Nick Shirrell, a motorsport filmmaker known for using old school film cameras to capture auto races, recently received an invitation from Ferrari to travel to Italy and film a race using 50-year-old Super 8 cameras with 8mm film. The result is a 10-minute video featuring a retro production style and classic voiceover narration that recently went viral on the /r/Formula1 subreddit.
DPReview spoke with Shirrell to ask about his experience with Ferrari and the gear he used to capture the race, as well as the events that led up to this moment. The project wouldn’t have been possible without support from Reddit, according to Shirrell, who explained that his first Super 8 race video went viral on the /r/cars subreddit, resulting in articles from publications like Jalopnik and, eventually, a private message from Ferrari.
Following the initial video, Shirrell filmed an IndyCar video at Road America, which likewise was popular on Reddit and with automotive media. He explains:
‘Not long after the IndyCar video went viral, I got DM’d on my Instagram by Ferrari asking if I’d like to talk to them about doing some filming. Little did I know the phone call that would follow would be an invitation to Italy to make the great film released this week! Ferrari was amazing to work with and they made it clear they wanted no hand in the creative process or in the final content, they only wanted to enable me to create something amazing and give me the opportunity to do what I do with these films.’
Shirrell used a variety of gear to capture the race, including three Super8 cameras: a 1966 Canon 814, 1968 Canon 1218 and a 1971 Beaulieu 4008 ZM2 with Kodak Vision3 50D and 200T motion picture film stock. These models were joined by a RadioShack-brand Realistic 14-1029 handheld mini-cassette recorder featuring a Smith-Victor supercardiod condenser shotgun microphone.
Shirrell said his narrator Alan Baxter used a modern microphone to record the voiceover, which was later edited using software. As well, he relied on the natural lighting available at the filming locations. Shirrell explained:
‘For post-processing the voiceover audio, I use EQ and distortion filters within Adobe Premiere Pro to mimic the sound of an older microphone recording onto tape as accurately as I can. For ambient track sounds of V10s, Challenge cars, etc recorded onto mini-cassettes the old fashioned way I didn’t have to add any filtering.’
As for processing the film, he said:
‘I do develop my own 35mm and medium format still photos with C-41, E-6, and black and white chemicals, but for a professional project like for Ferrari I didn’t trust myself to not ruin the film on my first ever attempt at developing 8mm. 8mm is challenging to develop because it’s 50 feet long and very small and fiddly compared to a roll of 35mm or 120 film that is 4-6 feet in length.’
This isn’t the end for Shirrell, who has plans for other projects involving his retro equipment:
‘For what I want to shoot next, I’d love the opportunity to film Formula 1 if the opportunity presents itself, but I also have ideas for shooting drag racing, rally, and other motorsports.’
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