Gumball 3000 | Shooting with the Sony A7S II & FS7 II image

Gumball 3000 | Shooting with the Sony A7S II & FS7 II

Gumball 3000: A mass collection of supercars, taking on a 3,000 mile journey from Riga to Mykonos in the summer of 2017.

The entrants have 6 days to complete the drive which is segregated nightly by parties and dinners full of glitz and grandeur. Crowds fill every city that the moving circus pulls into, with fans desperate to get a glimpse of the cars they have swooned over on Instagram. It’s a level of euphoria that is hard to explain without witnessing first hand with tens of thousands of people filling streets, squares, climbing trees and attempting to clamber over security barriers. Through past work with Gumball, Finn, Hugo and 8 Seconds Media were granted AAA for the entire event, so had free roam to shoot as they pleased, enabling them to cover the rally from a unique and embedded angle, with the help of Fixation.

Gumball 3000 © Hugo Pettit© Hugo Pettit

In Hugo’s own words:
Organising the logistics for the trip ourselves, we planned a 3 week route with Gumball sandwiched in the middle and the first stop in Thirsk to see long standing partners Twisted. Having picked up our beautifully re-engineered Land Rover defender, we boarded the ferry to Europe, the start of a huge triangular trip around Europe. Commissioned to shoot both film and stills, we used the Leica SL and M 240 and for film we used our own Sony A7S II and bolstered it with another A7S II and the Sony FS7 II with a couple of Sony 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 lenses. These were rented from Fixation and were chosen for the A7’s ‘run-and-gun’ abilities and ease to mount on the DJI Ronin-M, and the FS7 II for the higher frame rate and image quality.

Arriving in Riga, we planned our route through the 10 countries that comprised the rally. It was a surreal trip; it’s rare to be able to have the time to travel through each of these countries by car and actually explore them. Although driving circa 500 miles per day, the route dissected some of each countries most beautiful roads. Mountains, coastlines, plains and stunning rivers, it was amazing to watch the scenery change the further south we travelled. Staying each night in generally the capital city of whichever country we were in, we also had the job to capture the other side to the Gumball price tag; the wild and decadent parties that occur each night, laid on for the Gumballers. While only a certain amount can be disclosed and captured on film, safe to say it was an eye-opening and amazing experience.

Gumball 3000 © Hugo Pettit© Hugo Pettit

A particular highlight was arriving at the Albanian border. Met by a huge convoy of police men and cars, one for every 10 Gumball super cars, we were under the assumption that it was going to be one of the more boring legs of the journey. Not only is Albania absolutely stunning but it seemed the the ‘creme-de-la-creme’ of police cars and drivers and been chosen for the role, while what felt like the rest of the Albanian police lined the road into Tirana (our stop for the night) to keep other traffic and people off the roads. There was not one point along the route in Albania that there were not fans in sight, desperate to see the cars.  Back to the police cars, it seemed they had been instructed to drive at 110mph through the whole country, regardless of the then unimportant speed restrictions lining the roads, corners and other cars. There were moments that were effectively 170 super cars in a line/group speeding legally through some of the most beautiful countryside we’d driven through. To then be met by the crowds that awaited us in Tirana and the night that followed topped it off. A true Gumball experience, one that could not have been replicated in any way shape or form.

Gumball 3000 © Hugo Pettit© Hugo Pettit

We spent the trip effectively moving from hotel to hotel and otherwise living out of the back of the Twisted, only just about enough space for the 4 of us, our kit and the ability to work and edit continuously while driving. With power inverters for the car, we also had all of our kit charging, definitely pushing the limits of what car fuses can usually handle.

Living out of a bag and shooting is something we’re used to but to do so while working the hours that were required each day was taking, not only for us but the kit too.

Our daily routine would see us up at 5.30am and we worked straight through until around 2.00am when we could finally hit the sack.

We finished up a laptop screen and a Sony RX100v down at the end, but the Sony A7S II’s (kept in Tilta cages or on the DJI Ronin-M) and the FS7 II kept in it’s supported bag were safe from the enduring amount of use they saw. Sony have an amazing range of cameras, of which the FS7 II and A7S II were perfect for this job. While the superior image quality and higher frame rate of the FS7 II were key for certain shots, we used the A7S II for the majority of the work, especially as we had one mounted constantly on the DJI Ronin-M. With our very-much run-and-gun approach to the job and lack of specific structure to the edit afterwards, the key for this project was to shoot as much as we could and build the edit’s story afterwards. This suited the A7S II hugely. It’s light, holds an SD card (great for quickly dumping footage onto an Macbook Pro) and is easily small enough to have sat with me while editing in the back of the car. I had it set up to shoot at 100fps continuously, giving me the ability in the edit afterwards to be able to slow footage down appropriately.

