Behind the lens: Shooting the Ford GT feature

What's it like to make an XCAR film? Let producer Nick Wilkinson take you through the process. This time he's looking at our incredible Ford GT feature.

Nick Wilkinson Video Producer / XCAR
Nick Wilkinson is XCAR's Producer, so can either be found huffing serious quantities of exhaust fumes armed with a camera or making a montage of some kind. His background is in video, and as a film and motorsport nut finds himself in heaven most weekdays
Nick Wilkinson
5 min read

Three days prior to this we'd had XCAR's biggest shoot to date, the BMW roadster film. Despite each of those cars being magnificent in their own right, it arguably worked as a dress rehearsal for this day. We has the same location of Castle Combe, the same video crew of four, but this time, three cars: the Ford GT, GT40 and GT70.

Needless to say this was no ordinary day. Every roadworthy Ford to have the honour of the GT moniker bestowed upon it, here in our presence. To our knowledge these three had never been brought together to be filmed. The Mk III GT40 was one of seven in existence, the GT70 one of six. We were humbled to be among royalty for a day, true unicorns.

The blanket of detailed darkening cloud ensured a dramatic backdrop as we grouped the cars together. We began with all three, then just the GT40 and its modern-day relative, the GT. Attempting several different angles, nose to nose proved to me the most striking, a fascinating insight into the aesthetic similarities and differences between the racing legend and its modern inspiration.

Even some light rain could not dent the camaraderie amongst us all, as these machines had an infectious feel on the mood and buoyed us onward. Opening both GT40 and GT up, the engine bay and the bonnet, was a dream shot. I love when supercars do this as they appear otherworldly, out of reach, as if they're about to take flight.

Ford GT40, GT70, and Ford GT: XCAR behind the scenes (pictures)

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We'd brought stacks of equipment to do justice to every aspect of these cars, as each camera is suited to a slightly different purpose. For the static shots we had Ben on the RED armed with some fantastic lenses. The amount of detail you can pick out is truly staggering, which more than justified its cinematic sensor on these stratospheric machines.

Its slow-motion capabilities were also advantageous, as you could break down each of these cars as they glided through the frame down to the tiniest movement, as the RED Scarlet can film 120 frames per second at 2K (full HD). We also had Canon dSLRs and a Panasonic AF101 as assisting cameras, again with the lenses creating beautiful images, but with rolling shutter perhaps not as suited to capturing fast movement.

With more cameramen than cars, you might think this day was a breeze, but we needed to split the team up and ensure everyone was working at full capacity while taking into account the time, as on days like these everything is over before you've even gotten into your stride. Individual details needed to be so thorough, as each car is from a completely different era and designed for different purposes, each exterior and interior so unique. While two of us toiled away on this enviable and infinite task (the more beautiful the car, the harder it is to pull yourself away -- I could spend the entire day without turning the key), the other two focused on capturing the movement and sound of each.

Sound is an aspect often overlooked or under-appreciated, but it is the difference between a bad and good film. It can be easy to get distracted by what you see and overlook the sound, but it's just as important and in the case of cars arguably more difficult to capture.

The GT40's 4.7-litre V8 pumped out a symphony audible throughout the circuit, it echoed for miles and provided the most pleasant soundtrack to work alongside. This is a noise you want to do justice, but picking it up is fairly tricky. The exhaust is the place to be but too close and the noise will overwhelm the mic no matter how low you get your levels. And it will melt. As you can imagine, these things run fairly warm. You also have to remember the wind at these kinds of speeds can become overpowering, especially in the turbulent air behind the car. Gaffer tape is most definitely your friend in this instance; it was a case of trial and error to get the perfect mic placement that allowed us to add some great sound to complement the drama of the visuals.

As you can see from the above, just one small aspect of the film isn't the quickest to capture. Setup changes are often lengthy and cannot be rushed, especially when you realise the cost and rarity of the vehicles being handled.

The day did not go without incident. The Ford heritage shed is fantastic at making sure these cars are in good working condition, they want them to be appreciated out on the road and track where they belong rather than covering dust in a shed. But the mileage and wear that these classics have invariably gone through does make the occasional hiccup unavoidable. The GT70, designed primarily for rallying, had a racing clutch that tended to cause the odd stall. However, after initially running fine, it decided not to start without a booster. As there was also not much sound deadening inside, it made hearing Alex in the interior pieces very difficult and the balance of being able to hear him and not blowing out the sound was a fine one.

It was with 45 minutes left that our mettle was truly tested when the throttle cable decided to come loose on the GT40, with a drag-race feature and passing shots of the cars yet to shoot. Fortunately Ford's talented engineers were on hand and did a remarkable job of getting it running, though by the time the problem was fixed, we had 10 minutes to set up and film the drag race, meaning we had just one shot and needed to maximise every angle to get the coverage we needed. This epitomises a filming day, all the meticulous planning went out of the window.

Although the final product may look effortless, it is often anything but, yet having seen this project from the initial conception to completion, it went as close to the plan as it could. Not only that, but to have driven and been immersed for a day in each one of these living legends, to have seen the faces throughout of all involved, the excitement and the passion that we all hope transmitted through the final product. It may come across as hopelessly cliche, but it was an honour none of us will ever forget. I finished the day exhausted and beaten, but it felt like anything but work.