If you’ve never been to youtube.com/DRIVE before, you’re definitely missing out. /DRIVE is a sort of hub of automotive media, with many offshoot segments covering every aspect of cars you can think of. Between Chris Harris’s car reviews, Leo Parente’s racing commentary, and Matt Farah’s segment on driving modified cars, the /DRIVE network covers every motoring avenue you can think of! Add in a weekly talkshow with Mike Spinelli, a muscle car focused series with Mike Musto, plus a few more segments about varying topics and you have one endless collection of car videos to enjoy. (And in case you were wondering, yes, I have watched them all.) Producer JF Musial shared some thoughts with me, on the network and on sound, and now I’d like to share them with you.
TTA: First off, I’d like to know a bit more about how /DRIVE came to be. It seems like a fantastic hub for all types of car enthusiasts. Where did the idea come from, and how did all of the pieces manage to come together?
JF: Long story really, but I’ll give the short answer.
Since 2007, I was the Producer of a small little podcast called FastLaneDaily. Emil Rensing had founded the show along with Mike Spinelli the year prior. From that point, we started building out a team of young professionals we trusted. Matt Farah came along in 2009 to start Garage419 with Tom Morningstar and Gene Sanchez. Later in 2009 the parent company, Next New Networks, was about to pull the plug. Emil saved the show. At that point, I stayed on part time and created my own video production company TangentVector.
Fast forward to 2011, Next New Networks is acquired by Google/YouTube. A few months later, they start the Made4Web, Original Content Initiative. The goal: Keep audiences on YouTube longer with quality original content. Emil and I were invited to Google’s offices to pitch concepts for a new channel. The initial name we had was DRIVE IT. Then we realized we could snatch up the DRIVE channel name; thus the brand was born. A week later I was at the Nurburgring pitching Chris Harris to come join us as a partner.
TTA: Second, I’d love to know more about the Inside Koenigsegg series you’ve just run. The quality of the production and the amount of detail was incredible. What does it take to make a series like that come to fruition? Where did the idea come from and how long was it before it was published?
JF: Des from GTSpirit really helped get this one started. He introduced me to Christian Von Koenigsegg via email in early 2012. I had wanted to go produce a behind the scenes show for DRIVEN about the Koenigsegg factory, a once used hangar for the Swedish Air Force.
Our initial DRIVEN episode did over 400,000 views; so successful that Christian had e-mailed to ask if there was more episodes that could be produced. Via email, we exchanged ideas and the relationship built from there. To be quite honest with you, Christian is the star behind the scenes. He truly brought it all together, we were there just to make it look pretty and package it appropriately. Content is king and Inside Koenigsegg fully supports that theory. With very little coaching, Christian was fantastic on camera. He nailed it. Three days on the ground, one day with an open runway and an Agera R – the rest is history.
The packaging made it stand out even further. Will Barber, the TangentVector’s Lead Editor, nailed it. Everything worked, it flowed, and the music was perfect.
Truly one of my favorite series I’ve ever produced. Again, all I did was put the pieces of the puzzle together. The right team, with the right motivation, and an amazing story will make shooting a series like this always enjoyable.
Watch the whole Inside Koenigsegg series here (you’ll want to fullscreen that in HD. It’s so worth it.)
TTA: Could you tell me about the production cycle for a video? For example, a Harris video is published once a week, or thereabouts. How long does it take an episode from idea to publication, and what are some of the steps involved?
JF: Hard one to answer. Sometimes we turn episodes around in 24 hours, other times, like our 24 Hour Endurance Race specials take upwards of six months. Studio shows are two days. Car review shows, like Chris’s, are normally about a week. DRIVEN has a little longer lead time – about 3-4 weeks. TUNED and BIG MUSCLE can either be two days or two months, depending on when they get the cars.
TTA: What are some of the production techniques you use while filming? Specifically regarding the sound – I have seen in some of the videos that you typically shoot with HDSLRs on suction mounts, for example, but what do you do to compensate for those cameras’ poor audio quality? Do you have a standard setup you use for all productions, or are different segments produced differently?
