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Wacky Races: Rogue Films jumps aboard The Grand Tour Rally

Wacky Races: Rogue Films jumps aboard The Grand Tour Rally

In celebration of Season 2 of Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour, social media stars took to roads across the world in The Grand Tour Rally cars. To fuel their favourite driver to victory, fans were encouraged to Tweet or Re-Tweet hashtags in support of the rally.

Rogue Films had to fasten their seat belts too. Working for Niche, Twitter’s in-house agency, and ultimately on behalf of Amazon Prime, the production company followed a similar format to an episode of The Grand Tour albeit with Twitter creators in place of the three familiar hosts.

“Visually, it couldn't be too much of a departure so we aimed to make our episodes feel as close as possible to the show - overly stylised segments included,” explains cinematographer Tom Welsh who partnered with producer Rob Jelley on the job.

The pair accompanied the social media influencers racing from Edinburgh to Monza in Italy, via Silverstone, in electric-powered rally cars.

They then all flew to Mexico for a final thrilling street race through Mexico City. Along the way the drivers had to perform challenges – such as having an electric shock to their legs if their heartrate dipped below a certain pace.

Explains Jelley, “The plan was to create a short 30 second film each day focussed on the story of the journey and the particular challenges but these crept up to a minute and by the time we got to Mexico we made a 2.5 minute piece since we couldn’t pack it all in without losing a sense of narrative.”

“We placed six Panasonic GH4's as minicams inside the host’s vehicles and took a DJI Inspire 2 and a DJI Mavic, plus a number of GoPros,” explains Welsh. “We took an A7SII as B-Cam on a gimbal although in hindsight, a GH4/5 would've been better for this as we used it more than expected.”

The minicam rigs were the same ones (with the same crew) as the team use on the main series - so these were paramount to achieving the same look and feel.

“Since we were cutting and delivering content on the road I picked the Panasonic EVA1 to match easily when grading,” says Welsh who turned to VMI to supply the camera which was hot off the production line. “That was the first foremost reason but I've been wanting to shoot with a Varicam LT for a while too - so that was up as an option. The EVA won in terms of portability with a pretty close feature set too. Often, I'd go for an Alexa Mini in this situation but the nature of our small travel crew meant I didn't have a dedicated camera assistant and switching from car rig to mobile could've proved timely.”

They shot 4K for hero shots and HD when on a tight deadline just for ease of working through selects. In terms of lens, Welsh used the Canon 30-105/T2.8 cine zoom exclusively. “This setup worked excellently for the tracking car setup, which I used the EVA1 for primarily,” he says. “The new V-Log of the sensor took a bit of getting used to in terms of exposure, often reminding myself to keep checking the waveform on the camera monitor than rely solely on my SmallHD 5.

“I used to shoot a lot of FS7 and the EVA1 is very close to the FS5 ergonomically. I like working handheld with a camera at chest level, similar to a TLR (twin lens reflex) stills camera. Annoyingly the side handle rosette on the EVA1 couldn't support the weight of the body with the Canon cine-zoom on it, however, I believe Panasonic have since remedied this issue with an upgraded replacement part.” [Note that this has now been upgraded on all EVA 1 cameras].

The nature of delivering for Twitter in the week of Season 2 release meant social media was intrinsic to the project. The project’s DIT/editor, Taylor spent most of the two weeks in the back of a splitter van, ingesting and cutting as footage was shot.

One downside here is that because of the new camera and codec, we were forced to use the (then, brand new) Adobe Premiere 2018 on similarly brand new MacBook Pros - so we inevitably encountered a few bugs with first gen software and new hardware,” informs Welsh.

A short film of The Grand Tour Rally was finished at Envy.

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