How the Epic Race Scenes in 'Ford v Ferrari' Were Made

Cinematographers help to bring the vision of the directors they work with to life through their use of practical and off screen lighting, motion capture techniques, and composition. Let’s go behind the scenes with Phedon Papamichael, ASC, the cinematographer from Ford v Ferrari, and see how he helped formulate the lighting and capture of some of the most epic racing scenes in years.

The art of motion pictures relies on knowing how to go from the scene on the page to the silver screen, but getting there takes a number of people and the ability to see how a scene can or should come together while not getting in the way of the story being told. In Ford v Ferrari, the lighting and the way the cameras captured the scenes was a large part of the story telling device that Papamichael helped to construct with James Mangold. The excitement not only came from the the action in the film but the way the action was captured with the use of anamorphic lenses and low hanging cameras off the edges of vehicles that showcased the head-to-head racing action as the drivers accelerated their vehicles towards the finish line. 

Ted Sim of Indy Mogul and Aputure takes us through several of the scene breakdowns with Papamichael with the reasons for the lenses used, practical lighting, and when they needed to use green screen due to the size of the scene being filmed. Listening to the creators behind these films and explaining how they were able to overcome some easy and not so easy obstacles in set design and lighting is a masterclass in storytelling for any photographer.

What were your takeaways from Sim and Papamichael’s interview? If you’ve seen Ford v Ferrari, what scenes were you interested in learning more about whether it was how they captured the action or the lighting?

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