The “41 Essentials” Digital Guide.
We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a very long time, but never seemed to find the time.
Well, today’s the day.
To take the guesswork out of your next gear purchase we’ve picked the best tools for photographers and filmmakers in our “41 Essential Items” Guide. The complementary download is available HERE.
Is a $350 ND filter three (and a half) times better than a $100 one?
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
Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 at 35mm (70mm equivalent) with Heliopan Variable ND
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 at 70mm with Genus Variable ND
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- Hybrid Assignments Equipment List: The Essential 41 Items.
- The eternal quest for “the best” digital camera.
- Shooting Anamorphic and V-Log with Panasonic’s GH4. Valuable Lessons.
- 7 things we discovered after shooting 4K with the GH4. You won’t like #4.
- The Pros and Cons of external recorders: Atomos Shogun.
- 4K video under $2K. Meet the Panasonic Lumix GH4.
- 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 Lynda.com
- Video for Photographers 01: Filmmaking Essentials
- Video for Photographers 02: Filmmaking on Location
Did I miss anything? Feel free to continue the conversation here.
The Pros and Cons of external recorders: Atomos Shogun.
I’ve been using an Atomos Shogun for a while, and while I had very clear reasons to pick up this device, I’ve found many other very valuable and attractive features. Here I share the most interesting ones in no particular order.
1. Longer recording times
The first and most obvious reason was to record 4K and HD for extended periods of time. The Shogun utilizes 4K HDMI and 12G-SDI inputs to record clean output signals at resolutions up to UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, and 30p, as well as Full HD (1920 x 1080) video up to 120 fps with some cameras.
We’ve been shooting a lot of corporate interviews and live events lately and swapping 32GB or 64GB is cumbersome and very inefficient. The additional steps in post to log each and backup each card are fairly simple but time consuming. Yes, SD cards are cheap, with a 64GB costing about $30 (Amazon • B&H) and a 128GB going for about $60 (Amazon • B&H), I was expecting Solid State drives to cost an arm and leg. Wrong!
You can now get an “Atomos approved” (the complete list is available here) SanDisk Pro 240GB drive for only $120 (Amazon • B&H) and a SanDisk Pro 480GB drive for only $200 or less! (Amazon • B&H). Both drives come with an impressive 10-year warranty. And here’s a special Shogun kit that includes TWO 240GB Solid State Drive for FREE. A no brainer if you ask me.
It is worth mentioning that shooting 1080 in ProRes 422 on a 240GB drive (with the Panasonic Lumix GH4 on Amazon • B&H)gives you almost 3.5 hours of recording time. Using the same drive but recording in ProRes LT gives you almost five hours. The Shogun also allows other systems like Sony’s a7S (Amazon • B&H)that are not capable of recording 4K internally to send the 4K signal to the external device via HDMI.
2. Adding XLR ports to your cameras. No need to sync audio in post.
The first “ah-ha!”moment was recording audio directly into the Shogun via the provided XLR breakout cable (with two 3-pin male and two 3-pin female XLR). The Shogun provides Phantom Power which is essential when using our trusted Rode Lavalier mics (Amazon • B&H).
The Shogun can record 8 channels of digital audio embedded in the HDMI signal and 12 channels of digital audio embedded in the SDI signal. There’s also a 3.5mm output that doubles as a Line Out or Headphone jack. The headphone’s volume can be controlled separately within the menu. Pretty clever!
We have used the Shogun mostly with Panasonic GH4s (here’s a recent job shooting Anamorphic and V-Log) effectively adding XLR ports to our tiny cameras. This is important: we noticed a delay or off-sync between the footage and the audio being recorded into the Shogun. After extensive tests we also noticed that the audio delay was different for Cam A and Cam B even though both were the same brand and model (Panasonic GH4s) and running the same exact firmware version.
Thankfully Atomos includes a very easy fix; simply go to the Audio menu and from there navigate to the “Audio Options”where you will see an “Audio Delay”preset. We finally settled on 4 frames for the Audio delay.
For our one-person interviews and the most recent Lynda.com courses we used one shotgun boom mic on XLR A and a wireless lavalier set on XLR B. This is what the correct settings on the Shogun should look like:
3. Standardizing editing codec and no need to transcode
On most projects we try to use the same camera model. So if we need three cameras we would use three Panasonic GH4, or three Canon C100 Mark II (Amazon • B&H) or three Sony FS7 (Amazon • B&H). We try to keep it simple.
But on a recent shoot in Portland we were shooting with two C300s, had a “behind the scenes”crew using two GH4s, had one Sony A7s doing time-lapses and used one Sony FS7 for some slow-motion sequences. Normally this would be a post-production nightmare for our editor and/or a huge time waste for us having to transcode all that footage every night on-location. We simply attached a Shogun to each camera, shot ProRes 422 with clean audio and the only post step required on our end was backing up the Solid State Drives into our TWO G-Tech drives (Amazon • B&H). Why two? One is set as the Master and at least one as our Backup. When possible, we bring additional Solid State Drives with us so during the shoot we can leave the footage on them as a third backup.
The only disadvantage I see from this approach is the huge file size of the ProRes compared to the native on-camera files, but when taking into account the time wasted transcoding and syncing audio the investment for bigger and faster hard drives more than pays off.
A handy tip: if you will be renting SSDs often, I suggest getting a battery-operated screwdriver to make the process of getting the drives into the Master Caddy II much faster and easier. The best bargain can be found at Ikea.
5. Camera Settings
Here’s something VERY important to consider when using the Shogun with the Panasonic GH4.
1. In the camera’s “Motion Picture”Menu, navigate to the fourth screen (as of this writing).
2. Go to “HDMI Rec Output.”If for any reason you are planning to record in 4:2:2 8 bit, make sure to go to “Info Display”and turn it off. Failing to do this will record the camera’s menu into the footage.
3. If instead you are planning to record in 4:2:2 10 bit, go to “HDMI Rec Output” then “Bit Mode,”select “4:2:2 10 bit”and then “yes.”
6. Focus, Exposure and LUTs
We purchased the Shogun thinking that it would be much easier to monitor focus on a 7”screen. It does work wonderfully in that regard, but we got a lot more than we bargained for. The touchscreen is very minimalist and easy to navigate, the color accuracy is extremely good. Actually, the monitor’s color standard is REC 709 and it can be calibrated with an optional Atomos Spyder.
The additional benefit of having more reliable and customizable Focus Peaking is very handy. There are three flavors for peaking: Color, Monochrome, and Outline. In terms of monitoring exposure, especially when shooting outdoors, False Color is key. This feature assigns different colors to areas of different exposure in the image: overexposed areas appear as red, and underexposed appear as blue.
The ability to load LUTs and show the client what the footage will look like after grading is priceless. It is important to know that the LUTs loaded into the Shogun simply previews what the footage would look like, but the media being recorded is not affected. Here’s a short film featuring Panasonic’s recently released Anamorphic mode, and the yet to be released V-Log L gamma file color space.
