New Attempts at Location Sessions

By | 2024-01-01

An ongoing list of equipment used on the For Folk’s Sake sessions.

Rev. Simpkins

  • Video: Panasonic G9 + Ronin SC gimbal, 4 x Panasonic G80
  • Audio: Shure KSM8 (vocal), AKG C414 (banjo), DPA 4011A (bass), Zoom F8
  • Location: Salt marshes, East England
  • Comfort: Poor

There were a few reasons for doing this outside, but I’m glad I did and it turned out nicely. This is really the session that made me think it would be good to get out more.

This was car based, so I didn’t optimise for weight at all and regretted it because it was at least a five minute walk from the car-park to the actual marsh and the heavy stand bags, plastic boxes of cable were a pain.

Video all worked fine. The G9 was on the gimbal as it has the better AF which largely behaved itself (with the help of a narrow aperture), although you can see some pulsing in the background vegetation. The G9 shot at 50fps to help the AF, but was edited down to 25fps to match the other cameras.

Microphones were largely chosen for their wind resistance as I was expected it to be gusty (and it was). My normal first choice vocal mic, the DPA 4018, is a bit too large for the Rycote wind protection I have so the KSM8 was taken instead. The C414 has a large foam and dead-cat combo, and the 4011A can work with the Rycote BBG which is 50db of wind protection. Since wind noise on the bass would be the hardest to fix in post, it made sense to arrange that way.

Maz O’Connor

  • Video: Sony RX100VII + Crane M2 gimbal, Panasonic G80
  • Audio: Shure KSM8 (vocal), DPA 4099 (guitar), Tascam D70
  • Comford: Good, ~6kg rucksack
  • Location: Mile End Cemetary Park.

This was my first attempt at a truly portable session setup. Previously for intra-London shoots I’d drag a big Peli case with a shoulder stand bag. I absolutely hated it and it put me off doing location work. My plan was to get the setup down to something that would fit, and be comfortable in, a rucksack.

Key parts of the weight reduction are: only two cameras (so only one tripod), smaller gimbal, lightweight mic stand and sensible redundancy options (i.e. no spare field recorder). This worked out well, the journey was across London with several changes and it was all perfectly comfortable.

The RX100VII is my travel camera and overall it’s a mixed bag, a combination of brilliant and terrible. On the plus side it’s small, video quality is good, and it has very solid AF. It has a few negatives. The stabaliser isn’t brilliant, and as I didn’t trust it not to fight the gimbal I shot with it off and stablised the small wobbles in post (you can see the double-vision effect in a few places). It also overheats, although that wasn’t a problem on this shoot.

Both cameras struggled with the dappled lighting. You can see some blown out patches on Maz’s skin and clothes. Exposing to bring them in properly would have made the shadows a mess. Later songs taken the same day were unusable as the sun moved round the over-exposured too much of the skin. This triggered a round of camera upgrades.

On the audio side, for weight saving I left the Zoom F8 at home and took the older Tasmcam D70. I wasn’t happy with the audio on this, the guitar track was terribly noisy. Some of that is the D70, it isn’t as good as the F8, but most of it is just the mic. The DPA 4099 is a very noisy microphone and on quieter sources it’s just not any good.


  • Video: Panasonic GH5II + Crane M3 gimbal, Panasonic GH5S (x2), Panasonic G9, Sony RX100 VII + Crame M2
  • Audio: DPA 4018VL (main vocal), Shure KSM8 (backing vocal), DPA 4011A (guitar), Zoom F8
  • Lights: F&V Z800S, Manfrotto Lykos
  • Comfort: Good
  • Location: Old manor host, Kent.

This was car based, with no walking at the other end, so easy peasy. I packed mostly sensibly apart from too many spare cables “just in case”.

This session was the first outing of my post-Maz camera upgrade, with the addition of the GH5 II (thanks to an very strange almost half-price offer at John Lewis) and a pair of second hand GH5S replacing G80s. The RX100 was just there because I thought I could give it to one of the spectators as a hold-and-shoot. In this case Rob from Skepwax took the camera and did a perfectly good job (at least until the gimbal went into sleep mode).

This was shot HLG as I thought it would be easier to match Panasonic’s HLG with Sony’s rather than trying match HLG and VLog. I got it close enough but it’s not perfect. Had some really wierd issues with compression block artifacts on the solid colour walls from the 8-bit RX100 when on YouTube, even though the local video copy looks OK.

For lights I bought my 2ftx1ft Z800S panel and a much smaller Manfrotto Lykos. The Lykos is the one casting the hard shadow on the right hand side.

Audio was pretty straightforward with all the good mics and the F8. First use of the DPA4011A on guitar duties where it did very well.

