Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming Auto Racing

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming Auto Racing

Article excerpt

The world of auto racing is an incredibly exciting, colorful, and dangerous sport. The filming of auto racng is equally exciting as well as frustrating. Unlike such events as football, basketball, and baseball, where there are definite parameters and sequences of events, auto racing, particularly road and off-road racing competition is unpredictable due to its very nature. That "nature" features speed, crashes, rain, darkness, areas in which cameras are not allowed, and finally costs of film and crews which prevent a producer from placing a multitude of crews around a course in order to prepare for any eventuality. Since 1968 I have filmed drag, off-road, Formula One, stockcar, Trans-Am, and Indianapolis racing cars, and at each event have never failed to learn something new about racing or filming.

I recently had the opportunity of producing two racing films, one for television and short subject theatrical showing. The first, a 26 minute film for Ford Motor Company entitled 4 WHO RACE, dealt with Ford's re-entry -into,: factory backed auto racing. Filmed at eight different tracks over a five month period, it contrasted with the second film for Datsun competing in the world famous two day BaJa 1000 off-road race held in Mexico's Baja, California.

My initial planning for the Baja film included mounting a camera inside driver Jim Connor's mini-truck during the race to capture check-point and pit stop activities from the driver's point-of-view as well as scenes of the harsh Mexican terrain. However, the difficulty of servicing the camera during the race as well as the heavy pounding the camera would endure changed my thinking. Therefore I decided to film several weeks before the actual race in order to obtain onboard views inside and outside the truck over the difficult terrain. Two's Company, of Hollywood, which specializes in preparing and building cars for commercials and films, was engaged to build camera mounts which would withstand the battering the roads provided. Tom Harkess and his energetic co-workers labored long, hard hours to satisfy my rigging requests in a variety of situations. We eventually drove over half the 800 mile course as we filmed different scenes that would be used to show the toughness of the truck and the skill of the drivers.

We mounted Arriflex S with a 10mm as well as a 5.9mm lens behind driver Jim Connor to give the driver's pointof-view plus action we couldn't film during the race. This was exemplified by our filming in a watery canyon. Using a side camera bracket platform built by Two's Company, and bolted to and projecting from the mini-truck's frame, we mounted a high speed Arriflex SR to catch the action in the canyon of the truck's front wheel crashing through the water. The Arriflex was covered with a water-proof bag and the 10mm lens and filter were protected with optical glass. Leaning out the window of the vehicle opposite the driver, I held a protective cloth in front of the lens as the driver raced to our pre-determined spot. Just before the tire entered the water I pulled back the cloth and started the camera. At 100 frames per second the resultant shot was exciting to see; the front of the truck lurching over the rough terrain, entering the water, and splashing it back into and covering the lens.

To film an on-board camera view of the mini-truck becoming airborne, Two's Company built an incredibly strong triangulated mount from 1/2 and 3/4 inch steel tubing which enabled us to place the Arriflex S low and in front of the right front tire. With the camera facing the rear, we filmed both front and rear tires leaving the ground and then returning to earth featuring a splendid, dusty, rock scattering landing.

We then turned the Arri S and 10mm lens around and pointed it straight ahead of the mini-truck. The resultant rear, low angle view of a dune buggy racing in front of the minitruck, bouncing and sliding through the rough, dusty, rock strewn terrain and then crossing a small stream was one of the highlights of the film. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.