In a nutshell, get plenty of juice. Perhaps the biggest complaint from many users has been regarding battery life.The battery provided with the kit only lasts about 45 minutes, making it mandatory to buy additional ones. We went the “cheapo”route and purchased a too-good-to-be true Kastar kit on Amazon that included two batteries, a charger and a car charger for only $34. Unfortunately this time the “you get what you pay for”maxim held true. The batteries last about the same as an original Sony NP-F970, but the Kastar charger is completely worthless. An original Sony battery costs around $120.
We got stuck on location with a ton of dead batteries and a bad charger. Not a pretty day. The lesson: buy at least one good charger and always bring the Shogun’s AC charger with you (it is included in the kit).
Clearly, the Shogun is an outstanding (but not perfect) product. While it is very light (a mere 16 ounces without batteries), which is great when used on a monopod or gimbal, it is also very fragile. Our monitor broke during our second on-location shoot and we always take great care of our gear. We have been using Varavon cages for the GH4s (I’ll share my impression soon) and they have proven outstanding, and just got a new cage for the Shogun.
If you are planning to use the Shogun in broad-daylight I’d also STRONGLY recommend getting a sun hood, which was NOT included with our original kit.
There are at least a couple of additional features we haven’t tried yet: the optional Wi-Fi Remote Control to start/stop recording from an iOS or Android device, and flagging the footage on the Shogun as favorite/reject. Apparently this gets exported within the footage’s metadata and will work with Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I can definitely see this as a time-saving feature, especially while working on interviews and marking sections with the best takes or sound bites.
For a couple grand, I believe one gets a LOT of value out of this device, especially if you can get the current deal that includes two FREE Solid State Drives.
Comments? Questions? Let’s chat on Twitter.
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 Lynda.com 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 Lynda.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag
2. Media pouch with ten 64GB SD cards
6. Two external portable hard drives
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.
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.
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.
Upgrading from HD to 4K. Worth it?
There are currently 2.7 billion active smartphones in the world. An estimated 800 million were added this year alone. By 2020, Ericsson predicts there will be at least 6.1 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. What’s the big deal? Well, this means 38% of the world’s population has the ability to shoot digital video and stills.
That is not very good news for us as content providers.
The way I see it is that we need to diversify our professional skills, learn as much as we can, learn how to edit, how to grade, how to record better sound, and how to tell more engaging stories. In an ever-changing marketplace, the more you know the safer you are.
Smartphones aren’t the only problem though. The average price of professional editing software went down from $1,300 to $299 in the past 10 years, and this is an average that includes high-end apps like Avid ($1,300) and excellent software applications like Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, which “Lite” version is completely free.
The cost of a cinema-quality camera tumbled from $200,000 in 2001 to $1,000 today.
Photography and film students with current DSLRs have way more resolution and features than any $200,000 camera from 10 years ago. This is incredible!
Before I started shooting 4K I didn’t really know what all the fuss was about. Then I put this chart together. For some of you this might be pretty obvious, but it can’t hurt to check it out.
Is upgrading from full HD to 4K worth it? You would think this would be one of the main questions I encounter, but last year at NAB I was absolutely shocked to find out that many companies, mostly broadcast stations, are still shooting SD and that they are now considering making the jump straight into 4K. That’s a pretty big jump, but for some of them it can make a lot of sense.
Should you do it? It depends. Think 35mm digital cameras vs. medium format digital backs. Phase One vs. Canon or Hasselblad vs. Nikon. Most advantages and disadvantages regarding sensor sizes, file sizes, shooting speeds, portability, and especially storage and post-production challenges apply. Except for price. For $2,500 we can now capture 4K RAW or almost literally in the dark. For $1,300 we can record HD slow-mo or 4K internally. And for $500 we can shoot 4K anywhere.
These systems are so inexpensive that they sometimes become a double-edged sword. Their sizes and prices transform them into accessible toys. And that’s where the problems start. Higher resolution often demands new workflow requirements. In RAW form, a 2.5-hour movie shot in 4K at 24fps contains 216,000 frames. The resulting file is approximately 5.6 terabytes of data. That’s ONE camera, BEFORE back ups. But who really shoots that way? Well, David Fincher shot 500 hours of 6K RAW with multiple RED Dragon cameras for his latest movie “Gone Girl.” The end result was 315 terabytes of footage. Crazy? It depends, for normal people with normal budgets, yes. But Fincher was dealing with a time crunch and had to release many actors as fast as possible, so they shot many scenes in loose medium shots and zoomed in and reframed them in post when needed.
I don’t believe 4K UHD is another fancy trend or marketing gimmick to make us spend our hard earned dollars on something that will become obsolete before the year’s end (3D anyone?). I truly see 4K UHD as a natural transition, or evolutionary step, in screen resolution. In 2015 I expect to see many more new models of 4K UHD TV sets than new models of 1080p HD TVs.
This doesn’t mean everything is safe and sound and all the potential issues have been ironed out. For example, a recurrent question I get at all my presentations is “what’s the best way to distribute 4K?” and the answer is far from perfect, as we currently have very limited options.
Let’s take Blu-Ray for example. A Blu-Ray disc can fit 25 GB per layer. A 2K film takes 50 GB, so that technology is currently maxed out. The good news is that as of last September, the Blu-Ray Association announced it would support 4K video at 60 fps, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), and 10-bit color depth. According to this association, the new generation of 4K Blu-Ray disks will have a data rate of at least 50 Mbit/s and may include support for 66/100 GB discs. Awesome!
4K UHD Blu-ray players are being developed in conjunction with the UHD alliance, comprising manufacturers such as Samsung and Panasonic, as well as movie-industry players such as Technicolor, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers. The alliance is not only responsible for establishing standards with regards to specs like 10-bit color and High Dynamic Range (HDR), but also for pushing content creation forward and managing distribution.
The huge appeal of HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) is that it essentially doubles the data compression ratio while keeping the same level of video quality and it can support 8K UHD with resolutions up to 8192×4320. I want to think that 8K is extremely far off in the future, and that it will be a very long time before we need such resolutions. But, I (sadly) still remember when a 100MB zip drive seemed impossibly huge and we debated if putting all your assets on a 1GB Microdrive was practical or even irresponsible.
As we all know, both the iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus support HEVC/H.265 for FaceTime. Recently, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 10 will support HEVC out of the box, and DivX developers announced that DivX265 version 1.4.21 has added support for the Main 10 profile of HEVC and the Rec. 2020 color space. Online streaming might also seem like a great solution, but not yet. Netflix recommends a minimum download speed of 5MB for 720p, 7MB for a 1080p and 12MB for 3D movies and a whooping 25MB for 4K.