Gumball 3000 © Hugo Pettit© Hugo Pettit

The FS7 II however, although providing beautiful footage and amazing dynamic range, was much harder to have as a run-and-gun camera. Almost too bulky to have out the window of the car while moving and definitely not the space to have it next to me while editing, the FS7 II lived in its case in the boot when not being used for setup shots at specific locations. Once on location however, it performed beautifully. With its built-in stabiliser function, the camera lived on my shoulder and even at 25fps shoots a very steady image with functions easy to manage without putting it down (once you had the menu system memorised!). With the FS7 II, we shot mainly in 150fps and had the camera set up (through a customised S&Q button at easy reach) so it took just one button to switch between 25fps and 150 fps, a very handy function to have.

Having grown up as a photographer, I’ve got used to constantly and manually managing light through ISO, aperture and shutter speed, dependant on the point of the shot. The A7S II works well for those that have evolved from stills photographers, apart from the added necessity of a variable ND. If you shoot in S-Log3, which has the best dynamic range, your minimum ISO is 3200, which therefore immediately requires a variable ND, even if you were to dare shooting at ƒ/22 and a shutter far too fast for the fps (to match the speed of you eye, your shutter speed should be double that of your fps e.g shooting 100fps, your frame rate should be 1/200 and similarly, if you’re shooting 25fps, your shutter speed should be 1/50). One of the beauties of the FS7 II however, is the easy switch between the terms ISO and GAIN and the use of the in-built variable ND, which operates seamlessly, great for variable lighting conditions.

Gumball 3000 © Hugo Pettit© Hugo Pettit

Both cameras have well-discussed pros and cons that I’ve highlighted above and below, but using them in conjunction with one another was the perfect combination on such an event. Where the image quality and higher frame rate were needed, the FS7 II was the camera of choice, while the A7S II had the huge ‘run-and-gun’ advantages that were required more often the not shooting in night clubs, out of cars and in areas where bulkier cameras are less welcome/easy to operate. One of the beauties of having what looks effectively just like a stills camera is people don’t immediately react. The FS7 II doesn’t go unnoticed!

A7S II advantages:

  • Light and Easy to use
  • Great for night life with the low light capabilities
  • Great continuous autofocus capabilities with native Sony lenses attached
  • Great handheld image stability when not on the DJI Ronin M

A7S II disadvantages:

  • Complicated menu if it is not your own camera and difficult to quickly setup custom buttons
  • Noticeably lower image quality than the FS7 due to it’s 8Bit limit
  • Poor battery life

FS7 II Advantages:

  • Beautiful dynamic range and footage quality
  • Easy and smooth variable ND built into camera
  • With correct setup, easy to switch between S&Q Motion (High frame rate) and continuous 25fps 4k shooting
  • Good battery life

FS7 II Disadvantages:

  • Difficult to setup
  • Can only use constant high frame rate settings with specific software updates and v lock power pack
  • Bulky and therefore cannot use on the Ronin M or have it in a small rucksack or sitting on lap
  • Small monitor and hard to view in bright sunlight, imperative to use the eye-cup


Gumball 3000 from 8 Seconds on Vimeo.


Close-up: Sony A7S II Video Options

We take a closer look at the video functionality on the Sony A7S II

Sony A7S II 4

Sony’s A7S II has fast become one of the most attractive options for the videographer from all current mainstream camera systems. In this article, we take a closer look at the wealth of functionality it offers for video users.

First – what is it?

The α7S II is the successor to the α7S compact system camera announced in 2014. It currently joins the α7 II and the α7R II in Sony’s full-frame mirrorless lineup, the former being a relatively affordable all-round option with a 24MP sensor and the latter camera’s 42MP sensor making resolution its priority (hence the ‘R’).

The α7S II, meanwhile offers the same 12.2MP pixel count as the model it updates, although Sony is said to have revised the circuitry and processing to enable better noise control.

