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Which settings for GH2 concert recording (classical)?
  • I've done quite a bit of testing with all the wonderful new driftwood patches, as well as with the updated Flowmotion.

    I'd love to hear from someone who's done this before - successfully:

    in 2 weeks, I will shoot a classical concert (orchestra), on a great looking concert stage, with two GH2s. One's going to be a static wide shot and the second one will shoot close up and different angles. The concert will run about 90 minutes total. The location will be bright enough, but I'd say I most likely will have to use an ISO of 640 or 800 in order to be able to shoot with an f 5.6.

    I do own two fast 64 GB 95mb/s SandDisc cards. - I'll be shooting this in 24p.

    I certainly want it to look as good as possible (with as fine a noise grain as possible - considering my ISO), but I also need about 40-50 minutes of continuous recording time per segment - and the full 90 minutes should fit on each of the 64 GB cards.

    I'd really appreciate any real world feedback for this kind of task. VBR or CBR? What kind of bit rate should I be going for? Would any of the new Driftwood patches be suited for this?

    Thank you so much in advance.

    --- Markus ---

  • 31 Replies sorted by
  • My new Cake v2.0 is designed for exactly this kind of shooting. I'd be pleased if you would try it out. I can't say I've shot any concerts with the settings - they're brand new. Your 64-GB card will give about 143 minutes of recording time in 24p with Cake v2.

    VBR or CBR is of little matter. You care about quality, reliability, and recording time.

    Be sure you know how to work around the "file number limit exceeded" bug that sometimes happens with SDXC cards in the GH2: after spanning and before turning the camera off, record a short clip. You'll need to do that during intermission so you don't get screwed for the second half. If it were me, I'd rather have two 32-GB cards than one 64-GB card for this kind of shoot.

    It would be a good idea to have spare batteries on-hand. Depending on how you're shooting, you might not get much more than 90 minutes from a battery.

  • The Gh2, although an excellent camera in many respects, has a few limitations when it comes to a classical orchestra. There are some serious aliasing issues with long strings such as double bass, harp, cello, and so on. Having said that, I like Flowmotion for say passaggi in the strings or tympani rolls. At its lowest setting, expect bitrates of say 32-35 for an Orchestra in Flowmotion under lights--you can get the concert on a 32gb. Hopefully. Orchestras classically blow out the highlights--sweaty, pale musicians, often with grey hair. So you will have some tough exposure choices. I consider it acceptable to overexpose the musical scores on wide shots but not on closeups. The GH2 does not have the dynamic range to cover the black to white of an orchestra under lights unless you totally nail the exposure. Would not go above 640 ISO. You will need more than one cam, and I recommend the Vixia HF G10 as a second cam instead of two GH2s. You will get realistic tone from the wood surfaces of the instruments and no stair-stepping on the strings, plus it has the extra dynamic range you need. Lastly, you will get the rock solid IS for any handheld shots or focus tracking you may want to do. Exposure tracking is very handy for orchestra work, and if there is no light on the face of the conductor you will need to push gain, which the GH2 won't do. The GH2, placed for a wide, full orchestra shot, will give you all that super, super sharp resolution which you will need for a full stage of complex objects--when paired with a 20mm or 45mm or Vivitar 55mm if you don't have one of the fancy primes. You will need a good prime lens. The conductor will be backlit, so figure that in if you need some vid of the front of the conductor. Ask for a "special" or bring a light. If it is a full size orchestra, and I mean full size, you may need to go with the 14mm from the 14-45, maybe with the contact taped over, or better yet the 12mm. Make sure your NR and contrast are dialed down all the way, and that sats are reasonable. If you have strong lighting, you will need to aim low on the expo, so don't dial the sats down all the way. I normally use five-six cams for orchestra, you can do it with two, but it will take some planning to get a convincing result. Three would be better, two rovers and a "safety". Orchestras are a top-down scene. If you look at a violin straight on, you see an edge. You will need some elevation to video the instruments and clear the music stands, which will be Manhassetts--fairly tall. Large reflective surfaces, such as a newer cellos or brass, can create a flashlight effect if moved slightly, so check all the lighting angles ahead of time.

  • @THX1965 DrDave's classical music videos are fab, and his experience shows. Really good advice.

    I have similar experience, and recently used a GH2 and two Canon XHA1 HDV camcorders for a band recording (which also had me playing harp and other stringed instruments, but with wilder LED lighting).

    I used the GH2 as the locked-off camera using the 14-140 lens. I just needed a sharp picture as an establishing shot / fallback shot, and that did its job. I used the 66mb patch on ISO 320 but forgot to do the "start at the middle row thing" when selecting the ISO so ended up with more noise than I would have liked. D'oh! But it spanned and I just ran an entire card for each 45 minute segment of the gig. In between, I dumped the card video onto my PC which I was using to record 24-track audio.

    Sounds obvious, but do get on-camera sound on ALL cameras so you can sync up afterwards with your main high-quality audio recording.