What’s wrong with this picture? I have a dedicated “business” internet plan. The fastest, and obviously most expensive plan I can get in my area. My download speed is less than 17 MBps, not nearly enough for Ultra HD quality, so broadband speeds will need to increase and prices will have to come down if the interested parties really want 4K to be widely accepted by movie buffs, sports fans, and especially gamers.
A nice advantage of 4K UHD TV sets is that they are backwards compatible, which means that they will work fine with your existing DVD and Blu-Ray players, as well as satellite and cable boxes. They can also “upscale” HD content and display it as best as possible. This past summer some of the FIFA World Cup games were broadcast in 4K. I watched a couple and it was a surreal experience. From certain angles, like shots from the sidelines, it felt almost like physically being in the stadium. The most popular VOD providers like Netflix and Amazon, major cable companies like Comcast and DirectTV, Hollywood studios, YouTube, and even local TV news station are starting to deliver 4K content, so hopefully other services will follow suit. What’s next? Streaming 4K media from a smartphone to an HDTV.
We increasingly have access to very powerful and generally cheaper tools. But tools are just that. When to choose one over another and, most importantly, why it should be chosen are the real questions. Here’s something interesting; Ophthalmologists generally agree that the higher the resolution of your monitor, the better it is for your eyes. Why? Because (according to them) the text looks sharper, and at a certain point, the pixels are so small your brain can’t tell it’s not looking at real stuff. Exciting or sad. Up to you.
Cool Links on 4K:
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.
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.
I will only discuss the main components of the package, so additional batteries, cables, memory cards won’t be included in the total price.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The most popular cameras at Sundance.
Indiewire published recently the list of cameras used by the filmmakers included in the 2015 Sundance Festival.
The article matched each camera with the film, which was awesome. But I was also curious to see a chart that showed more precisely how many cameras where used and how often. So, I dropped the list from Indiewire into Excel and created this chart.
A total of 23 cameras were used in 2014 to shoot 84 movies. In 2015 almost twice the amount of cameras (44) were used to shoot 97 movies. My guess in this discrepancy is that a) Not enough filmmakers in 2014 provided enough or complete information on their cameras or b) the filmmakers in 2015 felt the need to use different cameras on the same movie.
I also wanted to compare the cameras used at the 2014 Festival, so I also created this second chart, again using Indiewire as my sole resource. From the article, it is hard sometimes to tell exactly which camera was used. For example, one of the filmmakers said, “We used Super 35mm with some Red Epic, and a little super 16mm. There is also one Canon 5D shot in the picture.” Which Super 35? And obviously it had to be a Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III as the first version didn’t shoot video. In those cases I only added the Red Epic to the tally.
How can this information become useful? To me it’s simply curiosity, as I believe a great storyteller can be as effective with an iPhone as with any high-end $50K camera. Give ME an Alexa and a million dollars and I still wouldn’t be able to shoot a single frame better than Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki or Roger Deakins.
The camera is just a tool, but these charts could be used as a reference by film programs trying to determine where to spend their camera budgets this year. Or perhaps a film student wanting to work as a DIT or as an AC [insert link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_crew ] can look at these charts and determine, “well, I better get REALLY comfortable with the Arri Alexa and Red Epic in order to get some high-end jobs.” The charts can also be used by filmmakers planning to upgrade their gear.
What I find most interesting about this data is how consistently some of the cameras are used, such as the Arri Alexa, and how one of my go-to cameras, the Canon EOS C100, was used only twice last year and wasn’t used at all on any of the 2015 movies. Another interesting takeaway is how much more diverse the cameras used for Sundance are compared to the cameras used on Oscar nominated movies, where the Arri Alexa also rules, RED and Blackmagic have been absent, and we don’t see a VHS or an iPhone. Or, at least not yet, I should say..
Canon EOS-5DS and EOS-5DS R announced. What’s new?
The new Canon cameras have been officially announced. Here are the specs, side by side.
• Sadly, there are no new features for video on either EOS-5DS or EOS-5DS R. Actually, they are MISSING some video features from the 5D Mark III, like a headphone jack or an HDMI port.
• The cameras won’t be available for PREORDER until mid-June. Shipping dates are still unknown.
• The highly expected Canon 11-24mm f/4 L USM Lens was also announced, and it is available for preorder!
Cinematic Composition for Video Productions on Lynda.com
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
Here are some of the many examples on this course:
Camera Movement for Video Productions on Lynda.com
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
- Tracking on sliders vs. dollies
- Stabilizing camera movement
- Working with cranes, jibs, and mounts
- Choosing the right camera for motion
Lighting Design for Video Productions on Lynda.com
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 Lynda.com 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 Lynda.com. As I mentioned above, if you aren’t a Lynda.com 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.
Canon EOS-1DC 4K DSLR price drops 34%.
The price for Canon’s EOS-1D C has effectively dropped 34%, from $12,000 as of yesterday to $7,999 right now.
The 1D C is the first Canon hybrid DSLR to offer onboard 4K motion imaging and Full HD motion imaging on CF cards and it is considered part of Canon’s Cinema EOS system, right next to the C100/300/500 models.
The main (and huge) difference between the EOS-1D C is that it features a full frame CMOS sensor that can capture 4K (4096 x 2160) as Motion JPEG and HD (1920 x 1080) as H.264 and can also shoot 18-megapixel (5184 x 3456) still images recorded as RAW or JPEG. An important (and also huge) difference between the EOS-1D C and the other C series bodies is that it lacks important features like built-in ND filters and XLR ports among others.
The camera’s rugged, ultra-compact form factor and huge sensor makes it an interesting option for challenging hybrid assignments when low-light performance is critical. For example, underwater or wildlife photographers capturing 4K and not needing XLR ports or other advanced video videos can find a great solution on the 1DC. Another instance is corporate assignments when the photographer is expected to shoot high-end video as well as stills. Unfortunately I believe the camera’s price have seriously challenged its market penetration. Let’s see what happens with this new price.
Now, while simultaneously shooting stills and video is certainly possible, I prefer to keep separate systems with different settings and features assigned to each task. It is hard enough to THINK about sound and movement and lighting simultaneously. the last thing I need is to be switching settings back and forth.
As of right now I’m happy with our current systems; a couple of Panasonic GH4 4K bodies with Canon and Sigma lenses (using a Metabones Speedbooster adapter), and a couple of Canon C100 Mark II bodies when stills are not necessary.
Here’s our current standard camera package:
• 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
• 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
• 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
• 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
If you are ready to buy any of these items, I’d suggest checking all three stores as the prices constantly change. Happy shooting!
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:
- 7 things we discovered after shooting 4K with the GH4. You won’t like #4.
- 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.
- Discussing the Panasonic GH4 Live!
- Panasonic GH4 Firmware Update.
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.
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How to fix our broken education system. Some thoughts.
For several weeks we’ve been seriously talking about our education system, and we’d like to share some of our ideas on the subject.
The current education system is broken, outdated, and, dare I say it—dangerous. How did we arrive at this point, and what can we do to remedy the situation? (more…)
I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Batteries.
