Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers. Mini Courses.

Why Filmmaking Essentials?

One of the main chal­lenges pho­tog­ra­phers face when starting to shoot video is to focus too much on hardware and software, and for­get about the most important part: the story. While this informative course includes some tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion, the main goal is to provide an overview of the many aspects of filmmaking, and identify potential business opportunities with motion. Click HERE.

The “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers” course is based on a popular event we have been presenting for several years, but it has been greatly enhanced with additional visuals and examples. Some of the clients and sponsors for the live event include Adobe, Adorama Pro, B&H Photo, Cinevate, Future Media Concepts, Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai), HOW Design Conference, International Center of Photography,, McCann Erickson, NAB Show, Panasonic, Photo District News, PhotoPlus Expo, Photokina (Germany), Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Sony, and X-Rite, among others.

Eduardo Angel Visuals2

Click on the Image to access FREE Tutorials.

Why these Mini Courses?

Sometimes we don’t have time for three-hour lessons; rather, we just need a quick and concrete answer for a very specific question. Because of that, in addition to longer courses we’ve released these mini courses, averaging three-to-five minutes each. Click HERE.


Click on the Image to access FREE Tutorials.


Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers. Online Intro Course.

In 2011 I was invited along with National Geographic photographer David McLain to present a series of two-day workshops nationwide. The events were produced by Photo Quest Adventures and sponsored by PDN, Sony, Adobe, and other leading brands. The main goal was to help photographers transition into video by simplifying key concepts and providing shortcuts, resources, and advice on what gear to buy.

I have been honored to teach “Filmmaking Essentials” at all major industry events, from PhotoPlus to Imaging USA to NAB, from South America all the way to Dubai, Hong Kong, and Thailand, and at home in New York.

Few people know that I never use the same presentation twice. Each and every time I add things I’ve learned, plug in valuable feedback from attendees, students, and this website’s readers, and I strive to improve the educational experience with better examples and shorter explanations.

When looking at the advancements in digital technology since those first workshops it seems like decades have gone by. Today, we have access to a variety of brands and models of very compact cameras that can see in the dark, shoot 4K or higher resolutions, offer incredible frame rates, and even offer GPS and WiFi features so they can be easily controlled by smartphones and tablets. The future is definitively here.

But something quite odd has been happening to my personal and professional focus. The more gadgets we have at our disposal, the more I’ve shifted towards the craft of storytelling. Instead of getting more stuff, I’ve been increasingly interested in constructing and enhancing my stories to better engage the viewer. Naturally, this approach has been reflected in the educational content I produce.

Now, and for the first time, I’m proud to offer an awesome version of my one-hour presentation online. Click HERE

The “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers” course is based on a popular event we have been presenting for several years, but it has been greatly enhanced with additional visuals and examples. Some of the clients and sponsors for the live event include Adobe, Adorama Pro, B&H Photo, Cinevate, Future Media Concepts, Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai), HOW Design Conference, International Center of Photography,, McCann Erickson, NAB Show, Panasonic, Photo District News, PhotoPlus Expo, Photokina (Germany), Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Sony, and X-Rite, among others.

Who is this course for?

Well, as the name implies, this version of “Filmmaking Essentials” covers concepts already mastered by advanced filmmakers or by experienced photographers who are very technically savvy. But I’m confident everyone else could learn a thing or two.

As often as possible we’ll be adding new courses, covering topics like pre-production and post, tips for one-man crews (like journalists) working stills and video assignments, advice on getting started with Color Grading, and many other fascinating subjects. As mentioned above, most of these courses are not and probably won’t be hardware or software driven, but would focus predominantly on answering the why’s, not the how’s, of the fascinating craft of filmmaking.

Also as a first, we are offering several mini-courses (averaging three minutes each and many of them for free) for those who need concrete answers to very specific questions.

So, if this is the kind of content and format you desire, vote with you wallet and let your voice be heard.

Thank you for your continued support. Click HERE to start learning. 

Eduardo Angel Visuals2

Click on the Image to access FREE tutorials.


A filmmaker’s perspective on Japan.

Back in 2011 I made the best decision of my life: to get engaged. Wanting to “pop the question” at an unforgettable location, I asked my wife, then girlfriend, to write down her top five destinations that she had not yet visited. Coincidentally, and even though we both have traveled extensively, her first pick matched mine: Japan. The decision was made, air tickets were purchased, and hotels booked, but the timing was off. Just a few days before our departure, and with the ring well hidden in my camera bag, the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. It was the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record keeping began in 1900, and the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan.

A few weeks ago we FINALLY had the chance to visit this incredible country and culture, and on this article I’d like to share some of the most amazing things we learned and saw. Like some of my previous videos there’s a generous mix of stills, videos, soundscapes, music and narrations.

First things first

Most of us learned in school that Japan closed its borders in 1639 for more than 200 years, keeping only one seaport open for foreign trade exclusively with Dutch and Chinese sailors. A lot has changed, of course, and the country is currently the world’s third largest economy after the United States and China. This is truly a miracle for a nation that consists of more than 6,800 islands, has a population of 127 million people, and is smaller than the states of Montana or California.

As a little kid I spent countless hours poring over my grandparents National Geographic magazines. I dreamt about far and exotic places like “Antofagasta,” which I related to cannibals, “Ushuaia,” which to me was a synonym for the end of the world, “Oaxaca,” which I imagined full of little skulls everywhere, “Marrakesh,” with stunning belly dancers and crazy sword-fighting warriors, and “Kyoto,” elegant, peaceful, and extremely expensive. I loved the sound of each place.

Now, a “few” years later, I’ve had the privilege to visit all of these magical places and work in well over 700 cities in 50 countries, covering 40% of the world (according to Tripadvisor). Compared to my childhood pipe dreams, some countries have been much more interesting (Hong Kong and Thailand), and a few hugely disappointing (Russia and Vietnam top that list). There are no cannibals in Antofagasta, you can see little skulls in Oaxaca for “Dia de los Muertos,” and Ushuaia can’t be described in words. But Japan, in fact, so far, has been the one experience to closest match my dreams.

A World of Contrasts

If I had to define the country in a single word it would be contrast. Not necessarily as in the wide social and economic disparities one sees in India, China, or South America, but in the everyday culture itself; super-modern buildings next to architectural crimes, decadent meals followed by inedible dishes, massive pedestrian crossings and jam-packed subway cars followed by serene gardens, and very polite and quiet people during the daytime that get insanely wild and loud after dusk.


Random Fun Facts

Coming from New York, it always strikes me how clean and quiet other large cities are in comparison. Even Los Angeles and Houston seem muted in comparison. In that regard, Tokyo, the most populated metropolitan area in the world, is impossibly silent. And spotless. And huge. For example, Tokyo doesn’t have an actual downtown, but 23 of them, some with a daytime population seven times higher than their nighttime population.

Having been born in Colombia and experiencing first hand the country’s well documented violence during the 90s, it is hard to grasp how Japan, with the tenth largest population in the world can have the second lowest homicide rate, with only TWO gun-related homicides per year, and a conviction rate close to 99%. My brain can’t even process that information.

There are many fascinating things about Japan, from the expected, like magnificent temples, pristine gardens, and stunning package and lighting design, to the highly unexpected like the super-salty cuisine, and the lack of English speaking people and information in English even in popular tourist areas. Regarding tourism, we based most of our itineraries on Frommer’s and Fodor’s guides, which proved to be excellent sources of information.


We also tried to understand why there are virtually no public trash cans, but no garbage on the streets, millions of people everywhere, but no benches, and restaurants with vending machines, but no napkins. I’m still looking for those answers. Please hit me on Twitter if you have a good guess. And, speaking of Japanese vending machines, one can use any of the 5.5 million to buy beer, wine, canned coffee, cigarettes, food, comic books, toilet paper and even “adult literature and pleasure products.”

To widen our Japanese experience, we stayed at a high-end hotel in Tokyo, and at a Ryokan in Kyoto. The Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn with tatami floors, paper blinds, a low table for tea and super tiny pillows, provided a unique, but not very comfortable, experience. As an added bonus we located a Ryokan that offered a private Onsen, or spring bath, that was masterfully built with exquisite wood, and harvested the local volcanic waters. Of course, Japan being Japan, even this relaxing moment had many strict rules to be followed in precise order before even touching the water. Overall it was an interesting experience, especially after walking 30,000 steps each day (according to my wife’s pretty handy Fitbit).

One early morning we got the rare opportunity to attend sumo training. As architecture buffs we used some rainy afternoons to visit buildings and stores  by our favorite Japanese designers. We tried hard to cover as much of the Japanese culinary spectrum as possible, from quick lunches at shopping centers’ basements, vending machines, and food trucks, and dinning at traditional Izakayas where we tried delicious Yakitori and horse sashimi.


Experiencing a sumo training in Tokyo.


Inside an ancient Ryokan in Kyoto.


The famous Onsen.

We obviously “had” to fit in a few Michelin-rated restaurants as the respected “foodies” publication has awarded Tokyo the most stars of any city in the world. More than the food itself, the service, presentation, and attention to detail are what truly offers a remarkable experience.

More Random Facts

Japan imports 85% of Jamaica’s annual coffee production, but the fancy coffees we tried were consistently inconsistent. I might get shot for saying this, but the $1 coffee at 7-Eleven was MUCH better than most of the $8 fancy brews we tried. And I’m Colombian, I do know my coffee.

Japan is also the world’s top importer of reggae music and has the largest proportion of jazz fans in the world. We treated ourselves with a jazz concert (and grossly overpriced drinks) at the Park Hyatt‘s bar, from “Lost in Translation” fame. The city views from the fancy bar are great, especially at nighttime, but you get pretty much the same view for free only two blocks away, from Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building, where you can also get a very filling lunch for about six dollars.


Tokyo at night from Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building.

Gulping down your drink and slurping is NOT considered bad manners (mom, are you reading this?), but somehow eating or drinking while walking down a street is considered very rude and nobody does it. The Zen proverb “When walking, walk. When eating, eat” is silently but effectively enforced all the time, and everywhere. One day we had to go back to our hotel, just a few blocks away, to finish our Bento box lunch.

We did enjoy bowing on meeting someone, but sitting on the floor with your hands in your lap and your legs tucked under you, not so much. Perhaps because I’m less flexible than a tree. When wearing my first kimono I created a small “fashion emergency” with the Ryokan’s owner, as one should always wear the left side over the right side. The opposite of this is only observed at funerals. Something similar happens with chopsticks; do not point them at other people, never wave them in the air or stick them upright in the rice, since they’ll look like sticks of incense at a funeral. How are you supposed to know all this?

