The car's the star

The team of Discovery's Wheeler Dealers come to Dubai.
Brewer and the team get among the enthusiasts.
Brewer and the team get among the enthusiasts.

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The team from Discovery Channel’s popular motor show Wheeler Dealers was in Dubai recently, shooting the season finale of a new companion show to the motoring ratings winner.

The Discovery Channel’s Wheeler Dealers team were in town for five days last month alongside their hosts from regional partner OSN, shooting for Wheeler Dealers Trading Up, a spin off from the original tried and tested format, and we joined them for the last day of shooting at Dubai’s Autodrome.

Alongside the crew, a host of local classic car fans had brought their wheels along to make sure the day, and the show, was a visual pleasure for petrolheads across the EMEA.

Wheeler Dealers presenter Mike Brewer explained the genesis and concept of the new show to Digital Studio ahead of the final day’s shooting: “The journey started 10 years ago when Michael Wood, the show’s creator, producer and director came up with the idea for Wheeler Dealers and asked me to present,” he said.

“It’s now in its 10th season, and this is new venture called Trading Up. It’s an idea I’ve carried round my whole life – I wanted to see if I could play world’s car market the same as its money market. I started out in Calcutta with $3,000, with which I bought a Suziki Maruti Alto, and a gameplan to play the markets and trade up to a supercar by the final episode here in Dubai.

“I traded the Alto up to a Hindustani Ambassador, which I shipped to the UK and sold to an Indian gentleman living there and then had about $6,000. I did some more buying and selling in the UK and worked up to a Chevy.

They love their muscle cars in Sweden so I took that over there and after a few more trades came back to the UK with a Volvo.

We took in Japan – where we lost almost all the profit we’d made after a breakdown in a 1970s Toyota Celica, Mexico and eventually California where we ended up with a beautiful 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, and that’s what’s coming to Dubai, where we hope to sell it for enough to buy a Porsche 911, a Ferrari, or some sort of supercar.”

It’s certainly been a globetrotting few months for the team – the crew of five have been away from friends and family for around six months, travelling the world and living together 24/7, which Brewer admits has been a challenge, but he’s also pleased to have experienced a diverse mix of cultures on his quest to trade up to supercar status: “Part of the challenge was having to quickly learn about the culture of different countries, and of course their car markets,” he says.

“In India you’re expected to take the car to the buyer, not the other way round. In Japan very little interaction takes place and it’s all very polite and formal – that was the first time I’ve ever experienced someone offering to pay me more money than the car was on sale for – and here in Dubai it’s like going to the world’s best motorshow, but all the cars are on the streets!

“I had to learn the psyche of doing deals very quickly, and understand the different markets. In Japan there are lots of people in a very small space, so you find lots of little 600cc Q-Cars that look like nothing, but inside they’ll have 14 TVs and a sound system that could take all the windows out.

Shooting in Dubai the other day, on the other hand, we saw two Mustang GTs just parked up covered in dust. Someone saw us looking at them and took us to a garage round the corner, where there was an original Shelby Mustang GT500, serial #10, signed on the dashboard by [sportscar designer] Carroll Shelby, and it was just locked up in a garage gathering dust!”

Moving on to the Autodrome, Digital Studio arrived to find the team setting up for some ident shots before they got down to the main business of the day’s shoot. Director Wood gives the lowdown: “We’ve taken a classic 1950s pick up truck to the pit lane and we’re going to do some trailers for Discovery over there. We’ve got a jib set up, and the plan is that the shots will be quite stylised.

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“We have a certain look and feel, and that’s why we take the same crew and equipment with us all over the world. The crew would be bigger in the UK, with usually three cameramen and two sound guys, whereas we travel the world with two cameramen and a single soundman.

We also have 25 flightcases of equipment we take around with us – it sometimes feels like we spend most of spend most of our time talking to customs officers! It took us about two and a half hours to get the gear into Dubai this week, and time management is a huge part of my job, both on set and generally when we travel.”

With the team in place and the cameras rolling, Brewer sets about imploring the viewers of Russia to catch season 10 of Wheeler Dealers before the team break off to check the results: “We always check after the first shot of the day,” explains Wood.

“This all used to be done on tape so there was a physical medium that you could see and hold onto, but now it’s all on cards and there’s always that nervousness that it could get deleted or lost, so we always do a confidence check after the first take of day to make sure everything’s being recorded ok.”

With the idents complete and the viewers of most of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East treated to their own personal trailer (as well as the US where, possibly to avoid antagonising sections of society for whom the notion of ‘discovery’ is anaethema, the show is screened instead on something called The Velocity Channel) the team are onto the main event – mixing with the assembled car owners and talking business.

Wood says: “The main cameras we use are Sony PMW-500s, and the only challenge we have there really is data wrangling.

We used to just put the disc in our bag and go home, but now we’re often up late downloading onto our laptops as we’re running two main cameras and also five GoPros, and everything has to be backed up three times for insurance purposes. We’re literally talking about saving terabytes of media every day.

“We’re not using the GoPros today, as we don’t really need them for this ort of shoot, but yesterday we were out with our local contributor in his Ferrari 430 and we covered that in GoPros, in the engine bay and everywhere. It was a nice car!”

Last month, Eclipse Production’s Babak Amini told us he’d recently used GoPros alongside Alexa, and found that the results were remarkably easy to match up in post, and Wood is of the same opinion: “The two blend together nicely,” he says. “There’s really not too much post to worry about when using them with the Sonys.”