First, the good news. If you already own a Lumix GH3 like we do, the GH4 uses the same exact batteries. The majority of camera manufacturers and other companies like Apple could follow this strategy for a change!
The OK news is that while the DMW-BLF19 battery (one included with every body) is really good, we generally go through two or even three batteries per camera on a video shoot. The Panasonic branded battery goes for $45 on Amazon.
A cheaper option is the Wasabi branded version that costs a THIRD of the price ($14.79 on Amazon). Now, an event BETTER deal is the Wasabi kit, which includes TWO batteries and one charger with a European plug AND a car adapter. The price: a no-brainer $31 on Amazon.
I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Hard Drives.
I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Memory Cards.
7 things we discovered after shooting 4K with the GH4. You won’t like #4.
Dance! The first of a series of videos shot for Panasonic USA to promote the new Panasonic Lumix GH4.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just for fun, I created this side-by-side file size comparison between the cameras I use most often.
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.
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
• 1600 ISO
• WB at 5500K
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:
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
Fuji X100S Hands-on Review.
I’ve put this little thing through every imaginable shooting situation, and tried most, if not all, of its settings, shooting more than 8,200 images on four different assignments in 5 countries in less than a month’s time. And yeah, I know, I’m almost a year late to the Fuji party.
But, as I tell my students who seem to be magnetized to the flatiron building after moving to New York, it doesn’t matter if other people have photographed or written about the same subject that you are interested in. It’s exciting to see how each of us uniquely interprets our surroundings. So, here are my personal impressions of the Fuji X100S.
It is important to mention that I am not being paid by Fuji, or anyone else for that matter, to use the camera or write this review. I’m doing this just as a way to give back to the photo community, so if you are inclined to purchase this system, please consider using our Amazon link. It won’t cost you a penny more, and it would definitely allow us to spend more time working on projects like this:
Why the hype?
The Fuji X100S is a small and light, retro-looking 16MP APC-C magnesium body camera with a fixed 23mm f2.0 lens (equivalent to a 35mm focal length on a 35mm camera) that captures 14-bit RAW. It looks and feels like a Leica M8 or M9, but it comes in at about a fourth of the price.
Size and weight
I was going to spend 26 days working in five Asian countries. With a limited amount of free time to explore on my own, I wanted a camera that would allow me to use any form of transportation (biking with a backpack full of lenses and accessories was not an option), that would capture RAW (a cellphone wouldn’t cut it here), and that was inconspicuous (the Canon 70–200mm f2.8 was out).
So, the main reason I chose this system was weight. Many years ago I was willing to carry two bodies with two lenses and a small daypack with water and accessories (monopod, memory cards, filters, batteries, more lenses, cable releases, etc.). Not anymore. I want to travel as light as possible and be able to fit ALL of my clothes and gear in a carry-on rolling backpack.
When I travel, I break all the rules my mom taught me: I talk to strangers, I eat all kinds of weird food (especially street food), I sleep as little as possible, and I intentionally try to get lost. I enjoy discovering cities on foot, often walking 12 hours in a single day. Deep inside myself, and for some masochistic reason, I also wanted to push the limits of my comfort zone. Not having a set of super-fast zoom lenses with me would be a major restriction—but also a liberation.
Day 1. First issue.
After years of using Canon and Nikon DSLR systems, I naively assumed that all camera companies were up to date on battery technology. I was terribly mistaken. If there’s one issue with the X100S it is the battery life. Thankfully, and with proper planning, this is something that can be worked out.
The ONE battery I brought with me lasted a couple hundred images. Assuming I had not charged it completely I went through the same issue the following day. Finding digital gear overseas is often difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Locating batteries for this system in northern Thailand was a nightmare.
If you are planning to buy this camera, I’d recommend getting at least a couple of extra batteries. The original Fuji NP-95 is $38, but you can obtain much cheaper ($10) generic batteries, too. The best deal I’ve seen is this Wasabi kit with two batteries, charger, European plug, and car adapter for $20. A no brainer investment.
Why do you need a second charger? Well, it so happens that the Fuji charger does not tell you the percentage of charge that you have. It is either charging (the light on the charger is on) or full (the light goes off). For some reason, if you take a fully charged battery and attach it to the charger, it can take 10–15 minutes to show that it is full. To add insult to injury, it takes 180 minutes (three hours!) for one NP-95 to charge from dead to full. That’s 50% of the time the battery lasts under normal use without the LCD display. Fuji’s battery charger has no folding plug so it requires a long separate cord. One more thing to pack.
The battery issues continue on the camera: the battery-level meter simply goes from normal to dead in a few images. Just like that. Unlike a DSLR, a mirrorless camera sensor is powered up all the time, even if you are just focusing or reviewing images. If you use mostly the optical finder, turn the “OVF power save mode” on. The display’s info will be dimmed a bit, and the live histogram is no longer available, but it will greatly extend the battery life. I strongly recommend reading pages 18, 36, 41, 47, and 91 from the Camera’s Instruction Manual (available here as a PDF).
On paper, the NP-95 is rated for 300 shots per charge. After all these tweaks, I’m getting an average of 450 shots if I switch from EVF to OVF when possible, if I turn the camera off instead of keeping it on standby mode, and if I don’t use the viewfinder.
That’s a lot of ifs! The battery’s design is also poor, as it allows you to insert the batteries incorrectly and still be able to close the “battery-chamber cover.” You will know if you’ve done it wrong because the camera won’t turn on.
Having the battery life improved to a maximum of 450 pictures gives me about five hours, which is about a third of my working day when traveling. The poor battery performance and long charging cycles were by far the biggest drawbacks using this system on the road.
On several occasions I could not get the AF to lock, even in bright daylight. In low light the AF does hunt and it is slow. I also had a few instances where the camera “back focused” for no apparent reason.
The AF-C Mode (continuous auto focus mode) was extremely unreliable. The camera is simply too slow to track, lock, and capture a moving subject. Additionally, on AF-C Mode you can only focus on the dead center of the sensor. In my opinion, these two issues defeat the purpose of AF-C.
The manual focus works great. I love the focus peaking feature.
I absolutely love the hybrid viewfinder. It took me a couple of days to realize that the little switch on the front of the camera almost magically changes between the optical and electronic viewfinder.
The fixed 23mm f2 lens is very sharp, and impressively corrected for distortion. In combination with the sensor’s ability to capture noise-free images up to 3,200 ISO this makes shooting under low-light conditions bliss.
Low Light performance.
As you can see, low light performance is impressive. The sensor performs very well up to ISO 3,200 and decently up to 6,400. Relatively long exposures are not an issue.
Dynamic Range – Highlights and Shadows detail.
Another excellent spec; the detail that this tiny sensor can capture is truly remarkable.
