Abid Hussain Barlaskar

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

The story of Delhi's Buddh International Circuit.

Of late, while shuffling through the many recent automobile commercials, we found a common thread linking quite a few. What caught our attention was not the vehicles in the ads, but the location/ backdrop/ 'studio' the films were shot at. These were not random places but rather, a well-off destination, renowned as India's first F1 motor racing circuit - the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) - at Greater Noida of the National Capital Region (NCR).

afaqs! got in touch with the folks at BIC to get a little more insight into what was really drawing the brands to the location.

Officially inaugurated in October 2011, the prime attraction of this motorsport infrastructure is the 5.14km-long Formula 1 race track that has no speed limit.

The Indian Grand Prix was first held at the Buddh International Circuit in 2011. Following this, Formula 1 returned to India in 2012 and 2013 before running into tax troubles with the government.

Ad agencies first set their eyes on the location in 2012-13 with the management opening up peripheral roads and other sections and later, the main track itself for non-racing activities.

So, what does the circuit really have for automobile advertisers?

The racing infrastructure is spread out across 550 acres, aimed at specialised track activities. The management at BIC is of the point that it is mainly the visual impact of the track and the stadium that draw eyeballs.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

Scenes from this Renault ad were shot at BIC

According to BIC management, advertisers who shoot their ads at the circuit mainly include categories like automobiles, racing gear, automobile tires, bicycles, and also high-end watch brands which find common ground with racing in technology, precision and timing. Brands showing themselves off at the track include TATA, Mercedes, Pirelli, Nissan, Renault, Ford, Audi, Suzuki, and TVS Motors among many others. Interestingly, vehicle classifications range from the budget family cars to heavy-duty trucks.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

TVS Apache RTR 200 4V TVC shot at BIC

Usually, an agency or line-producer interested in shooting an ad approaches BIC with the details on behalf of the brand. The details include specific requirements like - number of vehicles on the track, required part of the track/ compound, timings, duration of the shoot, type of shoot - stills or video, stunts etc. Requirements occasionally include other additional facilities like food, accommodation, transport, vehicle storage, and emergency medical facilities.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

Ford Mustang's digital ad shot at BIC

Rajiv Murishwar, head of business at BIC, shares from his experience at the circuit, "As service providers, we expose all possible options like on-track/ off-track spaces, special requirements like drifting, stunt locations, high-speed races, overall coordination from the teams like safety and security. For suggestions, we might offer up locations and shooting spots on the track, but refrain from getting into the creative part."

But what about particular demands from various vehicle segments and how different are they from each other?

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

Rajiv Murishwar

A little while into our chat with Murishwar we found that the differences are clean and identify separately with each vehicle segment.

A family-vehicle like a hatchback or a budget vehicle like the Renault Kwid would want to have a clean road without bumps or pot-holes, with buildings around (houses/ offices) and without too many people in the vicinity. On the other hand, a high-end muscle car like the Ford Mustang would concentrate on displaying its performance and speed on the track along with its looks, how it behaves at high speeds, on sharp turns, on elevations etc.

Off-roaders and SUVs would specifically ask for a separate off-road mud track laden with obstacles and water bodies that are prepared according to requirements.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

TATA Nexon's recent TVC shot at BIC

A sedan, with more of a corporate feel, would ask for a smooth road with a backdrop of an office or driving into a garage. The circuit's team buildings, covered in glass panes, double up as office buildings for such shoots.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

An Audi digital ad shot on an off road track arrangement at BIC

Motorcycles tend to prefer supervised stunts coupled with on-track performance and high speeds.

Although the circuit has been a set for ads of almost all classes of automobiles, it is yet to see its first pocket-friendly electric vehicle.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

Mercedes AMG GTR ad film shot at BIC

Many times track activities also end up being part of a full-scale ad film. Mercedes' AMG GTR conducted a time-keeping exercise. The record lap of the vehicle on the track was shot as an ad film.

The management team at the circuit point out that most brands prefer early mornings and late afternoons for shoots mainly because of the lighting conditions and vehicles priced over 11-12 lakh rupees tend to stick to the race-track while others use the peripheral roads. Team members, however, maintain that sometimes showing a lower range vehicle on a professional race track adds a whole new edge to it.

What is the cost of conducting ad shoots at the circuit?

Although the circuit does not have specific charges for ad shoots, rates depend on booking durations of the features of the infrastructure as a whole. Track charges are slightly higher for weekends with the rate being INR 12 lakhs for eight hours (single day) and INR 10 lakhs per eight hours for weekdays. Rates decrease with the reduction in booking duration with the lowest being one lakh rupees for an hour on weekdays.

How an F1 track became an ad film studio for car brands

Fiat Abarth Punto on the F1 track in an ad film

Apart from the track, the peripheral practice roads, the circular road, garages, and other features come at rates varying from INR five lakhs to INR 50,000.

We also got in touch with Moonrise Productions, a production house which has been associated with BIC for over six years now. The team at Moonrise opines that automobile ads require a lot of shots on the road and the sets at BIC save them from the trouble of blocking public roads for shoots while also being away from the bustle of actual city traffic. The response further mentions that locations are chosen basis the mood of the ad.

The teams further say that while some of the ad films are shot entirely at the circuit, in other cases, some scenes are shot at BIC and included with other sequences from other locations. Over the years, Moonrise has had over 36 ad shoots at BIC.

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