Cash is definitely king, and many ATMs in Japan do not accept international debit cards, with the wonderful exception of the ATMs found at the 10,000 7-Eleven stores. Coins are required for buses, trams, and lockers. We had read that Internet access was horrible, but I have to disagree. Both our hotels, many subway stations and bus stops provided free Internet access. If all you need is checking your map or access something on Dropbox you should be fine. If you are planning to stream movies or video games, stay home.

Packing Tips

In terms of packing, we broke a new personal record for this trip. We were able to fit everything into ONE suitcase. In case all the women reading this article are wondering, yes, my wife wasn’t too happy at first, but she came to appreciate my logic while navigating major transport hubs like Shinjuku, which serves 4 million passengers a day, and holds the title as the world’s busiest station.

In addition to the single suitcase, my wife had a very light daypack, and I brought my favorite photo backpack

Regarding photo and video equipment, I’ve been traveling extremely light and small. This time I brought two Panasonic GH4s (AmazonB&H), two Panasonic Lumix lenses (AmazonB&H) , and a Fuji X100S (AmazonB&H). This is pretty much the same gear I’ve used on assignments in Europe (article on Sigma’s website), Turkey, and commercials like this.

Something I failed to pack (and struggled to find in Tokyo) was a “3-Prong to 2-Prong Adapter.” Considering one can get two for $6 on Amazon, it was very painful to waste precious time walking from store to store and trying to explain what a “3 prong” means with body language and childish drawings. To connect multiple devices I ALWAYS bring two essential items: a mini power strip to charge phones, batteries, and laptops using a single outlet, and a compact USB hub, to connect multiple hard drives to my laptop. This year I’ve been using these small and cheap external hard drives on my travels, and so far they’ve worked perfectly. If you are interested in seeing what’s inside my camera bag, I wrote an article with “The Essential 41 Items” for photography and video assignments.


The Final Product – The Video

Shooting stills, and video, and recording soundscapes while traveling alone is hard, I’m not gonna lie. Doing all that with your (extremely patient) wife is even harder, but totally worth it.

Obviously it’s impossible to understand a country, city, or even a neighborhood in just a couple of weeks. I’ve spent nine years in New York and every weekend we find something new to do, see, or eat. But, we only have one chance to get a first impression, and I believe those first reactions are great ways to identify interesting trends and cultural differences.

The video below has tons of additional information about Japan in general and our travel adventures in particular. If you like traveling—and eating delicious food—I’m sure you will enjoy it, and if you do, please SHARE the love!

If you are looking to expand your creative options by adding video into your skills set or enhance your craft, don’t miss these courses on


Is a $350 ND filter three (and a half) times better than a $100 one?

For a long time I’ve been using a Genus Variable Neutral Density (77 mm) filter with my Canon and Sigma lenses and a Metabones Speedbooster Adapter on a Panasonic GH4.


Since I recently got a couple of Panasonic Lumix lenses with a 58mm filter, it was time to buy another ND. I was originally planning to get a Genus or Tiffen filter (about $100 on Amazon), but noticed a $350 Heliopan, among many other cheaper options.

Would the Heliopan (costing three times as much as the Genus) be three times as good as the Genus? The only way to answer this would be getting one, doing a few non-scientific tests, and look at the images side-by-side. So that’s what I did.

All the tests where performed with a Panasonic GH4 on a tripod, pointed to the same wall, with diffused available light, within a 30-minute period. So, even though that light might change a bit I don’t think it is a significant factor to see the drastic differences below. Here are the most meaningful tests:

Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent) with Heliopan Variable ND

Test-03 Lumix 12-35mm with Heliopan_850px

Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent) with Heliopan Variable ND

Test-06 Lumix 35-100mm with Heliopan_850px

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 at 70mm with Genus Variable ND

Test-04 Canon 70-200mm with Genus_850px

Wow! What a difference between the Genus and the Heliopan! The first one is not only $225 cheaper, but the vignetting wasn’t as noticeable.

At that point I started wondering how much of that nasty vignetting was created by the lens and NOT by the ND filter. So I brought the widest Canon lens I had available a 24mm f1.4, and did another test.

Canon 24mm f1.4 at f2.8 with Genus Variable ND.

Test-05 Canon 24mm with Genus_850px

I was at a loss. There was some vignetting after drecreasing 4 stops, but never nearly as bad a the Heliopan on the Lumix lenses.

So the next step was to compare the Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent), the Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent), and the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 at 70mm WITHOUT any filters!


I didn’t see any issues or major differences between the Panasonic and Canon lenses, so I concluded that the Heliopan Variable ND filter was causing the vignetting issue. I returned the Heliopan and got a Vu Variable ND filter for my Panasonic lenses. Here are the results:

Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent) with Vu Variable ND


Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent) with Vu Variable ND


Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 Lens – Heliopan vs. Vu side-by-side


Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 Lens – Heliopan vs. Vu side-by-side


• Conclusions

None of this filter + lens combination is perfect. All the filters create some sort of vignette. After putting all the tests side by side, I picked the ones with a) the LEAST amount of vignetting and  b) the smoothest transition between one stop and the next one. Based on my won non-scientific experiments, with MY lenses, camera, computer, software, firmware, etc and only with one (somewhat) constant lighting scenario, the $102 Genus and the $125 Vu seem far superior than the $350 Heliopan.

Are you planning to buy one of these filters? Support upcoming tests and articles by using these links: Genus, Heliopan, Vu.

Did you find this article helpful? Please check out these online courses where I cover other essential filmmaking tools and techniques. Enjoy!



The Panasonic GH4 V-Log L. Graded and Ungraded Samples.

A few tests comparing the Panasonic GH4’s default camera profiles with the brand new V-Log L.
The (very quick) grading was done on Premiere Pro CC 2015 and the super awesome Lumetri Color Engine.

Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__004_850 Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__005_850 Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__007_850 Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__006_850Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__012_850 Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__011_850Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__009_850 Panasonic-GH4-V-Log-L-Profile-Comparison-Tests-Eduardo-Angel-Visuals__010_850
Why is V-Log important? Why should we care about camera profiles and external recorders? Read this and watch this to learn more.

Installing V-Log L on your GH4 is far from intuitive and user friendly, but we’ve got you covered. A complete step-by-step tutorial is available for free right here.

The GH4 firmware update (version 2.3) including V-Log L will cost $100, and it will be available in 2 weeks. You can pre-order it now right here.

Related Posts


Hands-on Review: Varavon’s Armor II Cages.

There are (too) many video accessories and gadgets, so it’s becoming increasingly hard to determine where to spend our hard earned money, and what will truly make a significant impact on our video productions.

For the past few months we’ve been testing a number of new cameras and accessories. Today I’d like to highlight a company with two accessories in particular: Varavon’s Armor II Cage for the Panasonic GH4 and Varavon’s Armor for the Atomos Shogun.

You might have read my recent article titled “The eternal quest for ‘the best’ digital camera” where I posed the seemingly unanswerable question “what’s the best cinema camera (for us) right now?” Here’s the article, in case you missed it.

The article’s conclusions were somewhat vague, simply because even with all the readers’ feedback we received via Twitter (@EA_Photo), we couldn’t come up with a hard and fast answer. Most of our assignments require capturing video, stills, and sound on location, usually run and gun style, with a fast and small crew traveling as light as possible. This might or might not match your production needs, so it’s important to keep in mind that we are coming from that angle.

It is important to clarify that I am NOT being paid by anyone to write these reviews. I just want to share with others what’s working and what isn’t working for us, and hopefully save you some time. God knows I could use a few extra hours every day.


Varavon’s Armor II Cage for the Panasonic GH4


Varavon’s Armor for the Atomos Shogun


Armor II Cage – My Impressions

Varavon reminds me of the early days of Edelkrone; small, humble, and fast. Both companies share a serious commitment to true innovation through useful, high-quality products.


Edelkrone Follow Focus

Small details matter. A lot. For example, the Armor II Cage includes a magnetic Allen key, cleverly “hidden” on the top handle’s side. It’s one of those things that makes you wonder why no one else has thought of this before! Every product that requires an Allen key (from sliders to tripods to stabilizers, all should come up with a similar solution.


Varavon  has clearly spent some serious time thinking and testing this product. With the GH4 camera mounted on the cage, one can still replace the battery and the memory card. The cage also works perfectly with a Metabones Speedbooster allowing us to use our preexisting Canon and Sigma lenses.


Personally, if you only need ONE reason to get this cage, it’s the top handle, as the GH4 (or 5D Mark II or a7S II) body instantly shapes into a cinema camera. In addition to the obvious ergonomical advantages (especially when doing low-angle shots or quickly mounting/removing the camera to/from a tripod) the cage provides several mounting points, a cold shoe mount and one 15 mm rod clamp, allowing us more options to attach a wide variety of accessories like focus rings, microphones, electronic viewfinders, external monitors, etc.

Around the cage there are something like 40 ¼ threaded mounting points, but in real life one can use about five or six without getting in the way of standard camera operations. The previous version of this cage (which I also own) didn’t have a “front and back rod adapter” which can be used as an additional contact point or to mount additional accessories like a follow focus.


Apparently there’s a version of the Armor II Cage with an ENG-style rotating handgrip, but mine doesn’t move. The handgrip (with beautiful leather) is fixed, yet very comfortable on most shooting situations.

If you buy the camera rig, I’d recommend adding a few 1/4″ Male to 1/4″ Male Threaded Screw adapters so you can easily attach accessories like an audio recorder or a small LED light (which, by the way, work GREAT to add some catchlight to your subjects when shooting exteriors on cloudy days). It would be even better if Varavon starts including a few of them in their kit (wink wink).

varavon rig - original approach-Edit

Armor for the Atomos Shogun – My Impressions

Now, let’s talk about the Armor for the Atomos Shogun. I wrote an extensive post about the Shogun, so I won’t go into a huge amount of detail here, but suffice it to say that the Shogun is a godsend.

Oregon Winery BTS.00_13_16_02.Still003

In a nutshell, the Shogun provides an exquisite 1920 x 1080 ultra sharp (and fairly accurate) image, with many additional features (like LUTS) to record HD or 4K in ProRes with clean sound already synced into fast and reliable Solid State Drives. The not so great part is that the Shogun is VERY fragile. We take great care of our gear, and our monitor cracked on our second or third assignment.