If shooting video is extremely important to you, stop reading this right now and consider another camera. The camera offers Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 30fps or 60fps and a decent 36MBps bit-rate. But, to access the video mode, you have to select “Movie” in the drive mode menu. You can’t use the optical viewfinder. Manual exposure can only be modified before you start recording. The ISO and ND are inaccessible while in video mode. In terms of quality, if you have good light, perfect exposure, don’t care about sound, can pre-focus, and the camera doesn’t move, the footage is decent.
The built-in Panorama works well.
I download and back up my images at the end of each day when I’m on the road. I also add key captions (locations, names, etc.) and a few general keywords. I wanted to create Smart Previews and edit them in my “down time” (doctors offices, the DMV, and long flights are ideal locations). That didn’t quite work out. On a two-year-old Mac Book Pro and a fast portable external Hard Drive, Lightroom 5 took on average two-and-a-half hours to import 450 RAW images, convert them to DNG, and build Smart Previews, which I still consider the best feature in Adobe Lightroom 5.
So, every night, after a day of working and lots of walking, I’d download the cards through Lightroom and charge the batteries, take a shower, grab something to eat, call my wife, return emails and phone calls, plan the following day, and…continue to wait because neither Lightroom nor the battery were ready.
• I wish the camera had built-in GPS, which in combination with Lightroom’s Maps Module would make captioning images MUCH easier. My poor-man’s workaround is to simultaneously snap a picture with my cellphone at key locations. Since the phone adds the GPS information to the image I can later copy and paste the GPS coordinates to the relevant RAW and video files. Nothing fancy, but it works.
• It takes an annoying “long press” of the shutter button to wake up the camera from stand-by mode.
• If you’re shooting in burst mode, you can’t review individual images or zoom in/out. The images play back in a pointless slideshow. This was truly frustrating, as you can’t know if you got the desired image until you download the files.
One day, many moons ago, as a student shooting for a newspaper, the photo editor asked me if I had more than one lens. I proudly answered, “Yes, I have three!” To which he replied, “Then use them! All your pictures look the same.”
That was a serious concern I had about spending a month with a single fixed wide-angle lens. I’m glad to report that the advantages in quality and weight greatly outperform this challenge.
Is this camera going to help me take better pictures?
Cameras are tools, no different from hammers or toasters, when you get down to it. I own very little gear because I prefer to rent the best tool for each job. That way I keep my overhead low and have access to the latest technologies.
That being said, after a few days getting used to the cluttered and somewhat illogical Camera Menu, I felt like shooting with my first Nikon FE-2, except now I had more than 36 frames and could switch the ISO as I pleased. There was, and is, an inexplicable emotional connection with the X100S—a feeling that I haven’t felt in a decade. Technically speaking, the camera is wonderful. But, there’s more to it. I can and want to take it with me everywhere I go. I have been taking more “snapshots” than ever before. I can get closer to my subjects, and shoot silently and almost invisibly.
If you have been drooling over this camera and are ready to pull the trigger, I hope this review provides that extra little push. It’s OK, go ahead and make the jump! You can tell your spouse that it was my fault. Please consider using our Amazon link. It won’t cost you a penny more, and it would definitively help support this site.
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.
Post-NAB 2013 wrap-up.
Our Digital Technology Resource is a monthly conversation about news, trends, and events for photographers and filmmakers. On our upcoming issue we highlight the most relevant products and trends we witnessed at NAB, including:
• Edelkrone SliderPLUS
• Redrock Micro One Man Crew
• Blackmagic Pocket and 4K Production Cameras
• Atomos Ninja 2
• Convergent Design Odyssey 7
• Tascam DR-60D and Samson Zoom H6
• G-Tech Evolution Series.
• Adobe Lightroom 5 and Premiere Pro “6.5”
• Imagine Products ShotPut Pro
It is never too late to sign up. Do it now!
Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3. Field report and impressions.
The friendly waiter at the Turkish restaurant in Sohar, Oman, saw the camera on the table and asked “Nikon? Canon? Which one is better?” To which I replied, “actually, this is the Panasonic GH3.” He stared at me, his expression turned from excited to perplexed to confused to annoyed within seconds. After an uncomfortable silence he finally asked, “Are you ready to order?”
That was pretty much my reaction when, a few weeks ago, just two days before I started teaching a “Digital Cinema for Photographers” event in Dubai, I found out that Panasonic, a major sponsor of the event, REALLY wanted me and my students to use a couple of GH3s and several lenses in my hands-on workshop.
Panasonic is one of the largest consumer electronics companies, and the GH3 is the third generation of their very successful Micro Fourth Thirds DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) system. For a while I have been aware of the low-budget-filmmaking community’s devotion to the hacked DMC-GH2 and its ALL-I codec. I saw the DMC-GH3 at Photokina last year, but I had never before shot a single frame with a Panasonic camera. The bodies that I was given were running Firmware v0.5. Add to this a nine-hour time zone difference and jet lag, and you can begin to imagine my pain.
While I’ll be using some geeky terms, this is not an in-depth technical review, nor a scientific analysis of the GH3. You can dig into tech specs and MTF charts somewhere else. My goal is simply to share my honest and independent impressions, go over the things I liked and didn’t like, and communicate my wish list for future features. I want to emphasize that all the conclusions in this article are subjective and strictly based on my own personal experience.
“I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.”
-Keanu Reeves in “Speed”
I have to respectfully disagree with Keanu on this one. Much to my surprise, the camera was much more intuitive than Sony’s NEX system, and several video features got my full attention right away.
• Full HD 1920×1080 60p/50p (NTSC/PAL) with 30p/25p/24p options.
• Ultra-high bit rate video recorded at 72 Mbps (ALL-I) or 50 Mbps (IPB).
• Capable of recording continuously for an unlimited time for NTSC and 29 min 59 sec for PAL.
• Native support for MOV (h.264), MP4, and AVCHD formats.
• Time Code support in the MOV and AVCHD formats.
• Extremely fast and accurate contrast-detection Autofocus.
• A 3.5mm mic input AND a headphone jack AND the option to manually adjust the sound recording levels via touchscreen controls.
• Full-time AF, AF Tracking, and Face Recognition AF are available for VIDEO. The Touch AF mimics rack focusing.
THE WORKSHOP STORY
Not having enough time to field test the Panasonic systems before the Workshop, I shot dummy clips in my hotel room and made sure that the footage would work in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. The test went surprisingly smoothly. I then set both GH3 cameras to the same video settings: MOV at 1920×1080, 24p, 72 Mbps ALL-I, Standard Photo Style, White Balance at 5500K, got ND filters for all the lenses, extra batteries, and a few Class 10 SD cards. And then I prayed.
Note: It’s extremely important to point out that full HD on this camera requires memory cards with the fastest speed available. My “older” memory cards didn’t work, giving me only four seconds of recording time.
We spent the first day of my three-day Digital Cinema Workshop covering all the technical similarities and differences between stills and video. On the second day, we planned a location shoot with a Capoeira team and spent a couple hours shooting in the afternoon. On the third and last day we covered the different hardware and software requirements for post production and spent three hours editing the footage. I am especially proud of the short clip my students put together in such a limited amount of time and with newly acquired knowledge (and using brand new gear!).
