December 02, 2020
What it’s really like to shoot sports car content
We’ve had the chance to create great content with some of the best sports cars in the world — here’s how it went.
Over the years, we’ve been involved in many different projects with all types of clients and products. But there’s nothing quite like the opportunity to produce content with super cars from the likes of Porsche and McLaren.
Shooting high-performance motor vehicles is always a unique experience with its own set of rules and challenges. It’s not easy, but it most certainly is exciting!
Here are some takeaways about making super cars look as good as they should.
When you hear the words super car, the first thing that comes to mind are glossy shots of a car speeding down a scenic road, lens flare, rich saturated colours and intense close up shots of its interior, engine, exhaust and drifting, smoking wheels. There is no room for making a super car look anything less than its hyper-expensive price tag.
Take, for example, this video we created for the 2018 Porsche World Roadshow in Sepang, Malaysia, where we showed off the design and performance of several different Porsche models.
In 2018, we also worked with Porsche to produce a Porsche Carpool with tennis star Angelique Kerber. Clearly inspired by the beloved “Carpool Karaoke” hosted by James Corden, the commercial saw Singaporean host Paul Foster engaging with Angelique in light-hearted conversation and learning about her personality.
By taking the focus away from the car and placing it on Angelique, the commercial becomes less in-your-face and more palatable to the casual viewer. At the same time, the brief shots of the car driving down the roads subliminally highlight the features and performance of the car.
For our McLaren commercial, “Behind the Wheel in Singapore”, we once again drew inspiration from “Carpool Karaoke”. This time, information about the McLaren 720S is delivered through the conversation between the men, as they banter about the car’s performance, comfort, and design.
Every shoot may be different, but there are threads of similarity between most of them. Here are some tips and tricks we have to share from our experience with McLaren and Porsche.
Don’t underestimate the power of planning
This is where the magic begins. We develop a vision along with our clients, and bring it to life through careful planning and storyboarding.
They say no plan survives the first shot but they are crucial to making sure that the entire process goes as smoothly as possible — and that all expectations (the clients’, ours and most importantly the viewers) are met. Storyboarding also gives the director and cameramen references to work with, which can speed up the filming process.
Jeremy Mackie, the Director and Director of Photography (DoP) for several of our Porsche shoots, highlights the importance of knowing what you want to shoot and how to go about it. “You have to use as many tools as you can to get the shots that make the viewers feel like they’re driving the car,” he said.
According to our Production Manager Kartini Deffahry, it’s extremely important to “do your research and create a shotlist for every good camera angle, we essentially break the car into its parts. Absolutely every angle of the car needs to be covered.”
Scouting and recce
Whether you’re filming indoors in the showroom, or outdoors on the roads, it’s important to scout out the area prior to filming — for everything.
For example, did you know that in Singapore, some roads require permits to be filmed on? That, and it’s also important to make sure that the route is safe to drive through — some roads might be emptier at certain times of the day; others might be harassed by dump trucks in the early hours of the morning. You’ll also need to make sure that the area is scenic enough to make a good backdrop for the car.
When it comes to conducting a recce in the showroom, it’s all about identifying the best ways to highlight the features of the car. According to our Digital Content Director Erik Magelssen, who also directed the McLaren shoot, it’s important to find areas in the showroom with nice but consistent lighting, and with enough space for the crew to set up their equipment.
The unpredictability of filming
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are so many unpredictable things you have to plan for. And chief amongst these is the weather. A super car is as much an idea as a piece of engineering. Like a super model, when represented in film it has to be in the best light.
Nothing ruins your filming faster than a downpour when you need clear blue skies for a good shot. Better check the weather forecast, and come up with a wet-weather contingency plan!
Speaking of uncontrollable elements, you’ll also have to work around sunlight if you’re filming outdoors. “It’s best to catch the morning or early afternoon sunlight for the lighting that best complements the car,” says Kartini. The midday sun, on the other hand, is a no-go.
When it comes to filming on the road, there are so many things that could go wrong. “Anything can happen on shoots like these,” said Kartini. “It’s like running a pressure cooker.” Being stopped by traffic police (check for the need for permits beforehand!), accidentally breaking a law (make sure you know and follow the rules of your permit!), or just attracting too much attention — these are all problems that could arise at any time.
There’s a famous story in Australia about a press shoot for a new Ferrari in Western Australia that came undone when the car was booked for speeding and impounded by police due to strict laws about excessive speed.
But here, Singapore’s predominately grey skies make it difficult to bring out colours and contrast.
Have you ever wondered how we get shots like these? Here’s the secret: we set up equipment and cameras in a tracking car, and drive it alongside the car we’re filming.
Good equipment will definitely help you get those clean shots, but aside from that, you’ll also need to get a tracking car with good suspension to help you navigate the roads with minimal shaking.
And if you truly want to get some amazing cinematic shots of the cars, using drones to capture footage is a must. But before you get too excited, remember to look into the drone laws of the country, in many places, especially urban settings flying a drone is highly regulated. In Singapore, drone pilots need to acquire a permit, and you can’t fly drones over people or crowds.
Now that many luxury car brands post their content on social media, it’s very likely that you’ll be asked to create different formats for the same video. Different social media platforms require different video formats, dimensions, and orientations, and you’ll need to account for these in the editing process.
(If you like seeing this content, make sure you click on the ads in your feed, you’ll start getting served up lots, even if you’re not even close to being able to afford one of these beauties.)
This doesn’t just affect post-production — you’ll probably need to take this into account when you’re filming, too. “It’s important to take into account vertical or horizontal video frames,” said Kartini.
Spoiling a bit of the movie magic, Jeremy revealed that sound design can play a huge role. “Sometimes, the cars aren’t as fast as they seem. It’s really the sound design that does a lot to make them seem fast,” he laughed.
According to Meng Kim Yap, our video editor, it’s about making do with what you have. To make the video more dynamic, he suggests playing with speed ramps — which involves speeding up or slowing down the video — and transitions.
“Look through all of the footage,” he added. “You may need every subtle frame to help you enhance your video.”
For Erik, film shoots are all about rolling with the punches. “You’re not always going to get the ideal circumstances,” he said. “You have to make do, and a lot of times you’ll have to fix it in editing.”
Kartini believes that her biggest takeaway is the importance of prep and research. “You have to know the car in order to know what aspects of it to highlight,” she said. Plus, it’s important to know how to work with your budget and legal constraints.
Lastly, it’s not enough to just capture ‘beauty shots’ of the car. “Anyone can do that,” Kartini emphasised. “To make a super car stand out, you have to capture the experience of it!”
And Jeremy agrees. “You need to use as many tools as you can to show the viewers the experience and the thrill of driving the car, that you can’t get anywhere else.”
To aspiring filmmakers who have trepidations about filming a car commercial for the first time, Jeremy has some words of advice as well. “Embrace fear,” he said smilingly, “it’ll always be in the passenger seat, so why not just bring it for the ride?”
Want us to shoot an insane car commercial (or any commercial) for you? Contact our Digital Content Director Erik today at [email protected].
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