Dave Burn

  • Video: Panasonic GH5II + Crane M3 gimbal, Panasonic GH5II, Panasonic GH5S (x2)
  • Audio: KSM8 and Dave’s kit, Zoom F3
  • Lights: Some flexible LED panels Dave borrowed
  • Comfort: OK
  • Location: Karma Studios, North London

This was on foot and with two musicians and would normally mean I’d have to carry more stuff. But it turned out Dave is a location sound engineer and had his own portable audio rig, plus the stands already at Karma. This meant I could just focus on the video side and bring four cameras. Now with the addition of a nearly-new GH5 II.

For fixed support I had a two full size tripods and a mini one I placed on furniture. For this shoot I turned off continuous autofocus on the gimbal cam as I suspected the pulsing would look awful on the highlights from the shiny ribbons. Instead, I just focused, held then moved and re-focused. For moving shots I just rode the depth of field until it became noticeable. Not relying on the AF did mean I could shoot at 5K open gate which is limited to 25fps.

The audio for this was mostly on Dave’s gear. As he’s a location sound engineer that means good shotguns and a jealousy inducing Sound Devices recorder. For the 2nd track, Cold Station, as this was solo I took the opportunity to test a Zoom F3 I’d bought as a super portable recorder. I wasn’t sure I really trusted the whole no-gain controls aspect of it but it was absolutely fine. Audio mix was by Steven Llewelyn, a friend of Dave’s.

Lucy Farrell

  • Video: Panasonic S5 II + Ronin SC (main gimbal), Panasonic S5 (Lucy, acoustic from RHS), Panasonic GH5 II + Crane M3 (2nd gimbal, Lucy close-up) , Panasonic GH5 II (wide), Panasonic G9 (Lucy, guitar, BV from LHS)
  • Audio: KSM8 (main vocal), DPA 4018 (BV), DPA 4011A (acoustic guitar), SM57 + 4061 (guitar amp 1), MD421 + MK102 (guitar amp 2), C414 (bass amp)
  • Lights: F&V K400S and a big window
  • Comfort: OK
  • Location: The Bowerhouse, Maidstone

This was car based so no carrying restrictions. Dave from the previous session came along to help out on the audio side, but also did a little gimbal work on another track.

Having thought I’d finished with my upgrades Panasonic released the S5 II with actually good autofocus, and a very good deal on trading in a GH5S camera was too much to resist. Plus it gave me better low-light, better dynamic range and 6K resolution. It did, unfortunately, mean back on the heavy Ronin SC gimbal.

The 2nd GH5S was traded in against a used S5 performing the same “only 4K but good low-light” role, only better. Having the S5 also gave me a way of using more of the F1.8 L-mount primes I bought for the S5 II.

The AF on the S5 II was good in terms of not pulsing but didn’t always prioritise in the way I’d like, choosing to focus on the close acoustic player from behind rather than on Lucy’s face. I did have it set to human detect (inc. body) rather than face/eye. In terms of image quality the S5 cameras just straight up murdered the MFT ones. The lighting here meant that the ISO was around 4000 which is nicely on the 2nd native gain for the big cameras but pushing it for the small ones which needed a lot of noise reduction in post. On reflection for a mixed setup I’d have kept the GH5S rather than the the GH5 II but it didn’t matter for long. Matching colours between the two systems (even with everything on VLog) was more fiddly than expected.

Fairly straightforward selection of “good mics” for the audio. For the two guitar amps I double mic’d with a dynamic and a condenser just to have some flexibility in post. I do prefer taking a DI feed from electric guitars and then routing back to the amp for monitoring, but I know that makes me weird and I need to get over it. Plus, it does add a bit of complexity to the sound-check and levelling process. The right-hand acoustic was going through a slightly complicated pedal arrangement where the bass string has it’s own picked up, goes through an octave drop and routes to it’s own amp.

Overall I was pretty happy with how this one turned out.

Maz O’Connor (part 2)

  • Video: S5 II + 50/1,8 + Ronin RS3 mini, S1 + 24/1.8
  • Audio: Shure KSM8, DPA 4011A, Zoom F3
  • Location: North Woolwich, London
  • Comfort: OK, 7.8kg rucksack

As Maz was short-changed a bit with technical issues on the first shoot we decided to have another go.

The Lucy Farrell session basically killed MFT for me as a video format with both the GH5 IIs traded in afterwards. One became another S5 and the other a S1, again both used. Bringing to an end the upgrade period that shall be known as “the 2nd time of chaos”. The S1 is a bit of a trade off vs the S5. It’s bigger and heavier and the screen only flips and not fully articulate (making setting up the shot harder). But it does do 5.9K which is nice for framing wide and then cropping in the edit.

