Wooden Camera and UTV Wolfpack Go Off-Roading!
Orange County, California’s Jeremy Merrell is an off-road UTV racer for Rockstar Energy Drinks and Polaris RZR, as well as a professional photographer and videographer. For over 15 years, he has captured footage for the world’s top professional athletes from many action sport disciplines, including freestyle motocross and off-road racing. Along the way, he's also produced content for some of the largest action sports brands and sponsors, including Monster and Rockstar Energy Drinks.
Jeremy recently became an ambassador for Wooden Camera, and with this relationship has had the opportunity to test and evaluate gear from our line of SONY products, including the A7 and FS5 Pro Accessory Kits. We asked him about his travels, essential production gear, and how he used Wooden Camera accessories during 18 months and thousands of miles through the world's most rigorous conditions.
Wooden Camera (WC): Tell us about yourself and your shooting style.
Jeremy Merrell: We are a professional off-road race team, off-roading parts company, Polaris RZR Factory racers, Rockstar Energy Athletes, and content creators. Prior to starting up UTV Wolfpack Racing and Parts, I owned a production company for 15 years. We created content for several prominent action sports brands including two of the largest energy drink companies. We also produced commercials, music videos, and world-wide giveaways and activation for several brands like Rockstar Energy Drinks, Warner Brothers, Playstation, Indian Motorcycles, Polaris RZR, Miller Welders, and Makita tools. All the content that we create now revolves around the off-road lifestyle of our racing, travels, and adventures.
While working for Monster Energy in 2009, I traveled with Robby Gordon and his team to the Dakar Rally, one of the toughest races in the world. This 5,600 mile, off-road race from Argentina to Chile lasts a staggering 18 days. The trip turned out to be one of my most grueling experiences, but also one of the greatest of my professional career. This assignment required me to capture, interview, and edit the day’s content every evening for it to then be uploaded to the “Team Gordon” web channels. This way, the content was available for both the fan base and sponsors to watch as the event took place.
My adventures though South America proved that I not only enjoyed the rapid pace of the work, but also excelled in the guerrilla, “run-and-gun” style of filmmaking. Most importantly, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about working under extremely tight deadlines and understanding which equipment is absolutely necessary to get the job done as efficiently as possible. The nature of these assignments forced me to reevaluate the equipment required to produce great content, and ultimately travel light.
WC: What cameras do you shoot with? How do you rig them?
Jeremy: We are currently using a Sony A7rii, Sony FS5, Sony AX100, Sony RX0, GoPros, and a DJI Mavic Pro. The FS5 is our main camera. We use it to shoot interviews, and anything in slow motion from 120-250 fps. Then, the A7rii serves as a second camera to capture b-roll, time-lapse, gimbal and slider shots. In the past, we've used RED, Panasonic, Canon, and shot on film. But in an effort to travel light and bring only the necessities, we've had to downsize some of our gear along the way.
Our Sony A7rii and FS5 cameras are each rigged with the Wooden Camera Pro Accessory Kit, Zip Box, and V-mount battery mount. I feel like the Pro Kit gives me all the versatility we need to build out our cameras for any situation.
With this package, we add rails to the Unified Baseplate to support our Sony and Canon cinema lenses, and use the Battery Slide to mount our CORE V-Mount batteries, since we need extra battery life to shoot all day. To capture the interviews, we have our FS5 set up with the Wooden Camera A-Box, an audio adapter with XLR inputs that attaches to rods. The two XLR inputs allow us to capture audio with our shotgun and lavalier microphones, specifically our Sennheiser EW 112P G4 wireless mics. Lastly, using an Ultra Arm, we can quickly reposition the monitor for different shooting situations.
Anyone currently shooting on digital cameras, especially mirrorless, will run into several handicaps if they aren't rigged with any accessories.
WC: How did the Wooden Camera gear contribute to your setup? What were you able to achieve with Wooden Camera gear that you may not have otherwise been able to?
Jeremy: Although our goal is to travel light, we don’t want to compromise the quality of our productions. With the Wooden Camera Pro Accessory Kit, we can build a professional rig within minutes. We can very quickly transition from a shoulder rig for run-and-gun shooting right back to a tripod or slider with ease. We have no trouble outfitting our cameras with larger lenses, external microphones, and field monitors on the fly.
The Pro Kit we have on our B-Camera, the A7rii, lets us transform a photography camera into a full cinema rig. Given that this is such a small camera, you are limited to what you can achieve without the support of the Wooden Camera accessories. The camera’s LCD screen and battery life, for example, can be a bit restricting, so we built out the camera with the Pro Kit in order to use an external monitor, XLR inputs for our audio devices, and a V-Mount CORE SWX battery more comfortably. The top handle of the Unified DSLR Cage is also tremendously useful and versatile when capturing any kind of handheld shots.
Overall the Wooden Camera accessories have not only improved our shooting experience, but also the type of shots we can get at a moment’s notice in all situations, especially given our run-and-gun style of shooting action sports. Having a system like this that lets us shoot video and then quickly detach from the dovetail to take photographs is the best bang for your buck on a budget. For anyone who has never used a Wooden Camera rig with a mirrorless camera, all I can say is that it’s like having peanut butter with no jelly.
Follow Jeremy and UTV Wolfpack on these channels!
Instagram: @utvwolfpack, @jeremy.merrell, @polarisrzr
YouTube: UTV Wolfpack
Check out some of Jeremy's latest off-roading adventures:
Shop Gear In This Article:
Sony FS5 Unified Accessory Kit (Pro)
This professional camera support package for the Sony FS5 includes the quick-release Unified Baseplate system, Top Plate, NATO Lock Ultra Arm (3)", two 15mm rods, Rod Clamp (15mm LW), Battery Slide, and Safety Dovetail (12").
Sony A7/A9 Unified Accessory Kit (Pro)
This camera support package is designed for the Sony Alpha series cameras. It comes with our Unified DSLR Cage (Small), Unified DSLR 15mm Baseplate, two 15mm rods, A-Box (DSLR), Ultra Arm Monitor Mount (1/4-20 to 1/4-20, 3"), Rod Clamp (15mm LW), Battery Slide, and Safety Dovetail (12").
Zip Box Double 4x5.65
This product holds two 4x.5.64" filters and clamps on the the front of the lens. Available in four sizes, 80-85mm, 90-95mm, 100-105mm, and 110-115mm. Stainless steel components and lightweight, unibody rubber design are very durable and stand up to the toughest conditions.