Shooting NASCAR All Star Weekend

I had the chance to shoot the Sprint NASCAR All Star Race, and I had a great time. This race was a little different from the last one I shot. For this race I was covering The Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Victory Junction Ford. The car had to qualify to get into the All Star Race. There were two ways to qualify. One was to come in first or second in the qualifying race. The second was to win the Sprint Fan Vote.

We started the week with the fan vote in mind. On Tuesday we made three promos at Richard Petty Motorsports in Mooresville NC, with our driver Sam Hornish Jr.

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Outside of RPM.

The promos were to tell people to Vote for Sam in the Sprint Fan Vote. For every vote Sam got SHOP.COM would make a $10 donation to Victory Junction. Victory Junction is a camp for kids with serious medical conditions and illnesses, they provide the kids with a life changing camp experience at no cost to the family.

When we arrived at RPM the scripts were still being written and the planning was still going on. I originally thought I was going there to shoot some B-roll of Sam and a few kids from Victory Junction.

Once I got there I found out about the promos. We only had a Rode Mic and a Canon DSLR with us, so we had to make due. The audio was a challenge, and I learned a lesson to always bring extra gear and be prepared for whatever the client may want.

We talked over the script and where we would shoot it.

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Going over the scripts with Sam.

We shot one outside to highlight the Pink Victory Junction Truck that Taylor Swift had donated. The other two we shot inside to help cut down on the noise from the wind and the cars driving by.

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We moved inside to help with the audio.

On the outside shoot we put a Rode Deadcat on the mic to help with wind (I think DeadCat is my favorite gear name). It helped a little, but to be honest the audio wasn’t the greatest, but we did what we could with what we had.

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Rode Video Mic Pro with a Rode DeadCat.

The promos all had multiple people in them, and it was a struggle for everyone to learn the lines right there on the spot. To make it easier I shot a wide shot, then went in for close ups and medium shots on each persons lines.

On Wednesday, I edited the promos together in Adobe Premiere. I also made an animation of how to vote for Sam on the NASCAR website. I made the animation in After Effects. After we had approval from RPM and NASCAR they began to release the promos.

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3D animation of the NASCAR fan vote page done in AE.

The second part of the plan was to do a live broadcast with the King himself Richard Petty. He would be able to promote Victory Junction, the Fan Vote and the donation from SHOP.COM. We decided to shoot the live broadcast at the Richard Petty Museum in Level Cross NC. We wanted to have some B-roll of Richard and of Victory Junction for the broadcast. We were able to get some videos from Victory Junction and we made a B-roll package for them. But we didn’t have any footage of Richard. NASCAR owned most of it, so it was decided that we would go to the museum to shoot stuff there.

We were running short on time so we drove down to the museum Monday morning, shot for an hour and then headed back to edit it.

I took my Canon 7D, with the Tokina 11-16mm, Canon 100mm Macro f 2.8, and Canon 17-55 f 2.8 lenses. I also took the Kessler Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly with the Oracle Motor.

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Me shooting with the Pocket Dolly.

I thought it would be nice to get some movement on the museum pieces and cars since they were all static. The Pocket Dolly is great, having the motor really makes the shots look good.

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The Pocket Dolly with Oracle Control and the iconic No. 43.

Tuesday morning we packed up my car and went back to the Museum to set up for the live broadcast.

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The gear.

We had a host and two guests, and seeing we only had two wireless mics, we decided to use wired Lavs. We used Audio-Technica Lavaliers.

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Audio-Technica AT8537’s.

We ran them through a Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro Mixer.

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The classic Mackie Mixer.

We used Mac Book Pro’s for our computers and did the live broadcast with Wirecast 2. We had just updated to the new version of Wirecast and it’s features and layout are much better.

For the set up, we picked a spot that gave us a lot of depth in the background, we also wanted to be able to see a lot of the cars.

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This spot highlighted the cars and gave us depth.

To light it I wanted to try out the Digital Juice Aura Three-Point Light Kit. The Aura lights have 2 55W fluorescent lamps in each light. They also have a bendable gooseneck mounting arm, which is nice when you want to adjust the position or direction of the light.

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Digital Juice Aura Lights.