So for additional protection, the Armor Cage is great, but it seems designed for studio situations, when heavy duty camera support is readily available as the cage alone weights almost a pound.

For the most part, Varavon’s design does not interfere with the function of the Shogun, but the Armor Cage doesn’t accommodate the much needed sunhood (which should be included on the Shogun’s kit but it is not). Not being able to attach a much-needed accessory seems like an important oversight.

The selling point for this accessory is, in my humble opinion, the many additional mounting points, the clever sliding SSD Safety Latch, an audio clamp to protect the XLR cable, and (maybe) the HDMI cable locking screws.


In our case, the optional L brackets (purchased separately) have not added significant versatility, so I probably would recommend skipping them.


The build quality on all Varavon products is outstanding. I like the Shogun Cage and if we are shooting for an extended period of time indoors I’d bring it along.

I love the Armor II Camera Cage for the GH4. It has changed the game for us, and as long I use the GH4 I’ll keep enjoying the added versatility and improved form factor the cage offers. I can definitely recommend this accessory for anyone who needs more versatility but is hesitant to add unnecessary weight to his/her camera package. To see the complete list of gear we bring on location, click HERE.

If you are interested in learning more about which accessories are important, why and how to use them, consider watching these courses on

Did I miss anything? Feel free to continue the conversation here.


Video for Photographers: Filmmaking Essentials.

As we have covered in numerous articles before, still photographers can reasonably quickly learn the most essential filmmaking techniques and greatly expand their creative options and the range of professional services.

In our latest course we help bridge the gap between still pictures and moving images, by explaining and showing, what it takes to transition from one craft to the other. We tried our best to include the most essential video productions techniques; from framing and lighting for continuous shots to directing the viewer’s attention and incorporating camera movement and sound, and even offering a brief overview of our post-production workflows.

This course, our fifth on is the “theory course.” Our goal is to explain why certain techniques, steps or tools are important. Other topics include:

• Understanding the 5 Cs of cinematography
• Choosing the right camera
• Framing for continuous shots
• Lighting techniques
• Using camera movement to enhance your story
• Leading the senses with sound
• Working with different microphones
• Editing and post-production considerations

A follow-up “practical” course (available in a few weeks) will cover hands-on composition, camera movement, sound and lighting techniques, among other useful tips like packing and working with very small budgets and crews.



Hybrid Assignments Equipment List: The Essential 41 Items

In aviation, an MMEL (Master Minimum Equipment List) is a categorized list of on-board systems, instruments and equipment that must be operative in order to flight. Any additional equipment not included in the MMEL may break temporarily but it won’t make the aircraft inoperative. Here’s an attempt to create a hybrid MMEL for three different crew sizes.

Let’s start with the definition of “Hybrid.” What I normally mean by this term are productions or assignments where one or two people are required to be the photographer, filmmaker, sound recordist, producer, and even editor. And, these gigs are becoming increasingly popular. It sounds crazy and these sorts of shoots can be. One of the keys to making them run smoothly relies on great planning and working with less equipment that gives you more control in less time. It also helps to team up with other people who can complement our weaknesses.

Short and one-man crew hybrid projects

One substantial challenge for photographers shooting video is how to travel as light as possible while carrying a full production and post-production setup that is literally on their back. Here’s a picture of my backpack, which contains every single piece of gear that I’d need for from one up to three days, except some clothes and toiletries that will go on a small backpack.


Bag for a 1-day or 2-day gig by myself.

EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_001_SmallGear EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_004_SmallCamera

1. Media Credentials which sometimes, but not always, can give you special access, get you discounts and the most important part, allow you to travel with some heavy or oversized gear without paying a fortune. Here’s a link to Delta, American, and United Media Baggage policies.

2. Two external portable hard drives. I suggest this one, or this one.

3. Audio field recorder like the H4n (or a more current model and smaller version like Tascam’s DR-05) to capture interviews and my own production notes.

4. Camera A for video, in this case a Panasonic GH4 (Amazon and B&H) with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens (Amazon and B&H). I’m in love with this lens. So small, yet so sharp!

5. Camera B for video, another Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 12-35mm 2.8 lens (Amazon and B&H)

7. Camera for stills and location scouting; I always carry my Fuji X100s (Amazon and B&H)

8. A variety of Tenba Tool Boxes (Amazon and B&H) to pack all the batteries, chargers, cables, adapters and other small accessories.

9. A small tripod (Amazon and B&H)that sometimes serves as an improvised handheld rig. A car mount works great for time lapse and even to hold the H4n or small lights during interviews.

10. At least one Rode VideoMic (Amazon and B&H) to capture some ambient sounds or  interviews.

11. A 15″ MacBook Pro (Amazon and B&H) with Adobe Creative Suite (Amazon and B&H) and Shot Put Pro.

12. One of my favorite photo bags ever, the new Tenba Shootout (Amazon and B&H)

13. In terms of lighting, for these assignments I try to use mostly available/natural light, but I bring a 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector.

And here’s my typical outfit and setup for some of these solo hybrid gigs.


My outfit for hybrid shoots.

1. My good ol’ Columbia jacket/vest has been traveling with me to more than 40 countries. It has lots of pockets, a hoodie, and because it has a self-stowing pocket, it sometimes doubles as a pillow on the road. A priceless item, to be sure.

2. Benro S4 Video Monopod. Small, relatively light, and sturdy. Works great.

3. Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens.

4. Rode VideoMic Shotgun

5. I always bring gloves unless I’m going to the Caribbean in July. Montreal was pretty cold and wet!

6. Obviously, the most important tool if you are crossing any borders: the passport. This website compares the “power” of passports from many different countries, and, as Americans, we are blessed to have the most powerful one.

7. I like to dress in layers and in dark colors when shooting on the road. Black hides dust and stains very easily. A cashmere sweater is worth its weight in gold.

8. Camera for stills: The Fuji X100s is especially handy after a very long day, when I don’t want to carry more gear but still want to capture a few night scenes of nice-looking dishes during my evening meal.

9. A hat—another essential item.

Longer projects and bigger crews

For a longer hybrid assignment where I’ll have one or two more people (gaffer/grip and a second camera/DIT) I’d bring a few more items. In this case we wouldn’t  need to carry everything on our backs, but we definitely need to pack as little and light as possible.

We would bring a Tenba Transport Rolling Tripod/Grip case, to pack one or two Benro S8 tripods, a Benro S4 monopod, a very compact and portable slider that would take the same fluid head from the S8 tripod and/or the S4 monopod. Some grip accessories that I consider essential are at least a couple of adjustable Gaffer Clamps, and a couple Collapsible Reflector Holders which also double as boom stand. These two light and inexpensive items effectively function as one, and sometimes two, additional crew member. A no brainer if you ask me.

On the camera package I’d include an external monitor/recorder like the Atomos Shogun with plenty of Solid State Drives (you can also rent them for only $28 per day!), and all the charges and cables you can imagine, and a power strip (get one with a long cord) that becomes essential when downloading all the footage every night AND charging all the batteries for the next day. I use one Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag for the most expensive, essential and fragile items, namely cameras, lenses, Shogun and hard drives. The brilliant design of the Roadie Hybrid allowa me to treat is as a standard rolling carry-on, but I can also use it as a (very heavy) backpack on uneven terrain, subway stations, etc.

Here’s a view of my carry-on bag.


My carry-on bag for longer jobs and/or when I have a bigger crew.

EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_002_MediumGear EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_005_MediumCamera

1. Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag

2. Media pouch with ten 64GB SD cards

3 and 4. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and Sigma 24-105mm f4. These are the same lenses I used last year on another one-man Hybrid project in Istanbul and Europe

5. SanDisk Solid State Drives for the Atomos Shogun

6. Two external portable hard drives

7. Sekonic Color Meter

8. Sekonic Light Meter

9. Rode VideoMic

10. H4n Audio field recorder.

11 and 12. A couple of Panasonic GH4 bodies with Varavon cages, one with a Metabones Speedbooster (for the Sigma and Canon lenses) or a couple of Canon C100 Mark II or C300 Mark II bodies if the job doesn’t require stills.

13. USB 3 reader for Solid State Drives (included with the Atomos Shogun kit)

14. 6TB G-Tech External Hard Drive (compact, super fast and awesome)

15. Atomos Shogun

16. My sharpest and heaviest lens, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 [

17. Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm 2.8 lens and Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens. These lenses are the equivalent to a 24-70mm 2.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8 but super light and small

18. In terms of lighting I usually bring two or three 1×1 Bi-Color LED Panels with batteries and two Chimera 1×1 Lightbanks with grids. That pretty much covers all me needs. Another option is a Fiilex kit, which I like a lot, but find it way too expensive. I’ll need light stands and cables.

19. Depending on the job we would add another camera movement tool, like a Glidecam or a Ronin or even jibs and dollies. It depends on too many different factors.


All the bags packed. The LED lights are in the back seat.

Well, there you have my little setups for hybrid assignments. Obviously, there isn’t a perfect setup of gear list, just like there isn’t a perfect camera, but these items have been working great for us.  I hope this article benefits some of you involved or interested in run and gun, single-operator scenarios like weddings, events, corporate shoots, documentaries, red carpet premieres, product launches, sporting events, video podcasts, and even student films.

If you are interested in some packing and traveling tips, especially when shooting overseas, or what to do the day before your video/shoot shoot, we have written about that too. Did I forget anything? Let me know here!

And of course, there are those crazy long, crazy hectic, crazy complex and crazy awesome projects that require everything and the kitchen sink.

EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_003_LargeGear EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_006_LargeCamera EduardoAngelVisuals_BTS_008_LargeStudio


Shooting 4K Anamorphic and V-Log with Panasonic’s GH4. Ten Valuable Lessons.

UPDATED: I just added two video tutorials: one comparing “Panasonic’s V-Log L vs. Cinelike D” and the second one “Conforming 4K Anamorphic Footage in Adobe Premiere Pro.” 

Anamorphic is enjoying a huge comeback. The reasons to go this route vary from project to project, but generally it’s the desire to achieve a different look and use as many pixels from the sensors as possible. Panasonic’s Firmware Update v.2.2 (available here) enables an Anamorphic (4:3) Mode capable of recording video in 3328 x 2496 pixel (equivalent to approx. 8.3-megapixel) resolution at a frame rate of either 23.98, 24, 25 or 29.97 fps. With an anamorphic lens such as 2x Lomo lenses (see below) we now can capture and un-squeeze a 3356×2496 image in post-production. To make things even better, 4:2:2 / 10 bit HDMI output is also available.