We could obviously use a few more days sweetening the audio, fine tuning transitions, and grading, but for a two-hour shoot and a three-hour edit, I believe this is a good example of what can be accomplished with great teamwork, interesting subjects, and the GH3’s many customizable options.
Below you will see a few additional sample clips, all shot as H.264, 1920 x 1080, 23.976 72Mbps ALL-I, using the GH3’s “Standard” profile (Contrats = 0, Sharpness = 0, Saturation = 0, Noise Reduction = 0). The Exposure and White Balance were set manually. The lens was the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8 set on AF Tracking mode, which worked very well most of the time. Despite the lens having “environmental sealing,” as you can see the fine desert’s sand inevitably found its way to the sensor. I put the clips together on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, and have NOT done any grading nor sharpening. These short clips are intended to show you what the GH3 is capable of, not to tell a specific story.
So, mission accomplished, right? Not so fast. A couple of days later, as I was wrapping up my day, a friend asked “Are you busy? I wanna show you something interesting.” With only the GH3, the 12-35mm 2.8 lens, a 4GB card and a low battery I jumped into his car. The “something interesting” happened to be access to the Royal Suite at the 7-star Hotel Burj Al Arab—a notoriously difficult area to access. With limited amount of storage space and battery life I managed to capture a few keepers.
The very next morning (on my “day off”), I headed out to meet an old friend for brunch at the Atlantis. Should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, I strongly recommend that you pay the Atlantis a visit. As we enjoyed the seemingly endless food, my friend received a call to drive to Abu Dhabi right away to pick someone up and then drive back to Dubai. Would I like to come? Guess what I had hanging on my shoulder? This time I had a full battery and a 16GB card, but nothing else to shoot the magnificent mosque and the impossibly opulent Emirates Palace. Once again, the GH3 did a fantastic job.
These are some of the GH3’s features that are not obvious to the naked eye, but are interesting once you are aware of them:
• A magnesium alloy camera body that Panasonic describes as “splash proof and dust proof.”
• The Panasonic RAW files (RW2) work fine in Adobe Lightroom [add link to LR workshop] but the most current version (4.3 as of this writing) is needed. Unfortunately there are no Panasonic lens profiles available as of this writing.
• All the video formats worked seamlessly on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Even the video recorded at 72 Mbps was easy to preview and edit on a two-year old MacBook Pro (with 8GB of RAM and an external 7200 RPM Hard Drive as a Scratch Disk).
• HDMI monitor output can be sent with or without information overlays.
• I had a DMW-MS2 Stereo Shotgun Mic with me, but was happy to learn that the camera’s built-in internal microphones provide stereo audio.
• The GH3’s sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio.
• Built-in Time Lapse, and HDR but unfortunately it works only for JPGs not RAW.
• Five physical function buttons, and two touch-screen function buttons, all customizable with close to 40 options to choose from.
• Virtually all the key shooting controls are within the right hand’s reach. This frees up the left hand to hold the camera or focus manually.
• Excellent battery life, lasting a full day under normal operation. For extended video sessions I’d consider getting the DMW-BGGH3 Battery Grip.
• Apparently (I have not tested this) the GH3 is also capable of real-time image output to the LVF or the rear monitor AND to an external monitor via HDMI.
I shot extensively (more than 2,000 images in 18 days) with the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8. The lens is tiny. And fast. And awesome. It has the equivalent focal length to a 24-70mm F2.8 on a 35mm system but it is a fraction of the size and weight. As you already know, this is a very good start when dealing with packing issues.
In terms of depth of field, the lens behaves like a 16-45mm F3.5 lens on an APS-C sensor, or a 24-70mm F5.6 lens on a Full Frame sensor. It is hard to get used to this, especially when shooting another system simultaneously, but it is not a disadvantage per se.
Click to keep reading (more…)
Photography Trends, according to Google.
The “interest over time” in photography for the past eight years has remained pretty much constant. The interest for “digital photography” went from a 100 to a current 20. The term HDSLR only started by the end of 2009, with a peak in early 2001. Smartphone photography is showing a wild uptrend.
This is interesting, but hardly surprising. 700 million smartphones were shipped in 2012, up from 490 million in 2011. Samsung owns a 30 percent share (213 million devices) of the global mobile market, Apple follows with 19 percent (135 million devices) and Nokia is third with 5 percent global market share. The 2012 numbers are even more meaningful when you know that they represent almost TWICE the expect amount of laptop shipments for this year. It gets even more interesting when Intel announces that it will stop producing desktop motherboards in three years. Apple’s highly expected announcement for a new Mac Pro tower, might be the last one we see from Cupertino.
Traveling with photography and video equipment. Technical and Practical Tips.
These are some travel tips I’ve learned over 20 years of traveling with photo equipment. Most of the recommendations below will be most helpful for photographers shooting video.
• Format all your memory cards on the specific system you are planning to use them with (7D vs. 60D vs. H4N).
• Change and charge all your batteries before leaving.
• Test all your devices.
• Test that the software on your laptop is working. Trying to update the OS, an Adobe application, or plugins from an airport lounge or hotel’s WiFi is NOT fun.
• Match memory cards. The 7D takes CF cards and the 60D takes SD cards. Use the same capacity (32GB cards or 16GB) for each system at the same time. It will make your asset management on location much easier.
• Bring enough additional storage. Photographers tend to underestimate the size of video files. I can easily shoot more than 100GB in a day. And you will need a backup. Twelve minutes of video take approximately 4GB of space. With two cameras we then have 8GB. With a backup we now have 16GB for the same 12 minutes of footage.
• I recommend G-Tech hard drives. The G-Technology G-DRIVE Mini 500GB is an excellent product. Make sure your external hard drive is 7200 RPM (as opposed to 5400). It will make editing video much faster.
• Buy only hard drives with multiple Interfaces (USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800). When (not if) your one and only USB port breaks, you won’t be able to retrieve your information.
• Bring a backup of all the essential items. My list includes: reading glasses, camera, lenses, memory cards, hard drives, chargers, card readers, all cables, and quick release plates.
• Use TSA-approved locks. I preferred padlocks and use the same combination on all of them.
• Simplify. I purchased my specific Android tablet because it matched the power adapter for my phone. And both can be charged via USB using the card reader cable, which is the same as Canon’s camera cable!
• Simplify some more. Bring a multi-card reader. I can simultaneously download the 7D’s CF Card and the 60D’s SD Card using the same reader and the H4N’s SD card using the laptop’s built-in SD card slot.
• Simply even more: One of the reasons why I purchased the 60D as my B camera is because it uses the same batteries/charger as my 7D. I also liked the fact that it uses DIFFERENT memory cards, so it is much easier to keep track what was shot with what.
