Loaded 4×4 – with Canons, Pannys, GoPros and DJI Drones… my recent happy place!

by Australian Videocamera Senior Writer StephenTurner

Well. How things have changed in the world of location shoots. The days of lugging loads of heavy equipment are long gone. Everything is now light, compact, and easily carried in a small car.

What has also changed a lot is how many bits of kit we will take out on location. Over five days I recently filmed with Loaded 4×4 for an upcoming web project and took a variety pack of equipment.

The open spaces and the Flinders Ranges. Heading down to the Bendleby Ranges.

Check out loaded4x4.com.au and follow the link to Episode one.  The website is a great 4WD website with an awesome free magazine built in.

Setting up I had the gear spread out over my kitchen table. I had 15 items on charge!  Here’s the equipment list.

Just a few things to get charged…. 15 of them!

The number of SD cards and batteries needed has to be worked out in advance and looked after in the field.  It’s hard to predict how much you are going to film so over equipping is a good policy.  And have spares for everything!

So we took copious batteries and chargers both for mains and in car charging.  The XA50 is a great field camera and is good for endless run and gun shoots.  The battery life is very good and we ran all day with only one battery change.  Another reason I prefer conventional cameras for field work when speed and endurance are key to success.

For 4WD shoots its all about the action even though much of that action seems to already be in slow motion.  I rarely use legs as it’s way too time consuming to set up legs for each shot.  It also means poor flexibility and frankly is nearly impossible when scrambling up a very steep and rugged track.

 

The venerable 1994 Defender makes its sure footed way up Billy Goat track.

Each move up or along a track presents many new angles and opportunities.  Moving legs around limits those options unless you have days to do each part of a shoot!  Most of us don’t, so run and gun it is.  Well mostly it’s walk, climb, and climb, and gun, and try not to have a heart attack.

The XA50 is a great small camera for these shoots.  Light but powerful.  Shooting 4K at 150mbps with a nice 1″ sensor I like the ergonomics of the traditional video camera.

Who doesn’t like playing in muddy puddles!

I like the DLSR format as well but for this type of field work the video camera still rules.  It’s simple things like the placement of powered zoom controls with variable speeds.  Buttons where you need them quickly and built in XLR mounts and professional audio capability built in.

So you don’t need to build a rig based on loads of parts from third party sources.  Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s horses for courses.  And a dust blown (gale force and rain on one day) track with a steep climb is where a light weight camera is very useful.

The pristine beaches of Coffin Bay on SA’s Eyre Peninsula.

 The XA50 has a fabulous 20x zoom and also has a very good stabiliser. On a calmish day, and with something to lean on, it can be hand held at the 600mm end.  Awesome! You can be a human tripod.  Any slight movements can easily be smoothed out in post. Premiere’s stabiliser is very good for this.

Why six GoPros?  Mostly because we could!  We have two 8s, one 7, one 5, one 3, and a DJI Action camera (which is very good BTW).  For this shoot we wanted to do a lot of in car chats and set up each car to have a camera mounted on the windscreen.  Each has a Rode mic attached and mounted on the dash.

Dave and Georgia chatting about the Jeep Gladiator – and busy having too much fun.

The sound off these little mics is excellent and the audio is surprisingly good given the distance from the dash to the talent. The GoPro 5 is used for the classic action shots and gets moved around from car to car and differing positions.

The GoPro 3 is known as the “risky camera”. Having served a long and valuable life in action land it is now mounted so it can sit on the ground and has the most dangerous role of all the cameras. 

The Loaded 4×4 Triton (Trev) about to run over the GoPro 3…

Near misses are interspersed with the occasional collision.  The hardiness of the GoPro cameras and their housings had been shown many times over as they survive where you would expect they may have been crushed.

In the dunes at Sheringa (Eyre Peninsula, South Australia) the inevitable happened and it was run over.  Not a real problem in the soft sand but finding it was! I hadn’t thought of that.  Not that I could have done much other than have someone watch it at all times and stop the shoot when it went under.

The amazing dunes at Sheringa…(Eyre Peninsula, South Australia)

On hands and knees we looked like an outing of school kids as we dug through the sand for ages – to no avail.  Then Dave ambled over to see why we were apparently playing in the sand.  Kneeling down to help he immediately dug it up.  The man is a camera whisperer! Blew the sand off and back to work it went.

One happy little cameraperson…(The Bendleby Ranges, South Australia)

There was another scary moment when I thought we had lost one of the GoPro 8s.  It had been taken out of one of the cars and used on its bonnet.  Losing the camera is a pain but not fatal to the shoot…usually. But this time it may have been. It had vital in car pieces to camera recorded on it.  Bonnet shots we could lose.  In car chats we could not.

Thankfully it was hiding in plain sight on top of the older Land Rover and there was a collective sighs of relief. I made a new house rule that in car cameras can not be used for anything else.  It’s not like we don’t have enough of them!

On this trip I was handed the keys to the company Mavic Pro 2 – fresh out of the box.  It’s a brilliant quad with a Hasselblad mounted on it with a 1″ sensor.  The images are fabulous and the stability even in high winds makes for great flying.

On the soft sands at Sheringa on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

Using the tracking capability is good for 4WD shoots as the target is usually not moving that quickly.  This was the first time I tried these modes and while impressed I’d mostly stay fully manual.

This is because in tracking you’re capability to be bit more creative is limited.  I can circle a target easily in manual mode but then can add moves to that.  I plan to just get better at it and, much like any camera work, the only way is to master the manual side and use auto when that’s a good option.

The Parachilna, in the Flinders Ranges, is a great place to visit…

Over an epic five days we went up to the Flinders to shoot in Parachilna Gorge, down to the Bendleby Ranges for Billy Goat Track, and a lazy seven hour drive down to Coffin Bay for Sheringa and Gunyah beaches and dunes.  That was after five hours shooting on Billy Goat!  We slept well! 

 

 

 

 

 

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