Just thought this job deserved a few notes on its production...
This was a real, single day event, unscripted and with non-actors on a very tight budget and a very international crew. We only had one shot on the track, Tough hard outs for the talent, erratic weather, and a car we didn’t even see for the first time until the night before shooting. Not to mention a track we barely had access to scout. And the car was one-of-a-kind, which meant if a driver bought it, the whole thing was a done deal.
The shoot had to be constructed as a decentralized, complete team effort. Everyone played a role with true opportunity for creative expression through his or her duties on set. I had complete faith in my crew and the planning that went into filming this.
The concept had the potential to go into a competitive, “reality TV show” kind of territory, which I thought would be a huge mistake given the nature of the track and the talent we had to work with. So instead, we treated the production like an epic race film, something between Senna and Rush. Cinematic dreams. Cinematic speed. Cinematic drama.
The sheer density of the day forced us to shoot multiple cameras at once, covering multiple pieces of content at any given time. The core narrative was portrayed through two cameras – one handheld operated by one of the best DP/Operators I know, Ed David, and one on steadicam. Both Cams were F55s for both its dynamic range and its ability to capture quick shifting colors. The handheld doc cam worked Nikon zooms to build a nice, archival photography feel, while the steadicam was shooting the Angeniux 15-40mm zoom for flexibility. Ed set the tone for all cams on the shoot knowing that ‘archival’ was the aesthetic we were going for.
The racing itself needed to be real. There were no do-overs. This meant we had to add 5 more cameras to ensure we captured that reality in a cinematic way. There were two interior cams: the rear seat mounted F55 with a Super Speed 18mm and the passenger seat profile cam, which became a Blackmagic 4K shooting a Canon 16-35mm 2.8 zoom when we found out the F55 wouldn’t fit in the space effectively. There was a helmet mounted GoPro cam set to ProTune for cheap and easy POV energy. We also used 3 more Blackmagic 4Ks on the exterior mounts – two shooting Canon 16-35mm zooms and the grill POV cam shooting an Ultra Prime 16mm. The mounts themselves were custom-made pressure mounts, since the car’s matte wrap did not allow us to use any suction cups. The grip team on this job was top rate. The talented Joachim Thörnqvist headed the Technical Photography. All Blackmagics were set to Pro Res HQ. Setting an exposure that worked over the weather-varied, 7.02km track was a crap shoot.
We shot these exterior mounts during the drivers’ hot, introduction laps in the morning. Pan and Parker had never raced Spa before and they needed to experience it off the clock to ensure their safety. These intro laps represent our only “Hollywood” departure from reality for the sake of some dynamic b-roll. For the actual races themselves, the two interior cams stayed put but the exterior cams were removed and placed at various, key spots on the track. Clean, powerful lines are what this car was all about and I wanted to make sure I covered it. Again, time was very limited and the races could only happen once per driver in the afternoon. The track placed cams had to function as catch-alls.
Finally, we had a Red Dragon mounted on a drone to give us some aerial coverage of the cars hitting the Eau Rouge turn. Shortly after a few practice runs, during which we got a few aerial shots of the track, the drone blew up. The only back up we had was a smaller drone shooting GoPro. The GoPro footage gave a nice vantage point put it didn’t match our other footage well, so the solution to use it was to turn it into an on-screen hologram built into the HUD graphics. The minimal graphics were done by the ridiculously talented Important Looking Pirates in Stockholm, Sweden.
The weather at Spa is notorious. It rains, it’s wet, and minutes later it’s bone dry. This shoot was controlled chaos. It was intense. The rain was an enormous curveball that actually added to the story and it gave me a chance to up the drama. Real concern for the drivers, nerves, and something to prove for racing.
All shoots are fun but this one was pretty special. After wrapping I took a victory lap on the track riding a crappy Vespa just to follow the skid marks of some brave men and women. I’m pretty sure I set a track record.
The shoot was produced by B-Reel Stockholm by Leila Falkenberg and Ronald Meier for TBWA Hong Kong. Sami Thessman was the ECD, Ric Dunn was the copywriter, and Annie Reyes produced for TBWA HK.
The film was cut by Alex Hagon with The Circus, mixed at Red Pipe and graded by Ola at Short Cuts in Stockholm, Sweden.
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