Surprisingly I actually take pictures with my GH2 from time to time. Though I am highly irritated by the on camera flash. I don't like the way pictures come out when I take them with the flash. Washed out and too much contrast with horrible shadows. I know buying an external flash would help this issue, but I really didn't want to spend too much money as I rarely take photos with my camera. What I found myself doing was placing my hand in front of the flash to bounce it off the ceiling and diffuse the light. I got great results with this and knew I couldn't possibly have been the first person to think of this. So I started looking for a product that did this for me. Enter: Professor Kobre's Lightscoop. The lightscoop is a wonderful product that attaches to your camera's hotshoe. It basically places a mirror in front of the flash and bounces it to the ceiling (when holding camera horizontal) or the wall (when shooting vertically). And it works wonderfully! Spreads the light out and creates a great diffused look giving the subjects a lively glow. Works best in low ceiling rooms for obvious reasons. But the results are incredible. Highly recommend it for anyone looking for a cheaper solution to an external flash.
Without Flash Bounce
With Flash Bounce
Just look at the amount of depth you're able to capture with it!
You can find it on Amazon.com here.
Realm Pictures just made another amazing lighting tutorial for Phillip Bloom's blog. And the incredible thing about this new lighting tutorial is that they use lights commonly found lying around... or rather hung up in your home. So this is a perfect tutorial for the backyard flimmaker like myself, and anyone who is inspired by frugal DIY alternatives to videomaking. They explain the benefits of christmas lights, a smartphone (never thought of that one but will now my Droid regularly), and of course, construction lights. I'm about to go pick up a set shortly. They're only $30 at Wal-Mart.
And below I have posted the initial lighting tutorial which explains how to position lights and their purposes.
So I am a lens addict. Contemplating going to groups for it. I'm sure there's a 12 step program out there for me. But in my frenzy I've found some great options that work wonderfully on the M43 system. Kiron 28mm f2
This lens is also sold under the Vivitar name. Makes a great standard lens for us. Will probably set you back $100-$150. However, I've found they sell a hell of a lot cheaper on the Minolta mount. I was able to score one for around $50 the other week, and it's in mint condition. Haven't fully tested it out yet, but it has great close focus distance. You can get up to a foot away from your subject. Worth looking into.
Nikon Nikkor-O 35mm f2
I love the 35mm focal length on the GH2. I'm just partial to the 70mm actual. Great short tele. Excellent for portrait work, yet wide enough to establish scenery. The great thing about this lens is its price. You can grab it easily for around $130. There's an AIS version, but the O version is rejected by Nikon lovers because it doesn't fit their mount correctly without being altered. And for us that means less expensive. Because there's no issue fitting it to an adapter. Also great close focus distance from 1 ft away. MIR 24M/N 35mm f2 If you can't find the Nikkor this is also a great lens to have. It's a russian lens, either sold in the Nikon mount or M42 mount. Nikon mount is more expensive. You can also grab this for $130. I haven't used this lens but am really impressed with footage and pictures I've seen captured with it. Minolta Rokkor 58mm 1.4
Totally underrated lens. This guy is one of my favorites. Great portrait lens. Use it for a lot of interviews. Smooth bokeh. Has eight aperture blades so it gives the bokeh a circular look to it, which i really appreciate. Plus the price point is amazing. You can find a mint condition one for around $70. I definitely prefer it over the Minolta Rokkor 50mm 1.4. So there ya go. These are a few of my beauties, plus one wishlister. Can't really go wrong with them.
Before I begin I would like to bring your attention to these forum threads for more in depth information about the GH2 hack: http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/forumdisplay.php?175-Panasonic-GH-Cameras http://www.personal-view.com/talks/discussion/1301/official-low-gop-topic-series-3#Item_584
Why Hack My GH2? You've purchased your GH2, possibly on the grounds that it can be hacked. What is this hack? What does it mean to hack my camera? Welcome to the present, where cameras are nothing more than computers that take pictures. Each camera has a base operating system known as a firmware. What the GH2 user has been blessed with is the work of Russian hacker Vitaliy Kiselev who reverse engineered the GHx firmware and provided us with ample benefits such as a higher bit rate, unlocked languages for foreign cameras, lower GOP, and unlocked ISO, among other things. Over your head already, huh?
