Audi advertisement showcases beauty of R8 Spyder

Legendary British advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty turned to Rogue Films – one of the UK’s most respected commercials production companies – to produce a 60-second spot promoting the Audi R8 Spyder. The German car manufacturer has long been a client of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, indeed it was BBH that coined the legend ‘Vorsprung durch Technik' for Audi. The creative team was tasked with dreaming up a suitably awe-inspiring concept for a supercar that retails at well in excess of 150,000 euros. In order to make that concept a reality, Rogue came to trusted supplier ARRI Media for its camera and grip equipment needs, and ARRI Lighting Rental for its lighting package.

Watch the BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS advert

A radical decision was made to emphasise the R8’s supreme gracefulness and handling by filming the car not in the isolated natural landscapes typical of auto commercials, but amidst a hellish cacophony of other vehicles. The scene is set in a vast warehouse, where more than 20 hot rods – menacing, stripped down, oil-spitting, race-ready conversions of classic American cars – circle each other with what appears to be reckless abandon. A soundtrack of heavy rock mixes with the guttural roars of exposed engines and the angry squeal of tyres burning rubber onto the warehouse floor. Into this pandemonium glides the Audi, and the mood, as well as the music, changes. With a mid-mounted V10 producing 518 bhp and a top speed of 313 km/h, the gleaming white R8 moves effortlessly between the stampeding hot rods, swerving and accelerating with calm disdain.

"The idea was to create a sense of chaos and then suddenly the Audi comes into that and introduces some balletic movement,” says cinematographer Damien Morisot. ”We wanted to convey a sense of danger with the other cars, but also demonstrate how the Audi is able to stick to the ground and avoid all these mad beasts charging around.”

The Russian Arm allowed us to do the top shots and follow our hero car more closely than we could have done any other way. It was key, because we really wanted to track and move around the car without interfering with it too much.

"Working with director Sam Brown, Morisot was faced with the challenge of lighting the 150 m by 80 m industrial warehouse at ExCeL – an exhibition and convention centre situated in the heart of London’s Royal Docks. “The space is covered by about 300 bulbs,” says Morisot. “All the Audi stuff was shot at 100 fps, but if you wanted one more stop you would basically need 300 different lights, which wasn’t an option, so we had to think of something else.”

His solution was to open up the large side doors of the warehouse and position 12K Pars behind diffusion frames that had to be specially built to perfectly fit the space. “Originally we had lights coming through the big doors on both sides,” continues Morisot. “But ExCeL told us we couldn’t use one of the sides because it opens to the public and we were generating too many fumes, so we dressed those closed doors with some fluorescents, just to create a look.”

Three ARRIFLEX 435ES Xtreme cameras were used on the shoot; their light weight and compact, sturdy design allowed them to be operated handheld as well on the various car rigs and remote heads. Morisot tested a number of emulsions and decided in the end to opt for a Fuji stock. “It was a 500 ASA stock,” he says.  “We didn’t push too much because we wanted to keep a low contrast and the grain in darker areas at 500 ASA is already quite active.”

The cinematographer notes that “at the beginning the floor was almost completely white, which brought the whole space up by about a stop, but after three days of shooting it became quite dark with all the tyre tracks, so we lost a stop between the first day and the last, which is a huge difference.” Given the difficult lighting conditions, Morisot found the high speed T1.3 Master Primes invaluable. “At 100 fps we were shooting wide open,” he continues. “For a long lens we used the Hawk 150-450 mm with a 0.7x reducer, which is supposed to save one stop, so it gave us a 100-300 mm long lens at T2 and that really helped.”

Find out what went into making BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS and see the Russian Arm in action

The production made extensive use of a ‘Stealth’ Russian Arm tracking vehicle mounted with a Flight Head Classic Mk5, supplied jointly by ARRI Media and Bickers Action. The Stealth is based on a Mercedes ML 55 AMG and is powered by a 342 bhp V8 engine that allowed it to keep up with the R8 for dramatic tracking shots. In fact, the Russian Arm captured many of the most breathtaking images in the commercial, with the gyro-stabilised camera floating ephemerally around the R8 as it ducks and dives between the marauding hot rods.

Production manager Tom Farley explains: “The Russian Arm allowed us to do the top shots and follow our hero car more closely than we could have done any other way. It was key, because we really wanted to track and move around the car without interfering with it too much. The image was extremely stable, which was vital because the whole point is that the other cars are out of control, whereas the R8 is very smooth. It worked very well; the final edit looked fantastic.”