Just like in 2013 when we had the opportunity to field test a GH3 in the Middle East and last year when we shot with one of only three prototypes world-wide of the GH4,  for the past couple of weeks I had the privilege to work with director Davis Northern, DP and tech wizard Sean Davis and many other talented people on one of the very first GH4 Anamorphic AND V-Log L projects, shot exclusively for Panasonic North America and produced by The Digital Distillery.

Panasonic 4K Anamorphic and V-Log L – Official Video from The Digital Distillery Inc. on Vimeo.

The project was exciting and very challenging, as working with hardware prototypes and beta versions of software or firmware always is. We had a lot of moving pieces and an extremely tight deadline, but I’m proud of the final results and very satisfied with the lessons learned. This article covers some of the most significant ones, and it is written from my very own personal perspective. As always, I try my best to be as objective and brand agnostic as possible. The lessons aren’t in any specific order and some links will take you to articles with additional information . Please consider using our links to help support our very time consuming articles and tutorials.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Shooting Anamorphic

It can definitely be achieved by a very small crew on a small budget. We mostly shot with a crew of three, with very limited gear and time. I’ve always assumed you needed a 2-ton truck and a crew of 30 to pull this off. Clearly, this was not the case for us.

EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_013EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_018EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_021 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_022 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_024

2. Lenses

In terms of lenses, we opted to keep a “low profile” while keeping our options open. In other words, we rented a set of vintage anamorphic Lomo lenses (35, 50, and 75mm) and tested an SLR Magic as well as a Letus AnamorphX 1.8X Pro Adapter and a  Veydra Mini Prime

A. Lomo:

The lenses are huge and heavy. Lomo 50mm + 75mm with case = 25lbs. Lomo 35mm with case = 35lbs with each case weighting about 30lbs. Not ideal for the “guerilla” approach we needed for this project. They definitely have a unique look, but are very hard to focus, especially when using a very flat profile. We rented the set for $500/day or about $1,700 for a week including tax. Not cheap by any means but definitely worth the investment in terms of time and quality.


If I were to shoot this project again (or on upcoming anamorphic projects) I probably would test the Cooke Anamorphic/i Lenses (25, 32, 40, 50, 75, 100, and 135mm with a 2x squeeze). Unfortunately these lenses cost about $30,000 each, and the rental rate is about $500 per lens, per day.


B. SLR Magic:

We had access to a very nice selection of Panasonic glass that we wanted to use with an SLR Magic adapter. The first challenge was that the front diameter on all the lenses has to be below 62mm in order to use the step down rings. The second limitation was (for the Panasonic lenses) that anything wider than 28mm would vignette. We could have used the Panasonic 12-35mm lens, at 28mm or longer (kind of pointless), but for some odd reason with the SLR Magic adapter it vignetted all the way even at 35mm. The Panasonic 35-100mm didn’t vignette at 35mm. Go figure. The next usable lens on our Panasonic arsenal was the beautiful 42.5mm Noticron f/1.2, but we needed a step DOWN ring (from 67mm to 62mm) that wasn’t included with the kit. The last option was the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, which worked well but focusing was a MAJOR issue (not Panasonic’s fault). I found the SLR Magic system very finicky and unreliable and unfortunately I can’t recommend using it.


C. Letus Anamorphx:

The Letus Adapter worked much better than SLR Magic but it was also cumbersome. A matte box is pretty much required and there was an issue with one of our widest lenses. The lesson here is, if you are shooting anamorphic, use the real thing.


3. Storage

There’s some heavy math involved when shooting Anamorphic. An anamorphic lens produces roughly a 2X horizontal squeeze of the image onto film. Traditional anamorphic lenses were designed to work on a 4:3 standard. The anamorphic footage captured with the GH4 on the Atomos Shogun is 3840×2160, so not technically 4K but pretty close. Shooting internally (to an SD card) the footage is 3328×2496, so greater vertical resolution than the 4K standard, but not full 4K horizontal resolution. To keep things in perspective, the 4K footage out of the GH4 4096×2160.

As you would expect, the files are huge. Shooting ProRes 422 you need about 4GB per minute of footage. Two cameras: 8GB, after only one backup you are at 16GB per minute. So somewhere around 20GB per minute is a pretty safe storage estimate for a two-camera setup. As always, we trusted all our very valuable assets to G-Tech Hard Drives.

Regarding Solid State Drives, Atomos has a great chart with all the supported drives for the Shogun and other devices. Make sure you triple check the chart before investing in one.

One SECOND of footage takes about 50MB so even if you are shooting into seemingly endless Solid State Drives, being smart about when to start rolling and when to stop can save a lot of storage.



As we were shooting, Atomos was literally finishing writing the Shogun’s firmware update (available in May or June as a free download) will enable a number of awesome features:

  • Anamorphic de-squeeze for Panasonic GH4 and standard lenses
  • RAW recording to ProRes, DNxHR and Cinema DNG for compatible RAW formats
  • Expanded RAW compatibility to include Sony FS series, Canon, Arri and AJA
  • 3D LUTs on HDMI/SDI output
  • Cinema 4K DCI support
  • Uncompressed V210 support
  • Genlock

We had to use a Small HD Pro7 (to de-squeeze) and the Shogun (to record in 4K). The setup seems pretty obvious after a lot of trials but it wasn’t at first. Here’s the executive summary that will hopefully save you some time and stress:

1. Micro HDMI to Standard HDMI cable from the GH4’s HDMI OUT to the Atomos Shogun HDMI IN
2. Standard HDMI to Standard HDMI cable from the Atomos Shogun HDMI OUT to the Small HD HDMI IN
3. In the Shogun, the 4K downconvert option should be OFF while connecting the Small HD and turned ON when everything is properly connected.
Our Small HD had a nasty tendency to constantly lose signal for no apparent reason, so step #3 had to be repeated many times throughout each shoot.

EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_005 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_006EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_008

5. Premiere Pro CC 2014 Workflow

To be totally honest, I was shocked by how easy it was to conform the footage in post. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Import the footage the way you normally do.
2. Select the anamorphic clips.
3. Go to clip > Modify > Interpret Footage
4. Under “Pixel Aspect Ratio” select “Conform To” and “Anamorphic 2:1 (2.0).
5. Create a “new sequence from clip” and start cutting.
6. Done and done. Wow!

02_EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_unsqueezed_Premiere01 03_EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_unsqueezed_Premiere02 04_EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_unsqueezed_Premiere03 06_EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_ungraded 07_EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_ungraded&graded

Here are some screen grabs from the camera’s LCD:

EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_029 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_031 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_032 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_035 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_036

6. Focus

Focus is super, extra, hyper critical, especially when shooting with a very flat profile like the one we used. Unfortunately we couldn’t trust the SmallHD and had to rely 100% on the Shogun at a 1:2 zoom.

EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_011 EduardoAngel_PanasonicAnamorphic_BTS_019

7. Accessories

• A sun hood for your external monitor is absolutely essential (if given the option get the black version).
• Obviously you will need lens adapters if you are planning to use the SLR Magic or Letus AnamorphX options.
• Make sure you get plenty of batteries, The small battery that comes with the Shogun lasts about 30 min only and we got about one hour of recording time with TWO Canon batteries on the Small HD. Instead of buying tons of batteries I’m a big fan of renting them (more here). The same goes for additional Solid State Drives.


8. Bonus lessons:

• Shooting anamorphic takes a lot practice and fine-tuning. I’d recommend scheduling at least a full day to test all the gear before a shoot.
• If we keep a small footprint and move fast, we can get a lot done.
• The “shoot without lens” on the GH4 must be turned on in order to work with the Anamorphic lenses.

And… are two more videos (not anamorphic) shot with the Panasonic GH4. Check them out and let me know if you have any questions or comments via Twitter (@EA_Photo)


In the Mood for Love Redux.

I love Asian cinema and I feel a strong and special attraction and respect for Wong Kar-Wai’s work, especially his earlier collaborations with Chris Doyle. Wong Kar-Wai is known for his “romantic and stylish films that explore—in saturated, cinematic scenes—themes of love, longing, and the burden of memory.” In terms of photographing urban landscapes, especially at night, I can’t think of a better cinematographer than Doyle.

For the past couple of months I’ve been revisiting his movies, his video interviews, and reading as much as possible about his production methods and unconventional approaches to filmmaking.

Check out the following books to learn more about this amazing director:
The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-Wai” by Gary Bettinson
Wong Kar-Wai: Auteur of Time” by Stephen Teo
Wong Kar-Wai” by Peter Brunette
The long-awaited and complete Kar-Wai retrospective with more than 250 photographs and film stills will be released in September but it can be can pre-ordered now.

In order to better understand his compositional and directorial choices I imported “In the Mood for Love” into Premiere Pro and selected my favorite scenes, including those critical to the story, those that are brilliantly original, and scenes that are flawlessly executed or contain a number of technical achievements (like the impeccable use of dolly moves). I then re-cut all my favorite scenes from the original 94 minutes into a single 18-minute clip (below), always trying to keep the integrity of the story. My goal here is to help someone who hasn’t seen the movie grasp its (very convoluted) story in one 18-minute clip.

If you haven’t see the movie, I highly recommend it, and I’d love to hear from you once you see it.
If you have seen the movie, did I leave any key cinematic moments out?


The eternal quest for “the best” digital camera.

I often receive emails asking for advice about “the best lens” or “the best camera” or even “the best laptop.” I believe it is simply impossible to determine a “best” of anything as there are too many random factors such as experience, budget, expected lifetime of the product, intended use, availability of accessories (like lenses or batteries), and even tech support in certain areas. That’s not even considering more subjective factors like personal preference, sense of loyalty to certain brands (or dislike for others), and even the size or weight of such tools. Interestingly, we are currently experiencing one of those “what’s the best” dilemmas ourselves, and not a minor one by any means; we are reconsidering our standard camera package for 2015–16.

Renting vs. Owning:

For many reasons, I believe renting is one of the best options for most people. When all you have is a hammer, the solution to every problem requires a hammer. That’s a very limiting factor to your creativity and a disservice to clients. Sometimes you can get the job done with a Swiss Army Knife like MacGyver, sometimes you need a nice toolbox, and sometimes the best approach is to have a professional plumber do the job.

Another huge reason to rent is to keep overhead as low as possible. Unless you are shooting several times a week with the same system, having something that is guaranteed to quickly decrease in value simply collecting dust in a drawer isn’t the best financial move. Unfortunately, renting is not an easy or affordable option in many small cities.


