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13 behind-the-scenes production secrets of 'The Grand Tour'

Ahead of the launch of "The Grand Tour" the show was publicized with a variety of stunts, car shows, and pop-up pubs.

Photo by Getty Images

Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond were recently named to a list of the greatest automotive icons of all time. To anyone paying attention to the car scene over the last two decades, it's no wonder how they got on the list.

First on "Top Gear" then on "The Grand Tour", the three hosts, with a lot of assistance behind the scenes from executive producer Andy Wilman, the trio engaged a whole new generation of car fanatics and reignited the passions of older generations.

It's safe to say that there have been millions of man-hours put in on the track, in fields, across tarmac, in jungles and deserts, and on roadways across the world over the better part of the 2000s by the team. What goes into making an episode ready for an audience?

In a YouTube chat between Clarkson and Wilman that aired exclusively on the DriveTribe channel (the hosts own DriveTribe), the two divulged some secrets about what goes into producing an episode of "The Grand Tour". Scroll to the bottom of this article to watch the video.

"The Grand Tour" team films twice as many hours as most shows.

According to the duo, the average documentary show, like what David Attenborough produces, films 500 hours of footage for every hour that ends up on the screen. "The Grand Tour" films about 1,000 hours. It's Wilman and his team's job to edit that down to a 90-ish minute show. Of that, 100 hours is with what they refer to as "big cameras" and the other 900 is the trio going, "blah, blah, blah," as Wilman puts it.

The presenters have off buttons on their mics but Hammond frequently misuses his and May and Clarkson never take advantage of the option.

"Hammond uses it but he gets it confused," tells Wilman. "So he'll switch it off when he's reviewing a car and then when he's talking to Mindy about, I don't know, horse prices or the rural bullocks, he's got it on."

The shortest of the presenters is often teased by his counterparts for living in the countryside with his wife, Mindy.

Most of the filming is just Clarkson, May, and Hammond chatting amongst themselves.

As Wilman says, "Going on and on." Shouting at other cars, calling each other names, discussing the sad state of the situation are all topics frequently covered.

Wilman drives one of the three tracking cars and usually wrecks it.

Filming the show is a manual in what not to do during a traditional street drive. Clarkson describes Wilmas as having three walkie-talkies going at the same time, driving one of three chase vehicles, directing a camera man, and trying to hit all sorts of bumps that make for good TV.

Wilman describes it as a "stressful time" but assures Clarkson that he's not always at fault.

"The Grand Tour" is filmed in 4K, which means that the 1,000 hours of footage takes five weeks to go from camera to computer to edit.

Why? "It's all technical shit. Don't ask me," says Wilman waving his hands and joking that the computer it goes into is Fred Fintstone-era equipment. That five weeks is before the editors can even access the footage to begin their process.

All that dialogue gets transcribed into a script that is printed out.

Every time Clarkson, Hammond, May, or a production team member airs an utterance on film, it is captured as part of a script. When it's printed, it looks akin to a copy of "Ulysses" on loose printed paper.

They edit out James May smoking.

The editor then has to take out the parts of the film where May is smoking and Clarkson is shouting (perhaps profanely) at passersby. He has to match up all the cameras shot by shot. "The Grand Tour" production team drives three chase vehicles while filming and there's frequently at least three cameras shooting at the same time. This part takes another five weeks.

Are you counting? That's already 10 weeks post-shooting.

It takes three months of editing to shape an episode.

Production at this point is a back and forth process. Even when "The Grand Tour" team is done with it, they still have to send it to Amazon. Wilman says that Amazon keeps it for another five weeks.

The latest episode of "The Grand Tour", which was filmed in Madagascar in autumn 2019, has been held up because of coronavirus.

According to Wilman, it normally takes a few months to edit one of the episodes, but the extended lag time for this episode is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Editing and production teams have not been able to work together in one space and Wilman was himself afflicted by COVID-19 (he's since healed). During the discussion, Wilman assured fans that they continue to work on the episode from a distance, on less than ideal equipment (laptops) and hope to have it out soon.

Clarkson, May, Hammond, and Wilman have no say on when the episodes get released.

After the final cuts have been made by "The Grand Tour" team, the production company sends the footage to Amazon. Amazon then determines when the episode will air and holds out telling the group because they have, "big gulps," says Wilman, and will tell everybody.

Production of the episode set to air after the Madagascar one was halted because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The team was to head to northern Russia in mid-March. You can read more about that journey and where the episode now stands here.

The best outtake you'll never see is from Morocco.

