The Making Of 'The Great Outdoors' For Manfrotto

Get behind the scenes with our production for Manfrotto's 'The Great Outdoors' campaign, featuring ZEISS Milvus Super Speed prime lenses and the DJI Mavic Air.

Spring is here, and so are Manfrotto's new backpacks in the form of the Pro Light Cinematic Expand, and Pro Light Cinematic Balance. They are larger than the original Pro Light range which makes them ideal for carrying a plethora of filmmaking gear, in this case the ZEISS Milvus Super Speed prime lenses, DJI Mavic Air and Zhiyun Tech Crane 2.

 Checking out the views with the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand backpack and ZEISS Milvus Super Speed 1.4/25.

Checking out the views with the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand backpack and ZEISS Milvus Super Speed 1.4/25.

I headed out to the beautiful Surrey Hills to test out the new backpack and absorb the landscapes while out filming. Rich accompanied me to capture some awesome behind the scenes photos and video content too.

We spent a rainy day wandering around Holmbury St Mary and Leith Hill, recce'ing locations for filming that week. Luckily for us, the sun shone through the clouds for our 3 days filming!

Here is the kit list for the shoot:

  • Sony a7S II (with the SmallRig cage)

  • Sony a6500

  • Canon 5D III (BTS stills)

  • ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes (1.4/25, 1.4/35, 1.4/50, 1.4/85)

  • Zhiyun Crane 2

  • DJI Mavic Air

  • Canon 25-105mm F/4

  • Canon 17-40mm F/4

  • Samyang 35mm T/1.5

  • Manfrotto NITRO N8 video head and 535 MPRO tripod

All of the main filming kit fitted into the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand.

 The range of equipment used in The Great Outdoors filming. Inc Manfrotto NITRO N8, 535 MPRO, ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes

The range of equipment used in The Great Outdoors filming. Inc Manfrotto NITRO N8, 535 MPRO, ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes

Choosing The Surrey Hills Locations

We captured some fantastic shots around the hills, featuring well known beauty spots like Leith Hill. Going on an adventure around familiar and unfamiliar territory, capturing the environment and landscapes that surrounded us was a great way to test the kit.

To add to the narrative of the production, Scott from The Surrey Hills Adventure Company invited us to the lagoon where he instructs SUP (stand up paddleboarding) as well as bushcraft, to shoot some material there. The weather wasn't the best, but Scott headed out on the paddleboard which made for some great aerial shots.

The sharpness of the ZEISS Milvus Super Speed 85mm was ideal for getting shots of the boat house, which was deliberately framed like a Wes Anderson shot!

 Scott from The Surrey Hills Adventure Company taking his SUP for a spin.

Scott from The Surrey Hills Adventure Company taking his SUP for a spin.

The ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes have a constant aperture of F/1.4 and can have the gear ring attached for use with a follow focus system. The lenses are of incredible visual quality (rendering 6K plus resolution images), and were ideal for filming on the Sony a7S II with the Sigma MC-11 adapter. I rigged up the camera and lens in the Small Rig cage, and attached the Manfrotto Follow Focus too, for precise focus pulling control at wide apertures.

 The gear ring attached to the ZEISS Milvus 1.4/85 for a Manfrotto follow focus unit

The gear ring attached to the ZEISS Milvus 1.4/85 for a Manfrotto follow focus unit

For the silky smooth motion shots, the a7SII was rigged up with the Zhiyun Tech Crane 2, and even with the heavy ZEISS Milvus lenses, the gimbal performed very well (upon balancing correctly). The stabilised sensor aids greatly to reduce the up and down motion of walking, with the Crane 2 keeping everything else lovely and steady. As a handheld gimbal, I cannot recommend it enough.

Working With The DJI Mavic Air

I had the opportunity to shoot some lovely aerials around the area too on the DJI Mavic Air. This is my first little drone venture and is fantastic fun. The Fly More combo has enough batteries for between 45 minutes and 1 hours and comes with a nice carry bag too. I've managed to fit the drone, 3 batteries, controller and a set of Polar Pro ND filters in there too.

 The DJI Mavic Air is a fantastic addition to the kit bag (Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand), and fits into the bag very well!

The DJI Mavic Air is a fantastic addition to the kit bag (Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand), and fits into the bag very well!

By the way, those Polar Pro ND filters are really needed to keep the shutter at 1/50 or 1/100 for slow mo. I've set the drone to Cinelike-D profile with reduced contrast, and then applying an S-like curve in post to bring back the colour and contrast. Shooting in 4K and 2.5K resolutions is great for post-production flexibility, when delivering a HD sequence.

Another technique to improve the colour richness, especially in the sky is to export the Mavic Air footage from your NLE as a PNG sequence, and then import it into Lightroom to apply the 'Dehaze' tool, which makes the colours more vibrant. It's a bit of a round-trip, but this effect/feature isn't available in Premiere Pro CC, yet.

One downside to the DJI Mavic Air is that the shadows are quite noisy, even when the image is exposed well, so keep an eye out for that. Below are some of the outtake drone shots of the Surrey Hills from the campaign.

The edit was where the story of 'The Great Outdoors' was to be built, and with some voice over recording and subtle soundtrack, the first part of the video began to come together. There was a lot to say about the shoot and the Pro Light Cinematic Expand backpack, in such a short amount of time. The visuals had to tell the story more than just what I was saying.

Rather than making the campaign video just a review, I chose to make the second part of the video different; changing the soundtrack and pace. This part was showing what you can do with the kit, what you can create and what stories you can tell.

I must say a massive thank you to Rich Tarr who accompanied myself on this production, capturing the BTS photos and video content. Without him, this couldn't have been possible! Also to Scott from The SHAC, if you're into outdoors, seriously check them out!

 Rich Tarr, BTS producer

Rich Tarr, BTS producer

 Rich getting back to basics

Rich getting back to basics

My verdict on the Pro Light Cinematic Expand? It's come with me for every shoot since this campaign. It's large and comfortable enough to carry a two camera setup with a set of 4/5 lenses and a telephoto. There is always extra room for mics and clamps, stands and the like by expanding the bag or making use of the quick access pockets. Try the bag out for yourself, it really suited my filming kit choice.

Overall, the campaign had a great reception and myself, Rich and Scott were really pleased with the result. To add to that, ZEISS will also be featuring a blog post and unique video about using the Milvus Super Speed prime lenses on their LENSPIRE website, so keep an eye out for that soon!

If you've got any questions about the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand, filming with the ZEISS Milvus Super Speeds, flying with the DJI Mavic Air, then just get in touch!