Testing out the new Panasonic GH4

There have been three new arrivals at JHWF HQ this morning, three beautiful Panasonic Lumix GH4’s!

panasonic gh4

I’ve had the opportunity to check out the GH4 at Park Cameras a few months ago, so today was a great opportunity to get proper hands on with the new camera system!

We didn’t have time to do a proper test, so I took a few shots to demo the 4K at 100Mbps AND the 1080p 50fps features that are currently exporting in Premiere now.

Out of the box, holding the camera using the viewfinder seems so natural for video, as well as the OLED live screen which produces a clear as day image with overlays.

Using the stock lens 14-140mm F/3.5-5.6 (equivalent to 28-280) the image was sharp, with very minor chromatic aberration at 140mm. I am used to a ‘full frame’ look, but remembering that the Arri Alexa has a similar sensor size the the GH4, what lacks in the stock lens can be gained using the wide range of primes available for M4/3 mount.

The OIS stabilization was actually incredible. This being hand-held, the shots were very shaky at the long end, but the OIS did a brilliant job of stabilizing the image.

Another fab feature is the variance in recording formats, whether you are shooting on a green screen, or footage that is live streamed, the data rates are manageable and not small enough for heavy compression meaning grading the footage should be a breeze. (In my test video coming very soon I have NOT graded any footage).

Things to make note of: If you are going to purchase a GH4 but currently shoot with Canon EF lenses, do not worry. Lensadaptors have developed a M4/3 to EF adapter, there is also one from Blackmagic to Nikon G mount, and rumors are circulating that Metabones are working on a direct M4/3 to EF lens as we speak!

Well, there will be LOTS and LOTS more to come as I continue to play and test out the GH4 so watch this space!

panasonic lumix gh4 4k footage export

BASIC TEST VIDEO –

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Rotolight Sound and Light Kit Review!

I have had the Rotolight Sound and Light kit for a little while now, and I like it. I like it even more so because Rotolight has been the only manufacturer to really think about what consumers moving into the industry, and already established creatives would need from the outset. Without light you have no picture, and without sound you only have 50% of that video.Videos with bad or unprepared sound are noticeable, just if the subject of the video was not lit correctly. Unfortunately we are now used to watching and seeing very high quality, glossy pictures with filmic motifs, and excellent sound including orchestral scores. We aspire to work on these ‘big budget’ productions, or to make videos that look like them, but without thinking about your lighting and sound, you are very far off.

I produced this review and the music video using the Canon 5D mark III, and a range of Samyang Cine lenses. To keep the light source and sound as pure as possible, I only used the Rotolight RL-48 B ring light and Roto-Mic. I also used my custom camera rig, which is manufactured by CamSmart, as well as a 5″ Lilliput field monitor. I used Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and Speedgrade to edit and post-produce the videos.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review led ring light

RL-48 B LED Ring Light

Out of the box, you get everything you need (apart from batteries) to start shooting straight away. The inclusion of a Rotolight belt-bag is fantastic for getting the light out quickly if you are shooting on the run, and for storage while traveling and keeping the batteries, light and accessories safe. One pain I always have, as I am a single shooter is that to change parts of my equipment setup; which means opening my big bag, routing through to find the bit I need and then carrying on. With Rotolights ingenious solutions they have removed that need entirely!

Inside the LED light is a set of ND, skin, colour and minus green filters that can be applied directly inside the housing of the unit itself; no need to carry around filters, gels and pegs to achieve your desired brightness and tone. This is great as no longer do you rely on a bag of old gels to adjust the temperature and brightness of the light source, and all filters are supplied by LEE, so you know you can trust them. The LED’s being naturally daylight at 5600K, you are set to use the light in most conditions! For photography and video with people and models, Rod from Rotolight recommended using a softening ND and the skin filter which gently soft lights the subject, with a peachy, wrapping beam. There are no shadows, and the result is a beautiful glimmer of light in the subjects eyes giving them emotion and life.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography model light

During my time with the Sound and Light kit, I tested out its practicality when out filming indoors and out on location. Above is a still grab from the indoor shots of Josh performing his lines to the camera; you can see a hint of light in his eyes, and a soft-neutral coverage of his face. This was the look I wanted to achieve; an intimate piece-to-camera. I used the ring light and mic mounted on the hot shoe of my camera setup, this gave a direct beam onto the subject, and would work for any subjects in front of the camera. Indoors the RL-48 ring light gives out a beautiful 140 degree beam of light that wraps around your subject, without any hot spots (usually on the forehead). I was filming a music video, but would work exceptionally well in model and fashion work, where beauty is exaggerated through the images.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography

It took some innovative thinking to get the lighting right for this continuous tracking shot. Although I was shooting in the afternoon sun, I still needed a key light to keep Josh’s face illuminated throughout. The night before we were at the location shooting the same scene, but had the ring light mounted on the camera. This time I needed the source to be much closer, so I whipped out the Manfrotto Magic Arm and Superclamp and clamped the light to the boot of my car. In the still grab above, the light is only a foot away from the left of Josh!

What I found here was the need for a brighter light. The 48-LED ring light provided great overall coverage of my subject, but I required a brighter beam to achieve the desired soft-skin and glimmer in the eye look. Although Rotolight produce large LED lights (Anova) for videography and cinematography, I didn’t need that much more power. I think for video it would be great to see this model brighter, or have different brightness levels, as usually you require more light than less – especially when adhering to the 180 degree shutter rule. Once your shutter and aperture are set, the only exposure controlling parameters you have is the ISO/ASA or your light sources brightness, and where you’re unable to move the light closer or further away from the subject; having a brighter light from the outset is more beneficial.  This is a small niggle from myself, but can be shown with examples in these still grabs –

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night videoshoot filming car tracking model dark (Here the light from a street lamp came in very handy.)

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night videoshoot test greet tint

This shot was taken on a 14mm T/3.1 lens at ISO 1250. Although I have remedied the low light in Adobe Speedgrade, a green tint is visible across the frame. A minus green filter is included in the kit which can be used where the green spike (due to LED technology) is prominent, but as I was filming in near darkness I chose not to use the filter to get maximum light output, which by the way is 100w! During the shoot I also used the light hand-held to get intimate with my subject, but not blasting them in the face with an offensive flash gun or LED panel light.

Roto-Mic

Like I mentioned earlier, video is (in most cases) useless without good quality sound. Imagine watching a film or TV program and the sound is noisy and fades in and out as the presenter moves around the frame. It is distracting and essentially draws the audience away from the video, it is suddenly and mostly subconsciously hard to watch and enjoy. With current trends in pro-sumers moving to DSLR to make films and video, there is more pressure on achieving good quality sound when acquiring your footage; the built-in mic does not do your pictures justice.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review on camera dslr microphone

Here, Rotolight have entered the sound game by producing an on camera directional shotgun mic, with excellent pickup response and sound to noise ratio. When I first started out in freelance videography 3 years ago, I got myself the original Rode VideoMic; it was the best I could afford at the time, and it did the job I needed – to capture good quality audio that will enhance my video. Since then, Sennheizer, Audio-Technica, Hama and many more brands have seen the need for on camera mics for DSLR videographers, and a competitive market has emerged. One that the Roto-Mic will compete very well in due to its superb signal processing and price – an attractive offer to anyone seeking to invest in a cost-effective solution. You will need a 9V battery to power the Roto-mic, but it will last you a good 100 hours.

One very annoying problem with on camera microphones is noise added by the mic’s shock mount. The Rode VideoMic I have is notorious for that, creating a squeaking noise as you move or walk with the camera that was audible and therefore recorded into the sound of the video – very unwanted! The Roto-Mic shock mount has been specially designed to minimize any movement the mic may be affected by, holding the capsule stiff, without wobbling on the mount; keeping unwanted noise out.

Rotolight considered many filming scenarios when designing the new mic; it includes a gain adjustment of -10dB to +10dB which is very handy when you are far away from the subject or action, or are filming in a loud and noisy environment. A two step high pass filter is also built into the body of the mic which removes any wind noise and rumbles from the captured sound; perfect when filming outdoors. These small but important features show that Rotolight have done their research into where DSLR videographers are working, and how they need to use their kit.

I was really pleased with the results of the sound recorded with the Roto-Mic, I was expecting another Rode VideoMic moment but it never came. The mic surprised me with its quality recording, and with a little noise reduction in post production the final sound recording is clean and crisp.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night led light mic kit

Rotolight has also been innovative in their mounting options, considering many different setups with the light and mic together. This makes a lovely change from complex accessories hanging off the camera to use two hot shoe mounts. The option to use the light mount, or to mount the light on the microphone gives you many different setup options that doesn’t restrict your shooting, and is not fiddly or complicated to change! I was using the mic and light together; here the mic mounts onto the camera hot shoe, and then the light can be pushed onto the barrel of the microphone. Although I was dubious of this at first, as it would add extra weight to the shock mount and possibly interfere with the sound recording; it has proved me wrong with being fully functional no matter how the light and mic is set up.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night videoshoot filming car tracking

My verdict

  • Fantastic kit if you are starting out in DSLR videography – a must have kit to get you started.
  • Ring light provides excellent soft light for work with models, people, macro and prominent subjects.
  • Filters included is really handy, although as I am heavy handed they are sometimes difficult to apply.
  • Battery life is second to none – 4 hours with recommended lithium AA batteries (x3) or regular lithium AA (x3) for 3 hours.
  • Various mounting options means shooting is not restricted.
  • Mic is broadcast quality – remember sound is just as important as video.
  • Gain adjustment is handy in quiet and noisy locations.
  • The Rotolight bag keeps your hands free!

