lighting design

The Speed Of Light: The Case Of McLaren

Last month we revealed our plan to share with you how everything works. With the F1 season now underway let’s start with our experience of McLaren’s #BeBrave campaign.

This became a hugely successful launch campaign with over 10 million video views (watch the full film at the bottom).


So, how did we do it?

We were approached by production company WING. This was six weeks pre-production to collaborate on the design and delivery of a lighting concept which was in its preliminary phase.

Our involvement and participation would be the final episode for a series of teasers leading up to the grand reveal for the McLaren MCL33. A huge event that required a detailed level of attention (and confidentiality) from the Michael Grubb Studio team.

Owen Cox, Associate Producer, from WING commented, “Michael and his team reacted swiftly to our creative concept, creating a bespoke design and bringing it to life. Working together with a tight timeline this challenging brief was met with professionalism and efficiency.”

“As a creative agency aesthetics are highly important to the production and to McLaren’s MCL33. Personally, the F1 car looked incredible centred on this installation, and the studio should be proud of their efforts to make this so.“

Creating a three-dimensional structure to frame a Formula One car, without obstructing the visual impact is a challenging brief. This was something we had to get our teeth into, spend time with, dissect and recognise we had the integrity of a global brand in our hands.

Throughout the design process, we experimented with various forms, shapes and materials to create the desired impact. We used computer-generated models and sketches and eventually agreed on a triangular arrangement.


The fabrication of the structure was subcontracted to the experienced team from LSE Lighting. A talented resource of people who have a track record of working with us on projects with an (extremely) tight schedule.

The framework was constructed from extruded aluminum. This was made off-site within a short 10 day period. When coming to site (in Woking, Surrey, UK), this was condensed even more to a three hour window. This was the critical day of filming.

What we did was specify the lighting equipment with adjustable frequencies. The end result, no flicker. Additional lighting equipment was supplied and installed by our good friends at Lamps & Amps. These were positioned close to the installation. This added further impact.

Acrylic mirrors were arranged in a geometric pattern and selected as they were both durable and also allowed for cabling to be hidden. Two things were always at the forefront of our minds, do not show any cabling and also show extra caution that nothing, from the car to the framework would get scratched during construction and set-up. We had to be stealth like and appreciative of every element that went into the final build.

The installation was now constructed and ready to move to the next stage. It was time to make this even more real.

The 2017 F1 car was used for the ‘dress rehearsal.’ Having the previous season’s car now added a sense of reality. Every angle had to be tested to ensure no reflection, no glare from the mirrored floor and no flicker to the camera.

The lighting control system was built with Touchdesigner. This was to create a variable environment for editing and live feedback of scenes. In order to match the speed at which the production team was working, we had to briskly adjust settings, frequencies and colours to minute detail in real time. The end result was the ability to respond in seconds, not minutes, to production requests.


Time To Look Back & Lessons Learnt

Deep into the night we finished. The hard work, planning and energy had come to fruition, our work was done.

As soon as filming was completed the MCL33 was swiftly removed and flown to Barcelona for pre-season testing the very next day. No time to become attached to what we had spent our efforts on, it was a quick farewell and good luck for the new season.

On reflection, it was a fantastic experience. Here is a lesson learnt and to share with you. Working with McLaren was 50% investment in design, creativeness and delivery. The remaining 50% was constantly reviewing, analysing and scrutinising where the potential risks and problems could occur.

Constructing, testing and filming in one day involves significant risk. We took that risk. If you do your homework, reframing risk can be an opportunity for a project to be a success.



Here is how the final McLaren film looked. Be great to know what you think.