I changed the AF mode on the S5 II to eye detect for this. With the face fairly small in the frame it didn’t seem to be detecting the face/eye but the results are OK regardless. This was all shot at F8 so forgiving for the subject, but still with a little background blur.

The Crane M3 was no longer useful as it couldn’t come close to holding a FF camera, so that was replaced with a RS3 mini to save weight over the SC.

As Maz is a quiet player I used a full-size SDC rather than the 4099 of last time. The lightweight stand I have allows mounting a microphone on the vertical and still have the arm. But it is a bit fiddly to get everything lined up properly, the guitar mic ends up a little close and does make the shot a bit crowded. This was actually the 2nd video we shot and was a bit of a rushed setup after we had to move when the tide came in.

The windscreen on the 4011 is actually the WS8 screen designed for the Rode NT5 which is slightly more discrete than the full Rycote BBG.

Josh Ritter

  • Video: S5 II + 50/1.8 + Ronin RS3 mini, S1 + 24/1.8
  • Audio: Shure KSM8, DPA 4011A, Zoom F3
  • Location: St. Pancras Old Church, London
  • Comfort: OK, ~8kg rucksack and separate stand bag.

This shoot was before soundcheck at the venue for his gig that night. Josh is a much bigger artist than our platform really warrants so really grateful he made time for us.

Similar basic setup to Maz except this time with a 2nd microphone stand for the guitar which did work better. I carried a full-size stand in a separate bag but ended up using a venue small stand as he wanted to play seated.

It came out OK but there are a couple of video issues. Where the tripod shot is face on to this legs, and he’s sitting on a quite a low chair it does make his body look a bit weirdly proportioned. Also, the 50/1.8 was a bit long for that space so the whole gimbal shot is at maximum tightness. The 35/1.8 would have been better.

The other issue that bit me was there was a lighting flicker even though this was at 1/50s. This wasn’t obvious at the time, but was as soon as I got home. This was fixed in post with Digital Anarchy’s Flicker Free plugin which did a fantastic job. It’s very slow, but as a rescue tool I don’t mind.

Shot at ISO4000 which looks nice and clean. I think the aperture was from F5.6 to F4, opening out as the amount of natural light dropped.

Audio sounded nice aside from some creaky chair and clothing rustle issues. The mix was done by Rich Bond.

The Embers

  • Video: S5 II + 50/1.8 + Ronin RS3 mini, S1 + 20-60, S5 + 35/1.8, S5 + 50/1.8, G9 + 12-35/2.8
  • Audio: Shure KSM8 & Electro-Voice RE410 (vocals), DPA 4099 (guitar, guitar, violin), Rode NT5 (bass), Zoom F8
  • Location: Devonshire Nature Reserve, London
  • Comfort: Minor faff, car with 2 minutes walking

First outing of all four S-series cameras, and the G9 which was just happy to be included. Used the S5 kit-zoom for the first time as I needed the widest setting and it was all at F8+ anyway (even at minimum ISO). Video came out fine except I could have done a better job on positioning people, the violist was hidden too often and the bass looks like they’ve been cast out of the band.

The RE410 vocal mic makes a re-appearance. One of the original mics I bought when I started the sessions project, it is absolutely fine (and was a real bargain price wise), but now my third choice. Here it’s needed since the d:facto doesn’t fit the wind protection. As all the guitar playing is loud strumming the DPA 4099s are fine, and they always work well on violin. Rode NT5 on bass just because I didn’t want to expose the DPA 4011 to smoke.

Biggest audio issue was the location itself, it’s near a busy train line and underneath the Gatwick flight path. You can hear train noise at 0:45 and a plane at 1:55-2:10. It’s certainly not ideal but it sounded much worse in person, I was amazed we got away with it as much we did.

Rosie H Sullivan

  • Video: S5 II + 35/1.8 + Ronin RS3 mini, S1 + 24/1.8
  • Audio: DPA 4018VL, Shure KSM8 and Electro-Voice RE410 (vocals), DPA 4099 (guitar), Zoom F8
  • Location: Bar of The Grace, London
  • Comfort: Passable. Rucksack and stand bag, around 12kg.

Several months gap between recordings before this one so I was a bit rusty. All went fine, except I left the cameras on auto white balance so there is some colour shifting as I move around. ISO was around 5000 and lenses set to F4.

Although I used two cameras this video is just from the gimbal. The wide angle wasn’t great in terms of perspective (a recurring issue with the 24mm) and I do like the idea of doing these as one continuous shot. It’s just that normally I screw up the gimbal shot and have to fallback to the static one to cover.

Actually carried two stands as was expecting another guitar which if present would have meant that musician wouldn’t have been able to hand-hold. Without the 2nd stand I could have got away with just the rucksack (I think). First time squeezing a 3 piece into the rucksack setup.

Audio was basically fine aside from some street noise.