Video resolution

The camera records 4K footage in the 4K UHD format (3840×2160) in contrast to the DCI 4K resolution of 4096×2160. The fact that the camera records 4K video footage is not in itself that special. After all, aside from pro-grade video cameras, this is now being offered by many other interchangeable-lens models, as well as compacts, GoPro action cameras and a growing number of smartphones. What sets the Sony’s α7S II apart from more mainstream models are two things: the way this is captured and the tools the videographer has at their disposal at every stage of the shoot.Sony A7S IISony states that the camera records video with full-pixel readout to improve quality and suppress aliasing artefacts such as moire, and this is the case whether you’re recording video in 4K or Full HD. This process means the sensor takes information from every pixel before the image processor downsamples it to 4K (or HD) resolution. This is in contrast to binning, where the values of multiple pixels are combined into one at the sensor level to boost the signal-to-noise ratio, and line skipping, where certain rows or columns are ignored.


The ‘S’ in α7S II stands for sensitivity, and it’s this that made most of the headlines upon the camera’s announcement. When capturing videos, the camera’s sensitivity stretches over a respectable range of ISO 100-102,400, although this can be boosted to an option equivalent to ISO 409,600 when required.Sony A7S II


The AVCHD codec that Sony has previously used for video is maintained on the α7S II, although this is joined by the more recent XAVC S codec. Based on the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format, the XAVC S codec is used to record 4K footage at 25fps, at either 60Mbps or a higher-quality 100Mbps, and stores this as an MP4 file.

The camera can also record Full HD footage where the higher resolution of 4K is not required, at frame rates between 25fps (50Mbps) to 120fps (up 100Mbps) for slow-motion-video recording, using the XAVC S codec. When shooting at the 120fps setting (or 100fps in PAL), the frame is cropped by a factor of 2.2x.

Sony A7S II

Recording internal and externally

Unlike the previous α7S, which required an external recorder to actually record 4K footage, the α7S II follows the α7R II in being able to do this internally. You can, however, use the Dual Video REC option to output clean (uncompressed) 4K video through the HDMI-out to an external recorder, while recording 4K footage to a memory card inside the camera. You can also use this to record XAVC-S and MP4 or AVCHD and MP4 video to the memory card.

There is another benefit to recording through the HDMI output through to an external recorder, namely 4:2:2 chroma subsampling. When recording 4K or Full HD video internally, chroma subsampling happens at 4:2:0. However, one caveat is that, when outputting 4K footage to a recorder, the rear display goes dark.

You can record video continuously for around 29 minutes at a time, although this varies with temperature, with higher temperature shortening this. Should the sensor get too hot while recording video, a warning will appear on the display to indicate that it should be stopped.

Gamma and Picture Profiles

The α7S offered the S-Log2 option for recording video, this is joined by the S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log-3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3 alternatives on the α7S II.

Sony states that these options offer better tonal reproduction in shadows to mid greys, with 14EV stops of dynamic range. This latitude potentially makes it better when it comes to editing footage.

Sony A7S IIOrdinarily, this footage would appear flat and lacking in contrast on the rear display, making it hard to accurately assess focus and exposure. This is where the Gamma Display Assist option steps in; this uses the Rec.709 standard to provide the user with a more natural rendition of recorded footage when the camera is set to either the S-Log2 and S-Log3 settings.

Sony has also revised the previously seen Zebra function to make it easier to gauge correct exposure, whether or not you’re shooting in one of the Log settings.

Sony’s Picture Profiles allow you to specify how footage is recorded with respect to the colour, gradation and so on. This gives you the control to either get the footage right in camera for immediate use or to create the most appropriate file for grading.


As we’d expect from a camera targeted towards professional video use, the α7S II has both built-in stereo microphones and the option of attaching an external one through a 3.5mm port at its side.

Sony A7S II

There’s also a port for attaching headphones so that you can monitor audio while recording. A separate control allows you to choose whether to have audio levels displayed on the monitor.

You can disable audio recording where not required and there is also the option of a wind noise filter, which is effective with the in-built microphones (ie not external ones).


Other advantages

One of the other major advantages of the α7S II over other models is its 5-axis image stabilisation system, which works over pitch, yaw and roll, as well as shifting in vertical and horizontal directions. The fact that this is located at the sensor gives it the benefit of being compatible with all mounted lenses, which is just as well as the camera can accept a range of lenses from other manufacturers via adapters.

Focus peaking is also on hand for those wanting to use manual focus. This gives you the option to change colour between red, yellow and white (which you may want to change depending on what it is you’re recording), as well as the peaking level, which can be set to high, mid and low settings.

The camera also offers an Auto Slow Shutter option. When this is enabled, shutter speed is reduced when the camera deems necessary in order to better balance the exposure during video recording. Time coding support is also provided should you wish to use it.

Sony A7S II 1

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