Bit Rate Bitrate is the number of bits encoded per unit of time. In layman's terms, it's a measurement of the amount of information your camera records per second. Stock GH2 allows users to record 24fps at a bit rate of 24 mbits/sec. Allowing us to up the bit rate means that we are able to increase the amount of information our camera records per second. The more information you record, the more detail your camera picks up. High bitrate is a great thing.
GOP (Group of Pictures) This one is a bit tricky to explain. We are told that our camera records 24p, which means twenty-four progressive frames. This is great, because a progressive frame is a true individual frame in itself, as opposed to an interlaced frame, making it more akin to a frame of film. Well, not exactly. You see what the camera records is a certain number of GOPs. Each GOP consists of one iframe followed by a series, or group, of bframes. The iframe is a complete image unto itself and the bframes are basically images dependent upon the information of the iframe. Kind of like an echo, or and estimate of the continuous motion you are recording. Iframes are true progressive pictures needing no other information to restructure the image. Bframes create errors in H.264 (the recording codec of the GH2). The more iframes, the more editable your footage is. Iframes increase file size because they
require more information. As you lower the GOP number, you are
increasing the number of iframes. You are decreasing the ratio of iframes to bframes. A GOP 1 means that the stream consists of only
iframes. Truly progressive footage. So to sum up, a lower GOP number means less space between iframes. As you lower your GOP you reduce the number of bframes and thus make your footage easier to work with in post. It helps in recording motion by capturing more true images within the video stream. A lower GOP helps your video look more like film.
Hack Away! NOTE: I am not at all responsible if you brick your camera. If you do, you did not follow the instructions exactly and are officially an idiot. Do you want to hack your GH2? Yes, of course you do. Now there are many patches out there. They are continuously changing and evolving. I am not going to go over them. I am going to show you how to hack your camera on your own. Then you can begin to experiment with patches once you have the basics down. To hack your camera you need a few things:
Begin by downloading and installing ptools onto your computer. If you have a Mac, you will need to either switch over to the Windows side of your hard drive or use a program like Wine to open ptools. Just google "Wine Mac" and you'll find it. Then download the firmware. It's best if you create a folder and keep these two tools together so as not to get confused.
Step 1: Open Ptools Like the step says, go ahead and open PTools.
Step 2: Load Firmware
Click on the button which says "Load Firmware" and we are going to load the GH2 firmware leak that we downloaded.
As you can see, I have already made two hacks myself. But the original firmware will be the only one in your folder, it will be saved as GH2_V10.bin. Click "Open" and you will have a screen that looks like this:
Step 3: Entering Hack Information Increasing Bitrate
Double click on "Patches for end users". Now what I want to do first is up the bitrate. So open the folder "AVCHD Movie Mode" and then expand "AVCHD Compression" and check 24H.
You'll notice the long green number. That's the bitrate. We are only going to change the first two digits of this number. I have read that the hack is stable at 66mbps, so we're going to change the 22 to 66. I have tested this at 50 for the past few weeks and have had zero issues there. So go with 50 if you want to play it safe.
Now, you have the option of tweaking the bitrate of 24L, but really, why bother? I never record in 24L so there's no reason to increase it. What I do record at is 720p for slow motion shots. And on occasion, for some unknown reason, I may also have to record at 1080i, so we'll hack both of those now.
Check "Video Bitrate FSH/SH". Here you are hacking the bitrate for both 1080i and 720p modes simultaneously. Up that to 66 or 50 as well.
Auto Quantizer Setting This is where we choose our bias towards shadow detail or motion detail. I am often recording interviews or events with little to medium motion. So I set mine to "3-Most to Details". Check the Auto Quantizer box and select your preference. Then collapse the folder when you have finished.
Removing ISO Restriction
Expand the folder titled "Movie related restrictions." Here PAL users can check to remove the 30 minute record restriction (why you want to record with this camera for over 30 minutes I have no idea). And here is where us guys from both sides of the Atlantic can unlock the ISO limit. Check the box "Maximum ISO limit removal." Collapse the folder when completed.