We had fluorescent lighting in the museum, so I thought the the Aura Kit would match. Once it was set up the Auro Kit wasn’t bright enough for our needs so I added 3 Genaray LED’s. The ability to change color temperature with the LED’s is awesome. On a side note, you always need to white balance, especially with mixed lighting.

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Always white balance, I carry a white balance card in my bag, but a sheet of white paper will work.

I set up one light straight on, and a light on the right and left at 45 degree angles. I filled in light with the Aura kit.

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Simple Lighting Set Up.

To shoot it we used 2 Panasonic HVX’s. The broadcast was an hour, and we also wanted to record the camera feeds. So using the HVX’s was our best choice. I was the side camera, or close up camera for Richard and the guests. I also helped floor direct, and technical direct with the camera switching.

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Richard in my HVX monitor.

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Panasonic HVX, with Rode NTG2 Shotgun mic for backup audio.

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Had to snap a selfie during the commercial break.

The live broadcast went off without a hitch. Richard petty is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He was a pleasure to work with.

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The King and I.

As we were shooting a small crowd of museum goers had gathered around, at the end of the show Richard took the time to meet them all, sign autographs and take pictures.

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The team for the live broadcast.

We packed up the gear and looked around a bit at the museum. I thought this was pretty cool (pun intended).

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The “Cool Suit”.

This was the “Cool Suit” that Richard tested out. He wore it while driving to help cool him off, it would circulate cool air through the tubes and he wore it under his racing suit.

Friday came and it was time for the qualifying race. I drove down to Charlotte Motor Speedway to start shooting. I got my schedule, credentials and passes, then planned out my shoots and times. Everything from the Petty team was very organized, which was nice.

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My organized schedule.

I went to Richard Petty’s Condo, which overlooks the track. It was really cool, it had two levels. The bottom level had a glass window front overlooking the track with seating and chairs. There was a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms.

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The main floor of the condo.

The top level was a roof top deck where you could watch the race and have food. It was an awesome condo, and a pretty cool experience to be invited there. After the sponsors came, and some VIP’s we went down to the track for a meet and greet with the driver Sam Hornish Jr.

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Sam Hornish Jr and me.

We also took a tour of the garages, pit road and I took some shots at the car.

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Shooting on Pit Road was pretty cool.

My job was to capture it all with stills and video. Knowing I had to do both I decided to use my Canon 7D. It’s very easy to switch back and forth from video to still mode, so that made it easy on me. I brought a Rode Mic Pro with me, but to be honest, it’s so loud at the track that I knew I wouldn’t be using the audio most of the time. I also brought a Sony A7s. They are great for low light, and I knew the race would be at night so I wanted to try that camera out. It was also nice to have two cameras ready, one wide and one tight.

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Sony A7s and Canon 7D.

With sports the action happens fast, if you try and change lenses you will miss the shot. Having two cameras available makes it easy to grab the one you need and get the shot. If it was a football or basketball game I probably would have taken 3 cameras, a wide, medium and tight.

After the meet and greet, we went back up to the condo to watch the race. To get shots from the condo I used a 300mm, it was the longest lens I had.

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Shooting from the condo with the 300mm.

Capturing the cars going nearly 200 mph can be tough, especially from far away. I used multiple settings, but in general I had my shutter at 1,000, I had raised my ISO up to 1600. My F stop varied depending on the time of day.

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This was shot from the condo, 300mm lens, f4.5, 1000th, ISO 1600.

Sadly, Sam Didn’t win the Fan vote, Danica Patrick did (She’s hard to beat). But lots of fans voted, and SHOP.COM gave a $25,000 Donation to Victory Junction. In the qualifying race Sam had to finish first or second to get into the All Star Race. He started 13th and finished 5th. It was a good race, but he didn’t make it in.

After the qualifying race I relaxed and watched a Truck race, then drove home, to start working on the footage.

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Charlotte Motor Speedway from the roof top deck of the Petty condo.

It was another great NASCAR experience, I learned a few things, and had a lot of fun. We did a variety of things, promos, live broadcasts, highlight videos, stills, social media feeds etc… Hopefully I’ll get to shoot another race soon.

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