In terms of lenses I own a nice selection (from 8mm all the way to 200mm) of mostly Canon L glass, some Sigma ART lenses (with Canon mounts), as well as a couple of Panasonic Lumix lenses. I also have one Metabones Speedbooster adapter (Canon EOS to MFT).


We own a set of LED lights and basic accessories that I use frequently and will last a long time like monopods, tripods and a few camera movement tools. I also own a complete audio kit simply because we use it quite often. Audio tools tend to be fragile, and we have a very specific preference for brands and settings. Ultimately, because sound is such an important element of any video project, completely trusting it gives me an additional peace of mind. But I digress. The point of this article is not audio equipment, but cameras.


We own a Panasonic Lumix GH4 bodies and still have a couple of GH3 bodies. They have served me extremely well on hybrid assignments. I am very happy with the quality of the footage and always having the option to shoot 4K, HD, built-in slow-motion, and time lapses with the same camera and media. For video-only productions we usually rent Canon C100 Mark II or C300 Mark II bodies, which I also like very much.

The Challenge:

Several upcoming projects will require a more “complete” camera package, and we seem to have enough projects in the pipeline that it might make sense to own instead of rent, not only financially, but to save time picking up/returning and to be certain that the tool we plan on having in pre-production is the same tool we use on location weeks or months later. So, what’s the best cinema camera (for us) right now?

Technically speaking, we will need a main camera (Cam A) that ideally shoots 4K and has all the standard bells and whistles like XLR ports, HDMI, a good viewfinder, variable frame rates, peaking, ND filters, etc. Great low-light performance is key. For several projects we’ll need to shoot high-quality behind the scenes footage, so we will need a second camera (Cam B) that is either the same or very close to the quality of Cam A.

To make the riddle even more interesting, some of these projects will be “hybrid” projects that require on-location, mostly unplanned, and available light shooting with a very small crew (two or three people max). So the gear package needs to deliver great stills, great footage, and be easily operated by one person, which means light and compact.

Possible Solutions:

I will only discuss the main components of the package, so additional batteries, cables, memory cards won’t be included in the total price.

1. Canon
The first and obvious move would be to buy a couple of Canon C100 Mark II bodies. We already know and like the system, and own the lenses, so there’s no need for adapters. Unfortunately the C100 Mark II does not offer 4K, it is good but not great in low-light performance, it is small but not super light or compact, and it does not shoot stills, so I’ll need to get a Canon EOS 5D Mark III or at the very least a Canon EOS 70D. I’ll get the cinema features I need on only one of the systems.

1x Canon C100 Mark II = $5,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Canon EOS 70D = $900 (AmazonAdorama)
Total = $6,400


2. Sony
The second option would be to get a Sony FS7 AND a Sony a7S as a B Cam (and also for stills and BTS). The first one seems to be the new cool kid on the block, with raving fans and over the top reviews. It seems portable enough for a cinema camera and matches most of our technical requirements (I still need to test the low-light performance). Its little sister, the a7S shares the same outstanding reviews, it is clearly number one in low-light performance and it can even capture 4K to an external recorder. The catch, and this is a big one, is the cost. The FS7 goes for $8,000 and the a7S goes for $2,500. In order to use my existing lenses I’ll need two Metabones Speedbooster adapters (Canon EOS to NEX) at $650 each, but I will not have AF capabilities when shooting stills, which is a major issue. Also, in order to fully use the a7S as the B Camera we probably would need an Atomos Shogun adding a lot to the budget.

1x Sony FS7 $8,000 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Sony a7S $2,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
2x Metabones adapter (Canon EOS to NEX) $800 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Atomos Shogun $2,000 (Amazon • Adorama)
Total = 13,300


3. Panasonic
A third, and more affordable option would be to get a second Panasonic Lumix GH4 body and keep them as A Cam and B Cam (4K, HD, and stills) and something like the Panasonic HC-X1000 as a C Cam for BTS. I am still missing the “standard bells and whistles” I mentioned above, and I still have to test the X1000’s performance under low-light. Getting the YAGH (“brick”) wouldn’t make much sense in terms of money, size, weight, and additional power sources.

1x Panasonic Lumix GH4 $1,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Metabones Speedbooster adapter (Canon EOS to MFT) $600 (Adorama)
1x Panasonic HC-X1000 Camcorder $3,200 (Amazon • Adorama)
Total: $5,300


4. Blackmagic
We briefly considered Blackmagic systems but found too many cons to even add them here. Another topic for another day.


Honestly, there aren’t any. Not yet, anyway. We are still trying to figure out what to do. The Panasonic Package (#3) is the cheapest and easiest as we would have a very small learning curve (with the HC-X-1000) but low-light performance remains to be seen (and it is good but not great on the GH4). The price is great but we would only have the cinema features we need in one of the three cameras.

The Canon Package (#1) is right in the middle, but we would lack 4K, slow motion, a codec over 50mb/s, and only one of the two cameras offers the bells and whistles we are looking for.

Sony (#2) seems to offer the best solution, but costs twice as much as Option #1 and $8,000 more than Option #3. We would lack autofocus for stills, only one camera will have the cinema features, and the FS7 could require a significant learning curve.

An alternative, suggested by an experienced filmmaker, would be to keep using our GH3 with the Panasonic lenses as our stills camera ($0), use the GH4 with our Metabones and Canon and Sigma glass as Camera B, and simply buy one Sony FS7 ($8,000) and a second Metabones (Canon EOS to NEX) adapter $400 for a total investment of $8,400. Altogether we would get AF for stills, 4K, slow-mo, no need for new lenses, but only OK low-light performance, and only ONE system with XLR ports, ND filters, etc. I am also seriously concerned with the additional time (and expense) in post to make everything look somewhat close.

Money and lenses are obviously very important considerations, but there are many other things that have to be factored into camera choices like post workflows (software and hardware), internal codecs, etc. Color science is something else we tend to overlook, and we shouldn’t, as certain camera choices will multiply the amount of time you need to spend in post to get them to look like what you’re used to.

So, clearly, there isn’t a “perfect” camera that will meet all our requirements. So the best approach is to consider what we have (budget, lenses, software, hardware, accessories, etc.) what we need, and what we are willing to sacrifice. So, what is “the best” camera package for us, giving our existing gear, ideal requirements and upcoming needs? Now I need YOUR help to figure this one out.

UPDATE 01: Since I wrote the first draft for this article I’ve been hearing highly reliable complains about the FS7 working with lens adapters and Canon lenses. That pretty much kills the Sony package option for us.

UPDATE 02: There are strong rumors that Panasonic will be announcing an updated version of the AG-AF100 at NAB, which apparently would include 4K. That could be a great solution for our full blown cinema camera.

UPDATE 03: Another strong rumor is that Canon will replace/update the 3-year old 5D Mark III with a 4K version. Kinda cool, but it still doesn’t solve our “bells and whistles” camera dilemma.

UPDATE 04: For the past 3-4 weeks I’ve been using the Atomos Shogun (Amazon • Adorama) and I must admit I’m VERY impressed. This gadget not only provides an exquisite 1920 x 1080 ultra sharp (and fairly accurate) image, but it’s main purpose is being a 4K (or HD) recorder via Solid State Drives. The best price/quality I’ve found are these 240GB Sandisk for $146 with a 10-YEAR warranty. Not bad at all.

Something I didn’t consider when getting the Shogun is that now I have XLR options, making the GH4 a much more powerful beast. The provided batteries only last about 30 minutes of recording time. I got this off-brand ultra cheap ($36) set of 2 batteries with chargers and so far they have performed perfectly. To keep in perspective, a single Sony battery costs $199….


UPDATE 05: The Varavon cage for the GH4/GH3 works perfectly with a Metabones Speedbooster. This set up and the Atomos Shogun are making me rethink my camera strategy. Now I can have a very comfortable grip, add a shotgun for run and gun or a monitor/recorder with XLR mics on sticks. Hmmmm this is getting REALLY interesting!


More to come.


On Film Directors and Styles.

According to Woody Allen there are two kinds of film directors: “the ones who have it, and the ones who don’t.”

It is well-known that there are two other kinds of movie directors: the ones who write their own material, like Tarantino, and the ones who adapt, like Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg. The Coen brothers are crystal clear on this: “We are willing to write for other people, but we would not direct a script that has been written by somebody else.” To Scorsese “the script is the most important thing, but it is not everything. What matters is the visual interpretation of what you have on paper.”

John Boorman believes that “directing is really about writing, and all serious directors write.” But there are extremely serious directors who do not work with scripts, like Wong Kar-Wai. “I write as a director, not as a writer, so I write with images. I start with a lot of ideas but the story is never clear. I know what I don’t want, but I don’t know what I want. The shooting process is the way for me to find all the answers. Sometimes I find them on the set, sometimes during the editing, sometimes three months after the first screening.”

Martin Scorsese has, as usual, something interesting to say about the difference between being a director and a being filmmaker.  According to him, a director is “someone who only interprets the script and transforms it from words into images.” A filmmaker is “someone who is able to turn his own or somebody else’s material and still manage to have a personal vision come through.”

From a more technical perspective, we have directors who arrive to the set knowing exactly what they are going to shoot, with how many cameras and which lenses (like the Coen Brothers) and there are others who arrive with simply an idea and then follow their gut instincts (like Woody Allen).

When it comes to directing styles there are also antagonistic approaches. Some directors watch the actors rehearse and then decide with their DP where the camera should be, and how many shots will be needed. Fellini is a prime example of this approach. Scorsese disagrees: “you need to know where you are going and you need to have it on paper.” But some directors do the exact opposite. They walk around the set, decide where the camera goes, where the action will take place, and then ask the actors to accommodate.

Wim Wenders used to spend “every evening painstakingly preparing the next day’s shoot, making detailed drawings mimicking storyboards.” After “Paris, Texas” he has taken the opposite approach, “finding the scene construction in the action, and arriving on set without any preconceived ideas about the shots, and only deciding where to place the camera after working with the actors.”

There are some filmmakers who prefer to edit “in the camera,” such as Clint Eastwood or Hitchcock. Others, such as David Fincher, have no problem shooting 50 takes of a single scene and then figuring it all out later in the editing room over the course of months or even years. Woody Allen’s take on this is “it’s a grave error to start shooting a film with a script that is weak or not ready and think, “I’ll fix it on the set or in the editing room.’”

I could probably add two additional kinds of directors: the ones who make films because they have something to say, and the ones who make movies to find out what they have to say, but that would be a whole different article!