JF: The secrets of the trade! DSLRs are our crash cams. We use Panasonic HPX 170s, Sony FS700’s, and we even have a new Sony F5 in our arsenal now too! But to be honest, we’ve never had a sound guy on a shoot. For things with DSLR’s, we use the Zoom H4N audio recorder with proper shotguns or Sennheiser ME2 Lavs (from the Sennheiser EW 112-P kit).
The secret with exhaust audio? A trick I came up with 4 years ago. Put a lav into a sock, tape it to the back bumper, throw the lav transceiver into the trunk of the car (or if mid/rear-engined, tape it to the rear-glass with gaff). NEVER point the lav straight down towards the road, always point it to the opposite side exhaust. I usually use my dirty sock off my foot that day! But the key is to direct the lav across the bumper towards the exhaust pipe on the opposite side of the car. Never mount it just above the exhaust and just point it straight down towards the road. You’ll only get road-noise.
Below is a photo of another technique we’ve used in the past, but honestly, the lav in sock method is as good as any.
TTA: some of my favorite /DRIVE segments are the /DRIVE MOMENT series, because they feature the sound of cars recorded well, and not much else. In particular, I love the one below of the 24H of Spa. Are there plans to produce more from this series, and can we look forward to seeing more segments like this? Do you tend to intentionally shoot these scenes?
JF: Absolutely. More raw content on the way. That’s the purpose of /DRIVE MOMENTs. Raw, authentic content. /DRIVE MOMENTS are happy accidents or things that got cut out of original episodes or if something just doesn’t fit anywhere else; it’s our dumping ground for great content. There are incidents where I know something will be great while on a shoot, so we go ahead and film it specifically for /DRIVE MOMENTS – Like the Agera R fly by at 180mph on the runway.
TTA: For me sound is a crucial part of car reviews because so much of the character of a car comes from its sound – even if I’m only watching someone else drive a car, I can get a sense of the power, the texture, and the feel of the car just through its sound. I really appreciate when, in your videos, you allow the sound to come through (especially in the car reviews), instead of having the on-screen talent talk about how good the sound is. Is this a production choice that was made intentionally, or just a happy accident? Why?
JF: It’s all by design. A video is only as good as it’s sound. A good video actually concentrates more on the audio than the visuals. A proper balance between the two: 60% Audio design, 40% Content. I truly believe the right sounds, both from the cars, the ambient environment, as well as the music, is what makes a great video. We want our audiences to feel like they are at the location we are filming. That means making the video breathe. Never too fast with the cuts, but also enough to keep the attention span of the audience.
TTA: What sort of awesome sounding things can we look forward to for the upcoming season?
JF: Just got back from two weeks in Europe. Aston Martin’s factory, MINI’s Dakar Team, Morgan, and a few other awesome places. Nothing beats the sound of a Morgan Three Wheeler or Aero 8. Holy ****.
TTA: What’s your favorite sounding car?
JF: Porsche Carrera GT. Nothing will ever beat the Carrera GT.
TTA: What’s your favorite sounding car video or clip? Alternatively, are there any videos or clips you find inspirational?
JF: C’était un Rendezvous… despite it being fake. Nearly perfect edit. I also am obsessed with Lamborghini Balboni Introduction video.
TTA: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened during a production?
JF: South Africa, 2009. I forgot to latch the back gate of our pick-up truck. Took a turn too fast, all of our Pelican cases flew out of the truck into a cliff wall. All our cameras inside had no damage. If it was a right turn instead of a left, the cases would’ve been off the side of a mountain at 60mph. Lesson learned. Check the tail gate twice.
TTA: What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened during a production?
JF: To be honest, nothing. We’ve never had an incident. Knock on wood. We are VERY careful with how we plan our shoots. Safety is always a priority. The first time ever in a car with Chris while he was drifting a turn was exciting. But to be honest, I’ve never actually had a scary moment, despite what my acting skills may show in the Koenigsegg video. We’ve all been in cars sideways and up to 200mph… Just not at the same time. It’s sad, we’re all jaded.
TTA: And lastly, if any readers would like to get ahold of you, where can they find you?
I’d like to thank JF for taking the time to chat with me. I hope you enjoyed learning about how /DRIVE works as much as I did! Go watch some Chris Harris videos!