Reducing GOP Length Re-expand the AVCHD Movie Mode folder. Expand "AVCHD GOP Length" folder. Now, GOP 1 is ideal, but I'm tentative about it and just want to push it to a GOP of 3 for all record modes and see how that works. I've been recording at GOP 6 and that has been stable enough for me. So if you want to be safe, enter 6. But I'm going to try out 3. Check the box 720p60 GOP Size. Change the number from 30 to 3.
Ok now check the box "1080i50 and 1080p24GOP Size." Change that to three. And do the same for 1080i60 GOP Size as well.
Step 4: Save the firmware
Click "Save Firmware." It's the green button at the bottom. Enter in GH2_V11.bin or some other consecutive number. I have already made two hacks so I saved mine at number 13.
finishing this tutorial and attempting to hack my camera, the camera
would not accept a patch saved as GH2_V13. I guess it has a fail-safe
against notoriously unlucky numbers. Numbers 11, 12, and 14 work as I
have been successful with those.
Step 5: Load Firmware onto SD Card
You may now exit out of PTools. We will now upload our patch by dragging it into the SD card folder. So, yes, in order to do this, connect your SD card to your computer first.
Step 6: Installing Firmware I swear to God, you had better have that battery fully charged. FULLY CHARGED BATTERY. Eject the SD card from your computer. Pop in the SD card into your camera. Turn on the camera and press the green play button beside the view finder. You will see a screen that says "Start version up?" and select "yes". Now sit back and let the camera do it's thing. Don't touch any of the buttons. The process is pretty fast, will only take a few minutes. When it's finished. Format the card and you're ready to go. Congratulations! You now have a hacked GH2!
Please comment below if you found the post helpful! Happy shooting.
I've been on a kick this week researching video and how to tell good story through motion images. I feel it's extremely important to be constantly learning new techniques. I found this video on Vimeo today filled with great tips to add depth to your shots. While some of the suggestions and techniques covered in the video aren't new to me. It's still a great refresher and inspiring video.
I have been actively participating in an open discussion forum about what gear to grab once acquiring a camera on the GH2 user group. And there's actually a lot of great information on there. The guy driving the thread is completely clueless and asking basic questions that most of us researched elsewhere to find. And as a result, a lot of great information has been compiled into one place. I feel this information ought to be woven together and presented in a straightforward way to be easier to read. So I'll give my own interpretation of it here.
You have learned that shooting video with large sensor picture cameras is in. You want to jump on and run with the new breed of backyard cinematographers. You crave the depth of field. You drool over the low light capabilities. You want the amazing image quality. But more than likely you're from the old school of videomaking. You are spoiled by autofocus, and just about auto everything. And you will quickly learn that this camera is a CAMERA. Your new EVIL (or a DSLR if that's what you have) is designed first and foremost to take still photographs. Video is a feature on these machines. And where I was at this stage, I had no clue about exposure, and lacked any sort of photographic background. So first things first. Treat your camera like what it is, a camera. You need to learn how to take pictures. Without this knowledge you are out of your league. I suggest going to a local photography group and signing up for a workshop or taking some sort of beginners photography class. What you really need to do is acquaint yourself with your camera and learn it inside and out. I feel the most important thing to become aware of initially is exposure and how that works.
Exposure is a three tiered foundation of photography. Without this knowledge you're blasting yourself in the foot. You might as well send me the money you'll spend on your camera.
Aperture - to me this is the key component. This is what controls your depth of field. The aperture is the opening of the iris of your lens. This is the first portal for light to enter into your camera. The wider your aperture, the more light enters your camera. The smaller, the less light. Yet aperture initially is tricky, it's numbered opposite what you would expect. A wide aperture is a lower number, a small aperture is a higher number. Let's say you have a 50mm 1.8 lens. The first number is the focal length, which is indicated in millimeters (more on this later). The second number indicates how fast your lens is, or the lowest possible aperture. The faster your lens, the wider it opens, the more light it will let in to your camera. This number determines two things:
Low light capability
Depth of field
Depth of field is how much of your frame is in focus. Narrow or shallow depth of field means a small portion of the frame (hopefully your subject) is in focus and the rest is blurred out. The wider your aperture, the more shallow your depth of field. The smaller your aperture, the greater the depth of field. This is akin to squinting to see things in the distance. When you squint you are letting less light into your eyes and therefore make what you are seeing more sharp and in focus.
