I Fell in Love with Alfa Romeo after 'The Graduate' - Can I Really Sell My Car?
5,000 rpm through the Gaviota tunnel in a vintage Alfa Romeo Spider. Is that a great BaT auction video, or what?! I recreate a classic movie scene.
I’ve written a series of DriveTribe articles and quick posts about my experience preparing my classic 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider and then listing it on Bring a Trailer. Today - my thoughts about creating better auction listing videos.
Mike Nichols (seated) director of the 1967 film "The Graduate" previews a shot with Dustin Hoffman and the crew while Katherine Ross looks on. The film introduced one of the most iconic movie cars of all time, the Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto Spider.
I'm no Mike Nichols, nor am I Dustin Hoffman, but I can drive my car through Gaviota tunnel at 5000 rpm and have a blast doing it! As the auction approaches I'm more and more certain that I'm going to miss the wail of the engine and the track of the steering and suspension.
Above 5,000 rpm, when the walls of the tunnel perfectly blend the staccato of the exhaust with the baritone of the induction, heaven! My video homage to the famous movie scene.
The name, "Bring a Trailer" (BaT) was probably more descriptive in 2016 when the auction site launched. Today BaT can look more like a challenger to companies like RM Sotheby's and other high-end auction houses. BaT is one of several online auction sites that have gained steadily in popularity, and in July 2020 the site was very busy indeed – they listed 1,220 vehicles and sold 81%! That’s a great sell-through rate for any auction. I recently received the “BaT Market Snapshot: July” by email; I’m a student of media and any brand that amasses millions of online views is worth watching in today’s hyper media landscape.
I reached out to BaT to learn more about whether or not a great auction video drives higher interest and views. I was told, "we do not share this level of data with outside entities as it is proprietary information." OK, but, does video help???
Video is the undisputed 'king' of online content today, but will it have a positive impact on your auction listing? My suspicion is that it could be very important. The good news? If you have a smart phone your next video production is right there in the palm of your hand. Full transparency: I’ve produced hundreds of hours of broadcast and corporate video.
So, why aren’t my car videos better? Over the past month, and presented in this series of articles, I may have stumbled across at least part of the answer. I learn by trying and failing, or flailing, or both. In my professional video experience I usually film people talking, machines machining, or I make it up entirely in a 3D program.
I edited this in Final Cut Pro (FCP X) on an older (2015) iMac – still chugging along and it even handles 4k video! The best parts of the video are at 10:00 and 10:25! The video is probably too long. But, scrolling!
I learned that *watching* great car videos doesn't mean that I - even with a production background - can *make* great car videos. But all is not lost because I’ve convinced myself that I can get better! I did pass after pass with the cameras and microphones mounted in different locations on the car, until I got some results that were OK. For a full list of the equipment I used, check out Part 2 of this series.
I made these driving videos with an old GoPro (a Hero 3 that shoots 4k video and can be found on Ebay for less than $50), and an Replay XDCam – I think they went out of business, a shame because the cameras were designed for car applications ($100 on Ebay). I had them in a drawer; I never throw old cameras away.
Part One: driving the ridge above Santa Barbara, Camino Cielo. We experimented with lenses, a new drone and shooting S-Log for the first time. Let's just say it was a handful to tackle on dawn patrol! Only golden hour shoots from now on!
I think the walk-around can be the most descriptive video of all - it's 'unfiltered' and feels very authentic. For my auction I felt like the walk around was essential. I took some pro advice and went to an open parking lot, with plenty of open sky just before sunset. That time of day is called 'Golden Hour' and it lasts from when the sun goes down (or it's no longer direct) and the sky is still bright enough to light the scene, until it isn’t.
My best video tip: if you need to go hand-held, use a stabilization device like the DJI Ronin, or a similar device made for your phone. I found a DJI "Osmo" stabilizer for mobile phones on Amazon for $119, and several other comparable products (with decent reviews) for less. These are great for everyday filming with friends and family, too.
Shaky video is out. I used a DJI Ronin with my Sony camera, a wide-angle lens and a decent on-camera mic. I love the faint idle sounds and the puffs of condensed air from the exhaust at the end of the video! And, those reflections were just epic!
Audiences like peel outs, engines howling and tires screeching! No matter how great the footage is, I believe that if the soundtrack is bad the video will fail to excite people. I get my best results with ‘’double-system” sound recording. A digital recorder, like the Zoom HD5 or even a smart phone with an external microphone attached will work. I’m sure it’s not impossible to record great audio on a GoPro or other action cam, but I’ve never done it.
While I’m driving, I wear or mount a good lavalier mic on a wireless transmitter inside the cabin. I plug that mic into one channel on the digital recorder in the car - then I use another mic plugged into the other channel so that the tracks are separate in editing. On playback it usually sounds similar to what I'm hearing in the car, and I can mix the two which I think is a good start. Since my car has carbs I sometimes clip the second mic under the dash near the firewall to get more induction sound, or I mount it behind the driver to get more exhaust note.
I mixed the audio from two microphones inside the Jaguar (recording to the Zoom recorder) with the audio from a decent shotgun mic mounted on the camera to create the audio for this segment. Drones do NOT make good audio, ever.
Investing in “double-system” sound recording can be as simple as buying an external microphone for your smart phone. For example, if I'm recording a driving video with a GoPro mounted on my car, I just attach an external mic to my phone and leave it on the seat next to me to capture the audio in the cabin.
This is how sound has been synced to picture since the talkies were invented. It’s unbelievably easy to do, but sometimes hard to remember. Make it a habit!
Stay tuned for the auction! I don’t have a listing date yet because I’m waiting on a copy of my title from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. That's another story; it's about pilot error (mine), the California DMV and the Post Office. Bless their hearts. Follow along as the action heats up (soon, I hope) for my 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider BaT auction!
Read the previous DriveTribe articles in this series about my BaT auction here: