ETHICS STATEMENT: I was paid to DP this film but that is all. All thoughts on this camera now and in the future are my own and will never be influenced by any monetary or contractual arrangement. My ethics are incredibly important to me…my whole site is based upon them. I may change my opinion of things over time, but that is my prerogative and is always going to happen! Read more on my ethics statement here. Ethics Statement
Last month, I was lucky enough to be director of photography on a little project for Panasonic in LA. A film made to promote the brand new GH3 camera from Panasonic.
The camera was a very pre-production until so many of the cool features on offer in the spec list were not fully functional for us so I can’t comment on them until I get my hands on a production camera.
What I can say is it’s bigger and it’s heavier…it’s also a massive step up from the previous model and has a superb 72mb/s All-I codec which is a world away from the compressed-as-hell AVCHD codec that we are used to on many cameras and on all their previous GH series cameras.
I have been using the GH series of cameras ever since I got my hands on a pre-production GH1, 3 and a half years ago. I shot some lovely stuff on that and of course the GH2. My favourite piece being my mum cooking! Excellent cameras that have been adopted into the low budget filmmaking community, especially since the hack to give the GH2 an ALL-I codec surfaced. One of the best things about this camera is that Panasonic have seen this and responded with their new 72 mb/s All-I codec here. It’s more than enough for a camera this size and very robust indeed!
In the early camera we had there were a number of user selectable video recording settings which gave us the AVCHD options as well as .MOV options (which are labelled for use only on high end editing systems!) There are a number of bit rates options the highest being the 72mb/s that we used…again due to the early nature of the camera it was tricky figuring out exactly what was what (this will of course be way easier in the final camera) but the big news is there is an ALL-I setting for 60p and 24p. From the camera we had it didn’t look like there was 25p and 50p. I believe these will be available in the “PAL” version, this will be at a loss of 30p and 60p I believe but will still have 24p…Remember the Gh2 only got 25p through firmware hacks initially then finally through an officially release at the end of last year. It would be nice to have all the frame rates available in the camera like Canon and Nikon do…
Personally, I think this is the step up this camera needed to be used in more professional environments, though without losing its mass appeal. With the Blackmagic camera micro four thirds, we could be coming into the time of this format. Great for me. I have a crap load of glass for the system and would like to use it more!
We did have a few minor tech issues due to the early camera. The biggest hurdle for us was the HDMI out was not giving us a live feed, just playback…again this will be working fully in the release camera for sure. What I don’t know is if the camera outputs a fully recordable uncompressed clean signal for recording on external recorders
Not being able to use a monitor was very challenging for a lot of the big lighting setups so I had my laptop at my side, recording a little bit, pulled the card out to check then tweaked. For the handheld it was no issue as I went off the back screen. For the shots operated by Terry we simply had to go with that old thing that is not used that much anymore…trust! “hey Terry how was that? Did you nail it?” He would say yes or no….not ideal but it worked, sometimes he asked for playback to check it most of the time we just moved on as there was a lot to cover in our 3 days of shooting.
The sensor had a couple of tiny marks on which pop up here and there in some shots. Naturally this was down to the early nature of our camera…
Handling on the camera is also much improved, feeling much more solid in your hand. Better controls with a back dial like on other DSLRs and some fantastic features like 1080p 60p for nice slow motion ability. This is available in some DSLRs, notably the Alpha A77 but it’s AVCHD so by time you slow it down to slow motion you are half your AVCHD bitrate and it falls apart. This is MUCH better!
Written and directed by Bruce Logan, ASC (he shot Tron!) this film was designed to shoot in a number of scenarios to test out the camera. Harsh contrast, interior lighting, direct sunlight, low light, fast movement, handheld…we tried most things. I especially loved the much improved low light performance. The camera was operated by the terrific Terry Bowen and I did a lot of the handheld low light stuff… The arrest sequence, the subway and the taxi shots. That is the joy of small cameras, going and filming small and fast with limited light, but we also used this camera with a full crew as you can see from the credits below.
We used simple lighting set ups for much of it. Lots of bounce and negative fill to add contrast. In the taxi, I lit Chrissy with my iPad! Great little tool that 🙂 At travel town for the end sequence we had a very robust lighting set up of around a dozen lights or so, as we had to light the whole station from scratch. Quite a task. There are a few BTS photos of that below too…
I can’t review the camera as such for now..that will have to wait until a release camera or close to release camera is available but going from what I have seen and used so far it’s a massive step up from the GH2 in build quality, feel, image, low light. All important stuff. It is more expensive for sure and it’s a shame the price couldn’t have been kept closer to that of the GH2 as this camera is exceptional for the low budget crowd…but it’s still cheap for what it does, just look at how much more is on offer both in stills and video. Oh yeah… the ex tele conv mode is still present on this new model, it samplea the native pixels of the 1080p image to give us an in camera crop without loss of quality is present and we used it a few times. Very useful indeed! Check out the speeding car at dusk panning to the right shot. That was shot with it!
Lens wise we used all micro 4/3 or 4/3 glass…Mostly my own glass. We shot a lot on the great Voigtlander 25mm F0.95, used on almost all the low light stuff …a couple of shots on the SLR Magic 12mm F1.6. My Olympus 14-35 F2 was our workhouse. Used this A LOT. Also my 35-100 F2. Great glass. Not ideal for movie shooting though, with the loss of focus when zooming in and fiddly focus. Lots of Lumix glass was used too – especially the brand new lenses coming out soon! I didn’t get a chance to use the 17.5 Voigtlander on this shoot but it’s another cracking lens from them that is perfect for this camera!
Before you ask about direct comparisons with the GH2, I am afraid I did none. We were very busy on this shoot with very long days and also doing a side by side comparison with a pre-production camera made no sense…that will come soon I am sure!!
I wasn’t able to test the audio, but there IS a headphone jack..HURRAH!!
I hope you enjoy our little film. This really is a great new tool for us filmmakers. Just remember though, this is a tool…not a religion 🙂 ALSO do watch the terrific BTS video by Mick Jones below…Please follow Micky on twitter. He is real talent. Great filmmaker and multi award winner. There is also a short interview with write director Bruce Logan below that.
HUGE thanks to Steve Weiss for the rig/ support gear for the camera. He has done a video going over the options for the GH3. You can order them/ read more about them by clicking here or the banner below. Also here are some options for handheld rigs for the GH3…
I asked director Bruce Logan a few questions about the project for this post:
Written and directed by: Bruce Logan
Producers: Elliot Lewis Rosenblatt and Bruce Logan
Director of Photography: Philip Bloom & Bruce Logan ASC
Hero: Jeffrey Joslin
Heroine: Crissie Randall
Child: Madaline Galante
Cop1; Skoti Collins
Cop2: Orlando Wilson
Homeless man: Mark Miller-Summer
Taxi Driver: Vahik Avedian
Production Manager: Kara Scobey
1st AD: Lee Davis
Camera Operator: Terry Bowen
1st AC: Ariel Benarroch
2nd AC: Danit Sigler
Key Grip: Stacy Slevek
Gaffer: Mark Meisenheimer
BB Grip: Mike Wesby
Swing: Justin Bernard
Swing: Joe Webb
Costume Designer: Dawn Ritz
Assistant Wardrobe: Christine Fuller
Hair/ Makeup: Lauren Ishi
Art Director: Lauren Ishi
Art Director: Ron Volz
Post Production Supervisor: Scott Lynch
Colourist: Bruce Logan
Behind the scenes: Mick Jones
Casting: Amy de Souza
Craft Services: Samantha Mokwa