Shutter Speed - This is indicative of the amount of light which enters the camera each second, as regulated by your shutter. Shutter speed is, for the most part, measured in fractions of a second. 1/60 means your shutter is open for one sixtieth of a second. The longer your shutter is open, the more light is allowed to hit the camera sensor. The shorter it is open, the less light. Fairly straight forward. Now, what shutter speed regulates image wise is no longer depth of field, but blur. We have all had experience with point and shoots at night time, the images tend to blur more easily. The reason for this is that the shutter must remain open for a longer period of time to allow for a good exposure. However, as the shutter remains open, the camera is recording information for this period. Any movement will be picked up and thus creating blur in the image. This same principle applies to video. Video is nothing more than a sequence of consecutive images. Therefore a longer shutter speed will create a blurry, almost dream like effect in your video. A shorter shutter speed will do the opposite. It will create choppy, crisp frames, creating an effect used in many war films like Saving Private Ryan. As a general rule in video, your shutter speed needs to match your frame rate in order to create the best illusion for actual motion. The rule is that the shutter speed is half your frame rate. That means, if I am to shoot at 24 frames per second (or fps) then my shutter speed must be locked at 1/48th of a second.* So it follows that if I shoot at 30fps or 60i my shutter speed is to be locked at 1/60, and if I am shooting at 60fps my shutter speed should be at 1/120. When shooting video, shutter speed is the single aspect of exposure that has very little wiggle room. Unless of course you want to create a certain visual effect such as more blur or choppy motion.
* On the GH2 you are unable to shoot at 1/48 shutter, the closest shutter speed is 1/50, so if you are to be shooting at 24fps, keep the shutter speed at 1/50 and you will be fine
ISO - This is what I consider to be the last line of defense in exposure, and should be treated as such. The reason being is that ISO is the rating of your camera sensor's sensitivity to light. The lower the number, the less sensitive it is to light, the higher the number the more sensitive. Meaning if I am shooting at 160 ISO less light will be picked up by my camera than if I were to shoot at 600. Now, you may recognize a pattern developing that each factor of exposure affects a certain aspect of image quality. And ISO affects the amount of grain in your shots. Why? Because at higher ISO's you are making your sensor strain to pick up light. An easy thing to remember is: "The more strain the more grain." Grain is also referred to as digital noise or artifacts. Unless you have a software program to eliminate or reduce your grain, you're stuck with it. Grain can make or break footage. Extremely grainy footage is completely unusable, unless you make your images black and white, which doesn't eliminate it, but just hides it better. Grain is bad. Keep your ISO as low as you can when shooting. Rely on it sparingly. I generally don't shoot above 1600 ISO. Even though the GH2 can shoot at 3200 unhacked and now at 12800 hacked, I still don't go above 1600 if I can help it. It's just too much of a bother to deal with grainy footage.
Now that you have a better understanding of Exposure, start taking pictures with your camera. Not video, pictures. Take still images with it and familiarize yourself with the Exposure triad. This will benefit you greatly in the long run. Turn on your histogram and figure out how to use it.
To turn on the histogram go into the camera menu, look for the c with the wrench beside it (Custom). "Histogram" is the third setting. Set it to "ON" and keep it there. I place mine at the top right hand corner of the LCD frame. The histogram is a waveform that displays the light information in the scene. On the right is your white, the left is black. Expose your images so that the whites are touching the right, but not blown out.
Another great feature of the GH2 is the highlight peaking. This allows you to tell what parts of your highlights are overexposed. To turn this feature on, go down in the Custom menu and turn "Highlight" on. Also, in Manual Movie Mode, enter the menu with the film camera icon. This is the Motion Picture menu. At the bottom of the third page there is the option to turn "Rec Highlight" on. Turn that on as well. Overexposed highlights will flash black. Make sure only objects which are true white flash. Or play it safe and avoid flashing.
Owning a great camera does not make you a great cameraman. I'm sorry if this is new information. You are not guaranteed to make great video content just because you have the best camera you can afford. What you need to learn is what makes great shots, and that requires a study of shot composition. Thousands of books have been written on this subject and so I'm not going to go into detail here. I feel it's extremely important to have a good understanding of composition and why certain images have an appeal to you over others. Aside from what you may believe or have heard, beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is a mathematical truth. And there's a proportional formula which makes certain images awesome and others shit. Luckily for us we don't need to figure this out because people before us already have AND have put it into our camera for us.
