Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Window into the Soul: Mazda's KODO - The Soul of Motion Upclose

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Countless driving events have been done, each touting a specific aspect of a new car. However, none has emphasized the beauty of its design. Though certain makes and models could pioneer such an activity, none could be a more fitting subject as Mazda’s current line-up. Imbued with KODO – The Soul of Motion, the CX-5, Mazda6, and Mazda3 all share the sculpted look that evokes a sense of movement. It’s a visual representation of beauty and tension that’s seen in the split-second a predator pounces on its prey. In that frozen moment, it’s expressive, emotional, and strong—traits that tie in perfectly with Mazda’s heritage.

Mazda has always considered a car to be more than just a mass of metal. Mazda has worked continuously, refining its design all based on the concept of movement. It drastically moved forward with the evocative ‘Zoom-zoom’ brand message which incorporated the theme of “motion inspired by nature”. KODO takes over by shaping things into something more organic that makes the car seem like a living creature. The reason behind it is simple: Mazda wants to create an emotional bond between driver and car in the spirit of Jinba ittai or horse and rider as one.

With design studios in three continents, Mazda presented the Shinari, a concept that embodies the purest form of KODO. The name itself describes the appearance of great resilient force when an object of high tensile strength is subjected to twisting or bending forces. This is followed by the Minagi and Takeri which inspired the CX-5 and the Mazda6/Mazda3 respectively. All of them, regardless whether it was concept or production, incorporate the expression of a strong backbone running through the body, the sudden release of pent-up energy, and the interplay of beautiful yet supple movements.

The KODO Drive challenge isn’t about doing the fastest lap or consuming the least amount of fuel or getting the most Facebook likes; it’s about capturing the essence of KODO. Armed with digital cameras, teams have to photograph their respective Mazda vehicles keeping three themes in mind: Basic Pose, Detail, and KODO in Motion. The categories are self-explanatory, but it’s still a daunting challenge given the 45-minute time limit per exercise as well as the expected jostling for the perfect photo backdrop.

Thankfully, nothing has been left to chance. Mazda asked the help of renowned car photographer Mikko David, whose work graced several covers of the country’s best-selling car magazine, to hold a refresher of what makes a great car photo. He reminded everyone that automotive photography is a specialized field the same way fashion, portrait, or food photography is. Everything starts out with the basics: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (getting the technical bits right); only to get more and more intermediate covering topics such as color correctness, lighting uses, and even creative techniques such as the Dutch Tilt. Some could certainly pick up the lessons at a quicker pace than others, but in the end, everyone had a deeper appreciation of what those little buttons, knobs, and what-have-you dials at the back of their cameras do.

For those who didn’t have access to more advanced photography equipment, Mazda enlisted Fujifilm as a partner to provide teams with their X30, their newest large-sensor premium compact camera. It may be small, but it comes packing a 12.0-megapixel X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a built-in F2.0-2.8 Bright Fujinon Optical 4x zoom lens and the fastest, largest, and highest resolving electric viewfinder in its class. Of course, those who feel more comfortable using their personal digital cameras did so. After all, there’s a saying in the automotive journalism circle that goes, “It’s not the pana (bow), it’s the Indian.”

Assigned the Mazda3 Speed (and the 2.0R for the KODO in Motion part), the result of the shoot is the very photos you see gracing this page. It sounds cliché, but ‘letting the photos do the talking’ is certainly the appropriate expression to use this time around. Despite the limitation in time, some of these shots turned out surprisingly good. What’s more important is the deeper appreciation everyone had not just with KODO but with the field of automotive photography as well (it’s a lot harder than you think).

With every walk around, every look, every inspection, and every click of the camera, the beauty of Mazda’s design shines through. From the CX-5 to the Mazda6 to the Mazda3, they all exude the vitality of a living being just waiting to be captured on that perfect shot. At every angle, they evoke the tension that presages movement, imbuing each and every car with the warmth of a creature with a beating heart and blood through its veins. This is the unmistakable form of KODO – Soul of Motion, the soul that forms the foundation of every new Mazda.

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