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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Here are some screen grabs from the camera’s LCD:
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.
• 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.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 • Updates and Workarounds.
Back in April, when Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta was released, the company dropped official support for Windows Vista, but it continued supporting Windows 7 and XP users.
A couple of months later, Adobe gave an “advanced warning” that 3D feature upgrades in Photoshop CS6 would no longer be supported with Windows XP. Additionally, Photoshop CS6 (13.0) will be the last major version of Photoshop to support Windows XP.
Even though it is ancient, Windows XP is still the best selling Microsoft OS, and makes up nearly 40% of their market share (after having peaked at 76.1% in January 2007), it is somewhat expected that Adobe’s software developers now insist on the latest upgraded versions of Windows OS (Windows 7 and 8) to run their applications.
This is what Adobe had to say:
Photoshop CS6 already demonstrates that relying on a modern operating system, graphics cards/GPUs and graphics drivers can lead to substantial improvements in 3D, Blur Gallery and Lighting Effect features not available to Windows XP customers. The team hopes that by providing this information early it will help you understand our current decisions around operating system support and where we we’re headed with future releases of Photoshop.
We encourage all customers who are currently using the 3D features in Photoshop CS6 Extended to begin upgrading their video card/hardware now so they can fully take advantage of future Photoshop innovations as soon as they are available.
Creative Cloud members will also be required to update their vRAM to at least 512 MB in order to access 3D features found in Photoshop CS6 Extended. If they don’t update, they’ll see the following dialog box:
Click here to keep reading (more…)
Adobe Premiere Elements 11. Worth it?
Back in May, Adobe announced Photoshop CS6 and Premiere Pro CS6 with a new user interface. Now, the company has added that new look to Photoshop Elements 11 and Premiere Elements 11. Both applications are less intimidating for newcomers, allowing quick and easy organization, editing and sharing of media, and targeted for new photographers or video editors.
Both apps include an image organizer that closely resembles Adobe Bridge, making the most commonly used functions easily accessible, while other tools are hidden away in the menus. The new organizer is laid out as a 3 column panel in Photoshop Elements 11 and integrates with Google Maps, just like the Map Module in Adobe Lightroom 4. Additionally, tagging photos and videos with people or events (mimicking Facebook) is now possible.
Since Premiere Elements includes “Expert” workspaces with interesting transitions and effects, this might be a good product for photographers transitioning into video. The goal is not to become an expert video editor, but understand NLE apps and more importantly, the required assets to put together a video project.
click to keep reading (more…)
NAB 2012 wrap-up.
• Blackmagic announced a hard-to-believe camera featuring a 2.5K image sensor, 13 stops of dynamic range, built-in SSD recorder, popular open standard uncompressed RAW and compressed file formats, compatibility with quality EF and ZF mount lenses, and LCD touchscreen monitoring.
• Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 is out with and enhanced 64-bit playback engine that can handle 5K resolutions, and higher, new trimming options, compatibility with Mac touchpad gestures, a Warp Stabilizer that was previously confined to After Effects, and expanded multicam editing for more than four cameras. Taking a page from its sister app, “the audio oriented Audition, Premiere Pro CS6 offers a redesigned and more functional audio mixer. Adobe also introduced SpeedGrade, a film finishing and color grading app, and Prelude, for ingesting, logging, and transcoding.
• Autodesk announced Smoke 2013 for the Mac, a new version of what the company is now calling video editing software and at users of Apple’s Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer who want high-end editing and finishing tools in one app. The new price is “only” $3495, down from $14,995 for the 2012 version.
• Panasonic announced a bittersweet firmware update for the AG-AF100 that provides 1080 50p and 60p modes. That’s the sweet part. The bitter? They want users to pay $300 for the upgrade.
• Canon announced the 1D C ($15,000), which has the same chassis and still shooting features of the EOS-1D X ($6,800), and captures 4096 x 2160 8-bit 4:2:2 video to a CF card at 24 fps. Unlike the X, the C swaps a headphone jack for the X’s PC sync.
• The higher-end Canon EOS C500 ($30,000) offers the same ISO range as the C300 (320-20,000) and requires a dedicated external recorder, but captures in two full-RAW flavors: 4096 x 2960 (for motion picture), and 3840 x 2160 (for 4K TV). Both of these modes offer 10-bit 4:4:4 at 60 frames-per-second. There are two additional RAW option, 4096 x 1080 or 3840 x 1080 resolutions, which are also 10-bit 4:4:4, but at 120 fps. The camera also offers
The Cloud Wars.
Adobe recently announce that “everyone can join the Creative Cloud,” and while customers will have access to a free membership to explore certain features, a monthly price of US$50 (based on a one-year subscription) has been set. The idea is that users can access the latest version of Adobe’s popular programs (like Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4), without buying the boxed version and subsequent upgrades. In addition to receiving updates to the programs as soon as they are released, users also get 20GB of cloud storage for syncing their work.
On Amazon, Adobe Photoshop CS5 costs around $639. With a yearly subscription you save about $40. Not an amazing deal if you need to use the software every day, but you could “rent” it for $50/month, and only use it when you need to meet a deadline, and then stop paying while you are working on something else. The idea is good on paper, but I am not completely sold on the benefits of a subscription system. Unfortunately, I believe that there’s no turning back. This is how we will be buying and using software in the near future.
At the same time Adobe set the “Creative Cloud” pricing, Amazon lowered their S3 storage rates. Small businesses with fairly typical 50 TB of data capacity, will see a 12% reduction in costs. Bigger companies storing up to 500 TB of data will enjoy a 13.5% reduction in costs.
Adobe’s generous upgrade policy ends in 30 days.
For several years, Adobe has offered a generous “three-versions” upgrade policy. This means that users with a prior CS product up to three previous major versions (CS2, CS3, and CS4) would be eligible for discounted upgrade pricing when moving up to the latest release.
This policy will end when the CS6 Suite starts shipping early next year.
According to Adobe, “in order to qualify for upgrade pricing when CS6 releases, customers will need to be on the latest version of our software (either CS5 or CS5.5 editions). If our customers are not yet on those versions, we are offering a 20% discount through December 31, 2011, which will qualify them for upgrade pricing when we release CS6.”
Adobe’s new upgrade policy is worldwide. Click on the links to purchase the Photoshop CS5 Upgrade (Windows Vista/7/XP or Mac OS), and Photoshop Extended CS5 Upgrade (Windows Vista/7/XP or Mac OS) from Amazon, or click here to go directly to the Adobe Store. Hurry up, only 30 days left to take advantage of the 20% discount.
4 days left to buy Adobe Premiere Pro half price.
Adobe has been trying hard to get as many editors and photographers to play with Premiere Pro, their video editing software. To sweeten the deal, they have been offering a 50% off Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium or Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 software. There’s even have a page dedicated to promote switching from Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer!
How does that 50% translates into real numbers? A full license of CS 5.5 Production Premium Suite (which includes Photoshop, After Effects, and Flash, among other applications), can be bought for $849.50. If you are only interested in Premiere Pro CS 5.5 , it is yours for only $399.
What’s the catch? None really.
– You have to own Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer.
– You need to use the offer code SWITCH.
– The software has to be purchased through the Adobe Store.
This seems pretty reasonable to me. But hurry up! The offer ends October 31, 2011.
Related, but unrelated, there is a 30% discount off a full or upgrade version of Adobe Lightroom when purchased with Adobe Photoshop CS5, Photoshop CS5 Extended, or any Creative Suite 5.5 edition. Not as good as the 50% off, but it is something. The Lightroom offer endsDecember 31, 2011.