In the GH2 there is an option to turn on the rule of thirds guide lines. Go into the same "Custom" menu (C with wrench). "Guide line" is the fourth option down. Select it and choose the grid just beneath "OFF." Now when composing your shots, never place your subject in the middle of the frame. Always frame your subject at the intersection points of the lines. Like I said earlier, read up on composition and practice with it.
You have your camera and are antsy to become a pro. I had developed a sickness. This sickness is the idea that if I have all the right gear then I will make awesome films. This is a sickness, a mental disease that will run your pockets dry and have you purchasing unnecessary equipment. Just because I look the part of a Hollywood cinematographer with a mattebox and a follow focus and a DSLR rig and a rail system... doesn't mean I can play the part. It just means I have spent a lot of money and look like an idiot. Most of the equipment out there isn't necessary to start shooting great video. What's necessary is the know how of exposure and composition and a solid, bare bones no hassle equipment foundation. There are certain things you need and things you can do without. So I'm just going to cover what I need to shoot. And that's what I regularly grab. I made the mistake of doing too much at once, and as a result a lot of my gear is collecting dust.
I mean, this is why you got the camera in the first place, the perk of changing out your lenses. Coming from a video background this was foreign territory. I am used to everything in one package. Which is why I feel many people making the jump to EVIL/DSLR video possess an everything now mentality. Building up a solid lens collection will take time and money. It doesn't happen over night. As you learn lenses you develop preferences for image quality. You'll find you gravitate more towards a certain focal length, desire certain apertures, want a particular bokeh (the blurred out portion of the shot).. etc. The best advice I can give, is that if you are clueless at this point, just get a kit lens and start there. You'll have a slow zoom, but it will give you an idea while you familiarize yourself with your camera of what you will want in the future. Plus a zoom is more familiar to someone from a video background.
Surprise, lenses are expensive. Get used to it. This does not go away. If you want a great lens you'll need a great deal of money. You have invested your money, not necessarily into a camera, but into an interchangeable lens system. It's all about glass, now. But how awesome your lens is, again, won't make you an awesome cinematographer. It's what you do with the lens that matters. And there are ways of saving money on glass. Read my post on buying vintage lenses.
Primes- Get them, love them, make them your friend. It's time to move away from the old ways of shooting video and thinking like a videographer and enter the new land of shooting video like a cinematographer. Primes are fixed focal length lenses. Meaning your stuck at a certain distance. Why is that awesome? Because they are faster than zooms.
Focal length refers to the optical range of your frame. A wide lens will have a smaller measurement, anywhere from 6-35mm. This gives you what the name indicates: a wide field of view. A standard focal length is anywhere around 40-60mm. This provides a 'normal' field of view, meaning it recreates perspective closer to what our eyes see. A telephoto lens is any focal length from 60mm and above and they magnify things in the distance, allowing you to get closer to your subject.
Crop factor refers to the affect of your camera's sensor on a lens' focal length. This is important and should not be overlooked. The GH2 has a crop factor of x2. This means that a 14mm lens on the GH2 acts the same way a 28mm lens would on a full frame camera. This is important to note when selecting lenses. Always multiply by two. Unless you have a DSLR with an APSC censor, then the crop factor is about 1.5x.
Research focal lengths and how it affects the look of your subject. For portraits you want to use a short telephoto. I advise getting a standard focal length prime first. Then add a wide angle and telephoto. Then experiment with different focal lengths to see which you prefer most.
Two things to keep in mind when selecting lenses are aperture speed and focus distance. If you're crazy about shallow dof and love bokeh, you want to get as fast a lens as your money will allow. Focus distance determines how close you can get to your subject and this is measured in meters. If you enjoy getting close to your subjects, then get a lens that allows you to get under a meter. Macro lenses are lenses which provide this, but there are non macro lenses that allow you to get about a foot away from your subject no problem.
A great way to learn what lens you want to use is to research that particular lens. Watch test videos taken with it. Pay attention to sharpness and clarity of images, color rendition and contrast. Pick a lens that jumps out at you. If that lens is out of your budget, start saving or look elsewhere. Now, if a lens made for a different camera catches your fancy, you're going to need an adapter to mount it to your camera.