Cinematic Composition for Video Productions on

Composition is one of the least understood yet most important aspects of video. Like good storytelling, in order to achieve good video composition you have to make every detail count and keep the audience engaged in your story. In this course, we break down effective cinematic composition, to show how to create different compositional effects using a variety of techniques. Beginning with basics such as shot size, depth of field, and the rule of thirds, we show how to establish a scene, play with perspective and movement, and incorporate some of the most common shot types, including close-ups and group shots. Once you’ve learned the rules, see how to break them, using warped perspectives and intentionally confusing sequences, before exploring technical considerations such as lenses and lighting.

Topics included on this course:

  • The basics of composition
  • Exploring the rule of thirds
  • Comparing balanced and unbalanced compositions
  • Understanding the importance of using establishing shots
  • Working with point of view
  • Modifying the height of the camera
  • Understanding the lines of a scene
  • Creating depth
  • Incorporating unusual or unexpected angles
  • Knowing when to break the rules
  • Using viewfinder apps

The complete course is currently available on  If you aren’t a subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.

Here are some of the many examples on this course:




Camera Movement for Video Productions on

Filmmaking is a medium defined by motion: not only the action that occurs within a frame, but also movement of the camera itself. It’s the ability to employ camera movement that separates new videographers from the pros. In this course, we cover the importance of camera movement and the benefits of integrating it into your video productions. The lessons are explained through a series of examples that compare static shots to their dynamic counterparts, showing exactly how camera movement contributes to each scene, whether it’s increasing drama, following action, directing viewers’ attention, revealing key details, or simply transitioning between shots in a sequence.

Topics included on this course:

  • Exploring the different types of camera motion
  • Panning and tilting
  • Zooming
  • Racking
  • Tracking on sliders vs. dollies
  • Stabilizing camera movement
  • Working with cranes, jibs, and mounts
  • Choosing the right camera for motion

The complete course is currently available on  If you aren’t a subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.




Lighting Design for Video Productions on

Understanding the importance of lighting and the proper use of a light meter and colorimeter raises an average shot to a more sophisticated visual level. And it doesn’t take a Hollywood budget. In this course, we show you how to use simple tools and techniques to make your lighting and your location work together, how to make the most of natural light and augment it with artificial lighting, and how to reveal or obscure objects and subjects in your scene. Along the way, we’ll show you how to evoke certain moods and feelings with light.

Topics included on this course:

• Understanding the role of lighting
• Lighting interior and exterior scenes
• Directing the viewer’s attention
• Enhancing mood in a scene
• Achieving great light under harsh conditions
• Deciding on the right lighting style for your story

If you aren’t a subscriber, feel free to use my link for TEN days of unlimited access.

Here’s one of MANY examples provided during this course:

 The complete course is currently available on  As I mentioned above, if you aren’t a subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.

Many folks have been asking about the equipment used for this course. Here are the answers:

We used a variety of lights, but the main ones were Bowens Limelite Mosaic 30x30cm Daylight LED Panel.
As our A Camera we used a Canon EOS C100 Cinema EOS shooting to an Atomos Ninja-2 recorder. As our B and C Cameras we used a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark III. We used a variety of lenses, but the main one was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

And here’s  list with our standard camera package.



Documenting Istanbul, Paris and Brussels as a one-man crew.

Except for a couple of days where I had the priceless guidance of my friend Levent, I worked alone for three weeks between Istanbul, Paris and Brussels. The assignments required to capture stills, shoot video, record soundscapes, write, and edit everything together as I was moving alone. No problem!

The single operator/producer/editor assignment is becoming increasingly common for several reasons, among them lower production costs, as well as easier access to difficult locations.

I see a lot of opportunities for shooters currently doing weddings, corporate and sporting events, product launches, trade shows, video podcasts, student films or as in this specific project, travel and documentaries.

The main challenge is that on these hybrid productions getting the shot is paramount. There are no second chances, so preparing the shoot and planning for different situations is key. Another big challenge is how to travel as light as possible, but still carry a full production and post-production setup literally on your back.

After Istanbul I went to Brussels with its ancient roots, unique architecture, and bilingual arrangement. From there I went to Paris, the legendary City of Light, which always offers up myriad imaging possibilities. As you can imagine, all these cities were a playground ripe with incredible photo opportunities, and amazing food.

I recently wrote about my experience, lessons learned, and a few tips for Sigma, as I used their lenses for this assignment. The complete articles are available here and here.

If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it with others. In today’s world, every click, share, and like counts. =)


The Making of Scorsese’s “Hugo.”

Some people feel disappointed or even “cheated” after seeing the tricks behind a movie. I feel the opposite. It is simply a different way to appreciate the crazy lengths people are willing to go to tell their stories. Absolutely stunning special effects.

If the embedded movie doesn’t work, click here: Hugo Cabret – Making of

makingof-Hugo_02makingof-Hugo_01makingof-Hugo_05 makingof-Hugo_06makingof-Hugo_10makingof-Hugo_11makingof-Hugo_12makingof-Hugo_13makingof-Hugo_14


Shooting the Black Swan.

How was the film Black Swan shot? How did the filmmakers deal with all the mirrors? How many lights did they use and what kind? Those were my thoughts while watching Natalie Portman’s remarkable performance. Here, I have compiled the most interesting technical aspects of the movie, gathered from several articles and forums, including a great interview by American Cinematographer’s Stephen Pizzello with the Director of Photography Matthew Libatique.


Regarding the mirrors and avoiding camera reflections, which is the real reason why I did some serious  research on this movie, Libatique says “we did as much as we could practically, but we knew there would be moments when we wanted to create seemingly unachievable shots, and for those we just removed the reflections digitally with the help of Dan Schrecker, our visual-effects supervisor at Look Effects. A good example of Look’s work is the scene where Nina is rehearsing in front of a mirror, the lights go out, and her reflection starts moving independently; the camera was right where you see the reflection, but Darren wanted to get tight eye lines, so we had to paint ourselves out in post. For other scenes, it was easier to just hide the camera or shoot from angles where you couldn’t see it. We also used one-way mirrors to get a shot where we created an ‘infinity reflection’ of Nina sitting in front of a dressing-room mirror. We positioned Natalie between two one-way mirrors and just shot from behind them. We wanted the film’s horror beats to be a bit more stylistic.”

Black Swan Hallucination Scene


The main lighting source was “a strip above the dancers’ heads. We had about eight rows of 1K cinema globes running 60 feet across the stage. We just used different gels and put the lights on different channels; we’d go from a green gel to white to magenta, and we also started to mix them, which was nice. It was less complicated than using moving lights. For one sequence, we combined a moon backdrop with a rain effect that we created by filling a pool of water with broken glass and placing it at the base of the background. We just powered Source Fours into the pool and modulated the water movement with fans.”

Natalie Portman Pictures CompilationCameras

“The movie was a single-camera shoot except for maybe one day, and our main camera was an Arri 416, which we used with Arri Ultra Prime 16 lenses. We used a Canon 7D or 1D Mark IV for all the subway scenes; I could just carry a 7D and shoot on the subway all day with a very small crew. I did some tests with my wife beforehand to figure out my ASA, my stop, and how I was going to deal with the focus. I didn’t use any rigs with it because I wasn’t trying to shoot in the traditional way. I tested a bunch of different exposures and then brought the footage to Charlie Hertzfeld at Technicolor, who put it in the system so I could look at the highlights, the moiré and the resolution. Then I went back to the drawing board to do more tests. The 7D has more depth of field than the 5D, but I needed that because I didn’t have a follow-focus unit and needed to work really fast. I shot everything documentary-style. I did all the focus pulls by hand, and we’d just look at it on the camera’s monitor. I ended up shooting on a Canon 24mm lens at 1,600 ASA to get as much depth of field as possible at a stop of T81?2.”

Director of Photography Matthew Libatique shooting Black Swan with the Canon 7D in New York's subway.

Special Effects

Check this short documentary on this movie’s special effects.


Camera Movement

Every performance was covered in long master shots, which “we just augmented with other moves as necessary. To Natalie’s credit, we rarely did more takes for her; if we required additional takes, it was usually for us. We knew we’d be shooting her from the chest up most of the time, but we knew we’d be in great shape, performance-wise, as long as we could see her face and arms. For wider shots, we could just use her dance double. We did almost everything handheld.” The only Steadicam shot is at the climax of the final dance number. Unreal.

The movie is now available on Blu-Ray.


DP Review issues Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Final Review.

DP Review releases final conclusions on the Panasonic GH4. I agree 100% with them.

  • The DMC-GH4 sets a new bar in terms of the video capability available in a camera that a significant number of people can afford.
  • In a professional setting the GH4 is unusual in being compatible with an interface unit (the DMW-YAGH aka “The Brick”) that adds industry-standard 3G-SDI and XLR connectors.
  • The GH4’s image quality is very solid, producing nice JPEG images and usefully flexible Raw files. The color and tonality of its images seem improved over previous generations of camera. In video mode the camera is equally solid.
  • Despite the increased competition, the GH4 remains the king of accessible stills/movie hybrids.
  • A remarkably capable all-in-one package that lets you capture good quality footage and excellent stills from a sensibly-sized standalone camera.
  • The GH4’s video quality and well implemented touchscreen control system give it the edge over less expensive cameras, such as the a6000, while its price and ability to capture 4K internally will give it broader appeal than the Sony a7S.
  • What makes the GH4 so strong is its balance of capability, size and price. Its ability to slot into a professional setup, via the optional interface unit can only help expand this appeal.
  • Low light performance is solid if not exceptional – so you’ll need to think about lighting and bright lenses for low light shooting – but in many situations the GH4 produces good footage with a little subject/background distinction.
  • If you’re only interested in stills then it’s not quite such a compelling proposition – the competition is fierce at this price point. However, if you have any inclination towards moving images, there’s not a camera that offers nearly as much capability and support as the GH4 does, for anywhere near the price.

The complete review is available here.

I hope you’ll take a moment to check out these additional links:

And here are some samples clips:

Everything in Slow Motion was shot at FHD 96 fps. Everything else was shot at 4K (3840×2160). We used the Cine-D Profile. The only “grading” done was the B&W preset on Adobe Premiere Pro CC.


I’m extremely proud of the 100% free content we provide and I hope you enjoy it as well. Thank you all for your support, encouragement and constructive criticisms – I appreciate each and every one of them.

I only promote products, services, and companies that I use and trust, and that in my opinion deliver great value to our industry. If you are purchasing something, please consider using my affiliate links to help support this site. Thank you in advance.





