Cheers! Behind-the-Scenes with the Lumix GH5 in Napa Valley
In December, Northern California’s Napa Valley is a stunning portrait of golden vines, violet hills, and a light sunny fog in the distance. Napa is known for having one of world’s most celebrated food and wine scenes — so we ventured there to film the fourth episode of our new documentary series, Culinary Stay.
The series is a filmed extension of a 100-day journey we did around America a couple years back, and each episode revolves around a specific lodging location or two and the region’s local culinary scene.
We tour farms, meet with cheese makers, learn from cider creators and vintners, and get to know chefs. As a crew of two, we’re often required to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to producing and filming the series.
So, for our Napa episode, we were ecstatic to welcome aboard a third crew member — Zacuto’s cage for our Lumix GH5 camera, along with a customized Recoil Shoulder Rig to work with the cage and our run’n’gun filming style.
Day 1: Vines, Video Games, and Michelin-Stars
We got our gear juiced up and started the day with a drive to Kenzo Estate. It was founded by Kenzo Tsujimoto, the Japanese video game developer of Street Fighter and Mega Man and founder of Capcom Co. We rang a call box and made our way through the estate, which rests on an untamed mountain valley in Napa’s southeast corner known as Wild Horse Valley.
Here, we wanted to capture drone footage that conveyed the expansive beauty of the land, showcased the sophistication of the tasting room, and highlighted the rugged elegance of the wine caves. We had to be able to move from drone flying, to filming, to taking photographs quickly — walking with and interviewing the team while we did so. Having a setup that was mobile was crucial, and we found that the Zacuto GH5 rig helped us to intuitively move with the team members.
From the estate, we took a quick drive to the Michelin-starred Kenzo Restaurant downtown, known for authentic Japanese cuisine prepared with innovative techniques. Many aspects of the restaurant integrate parts of the estate, whether that’s through the Satsuma Wagyu Tenderloin Kuwayaki made with a Kenzo Estate “rindo” Reduction or The Ishikawa Snow Crab Dumpling Owan with its warm dashi broth, carrot, mizuna leaves, and yuzu citrus straight from the estate’s own trees.
Connecting these dots of where the food on your plate comes from is what we love to do as culinary storytellers.
Having a professional setup of camera gear can often feel out-of-place in intimate, high-end restaurants like Kenzo. We found that the Zacuto setup didn’t get in the way of before-service preparations and allowed us to effortlessly move between the kitchen, the sushi counter, and the dining table.
Day 2: Caves, Cellars, and Sommeliers
At Pine Ridge Vineyards we did a guided cave tour and barrel tasting with winemaker and general manager Michael Beaulac. These caves were darker and more maze-like than Kenzo, but Nick found it easy to move with the tour, capture the footage, and, of course, try wine straight from the barrel.
Sitting around a long wooden table later that afternoon in the cellar, production shifted to a guided wine-and-food tasting. The rig made it easy for Nick to both film and interact as Bay interviewed the wine educator and allowed us to still naturally enjoy the experience of chef-prepared empanadas and sips of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Later that evening, we visited Compline, a downtown Napa wine bar and restaurant, to meet with wine genius and Master Sommelier, Matt Stamp. When it came time to switch from interview setup to handheld for a dinner in the bustling (but small) dining room, the gear worked beautifully and did not get in the way at the table. Because of this, we were able to capture dining elements like the famous duck fat fries and the poached eggs with polenta, caramelized onion, and parmigiana.
Day 3: Food and Drink in Movement at Hotel Yountville
Our primary lodging feature for this episode was Hotel Yountville, a charming place made of stone from the Napa River bed. The foliage drips tangerine and burgundy leaves onto the meandering pathways below and it’s one of the most magical properties we’ve ever seen. There’s a fireside welcome of cheese and wine from the local Stewart Cellar, a creek that runs beside the room, and the quaint, twinkle-lit town of Yountville just outside.
The in-room dining even gets packed up right in the back of a bike’s picnic basket and delivered straight to the room. The BLTs with cherry wood smoked bacon and Heritage Oak Burgers with akaushi beef tasted even better when arriving by bike basket. And this turned out to be a key element we wanted to capture. Thanks to the rig, Nick was able to jog with the setup and do just that.
At the hotel’s Heritage Oak breakfast in the morning, we found the best lighting to be at a tiny table. Often, this can prove problematic in areas of restaurant maneuverability. But we were able to seamlessly move around the table with the cage in a way that showcased the whimsical offerings of the menu like the decadent brioche French toast and the Heritage Oak Benedict.
Day 4: And Then the Rain Came…
On the morning we were leaving, we had plans to gather crucial b-roll shots of the hotel’s exterior and the vineyard across the street.
Then the rain came.
Enter: two umbrellas and the Zacuto cage. We were amazed by how remarkably easy it was to walk, hold an umbrella, hold the rig, and film at the same time.
Having the setup on our final morning in Napa gave us the confidence we needed to get those mystical shots of the early morning vineyard in the rain. And as it turned out, the footage we momentarily considered foregoing that day, turned out to be some of our best. In this situation, and all others, Nick didn’t get physically tired when using the rig (even while jogging and simultaneously holding food, glassware, or an umbrella in hand).
During our week filming, we found ourselves exploring caves, walking vineyards, moving through kitchens, riding on a vintage locomotive with a traveling restaurant — and the gear worked intuitively and with flawless flexibility in all situations.
We’re excited to share stories, pieces of history, and food and wine inspiration from one of the country’s most renowned culinary regions.
To stay in the loop with Nick and Bay, and get updates on the official release of the series, follow the links below.
twitter: @comewecreateFeel free to reach out on social or send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you to talk film, food, or wine.
Nick & Bay