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Steadicam in NASCAR

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#1 Mike Germond SOC

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 08:55 AM


I am in a unique position. My girl's father is the new Director of Sales and Partnership for Grand-AM Road Racing with NASCAR (ex GM Marketing Director). Besides offering his thousands of contacts from around the globe to me, he has offered to get me a Golf Cart and VIP on-track access before and after a race to shoot Steadicam footage for demo reel purposes. His daughter will obviously be my grip/driver. :P Besides my reel, we had agreed to develop some sort of contract that would allow only Grand-AM to use the footage, and for non-commercial use.

I don't want to screw up this opportunity, so I need some help from the creative minds on this forum. What are your thoughts on Steadicam in NASCAR? What sort of opportunities for unique shots do you think that I might have (besides common shots that could be accomplished regardless of event type)? Any other shot ideas? Cameras best suited for the job? Opportunities to use a hardmount (we talked about vehicle tracking shots at low speeds)? Things I could shoot during a race when track access is denied to me? Have any of you done this before? Best way not to die?

I ask most of these questions because I am NOT a NASCAR fan by any stretch, and have only seen a race while working for ESPN in the pits. I do have a general idea of what goes on, but I'm no expert. They were kind enough to teach me how to dodge cars in the garages ;)

Thoughts are appreciated,
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#2 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 12:04 PM


You've come to the right place. Our own Eric Fletcher is the master of such things & I'm sure he can help out.
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#3 Dave Kanehann SOC

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 01:12 PM

Hi Mike,

Great opportunity congrats. NASCAR can be a tough nut to crack because it is in its own way a very closed community. I was in the same position you were in during the 2004 season when NEXTEL took over the cup, not necessarily a fan but thrown head first. You most likely will become a fan after your experience.

I did a lot of handheld and we tried to do some steadi, but due to our particular productions’ time frame and logistics, we found it to be more beneficial to stay on the shoulder. A couple notes of warning to someone who hasn’t had a lot of “inside the field” experience” a lot of it is common sense but ALWAYS have someone watching your back. The cars enter and exit the track to the garages at high speeds and are not designed to break or even avoid cameramen Steadi or not. Ear protection is key. There is always a Red/Green signal at the entrance to the track that lets you know when a car is coming into the garage area keep one eye on it but don’t count on it always have an escape path. It is like a bad game of Frogger. Dodging the cars is your responsibility.

You have a lot of great shot opportunities in the garage area following the various cars around coming off the haulers and going to certification. Inside the garages is usually pretty tight. Tracking with the war wagons going to the pit is always a good one to bank. Especially if you put a POV on one you will always get an interesting view of the track that way. During the race if you can get in the pits there is always interesting foreground elements like stacks of tires colorful fuel cans etc. The hard mount on the golf cart is great if you can get in front of a car. Before the race the drivers line up all the cars on the field for final check out and everyone mingles you can get a great tracking shot of all the cars and drivers/ celebs mingling around. During the race if you can get to there the spotters are up on the roof of the track stands you can get the cars going round. And of course positioning yourself at the turns you will get the cars coming right at you.

Camera types for the job? You will find with the distance you walk on the track everyday the lightest one possible is the best choice. It’s really up to you. I used the SDX-900 at the time. NASCAR is a very colorful sport so I recommend using a set up that really pops the colors. I had a lot of fun with an enhancer and various color filters.

Hope this helps let us know how it turns out, good luck and fly safe!


Dave Kanehann, SOC
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#4 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 02:10 PM

While Nascar owns Grand-Am, they are run as very separate entities. Grand-Am is run under IMSA Rules and they tend to be VERY strict.

First off just realize that the cars have the right of way and the pits and paddocks can be very hazardous. Teams live and die by the clock. Sometimes we have a good weekend and are take our time getting to and from the track, But when we are having issues teams move at warp speed. You will need a spotter that has their head on a swivel at all times.

Pit Access or anything to do with fueling requires a 3 layer SFI Spec Firesuit, If you get a FIA firesuit you will need fireproof underwear (Long Johns and long sleeve shirt) no matter how many layers the suit is. (My Sparco FIA Approved firesuit FAR exceeds the SFI Rating of the required suit and I still have to wear the longjohns) that goes for anyone with you. Fireproof shoes are also needed.

Crews will let you shoot from the banners but are picky about who they let under the tent. If it looks like you are going to get in the way, no dice they won't let you in. We don't have enough room to work on the cars as it is. Also if they let you in they will most likely limit what you can shoot ESPECIALLY if they are a front running team or have new technology. Secrecy is the name of the game in racing.

Grand-Am is a road racing series, only three times a season do they race on "Rovals" (Ovals with road courses) as such there are few spotters, team activity is in the paddock and the pits. When the cars are on track you won't be anywhere near them and where they do come close to fans there is a large high concrete barrier topped with a catch fence limiting what you can shoot.

I'd go and attend one or two races before trying to shoot it

Frankly for me racing is more of a handheld sport.
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#5 Mike Germond SOC

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 09:25 PM

To give this topic some educational value, I'll summarize my experiences. The shoot was this past weekend (Saturday afternoon on SPEED if anyone caught it).

It turns out that my future father-in-law is the guy that facilitates sponsorships for all of the teams in the Koni and Rolex series'. His goal was to bring Grand-Am to life, catching the atmosphere and off track action that they put on. Needless to say, I was in a position where every team wanted me to shoot their stuff, and was therefore granted some extra access.

Vehicle mount was a success, and the Grand-Am golf carts had perfect mounting points to shoot from. A few shots that stand out in my mind are drive-bys of fans and paddock activity (fueling, car activity, rigs/logos). I also had first crack at the "fan walk" where they lined up all of the cars in Pit-Row, so I had the opportunity for a few low-angle drive-bys there.

Steadicam worked great for the mock-pitstop they staged for the fans, as well as POV crowd shots and pit/paddock action. Otherwise it was handheld and tripod for some of the drivers meetings, business meetings, and telephoto flag/signage shots.

All in all, it was a production quality that they've never had before, and I'm excited for the oportunities it will produce down the road. This doesn't mean that I'll be quitting my efforts to break into film either! :P

Thanks all for the tips and ideas!
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