Camera Movement Techniques – Panning and Tilting 101

There are many simple techniques you can use to craft and enhance your video productions and sculpt your audience’s perceptions of your stories. Below we’ll provide some ideas on how you can effectively use panning and tilting in your next shoot.

Go ahead and move your head from left to right. Now move it from right to left. That’s panning, plain and simple. This technique is great for following a subject as it moves across the frame, or, you can use it to redirect the viewer’s attention to reveal new details.
Now move your head up and down, as if you are emphatically saying Yes. This is tilting. You can achieve a great deal with a simple tilt, including:

• Bringing the viewer into a scene
• Emphasizing the significance of a subject
• Revealing details in a scene
• Showing the vertical size of an object

Panning and Tilting in Practice

As panning and tilting motions are similar to how our necks move, feel free to use these techniques together in a production. You can craft a character’s point of view (POV) or make it appear as if the action is being observed by someone else.

Remember to consider the height of the camera when plotting your shots as this will determine the physical and psychological perspective from which the audience views your subject. For example, if your camera is at about eye level with your subject, when tilting up it looks like someone is looking at the subject’s shoes and then up to their face. When tilting down, it appears as if someone from a higher vantage point is looking downward and has suddenly discovered the subject. A few more things to remember when performing your pans and tilts:

• Very quick pans can be used as transitions between scenes. This is what we call “in-camera editing.”
• A slow pan or tilt allows the viewer to take in all the visual information in the scene.
• A fast pan or tilt, something typical from Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson films can disorient the viewer and jolt their attention to a new point of focus.

Smooth Moves

More often than not, we want our pans and tilts to be steady and fluid, unless, of course, the story calls for the camera to shake. In order to capture truly smooth movements, it is essential to properly set up and counterbalance the tripod. Be sure to fine tune the tension, so the tripod does the heavy lifting for you.

Benro Fluid Head

If you’re able to block out shots in advance, practice the movements several times before even rolling the camera, and adjust the tension accordingly. Generally speaking, you’ll want to set the tripod’s head with less tension for close or fast-moving subjects, and increase the tension for slow movements.

To sum up, you can achieve a great deal in your next video/film production by using the relatively simple techniques of panning and tilting. From guiding your viewer into a scene to crafting a unique transition between scenes, you can employ pans and tilts in a variety of ways to finesse your narrative.

Want more tips? Watch our filmmaking courses on
Have specific questions? We’re here to help. Contact us today and let’s meet on-site or online.


How to avoid the slideshow look when shooting video.

As we discussed previously, one piece of equipment you will be able to find in almost most any photographer’s kit is a monopod. This tool provides enough stabilization for us to open up the aperture and work with longer exposures. But, how well does this piece of equipment translate for someone making the transition from stills to video?

When it comes to shooting video, monopods often gets a bad rap. They are not stable enough. It’s impossible to get smooth pans and tilts. What if I need to walk away from the camera to adjust the lighting or sound?

Many people will tell you that the first thing you need to buy to support your camera is a good fluid head tripod, but I actually often recommend a monopod over a tripod for someone who is just starting out as a filmmaker. The monopod’s “limitations” force us to think differently about the borders of our frame. And it is a simple way to introduce camera movement and avoid the locked off “slideshow” look that is prevalent in so many DSLR productions.

Most critics of monopods often come from a narrative filmmaking perspective and do not take into consideration the conditions that are common for run and gun documentary style filmmaking. If you are trying to capture unpredictable, real time action, it is nice to be able to move quickly through a crowd without knocking people down. Adjusting the height of your tripod can be a real pain if you are working with a heavy camera rig and do not have an assistant or grip helping you set up. Another important consideration if you are planning to shoot on a street of a big city like NYC is that tripods often require a permit, but monopods are perfectly acceptable. Go figure.

If you are working with a small crew and under a tight schedule a monopod can provide you just enough stability, while still retaining a small footprint and flexibility.

Of course it is important to remember that a monopod will never be a complete substitute for a tripod. It will never provide the same degree of stabilization for static shots and pans and tilts especially when working with long focal lengths or long shot durations. You certainly don’t want to be caught filming a two hour-long interview on a single leg and in certain situations the inherent sway of a monopod can be incredibly distracting.  There are very few cameras that can produce decent handheld footage without some form of rig or stabilization. So here’s a simple rule of thumb: use a monopod on any scene that you might consider shooting handheld.

Another option would be to use a shoulder rig, but how often is the most dynamic angle for a scene going to be shot from shoulder height? Not often.

With a monopod you can get the angles you want and have the floor as opposed to your shoulder supporting the camera’s weight. Even if the tip of the monopod is not touching the floor its weight can do wonders to support your footage. Because of its small footprint it doesn’t add much to bring it along with your kit and it could be just what you need to get out there and start shooting.


To learn more, check out our new Camera movement course on, where we worked extensively with Benro Monopods and Tripods to show off the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Camera Movement – Tripod or Monopod?

Unlike still photography, filmmaking is a medium defined by motion. Motion is the action within the frame—but it’s also the motion of the frame itself. Even a series of well-lit and well-composed shots can be perceived as a slideshow rather than a story in motion if the shots remain “stagnant.” Nowadays we’re so used to seeing camera movement in Hollywood films that we expect to see movement in all the videos we watch—even if we don’t know much about filmmaking.

Here’s the same scene shot handheld, with a monopod and on a tripod. The mid ground between these two extremes, is the monopod. It has a little bit of movement, which adds a layer of realism. It conveys a scene straight out of a reality TV show, perhaps.

On this article we discuss the primary tools for accomplishing camera movement—and when to use which.


When, and why would I use a monopod over a tripod? If I have to pack light, I’m working by myself, need to be very quick, I’m using a light camera system with a shotgun, and a little bit of movement is okay, I would choose a monopod.

To learn more, watch our new course Camera Movement for Video Production on


Discussing the Panasonic Lumix GH4 LIVE!

Wow! That was quick. I was invited earlier today to join Mathew Frazer, a senior field trainer and product developer with Panasonic USA (with over 20 years experience in the industry) and David Flores a NY photographer and filmmaker who shoots for clients like General Electric, Willett Distillery, the Audubon Society, Sawyer House Press, Adelphi University, Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace, Northwestern University Press, and many more.

We discussed the pros and cons of the Panasonic GH4, the best memory cards, batteries, what 4K means for filmmakers and photographers and answered a TON of questions sent to us via Twitter.

The event took place at B&H and you can watch the complete recap of our session right right here:

UPDATE 20140530: Since MANY of you have been asking about the gear we used, here’s the list:
Panasonic GH4
Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
Syrp Genie
Cinevate Pegasus
Benro S8 Tripod
Benro S6 Monopod
Comodo Orbit
Rode Videomic

A couple of 4K + Slow Motion samples that were not covered during the live session:

Dance from The Digital Distillery Inc. on Vimeo.

Dance Behind the Scenes from The Digital Distillery Inc. on Vimeo.

And here are the sample/test clips I showed during the live discussion (make sure you watch them at the highest resolution):

A lot of the topics we discussed are included on our upcoming eBook “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers.” Get your free copy while you can. More questions? Send us a Tweet!



Dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance! dance!

Dance. from The Digital Distillery Inc. on Vimeo.

Everything in slow motion was shot at FHD 96 fps with the Panasonic GH4. Everything else was shot at 4K (QHD or 3840×2160) with the same camera.
The only “grading” done was the B&W preset on Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Maddy, our beautiful and super talented dancer often performs in New York City. Here’s the Facebook Page for her last event:

UPDATE 20140530: Since MANY of you have been asking about the gear we used, here’s the list:
Panasonic GH4
Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
Syrp Genie
Cinevate Pegasus
Benro S8 Tripod
Benro S6 Monopod
Comodo Orbit
Rode Videomic


7 things we discovered after shooting 4K with the GH4. You won’t like #4.

The invitation from Panasonic USA to perform a field test arrived quite suddenly, with multiple commitments for Fashion Week already in place, and with nasty weather that didn’t really allow access to tried and true locations. Great!

It is very important to mention that the camera we tested was a preproduction model running firmware v0.3. As it is always the case with preproduction models, as well as some early production models, many features were disabled or not working as expected. We also wanted to test if our current workflow, which we generally use with Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera and Canon products—ranging from the 60D to the 5D Mark III to the C300 and even some 1DCs—would work at the same or needed adaptations for the GH4.

1. Comparisons
Instead of a side-by-side comparison between the GH4 and other brands, Sean Davis and I were more interested in exploring the new features of the GH4, compared to the GH3 and a hacked version of the GH2 that we have used in the past. Obviously, shooting 4K was at the top of the list. GH4 field test central Cinevate_01

2. Look and Feel
The GH4 is the exact same size as the GH3. Not only that, unlike other camera manufacturers that feel inspired to sell new batteries and chargers with every new camera, we were pleased to see that the GH4 shares the same exact DMW-BLF19 battery (here’s a much better deal). In other words, all your GH3 “power rigging accessories” will continue to work. Great news for Panasonic users and rental houses. An important difference (and a small hiccup in our field test) is that the GH4 uses Micro HDMI, and not the GH3’s Mini HDMI.

Before you ask, the answer is no. We did not have the Lumix DMC-YAGH Interface Unit (aka The Brick) with us. GH4 field test grand central _001

3. The 4K Footage
As you can see from the image below, the GH4’s 100 Mbps is broadcast 4K or Quad HD (3840 x 2160), not DCI compliant 4K cinema spec (4096×2160), but the camera is capable of recording DCI compliant 4K at 200Mbps. This article explains what DCI is. GH4-4K-File-Size_web

Just for fun, I created this side-by-side file size comparison between the cameras I use most often. GH4 File-Sizes-compared_web

Everything in Slow Motion was shot at FHD 96 fps. Everything else was shot at 4K (3840×2160). We used the Cine-D Profile. The only “grading” done was the B&W preset on Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

4. Storage
Regarding memory cards, we were ALSO testing a pre-production version of a SanDisk. The GH4 didn’t like the SanDisk 95mbs SDXC that we always use with our Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera. To spice things up a bit more, we had to use a beta SDHC II 280mbs 32GB card provided by SanDisk. I hope that once the camera ships, it will take “standard” SD cards, but they won’t come cheap.

Shooting 4K @100mb/s 30p on a 64GB card will give you about 29 minutes of shooting time. So we are looking at three to four cards per shoot at $150 each. All things considered, I’d get Panasonic 64 GB microP2 cards. If you have a better suggestion please send me a tweet.
This extra budget consideration of $450-$600 doesn’t even include hard drives for storage and backups. Definitively a G-RAID 4TB Dual Thunderbolt drive is the way to go.

