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How to shoot a car at 250mph – Feature


It’s September 8, 2017. Bugatti has just released the latest in a series of teasers on social media to amplify its upcoming 0-400-0kph record run. The video clip goes viral. Who wouldn’t be interested in a post titled ‘0-400km/h in 32.6 seconds’, right? Being told a Bugatti Chiron can do over 400kph (or 250mph…okay, 248.548mph, if you want to be super precise) is one thing, but seeing it get to the figure is quite something else. Almost immediately, the 33-second clip also lights up online forums – as much for the record as for the way it’s presented. The hero car is shown accelerating from a standstill at close quarters in one continuous sequence. Surely that couldn’t have been shot from another car? Or could it? Keyboard warriors are quick with conspiracy theories. But what’s the real story behind the shot? Alistair Clark of UK-based Outrun Films responsible for producing the film talks us through the shoot.

Recorder on

A bit of background first. The idea for a special video was born at the Bugatti Chiron’s media drive, also filmed by Outrun, earlier in 2017. Al and the Bugatti crew wanted to film the 1,500hp Chiron in its element. Creating a 0-400-0kph record was, as Al puts it, the “perfect excuse to do it”. Volkswagen’s expansive Ehra-Lessien test facility, what with its 8.7km straight and sensors that detect animal movement, was the easy pick as the venue of choice for the record run. Setting the record would be ex-F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya. A weekend in August was decided on for the runs.

No overalls, no gloves, no helmet for JPM today. 400kph is a jeans and shirt affair in the Chiron.

What, where, who and when touched upon, let’s now proceed to the essence of this piece – the ‘how?’. “When the video came out and people started saying ‘How did they film that car-to-car?’, we knew they were going to wonder how that happened. It was our little secret,” Alistair jokes. Just about everything was suspected to have been used to make the shot – a jet car, a jet bike, and a camera on a cable even. A Koenigsegg and a Nissan GT-R were also on the list of probables, though commenters felt they found the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle when a photo of a Toyota Supra with a camera rigged to the back emerged online. A 1,000hp Supra wasn’t it either, though Al, himself a Japanese car nut, understands why the photo threw people off. “If you get really nerdy about it, the camera was at the right height. One of the camera members of the team who filmed owned a Supra, so that fuelled the fire. And even in the background, the benches are very German!”

The Chiron (on the left) was the hero behind the scenes.

So what was it? Drum roll, please…it was another Chiron! The world’s most expensive support car. “I couldn’t believe that there was just a minority of people thinking there was another Chiron. But then think about…”Oh, they’ve just casually got another Chiron?” Alistair quips. The video had to be authentically showing real speed. A Chiron it had to be. In fact, a third Chiron mic’d up for sound was also involved!

Lights, camera…

MPVs with their low floors, wide-opening tailgates and spacious boots make great tracking cars. Hypercars don’t. Obviously, there’d be no one manually handling a camera at the back. Doing the job would be a remote-operated drone camera (without the rotors) rigged to the Bugatti via a complex array of pivot arms and suction mounts. Special care had to be taken to position the setup in a dead area at the rear, where the force of the air would be minimal. I don’t think we’d have seen the film had the camera been flopping about in the airstream at 400kph.

The filming rig had to be precisely positioned out of the air flow.

The sheer volume of the air being pushed by the cars brought other challenges as well. Recalling an untimed filming run earlier in the day, Al says, “Our car tops off at 400kph. Juan Pablo carries on until 420kph. When Juan Pablo went past, our car was pushed half a lane towards the barrier. We went from having lots of space to only having a half a car’s width to the barrier.”

The Chiron can go on to a top speed of 420kph.

I know from experience how hard it is to shoot a steady speed car-to-car shot. Capturing an acceleration run from a standstill? That’d require god-level coordination. Al discloses: “We did six timed runs to get the car-to-car shot. Getting the cars to launch at exactly the same moment was hard.” Impressively, the cars stayed in formation post-launch. Impressive because the tracking car was running heavier, with the camera operator on the co-driver seat. The team had got their money shot.

On the editing table

Back at HQ, Outrun noticed some blur in the video, later found to be caused by the lead Chiron’s exhaust gases. But that was the only glitch. “When we saw the shot of the single car accelerating, we almost thought of making that the film. For a moment there was an edit floating around that was just that run.” Al tells us. The incredible car-to-car shot turned out so smooth that Outrun decided to reintroduce some camera shake to dial up the drama in the final edit.

 

The final 0-400-0kph film combines the car-to-car tracking with insets of the speedometer as well as footage from trackside, in-car and helicopter cameras. Set to a theatric soundtrack, the 2:22 video beautifully captures the 41.96sec record run and the surrounding drama. At last count, the video had over 44 million views on YouTube.

Koenigsegg was quick to break Bugatti’s 0-400-0kph record but Al believes the feat of fastest car-to-car tracking shot will probably remain unchallenged. “Realistically, it was probably the only time it was going to happen. Bugatti is now moving away from top-speed runs. So unless someone goes and does it somewhere else, that might forever be one of the fastest real-life car-to-car shots. I don’t think any race car would go so fast, and they certainly won’t be filming it the same way we did,” a jubilant Al signs off.



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