Of course with every review there are some constructive criticism comments, but not many for me as my experience working with the Rotolight Sound and Light kit has been very pleasant. Firstly, a higher power portable light would be ideal for video, with intensity control. Secondly, now Rotolight has entered the sound game it would be great to see other microphones like hand held bi-directional or even lav mics, and a boost in the recording quality (maybe a Zoom competitor??!). Thirdly, and this isn’t criticism, more a request for a flexible light stand or arm so the light can be positioned in extreme and unusual angles.

I am recommending you to go out and get this kit if you’re into your DSLR video and photography and need a light source and microphone that you can take to every shoot you go to! It will definitely be coming with me in the future, and I can imagine the RL-48 LED light working fantastically for wedding films and interviews, teamed up with the Roto-Mic and you have a perfect, all in one, on camera ‘run and gun’ solution to your filmmaking and photography.

You can check out the video I produced for Rotolight demo’ing the new Sound and Light Kit here, and the music video will be released very soon!

Fantastic Rotolight Video News – Coming To A Screen Near You!!!

The Rotolight Sound and Light kit video I produced for Rotolight featuring Josh McDonough is being taken on tour to America, where it will be shown to a live audience of 30,000 film students!

If you haven’t already, you can check out the video here!

Check out Josh’s new studio too, and get recording there – Just Jam Studios!

Got a meeting about the recycling project today, then will be getting my new iPhone (about time I know)!

rotolight rotomic ring light tiele motion graphic video

Happy creating you awesome bunch of people, and thanks for all your support so far!

Meet the Panasonic GH4

We’ve been waiting a few months for more info on the Panasonic GH4. It briefly appeared at BVE, and only 8 were shown at The Photography Show. Due to Panasonic UK announcing the launch of the GH4 early from the trade show and professional demand, more people are asking the whats and hows of the GH4’s video capabilities; in regards to 4K.

It is the first consumer DSLR to offer 4K, which is a fantastic leap forward into the future of video production that will inevitably get bigger (Moore’s law). We have seen recent demonstrations of Super Hi-Vision (8K) at the London Olympic games from collaboration between NHK and The BBC, but for the first time have we seen 4K possibilities coming home with us. It is now in reach.

Today, John from JHWF, his son Sam and myself headed down to Park Cameras in Burgess Hill for the Panasonic GH4 demo. Eager to try out the camera, and by that I mean actually get your hands on it and play with it, checking out the range of functions and lenses that can be used (something not so easy at trade shows), it was the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse into the reachable future for us as producers. Even more so for John, as he as already invested!

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video

Adam from Panasonic was on hand to answer our many questions, and to demonstrate the innovative features the camera has to offer, which include continuous auto-focus in video mode, as well as how the 4K is achieved from an MFT sensor, and many more..

First of all, the body is tiny. If you compare the body to that of my Canon 5DmkIII it could easily be half the size; which for run and gun videographers, and to keep discreet is a perfect solution. Not only that, but like the Sony A7, you have a large pixel count/density sensor so regardless of the body size the image result will be incredible.

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video recording format screen

The sensor offers the two 4K resolution standards; cinema 4K at 4096 x 2160 and UHD 4K at 3840 x 2160 up to 30fps at either 200Mbps (All-intra compression) or at 100Mbps (IPB compression), which is much better in terms of .mov image quality in comparison to the 5D mkIII max 90Mbits at All-Intra compression. Essentially this means that your image is being recorded in a better quality format, giving richer colours, wider dynamic range and more latitude for grading in post. The HD video format is top notch, offering up to 200Mbps in MP4 format, much better than nearly all DSLR’s on the market today.

Due to the MFT sensor, the focal length of the lenses you mount are doubled for the equivalent. For example a 12-35mm F/2.8 is equivalent to  24-70MM f/2.8 ON A Micro Four Thirds sensor. This means that suddenly the size of the lenses you use get greatly reduced, meaning a smaller kit bag and less back ache at the end of the day.

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video recording format screen mft lens 100 300mm

A run and gun kit using the GH4 could include the 12-35mm as mentioned above, and the 14-140mm F/3.5-5.6 is enough to cover your indoor and outdoor shots, and can fit in a small shoulder bag. What more could you ask for?