5. High ISO
Per multiple requests via Twitter, we shot the same exact cityscape in Central Park with the GH3 and the GH4.

The exposure settings were identical:
• Manual Exposure
• The beautiful Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f2.8 Lens
• f/2.8
• 1/30th
• 1600 ISO
• WB at 5500K

Lumix12-35mm lens

The only difference was that the GH3 was recording at its highest video resolution 1920×1080 at 72mb/s ALL-I 24fps while the GH4 was recording at 4K at 100mb/s IPB 30fps. Note: This was the ONLY video setting working on our prerelease GH4. Other settings were available but the camera was not able to record.

Here are some tests:

6. Workflow
The workflow we tested was intentionally kept as plain and simple as possible. The idea was to mimic a “normal” setup for an “average” shooter.

1. Download the SD card directly to a G-RAID 4TB Dual Thunderbolt External Drive connected to a 27-inch mid-2011 iMac. About This GH4 4K footage on iMac 2011_001

2. Open the MOV directly into Adobe Premiere Pro CC v7.2.1 without transcoding to ProRes or doing anything special to the files. This is exactly why I switched from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro a few years ago. Another feature I love on Premiere is the ability to change the playback resolution. In a few words, with high-resolution footage, you can set playback resolution to a lower value.

3. Start editing

7. Other Observations:
• The GH4 comes with two options for focusing magnification: Full frame and PIP which I find much more applicable for video. Even though PIP was not working while shooting video on our pre-production model, I’m sure it will be there when the camera ships.
• The peaking feature was working perfectly. A wonderful addition to our tips and tricks arsenal. GH4 Peaking_001
• The camera didn’t have, and won’t have, built-in ND filters. I was really hoping this would be an improvement over the GH3, but we will need to keep using our variable ND filters.
• There’s a lot to like about this system and I am confident Panasonic will add enough improvements to the firmware to make your shooting experience even better. GH4 field test grand central2 GH4 field test Rode Mic


Related Posts

I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Hard Drives.

I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Batteries.

I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Memory Cards.



4K video under $2K. Meet the Panasonic Lumix GH4.

Panasonic just announced its latest system, the Lumix GH4. We had the honor to field test the GH4 this past weekend, and I shared some of my impressions live on Twitter.
I’ll be posting more details as well as images and sample videos later this week.



The Importance of Lighting for Video.

A few days ago our very first online course at went live. As is always the case, when we look back at a finished project we find little things here and there that we could have improved or done differently—but I am very proud with what we have here. (more…)


Amazon adds storytelling tools to its arsenal.

updated 20140114

Amazon Studios was launched 3 years ago to develop feature films and episodic series. In a new effort to pack another punch to its arch enemy Netflix, as well as increasing its original content catalog, the company has rolled out the beta for “Storyteller,” a free online storytelling tool that (more…)


How to shoot a zero budget film in 17 hours without a crew.

Being busy should never be an excuse for not participating in creative challenges. Not having a budget, crew, or even actors, are simple excuses as well.

Let me explain. (more…)


Tips and Tricks 008: Is there an ideal shutter speed to use in video?

Is there an ideal shutter speed to use when shooting video? We have previously discussed this topic, but we keep getting the same question so let’s go over this again.

The quick answer is yes, there is, and you really need to pay attention to that. (more…)


On colors and stories. Black Hawk Down’s color palette.

This wonderful frame-by-frame image shows the changing color palette in Ridley Scott’s movie Black Hawk Down. It is a great example on how color is directly related to the story’s development.

black hawk down color pallete


Thoughts on getting started in Filmmaking.

As I’m packing my gear for a four-day sunrise-to-sunset video shoot I realize that I really enjoy filmmaking. There’s so much to learn, watch, read, and improve upon.

Photographers making the transition into video shouldn’t be daunted. I think that video is something that is really good for us as photographers, as it is just another tool that we have at our disposal. Instead of being afraid and thinking that there is something else you need to learn, you should embrace this. Video is not going away!

A few random thoughts:

• Let’s start with a “simple” question I get all the time that’s potentially difficult to answer: what makes a good video? Basic elements of photography, for sure. Interesting subjects, definitely. And good light. And clean sound. And a great story, which often means a tight script.

• When starting out (and pretty much all the time, really) it is important to team up with a good editor. If you are a photographer, and single, do your best to date or marry an editor!

• When we are shooting stills, we are looking to freeze time, to capture the essence of a moment. With motion, we are looking for a lot of other things besides framing and exposure. We are thinking about movement, continuity, angles, and how we are going to connect everything in post. It takes a very different mindset.

• Using very shallow depths of field as a creative element sounds amazing. In reality when the camera moves and the subject moves and you have two inches of focus, then it is not that amazing.

• A 21-megapixel-full-frame-sensor size is 5600×3700 pixels, but that’s for stills. When you are shooting video, you are really only getting a fraction of that. HD, which is 1920×1080, is two only 2 megapixels. Yeah, I know, do the math. But, we are shooting 2 megapixels 24 or 30 or even 60 times per second. That is a lot of information, which means more memory cards, longer download times, and more runs to the store to get additional hard drives.

Be brave…this is just the tip of the iceberg. In upcoming articles I’ll flesh out details like achieving the ideal setup, the nuts and bolts of shooting quick interviews, and crucial elements you want to be sure to get right before the shoot.
Can EOS M with 70-200 mm lens


Canon EOS C300 explained for photographers.

For starters, the C300 is NOT “just bigger than the EOS 5D Mark III.” Well, it IS bigger, but it is also a completely different system. The Canon EOS C300 comes in two flavors, one with EF mount (EOS C300) which takes your good ol’ Canon lenses, and another one (C300 PL) with a PL mount.
The camera is compact box, similar in size to a Mamiya RZ with a viewfinder. It is a bit heavy, but very comfortable to use for extended periods of time. (more…)


There are two kinds of movie directors.

According to Woody Allen there are two kinds of directors: “the ones who have it, and the ones who don’t.”

It is well-known that there are two more kinds of movie directors: the ones who write their own material like Tarantino, and the ones who adapt, like Alfred Hitchcock, or Steven Spielberg. (more…)


Upgrading PluralEyes 2 to version 3. Worth it?

PluralEyes Upgrade

When shooting with a DSLR camera, and recording dual-system sound, Red Giant’s PluralEyes has been a godsend. Period. We couldn’t even consider working without this awesome plugin. Version 3 has been out for a while. Will upgrading to PluralEyes 3 make us more efficient? Or should we just stick with our trusted friend a bit longer? (more…)


10 (new) Cool Gadgets for Photographers and Filmmakers. Part 2

6• Convergent Design Odyssey 7.
Two super interesting monitor/recorders are the Odyssey7 and Odyssey7Q by Convergent Design. For $1295 and up you get a 7.7” 1280 x 800 OLED external monitor that also doubles as an external recorder capable of receiving 4K RAW data as well as other compressed and uncompressed formats onto two 2.5” SSDs.

Here’s the twist; out-of-the-box, these two products are monitors only, with all the usual settings (waveform, histogram, false color, vectorscope, zebras, and focus assist) but without any recording or playback capabilities. (more…)


10 (new) Cool Gadgets for Photographers and Filmmakers. Part 1

1• Edelkrone SliderPLUS
Edelkrone’s SliderPLUS is a super-compact and very smooth slider that easily fits onto Tenba’s Video Backpack. Unlike other sliders, this one moves with the camera, taking full advantage of rails’ length. With a price tag of $500, this toy is at the top of my shopping list.

2• Redrock Micro’s One Man Crew Parabolic Camera Motion System
This amazing gadget consists of a motorized parabolic track slider that “guides the camera on a precision-curved track at any speed while keeping the subject stationary in frame.” The system includes speed control, automatic in and out stops, and 36” of track for camera systems under 20lbs. All for $1,500. If you are part of a small crew doing a lot of corporate interviews or a single photographer creating educational content or product demos, this is an extremely attractive option.



Adobe Lightroom Tips and Tricks 007. From Photoshop to Premiere Pro, iMovie or Final Cut.

I kinda lied. This is not really a Lightroom tip, but we’ve received so many requests for this post that we are including it in our Tips and Tricks series.

Let’s say you want to create a title for your next movie project, and would love to use Photoshop for that. The process is fairly quick and simple:

1. Launch Photoshop
2. Go to Window > Workspace > Motion

From Photoshop to Premiere 00


15 Valuable Lessons Learned on Movie Sets.

For a while I’ve wanted to share some small (but valuable) lessons I’ve learned while working on movie sets. The following list is in no particular order; however, I will say that the first item of business in any shoot should be deciding where the camera should be placed. Everything else follows this decision.

Arri Alexa Shoot Brooklyn 2013

• There’s cable wrangling and data wrangling, and as hierarchy goes, there’s a big difference between the two.

• The digital imaging technician (DIT) does a lot more than just data wrangling. He needs a deep knowledge of cameras, color, RAW workflows, monitors, backup strategies, etc.


NAB 2013 is here. Ghost Town goes wild with DSLR Shooters.

This coming weekend I’ll be working with Jem Schofield and a very talented crew on a unique DSLR Video Field Workshop in Nelson, Nevada. The event, hosted at an awesome Ghost Town and surrounded by incredible landscapes, focuses on the craft of filmmaking, camera movement and lighting controls.

Attendees will have four production stations to shoot:

• Tripod, Slider & Dolly Station (with actors)
We will learn how to properly balance a tripod system, operate a camera on a slider and how to use a proper dolly system (including being a dolly grip).

• Rigs Station (with actors)
How and when to use handheld and shoulder mounted rigs from a number of manufacturers to get different looks in camera. Students will focus on tracking shot and other set ups while filming live actors.

• Jib Station
Learn how to operate small to medium sized jib systems, to get “money” shots of the town for establishing shots, reveals, etc.

• Filters & Exterior Light Station
Controlling natural light for exterior shots using a selection of filters, reflectors and silks is paramount.

We’ll have great equipment from sponsors such as Genus, Ikan, Indie Dolly, Induro, Kessler, Lastolite, Manfrotto, Marshall, Nice Industries, Redrock Micro, Tiffen and Zacuto.

Check the video below, and I hope to see you there!

Registration includes round-trip transportation from Las Vegas Convention Center to Nelson Nevada Ghost Town, lunch and on-site instruction.