• Before you leave, check the electrical plug/outlet and voltage information at your destination. Oman and the United Arab Emirates seem to use three kinds.
• Test your workflow. It goes without saying, but never bring new equipment to a shoot, especially overseas. Make sure your files work well with your software and that your cards work well with your cameras.
• If you are capturing Full HD video (1080p) you shouldn’t be using older/slower memory cards, otherwise you might experience dropouts and stuttering. Been there, done that. Not a good day.
• Don’t forget your business cards! The more the better.
If you’re nervous about upgrading gear or making the leap to HDSLR cinema we can help. Book a virtual one-on-one consulting session today!
Blogging With Video, Hoping to Go Viral. Really?
Ay ay ay! I might have more than a few issues with this New York Times article “Blogging With Video, Hoping to Go Viral.”
“You want to have a decent camera. A hand-held video camera is nice and offers more features and flexibility, but your smartphone is fine… The only additional equipment you might consider is a separate lavaliere or lapel microphone. And if there isn’t enough ambient light to illuminate your face, spring for a clamp lamp that you can find at most hardware stores… “
Here’s the complete article.
Is “good enough,” good enough? What’s your take?
Our 10 hidden gems of 2012.
Earlier this week we shared with you our “Crème de la Crème” of 2012, the 10 most visited articles on this site. Today, we would like to share 10 more articles that we feel should have made our top ten list. As a team of educators, technology consultants, and visual storytellers, we are very proud of these posts as we feel that they are extremely relevant and worth your time. We encourage you to read them, share them with those who might be interested, and respond by starting a conversation below.
Without further ado here they are:
We believe young students should be learning flexibility, teamwork, accounting, time management, project management, and languages (especially Spanish and Chinese), to be prepared for the future job markets.
Check out my personal notes and pre-production techniques for photographers and filmmakers.
We explained the 5 main similarities, and 5 main differences between shooting stills and shooting motion.
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The Crème de la Crème: The best articles of 2012.
Wow! What a year! We completed 200 Consulting projects, over 30 Photography and Video Workshops, 50 videos, 50 tutorials and close to 200 blogs posts….all in one year.
How was this even possible? One, this is a team effort, where everybody does what they love and excel at. Second, great time and project management, which is paramount in an industry that keeps changing (and sometime evolving) every single day.
Today we would like to highlight our 10 most popular articles of the year. Later this week we will publish the 10 articles that for whatever reason didn’t get much attention but we feel are very relevant and worth your time.
Here we go!
No matter what previous version of Adobe Lightroom you use, it is very easy to install and upgrade to the latest Lightroom 4 platform. Find out how easy this is below.
After several tests, we discussed the best and not so great features of Canon’s EOS M. Also, we shot some sample images with this mirrorless gem.
An in-depth technical analysis on the latest, newest, meanest Canon EOS system. Our overview included the most important and newest features.
Gold, silver and the end of film.
Our previous “Inkonomics” article triggered a LOT of interesting emails from readers.
Thank you for sharing your opinions. We just wish more people would comment below each post (instead of email) so not only we could benefit from different views. Perhaps a New Year’s resolution?
A really intriguing comment was “the economic recession triggered the end of film.”
The conclusion of a lengthy and fascinating discussion: When looking for safer investments than stocks and bonds, many people purchased gold, driving the ounce from $800 in 2008 to $1,700 in 2012.
What has this to do with film?
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Dare to think for yourself? Join a forum.
Online forums, the ultimate demonstration of democracy and freedom of opinion. As the wise Voltaire said: “Dare to think for yourself.” I also like Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”
Meet the Alpa 12 FPS. The Ultimate Open Platform.
The Alpa “12 FPS” (for Focal Plane Shutter) is the best example of both “modular” and “open platform” we have seen. The concept is fairly simple: take a small sliding back adapter and attach a digital “brain.” In reality, it is obviously way more complicated than that.
On the front, the system can take virtually any lens (with the corresponding adapter), including Nikon and Canon lenses, Hasselblad V, Mamiya M, Leica S, view camera lenses from Schneider and Rodenstock, and even Cine lenses from Zeiss.
On the Back, the system works with pretty much any Medium Format Digital Back. What makes this system unique and brilliant is not only the amazing flexibility but the “brain” that can be configured to control shutter speed, aperture, bracketing, (even for HDR) and flash-sync. I was told that the very well finished prototype I saw was finished just hours before Photokina started.
The system configuration I played with had the FPS body, a Leaf Digital Back with a Zeiss 21mm CP.2 lens and was being triggered with Pocket Wizards…a true digital Frankenstein!
I can see an important demand for this system from landscape and architectural photographers, as well as rental houses all over the world. More images and complete tech specs are available here. If you are truly interested, here are the prices.
UPDATE 20121207 We attended a great event this week by Andre Oldani at Foto Care and learned a lot of new and interesting things. Just a couple of months after we first saw the FPS system at Photokina, Alpa has clearly worked hard and fast to finalize some loose ends and deliver a truly impressive platform.
These are a couple of images from Oldani’s presentation.
How NOT to announce new products. Google Nexus.
UPDATE: 20121123 Google’s Nexus 4 Smartphone and Nexus 10 Tablet sold out 20 minutes after the Google Play store opened. http://ow.ly/fg1mo
By now it is pretty clear that we love Google (most of the time). But the company can learn a thing or two from Apple, especially when it comes to important product announcements. On Monday, while Hurricane Sandy was hitting the East Coast ,and 7.5 million people in 16 states have lost power, Apple announced that the company’s senior vice president of iOS was getting fired for (apparently) refusing to apologize publicly for the Apple Maps mess. The timing was impeccable, since nobody noticed nor cared. Well, at the very same time, Google was announcing three new Nexus devices; a smartphone, a 7-inch tablet, and a 10-inch tablet. Guess what happened?
Nobody noticed nor cared. They sold out.
All three devices run Android 4.2, which Google describes as “a new flavor of Jelly Bean.” The Nexus 4 is Google’s latest 4.7-inch, quad-core Nexus smartphone, developed with LG, and priced well below analysts expectations. It will be available for $299 (8GB) and $349 (16GB) for unlocked, contract-free units. However, the best deal seems to be the 16GB unit on T-Mobile for $199. We can’t really predict how sales will perform, but what is certain is that the Nexus 4 will make a strong impact on the smartphone market.
Although we are more excited with Samsung’s Galaxy Camera, one of our favorite features of the new Nexus smartphone is Photo Sphere, a camera app/Google Maps hybrid that allows users to create and share 360-degree panoramas.
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Adobe discontinues support for CinemaDNG on Premiere Pro.
We have watched this comparison test between Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera (4:2:2 10-bit image), and Canon’s 5D Mark III (4:2:0 8-bit image) way too many times.
And here’s a low-light comparison between Sony’s FS100 and Blackmagic. We believe the footage speaks for itself.