Adapters - Adapters are listed in certain ways: 'what lens this is' - to fit - 'what camera body I have'. To fit my Minolta MC Rokkor 58mm on my camera I need an adapter that fits Minolta MC/MD lenses to my GH2. The GH2 is a micro four thirds camera. So what I need to look for is a Minolta MC/MD to MFT adapter. Say I have a canon EOS lens. I will need to find an EOS to M43 adapter.
I've found the most cost effective way to experiment with lenses is to purchase vintage glass from Ebay, KEH.com, or even craigslist. For just a couple hundred dollars you can build up a solid prime lens collection at varying focal lengths. And, these lenses are still great lenses if you do proper research and buy smart.
Your on board camera mic sucks. Even with an external mic attached, your audio will be sub par. This camera is a picture camera and audio is not one of its strong points. To solve this issue, you need to invest in a digital audio recorder. I found a refurbished Tascam dr07mkii. It has served me very well and haven't had a need to upgrade yet.
To get more range in recording I also picked up a shotgun microphone. I picked up the Rode video mic. Occasionally I'll attach this to my Tascam. Often I am attaching it to my GH2 for secondary/backup sound recording.
To make your camera more like a video camera turn the audio monitor on. Navigate through the Motion Picture menu to the bottom of the second page. Turn Mic Level Disp. 'ON'. I've found that the GH2 audio peaks easily. So I also turn the sensitivity to the lowest possible level. At the top of the third page is the 'Mic Level Adj.', turn this to level 1.
You can forget about hand held shooting. It doesn't happen any more. Your camera is so small and is not outfitted with image stabilization, so it will pick up every shake of your hand. Invest in a monopod immediately and make it your friend. Either grab one with a fluid head or buy a $30 one and purchase a separate fluid head. I am going very quickly over this, but don't overlook the importance of a monopod/fluid head combo. You need it. Get it.
You will need a memory card with a write speed of at least class 6. If you hack your GH2, as I have, you will need to invest in class 10 memory cards. I have only ever used Transcend or PNY cards. The only reason I bought a PNY card was that it was on sale at Staples that day. Otherwise all my cards are Transcend. You can find them on Amazon. There really isn't a better deal out there on memory. I've had no problems. I get by fine using 8gb and 16gb cards. I have never had a reason to purchase anything larger than that. You don't want your footage sitting on your card. First thing you do when you get back to your studio is upload the footage. Get it off your card because they can crash. Hasn't happened to me yet but you hear about it. It's a possibility. For that reason I don't have any cards over 16gb. There's just no need really.
Packing Your Stuff
For some odd reason camera bags are mad expensive. So I purchased a really inexpensive Amazon basics DSLR bag. I think it was $30? Whatever, it's inexpensive and works. Roomy enough for two GH2 bodies, 6 lenses, LED light, Rode videomic, Tascam Dr07mkii, L-bracket, batteries, cleaning supplies, and Liliput monitor.
I just reminded myself when listing the gear in my bag. Get a LED camera light. I got one from Cowboy studio that dims for about $40. Yeah, it's cheap, but it's a start and is extremely helpful, especially when the bride decides she wants to dim the lights for the reception... people...
But I also use it as a fill light when doing interviews. Works great for that as well. Yes, eventually I will upgrade and get field lights with umbrellas or softboxes, but to start out all I really needed was a single on camera light that I was able to dim.
Rigging it All Together
You DO NOT need a $1000+ dollar DSLR rail rig system. Stay away from them until absolutely necessary. I am able to mount my light, rode mic and tascam on my camera using my camera's hotshoe and a flash L-bracket. The L-bracket cost about $20 and sees continuous use.
You just spent well over a grand on your camera and lenses. You need to take care of it. Get a cleaning kit with a lens cloth and lens solution. Get a lens brush. Get a rocket blower to clear your sensor. Clean your camera often. Clean your lenses before each shoot.
That's a Wrap
That's it. Get out there and shoot. You stop being a noob when you learn your camera. You learn your camera by making videos. Go make videos. Go fuck up and learn. Stay hungry.
Please comment below if you have any questions or found this post helpful.