The dual OLED screens replicate the live sensor beautifully, with such clarity too. Now a live view finder has been implemented into the view finder, you get an incredible 10,000:1 contrast ratio which is extremely high speed, unlike LCD which refresh rate is much slower. No need for a Z-finder anymore! Oh by the way it is touch screen too, and you can focus and take a photo by tapping the area of the screen you would like to focus on!

IMpanasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video recording format screen mft lens OLED dual live view finder touch screen

Another incredible feature was the built in Wi-Fi which can be used to control most of the cameras functions INCLUDING touch sensitive focusing and recording (in 4K) via your Apple of Android device! So, leave your camera set up with the Wi-Fi connected to your device and set up your shot from elsewhere! In the right situation, this feature could be killer, much like the GoPro’s wi-fi function for those awkward and obscure shots!

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera wi fi

More professional video features include; zebra bars for setting exposure, center marker for image composition, colour bars and 1KHz tone, synchro scan which is useful for suppressing TV and fluorescent light flicker and a Cinelike gamma curves which can be applied. This would come in handy for productions where heavy grading and LUT’s can be applied.

There is also the YAGH interface, which was not at the demo, but its functionality is to provide a DC-12V power input to the camera and interface, which allows 4:2:2/10 bit recording with XLR inputs, timecode, VU meters, which turns the camera from a pro-videography/cine camera to a full system camera for broadcasting. Adam showed us some setups on his phone from recent Hollywood productions using the GH3.

As you may know, I purchased my 5D mkIII in December, for videography/cinematography. To me, I don’t know if I should feel pissed off that I should have waited for the GH4 to be released so I can future-proof my productions, or whether I should jump in and get another A camera right there and then. But then I thought, I have an incredible camera system right here already, and just because this (yes rather amazing) new resolution has become available, doesn’t mean my potential clients will want it. At the moment the current structure and system for broadcasting 4K in the mainstream media of television is non-existent, until the big change happens which means either updating current HD systems to cope with the greater requirements of 4K, or a completely new 4K network is created, the only channel for viewing will be the internet, or cinema. So, if your deliverables are all for YouTube, then go for it, you have a way to get your work out there in its native resolution already. Otherwise, be prepared to down-scale to 1080 HD for normal playback. This may have fantastic results for you, and keeps the incredible clarity, colour richness and the ‘wow’ factor that 4K is now being renown for.

If you are a current Canon/Nikon or other brand shooter, then the answer to your question is not “You will need to buy new lenses for this camera”. A few manufacturers haave designed and produced many workarounds to lens to mount converters; famously Metabones, but also LensAdaptor are worth checking out if you currently shoot with non-MFT lenses. These adapters fit onto the body and lens and effectively allow the lens to be used with a different lens mount.

To conclude, if I had the money I would happily invest in the Panasonic GH4 and not only for the 4K. The high data rates even for 1080p HD are high enough to be broadcasted which opens up what I can deliver for my clients, the kit is smaller so I get less back ache, the Depth From Defocus system allows continuous auto-focus during video, up to 96fps slow motion recording in 1080p HD, Wi-Fi control. I’d be really interested in testing this camera out in a ‘Great Camera Shootout’ review, so clear up the rest of the questions I have about not only capturing video in 4K, but also to see how the MFT 16Mp sensor holds up against the Canon 5D mk III which with Magic Lantern can record RAW.. We shall see, only the future will tell!

panasonic gh4 4k dslr camera demo test day park cameras 1

Please bear in mind that I have never captured footage in 4K, or worked with a 4K camera, footage or system. So what knowledge I am basing this on is my university dissertation in implementing 4K programming into the current UK broadcasting industry, copious research into 4K cameras, technology and productions, attending IBC and many other trade shows to understand the up-to-date technology available.

 

Mesmirizing fractals in After Effects

I’ve often pondered whether it is possible to generate geometrical, point and fractal graphics using algorithms in After Effects. Fascinated by expressions since starting in CS3, I have always experimented with different types of generation and control to create more organic motion graphics, and animate them.

After learning and working with Trapcode Particular and Form, which specialize in amazing particle effects, I further played around with ideas and animations combining the particles with expressions, auxillary particles and physics to recreate a realistic particle graphic. I had varied success, but I still couldn’t find a unique effect.

It has been a while since I stepped back into After Effects; I usually float between applications until I need to use them so I got myself back up to speed with AE and tried my hand back at fractals – not the ones generated by fractal noise or turbulent noise either.

After a couple of days experimenting (bearing in mind I am still working on my laptop, and not my editing supercomputer) I had got to grips with generating graphics, but with this technique the results are partly random generations so occasionally I end up with a result that is completely different to what I expected but looks fantastic! With the curves following Bezier, they look naturally pleasing too.

My fractal tests –

 

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