The men filmed a scene where they were stacking animals on the scale that was... a bit gruesome. Wilman and Clarkson say that they soon realized that if they showed the footage to the public, animal rights protesters would be banging down their doors so they decided to leave it on the cutting room floor. However, the dialogue during that part of the episode was, apparently, pure gold.

We'll never get an episode devoted to b-roll.

From Wilman's mouth: "No. That's the point of editing. You don't want to watch that crap... You know the bloke at the end of a wedding, 'round about midnight, who is telling a joke... that's what the rest is like."

See a clip of the interview here:

This is why The Grand Tour is taking so long www.youtube.com

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2021 Acura RDX PMC Edition features a thermal orange paint job that it shares with the Acura NSX.

Photo courtesy of Acura
Acura will make a PMC Edition of its best-selling RDX for the 2021 model year. The move comes following successful PMC Edition iterations of the TLX and MDX and forecasts a design change is in the RDX's future.

Named after Acura's Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Ohio, the 2021 Acura RDX PMC Edition will be hand-crafted alongside the Acura NSX by master technicians. Just 360 of the range-topping RDX PMC Edition models will be made and carry a sticker price in the low $50,000s. Exact pricing will be announced in the coming weeks.

2021 Acura RDX PMC Edition

Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has given each of the North American market-exclusive models a Thermal Orange Pearl paint job - a color shared with the NSX.

It builds on the top-of-the-line RDX, which includes the RDX Advance Package and RDX A-Spec styling. The model gets exclusive black 20-inch alloy wheels, a body color grille surround, black chrome exhaust finishers, and a gloss black roof, side mirrors, and door handles. All-wheel drive is standard.

Acura has pushed the orange color to the cabin where it appears as color-matched orange stitching for the seats, center console, door panels, steering wheel, and floor mats. The RDX PMC edition features a 10.5-inch color head-up display, 16-way power Sport Seats trimmed in Ebony Milano leather and Ultrasuede, heated steering wheel, and heated outboard rear seats.

Like the NSX, each RDX PMC Edition will be built and handled with care. It starts as a body-in-white shell that arrives at PMC to be finished in its orange paint via a robotic paint system. Multiple base coats enhance the paint's intensity. Next ,a mid-coat of gold and orange mica is applied giving off a pearlescent effect in the sunlight. Finally, four layers of clearcoat are applied to increase the paint's luster and protect the finish. The total time in paint, including curing, is five days.

2021 Acura RDX PMC Edition www.youtube.com

Post-paint, PMC master technicians begin hand-assembling the two-row SUV starting with the installation of the drivetrains and chassis components, wiring harnesses, and electronics. Then, the wheels and tires are added. The final step in the process is to fit the vehicle with its unique interior including an individually numbered serial plate affixed to the RDX's center console.

Following assembly, the RDX PMC Edition undergoes an identical quality control process as NSX, which includes a full electronic systems line-end test, expert wheel alignment, dyno run, water-leak test and final paint examination. Before exiting PMC, each vehicle is wrapped in a protective film and loaded onto an enclosed, single-car carrier for transport to an Acura dealer.

Acura has introduced a PMC Edition of the TLX and MDX as they have entered the final year of their design phase. Could a refreshed RDX be on the horizon for 2022? All signs point to yes.

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The 2021 Ford F-150 will come in a hybrid variant

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

If Ford is making anything clear these days, it’s that the future all-electric F-150 won’t just just a mundane street car. The future model will be capable of achieving the same feats as the rest of the company’s family of full-size pickup trucks, if not with more gusto than its relatives.

Ford has confirmed that the battery-electric (BEV) F-150 will be on sale in just a few years. To get to that point, there’s a lot of work that isn’t just going into product development, but also into facilities development. Demand for the F-150 BEV is expected to be high and Ford’s Rouge Complex can’t absorb it as the plant stands now.

Ford Rouge Complex The Ford plant in Dearborn will be the home of the F-150 electric truck.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The company will invest $700 million in the Dearborn, Michigan plant to include a new high-tech manufacturing home for the model. The investment will add 300 jobs. This $700 million is on top of the $1.45 billion that Ford is spending to equip its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan to produce the Ranger and Bronco.

"We are proud to once again build and innovate for the future here at the Rouge with the debut of our all-new F-150 and the construction of a modern new manufacturing center to build the first-ever all-electric F-150," said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company. "This year's COVID-19 crisis made it clear why it is so important for companies like Ford to help keep our U.S. manufacturing base strong and help our country get back to work."

The all-electric Ford F-150 is expected to come to market in mid-2022. The redesigned 2021 F-150 will come to market later this year and include a new hybrid powertrain option dubbed the F-150 PowerBoost.

Recently, the company captured video of the F-1500 BEV testing in the wild.

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