We are seriously considering getting Blackmagic’s amazing camera next month when it finally becomes available. Because of this, we are extremely surprised and dissapointed by Adobe’s sudden decision to drop support for their own CinemaDNG format on Premiere Pro. CinemaDNG is one of the many features we really like from the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. This is Adobe’s statement:
“The Cinema DNG Initiative has been discontinued and is no longer hosted on Adobe Labs. The CinemaDNG format continues to be an open format, and its development is not limited to Adobe. CinemaDNG files can still be opened by any current Adobe application that includes the Camera Raw plug-in (note: which is NOT the case fro Adobe Premier Pro) for importing DNG files.”
Life after Photokina: Samsung’s Galaxy Camera.
News from Photokina are like Fall leaves. They are everywhere and it is hard to know where to start taking care of them. Because of that, we are doing two things: a few blog posts highlighting the most interesting and influential products, and a paid Google Hangout on Monday October 15 at 1pm EST, where we will discuss what we saw and learned, and how it will affect your business in 2013.
Photokina is a huge show. There are nine giant exhibition halls and most of them are two stories high. Every corner of these buildings is filled with everything having to do with the photo industry. Canon, Leica, Nikon, and Sony introduced full-frame 35mm-sized sensor cameras, ranging from compact (Sony) to low-cost DSLRs (Canon, Nikon) to high-end pro rangefinders (Leica). Almost everybody claimed significant reductions in shutter lag and focusing speed, and many manufacturers added some form of Wi-Fi connectivity. If you think the iPhone 5 blurs the lines between cameras and smartphones you haven’t seen Samsung’s Galaxy Camera, by far the most original product we saw at Photokina.
The Power of Technology in Education.
Last week, I watched a repeat of a story from 2011, on how the iPad is unlocking the minds of people with Autism. We encourage everyone to watch it on Youtube here.
It is incredible to see how the iPad and other smart devices are being integrated into classrooms all over the U.S. to use as new learning tools. Interactive applications such as smart boards, cloud computing and e-learning are now being implemented so that students of all ages can obtain degrees; which is fantastic.
Students are also now equipped with personal laptops, smart phones and tablets. Attaining information and sharing knowledge has never been easier or more fun.
However, the benefit of these devices will bring no guarantee to fixing our seriously broken education system.
Smart apps and devices are being used in tremendous ways that help students interact and build social communication skills (I am not talking about Facebook or Twitter).
At the same time, while a lot of students are reaping the benefits, others are not.
Technological innovations are still not available to everyone unfortunately. While the cost of new technology is decreasing every day, schools in poor neighborhoods get about half as much money per student than schools in affluent neighborhoods; school budgets are tied to property taxes.
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Google Nexus 7 Tablet is out.
UPDATE: 0723 Awesome marketing effort. Very well done.
Google’s Nexus 7 Android Tablet is here. The tablet is built by ASUS, which really makes me wonder what Google plans to do with Motorola Mobility.
The Nexus comes fully packed with goodies:
• It runs the latest Android OS 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is optimized for smaller tablet screens, magazines and movies.
• 1280×800 IPS display coated in “scratch-resistant glass.”
• Front-facing, 1.2-megapixel camera.
• 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm case
• Two flavors 8GB ($199) or 16GB ($249) of storage, plus 1GB of RAM, and NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 SoC processor. Don’t worry about the Russian-like specs, it simply means it is fast, really fast.
• GPS and Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Micro USB, plus NFC.
• The 7 stands for the tablet’s size, 7 inches, which as I have said many times, it is the perfect size for a truly portable device.
• Accelerometer, magnetometer, and a gyroscope.
The Nexus 7 seems, at least on paper, the ultimate Kindle Fire killer if it ever ships! Lenovo, with its incredibly terrible customer service and tech support doesn’t need a competitor to kill itself. I believe the iPad will remain the global tablet leader through the next 3-5 years, but it will start losing some significant market share. Apple’s biggest advantage has been the App Store which now has more than 650,000 downloadable applications that include games, news and travel tools for the iPhone and iPad. Google has been catching up and Google Play (previously known as Android Market) currently offers more than 500,000 apps.
We just updated our wildly popular chart to include Google’s brand new system. Here are the side-by-side specs (click on it twice to see it full-res):
UPDATE: July 9, Is Google selling the Nexus 7 at a loss?
H.265: A New Standard for Digital Cinema?
A new video codec is expected to replace H.264 as early as next year. H.264 is one of the most common formats for recording, compressing, and distributing high-definition video, not in small part because it is the codec found on several HDSLR systems such as Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III. Another big advantage is that it is currently supported by for most video sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo. Additionally, runs natively in both Lightroom 4 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, which dramatically decreases the time wasted transcoding and rendering files.
But, apparently there is (or technically, will be) a new kid on the block. The Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) are teaming up and plan to release H.264’s successor as early as January 2013. The new kid’s name will likely be H.265 or MPEG-H Part 2.
Just how much more efficient will H.265 be? Well, H.265 is expected to provide a significant improvement in data transmission and streaming efficiency compared to H.264. It will have almost twice the amount of compression ratio from for a similar quality level. This means that I’ll need to buy less memory cards, and less external hard drives. Both will make my accountant really happy. Below is the only video test comparing H.264 and H.265 we were able to find. It was performed on an Android tablet by Qualcomm, a San Diego-based chip-maker that is listed as a member of the international standards group developing H.265.
H.265 will be designed to support all new and current streaming technologies including devices working at 4K and Ultra HDTV (also known as 8K or 4320p) resolutions. Did you know that Ultra HDTV definition contains about 16 times the amount of pixels that are present in a 1080p video stream? That’s kinda insane! Check out the chart below to see things in perspective.
The H.265 codec sounds promising, but (there’s always a but) it will have to fight for widespread implementation with another codec called VP8. This format was purchased by Google two years ago and was released it as a royalty-free alternative under the Creative Commons license. Nvidia (Qualcomm’s main competitor) has built VP8 decoding support into its newer Tegra 3 chips alongside H.264 support, and several companies including Skype have adopted VP8 as their preferred format. Adobe also announced that the Flash Player will support VP8 playback in a future release. Who will win? Let’s wait and see.
Understanding Burst Rates.
Understanding a camera’s burst rate is crucial for DSLR users in certain scenarios. For instance, a high burst rate is helpful for photographers who are shooting fast action, motion, or trying to capture a Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.”
A “burst rate” is the number of consecutive pictures that a camera can shoot continuously until the “busy” signal turns on. When your buffer memory is full, your camera will slow down (or even stop) shooting until the images transfer to the memory card.
The Canon EOS-1D X has the highest burst rate of any EOS Systems out now. A high burst rate is dependent on a number of factors including a large buffer, the camera’s “throughput” speed, the camera’s processing power, as well as the file type and size. To learn more, read this article from Canon’s Digital Learning Center, where we explain burst rates in-depth and compare different high-end systems. We also made this short video to illustrate the article.