Reality TV: Discovery's <i>Fast N' Loud</i>
Issue: February 1, 2017

Reality TV: Discovery's Fast N' Loud

North Hollywood’s Pilgrim Media Group ( produces and posts a number of popular reality TV programs, including Street Outlaws, Misfit Garage, Wicked Tuna and Ghost Hunters. When Post caught up with executive producer Eddie Rohwedder, the studio was readying the 100th episode of Discovery Channel’s Fast N’ Loud. The show follows the Dallas-based, hot-rod builders at Gas Monkey Garage and the shop’s owner Richard Rawlings, who’s not afraid to take a gamble when it comes to growing his business.

Rohwedder says it’s his job to make sure the show stays on budget while maintaining a high production value. “Surprisingly, there is no script,” he says of the series. “It’s very authentic. We never know what’s going to happen with a car. The team of mechanics starts from scratch. We are very authentic with the builds, and the stakes are real in terms of building and selling [the cars].”

The show is shot using three Sony XDCAM cameras, equipped with long and wide lenses. Additional footage is acquired using GoPro Hero and Canon 5D cameras, as well as via a DJI Phantom drone. The production crew has a range of sliders, rails and a small dolly available. And the skilled mechanics at the shop have even built the crew a few custom rigs for different purposes. 

Gas Monkey’s Richard Rawlings is always looking for the next car to transform, often sending him on a long drive or plane ride to view prospective vehicles. The crew is designed to split up and move out on just a moment’s notice, should he decide to pursue a unique opportunity.  A range of suction-cup mounts position cameras to capture his travels, which often take place in a pickup truck, towing a flatbed trailer.

According to Rohwedder, each day, the production team ships the various camera cards back to Pilgrim Media Group for offloading. In addition, the production audio is copied on-site to a hard drive and shipped back as well.

Post production takes place entirely in North Hollywood. The show has employed three core editors from day 1, though they’ll bring on additional help when needed. Typically, one editor handles what Rohwedder describes as the ‘A story’ and another the ‘B story.’

“We never know what the big problem is going to be with builds,” he notes. Having dedicated editors for each storyline helps to keep the tone consistent.  Editors at Pilgrim Media Group cut on Avid systems. Typically, an episode can be posted in six weeks, though some have been completed in as few as three weeks.

“I try to pay attention to the small details,” says Rohwedder, who points to the show’s production audio as an example. “A lot of shows use effects, but we try to strive for a tone that’s authentic.” Early on, the team noticed that some of the sounds from the massive hot-rod engines were being blown out and not translating well in the viewer’s living room. The crew found that a Shure Beta 52A microphone, commonly used for mic’ing kick drums, worked well for capturing the low-end rumble of the high-powered engines. This allowed the audio to remain authentic.

Fast N’ Loud draws on the Vanacore Music’s ( production music library. “I can’t tell you how much I love the relationship with David (Vanacore),” says Rohwedder.

Vanacore is based in Valencia, CA, and offers both library and custom music services. The show makes use of both, and Rohwedder estimates that each episode features at least one or two original tracks that reflect the uniqueness of the car being built.  The show’s final look comes together in the color suite at Pilgrim Media Group. “From day 1 we started [developing] the look, and it took a while to get that [final] look,” says Rohwedder. “Once it was set, we haven’t adjusted it much during the years.” Rohwedder says the look is “warm” and is designed to compliment the dry, rusted-out cars that the shop brings in. “The DP and team in online worked hard to get that look. It’s amazing to see the video in online.”

The studio performs color correction using Avid Symphony. Color, says Rohwedder, did change “dramatically” when the Gas Monkey team moved into its new, modern and much-larger shop in Dallas. The old shop is seeing new life too, as former Gas Monkey employees started their own hot-rod business in the familiar space.

Like Rawlings, Pilgrim Media Group saw an opportunity too, and created a new show based on the upstart. Misfit Garage features many familiar faces from early seasons of Fast N’ Loud. There’s plenty of drama, too. And Richard Rawlings often makes appearances, keeping the shows closely connected.