Beyond the main shoot at Dubai Autodrome, the trip in the Ferrari and the time spent filming abandoned Mustangs, the crew also used its time in Dubai to shoot a number of city shots, film opening and closing sequences to camera and even buy a cheap Prado, fix it up and head out into the desert to meet up with a group of 4x4 enthusiasts for another section of the show – it sounds like few moments of the five day visit were wasted.

You may, of course, be wondering whether the team successfully achieved the objective of trading up to a supercar while they were here, and I should tell you that you’ll have to watch to find out.

In fact, I don’t actually know myself. As if to prove that for all the technology, planning and time management in the world, a live production can never compete with nature’s whims, the weather stepped in unexpectedly.

As the crew were heading for Dubai and the car was on a ship from California, they learned that it had been held up en route in China by a storm. With the team’s schedules packed thanks to more series of the original show to shoot they couldn’t delay their visit, so as it turns out they’ll be back in March to hopefully complete and film the sale. If you’ve ever fancied owning a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, you may want to make a note.

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Wheeler dealers trading up Kit List
- 1x Sony PMW-500 Camcorder
- 1x Sony HDVF-20A Viewfinder
- 1x Canon HJ11ex4.7B IRSE
- 1x Canon HJ22 ex 7.6 IRSE
- 2x Raven QR Mount + Bars
- 1x Raven Matte Box
- 4x 32 GB SXS Card
- 1x Sony PDW F350 Camcorder
- 1x Sony DXF 20W Viewfinder
- 1x Canon KH10e x 3.6 IRSE sx12
- 1x Canon B4/PH Mount
- 2x Satchler Speedlock CF Tripod & Video 20S1 Head
- 1x Vintern Pro 6 Tripod and head system
- 1x Libec T-102 heavy duty tripod
- 1x Vinten Baby Legs
- 2x Libec JB-30 jib arm & underslung adaptor
- 11x Libec TR-320 dolly & track
- 1x Manfrotto 055XPROB stills tripod
- 2x Kupo 169 Lighting stand
- 1x Digital Jucie Lowrider
- 1x Sony PVM-740 Monitor
- 1x Swit 190Wh Vlock battery
- 1x Swit 158Wh Vlock battery
- 3x Swit 126Wh Vlock battery
- 2x Hawkwoods VL-140 140W Battery
- 1x PowerLok PLV-95
- 1x Swit Vlock battery charger
- 1x PowerLok battery charger
- 3x HD Hero
- 3x HD Hero 2
- 1x Nikon D7000 DSLR
- 1x Nikon MB-D11 Battery Pack
- 1x Nikon MH-25 Battery Charger
- 1x Nikon AF-S 18-105mm Lens
- 1x Nikon 60mm Micro Lens
- 1x Nikon AF-S 70-300mm Lens
- 1x Giga T Pro II wireless shutter release
- 1x Canon G11 Compact Camera
- 1x Canon CB-2LZE
- 2x Gecko LED light panel
- 1x IDX Light
- 1x Lite Panel Micro
- 1x Lite Panel MicroPro
- 1x Arri magic arm
- 2x Manfrotto car sucker mounts
- 1x Westcott Illuminator Reflector
- 30x Sony XDCam Disc 25GB
- 9x Safety Gear (Harness, Hi-vis Jackets and Goggle)
- 1x Fujitsu Amilo Li3710 Notebook
- 1x Zaxcom Fusion 10 mixer
- 2x Zaxcom TRX 900AA recorder
- 2x Zaxcom STA 150 stereo adapter
- 2x Zaxcom TRX 900LTH recorder
- 2x Zaxcom TRX 900LA recorder
- 3x Zaxcom QRX 100 mixer / camera adapter
- 2x Zaxcom BlueFin Antenna
- 2x Audio Limited 2020 rx/tx
- 2x Audio Limited 2020 rx/tx
- 1x Sennheiser EK 500G2 bodypack
- 1x Sennheiser SK 500G2 bodypack
- 1x VDB L/CL six stage boom
- 1x Sennheiser 416 Gun mic, rycote basket and windjammer
- 1x Portabrace AH-3H-MEMM harness
- 2x Sennheiser HD25 headphones
- 4x Eumel phantom power adapters
- 6x Tram TR50 mics
- 10x Sanken COS-11mics
- 1x Black Box Video Timecode sync box
- 1x Black Box Video Timecode sync box
- 1x Deneckie SB-T Timecode sync box
- 1x Ambient ACD 301 MkIII timecode slate
- 1x Remote Audio BDS1/6V4U power adaptor
- 1x Remote Audio RMv2 power adaptor
- 2x Powerex MH-C9000 battery charger
- 1x Ipower FC-9V4LN battery charger
- 1x Hawk-Woods NP35 Lithium Ion battery
- 2x Hawk-Woods NP60 Lithium Ion batteries
- 3x Hawk-Woods NP65 Lithium Ion batteries
- 1x Hawk-Woods MR2 battery charger
- 1x Hawk-Woods SL-1 battery charger
- 1x Hawk-Woods NPB-XLR4S NP adaptor
- 1x Hawk-Woods NPU-XLR4S NP adaptor
- 1x Power Lock Charger PLVC2
- 1x Lacie Rugged drive 0.5TB
- 2x Lacie Rugged drive 1TB

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