, it was vital to shoot from the inside of a car in motion, but how? The IMAX 3D camera is massive, cumbersome and very heavy. To make matters worse, while average 350 millimeter cameras shoot 10-minute film rolls, the IMAX camera takes 17 minutes to load and shoots only three minutes of film at a time. Adjustments had to be made. Accordingly, a NASCAR car was created with a suspension equipped to handle the 600-pound weight of the 3D camera. Removable panels allowed shooting from the driver’s point of view, along with several other angles. In addition, the production adapted an existing, specially rigged race car — normally used for shooting racing-related commercials — to mount the camera and remote head onto the front, while counterbalancing it with lead weights on the back. The result allowed cinematographer James Neihouse to film by remote control as the rigged vehicle traveled as fast as 165 mph. “I was concentrating on a little monitor as I operated the camera,” Neihouse states in the press notes, where I cribbed this information. “Occasionally, I’d look up and we’d be right in the middle of a pack of cars going at breakneck speed. I’m thinking, ‘Can we fit through that hole? Oh, I guess we just did!’” Shots deemed too risky to attempt in live racing situations were accomplished in a controlled environment, using the rigged car along with stock cars and drivers provided by the “Richard Petty Driving Experience.” Man, I loved their song, “Turbo-charging Along the Watchtower.” The outcome of the teams’ efforts is authentic, according to third generation NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. “It’s really exciting and really loud, which is exactly what it’s like when you’re inside the car.” A pop Quiz 1. While the bootlegger chase scene is performed by stunt drivers — including two veterans of The Dukes of Hazzard — the moonshiner behind the wheel and his partner are played by: A. NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. B. NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience director Simon Wincer and N Sync singer Lance Bass C. Wynonna Judd and Nick Nolte. 2. At the end of the bootlegger chase scene, we get a good look at the two pursuing lawmen. In real life, the driver and his deputy are: A. Breaking Away papa Paul Dooley and actor/racer Jason Priestley. B. Mike Helton, president of NASCAR, and Gary Nelson, NASCAR’s managing director of competition. C. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking and guitarist/cootchie-cootchie girl Charo. 3. From this review, I should remember: A: The interesting information about the camera placement in the cars B: NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience is a rip-roaring glimpse at racing well worth a look. C: In the right circumstances, Tony Orlando can be interesting. Answer Key: 1=A; 2=B, 3=A, B and C.

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