    I would also second what he says about using other cameras on the orchestra. I was amazed that the Canons I have (3CCD) were actually better than the GH2 - not only were the pictures better in low stage lighting (often wild single colours, LED style) but also you need something you can point and focus quickly to get different shots - you need minimal time between shots, like about half a second if you can, otherwise you might end up with compromises in editing. The GH2 doesn't really cut it for speed of focus, sharpness of viewfinder or general usability in these situations, and I wouldn't recommend it for roving camera coverage, not even if you have two of them.

    Not to say I don't worship my GH2 but not for stuff like you are contemplating, except as a locked-off camera.

  • Wow guys, this is impressive feedback! Thank you so much, @balazer, @DrDave, @Mark_the_Harp.

    I will do some testing this weekend with Cake v2.0 vs. Flowmotion. The new Cake does sound great. A big improvement over the previous versions from what I could see in the sample video.

    I will use three cameras - the two GH2s will be more or less my lock-down cameras. I'll also use a Canon for close-up work - a 60D (which I have used successfully in the past at this loaction) Luckily the intimate concert hall (Zipper Hall in Los Angeles is gorgeous, light-brown wood interior, the players are going to be all young (no problems with gray hair!) and the lighting is beautifully soft and even from above - no harsh or uneven spots on certain groups of players. It's a dream location. There is stadium seating and from the back of the (small) theater you get a nice elevated look of the entire orchestra. There are no harsh reflections on any instruments (thanks to the soft overhead lighting) and the only thing that's really blowing out is the conductor's score, but there is not much I can do about that.

    I won't be able to walk around and I can't do super close-ups of single instruments and players. I only need some good general coverage with 3 angles to keep the editing interesting. I'd love to do a 5-6 camera shoot one day for the kind of projects @DrDave is talking about. My coverage is just one element for a short documentary and at the same time, it'll be a document for this orchestra.

    The sound will be professionally recorded by the concert hall's technician. And I'll record pilot audio with all my cameras. And I am really looking forward to the new multicam feature in Final Cut Pro X. I love this app for sycing up audio with picture. Apple really had DSLR shooters in mind when they created it.

  • Sounds like fun. You actually do not want lighting from above, if you think of a photoshoot you want the lighting to be from level and slightly above with not to many harsh shadows. Top down lighting will create an odd snow cone effect and grey on black on the wide shots of the full orchestra. See if you can meet with the lighting person to get some nice side lights going. It is OK to have the conductor score blown out, but again, with a G10--which you could rent for a day--you can get a wider dynamic range, or use the touch screen to use exposure tracking for the conductor and the score. The conductors score is in a really bad place, so it will be the first to go "over" Last thing I would say is, either use the stock firmware on one cam, or go with a patch that you have tested and retested for spanning. I just can't see the advantage of super high bitrates at the risk of the card crashing, plus the IQ will be essentially the same--flowmotion at the lowest setting will double you bitrate from stock (12-15 indoors) to 30, which is plenty for what you are doing, except for maybe tymp rolls. In post, if you set your levels to capture superwhites you can maybe restore some of those details.

    Ask for a feed from the recording engineer either for a flash recorder (recommended) or direct to the safety cam.

  • @DrDave - all great suggestions! Thank you so much again. I will see what the lighting person can do. I have actually shot video there in the past with my 60D. It looked pretty even. But the GH2's might be a bit different.

    The recording engineer is giving me 2 uncompressed WAV files of both parts of the concert. Final Cut Pro X can sync them up automatically with my clips (and the on-board audio) and even creates new clips with the clean audio. It really works like magic. I have done that before. Quite remarkable. No matter how short or how long a clip is - FCP X finds it and puts it in the right place.

    I"ll look into the G10. Excellent tip! Thanks again. I really have come to the right place here. Your suggestions have brought up some very good points. I'll try to put as many of them into action as possible!

  • As long as the wavs are 48/24 you will be cooking with gas!

  • I'll bring some matches...

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  • If for any reason the .WAVs are not 48/24 make sure to resample using Izotope SRC (RX, Wave Editor, Sample Manager, etc.) or Voxengo r8brain, not the Apple software. Big difference.

    Oh, and if you're going to test patches, you might as well test SpanMyBU V1. I haven't tried V2 for something like this but V1 gave a nice motion compression and shadow noise with good spanning for me in the past, since it's an intra option. Also, sorry for the formatting, my phone hates apostrophes for some reason.

  • And the bitrates for SpanMyBU v1 were around 70mbits/sec if I remember correctly, so you would be fine.

  • Thanks @thepalalias for the 48/24 resampling tip. The sound engineer's got a Mac ProTools system in his recording booth. I'll make sure he picks the right sampling rate. (One should never assume anything...)

    And I'll throw SpanMyBitchUp into the testing mix!

  • Good luck. Looks like a great hall! You mentioned blowing-out of the conductor's score, but if it's a big issue on the locked-off shots, you could probably correct that area a bit in post. Only other obvious thing really would apply to any artificial lighting - check that the you are not getting any weird strobing effects from the lighting. Shouldn't be an issue but one more thing to make sure of.

  • I'll be shooting mostly from the back of the theater, so the conductor will be in front of his music stand anyway, covering it most of the time. It's not going to be a big issue.

  • Great! That's the curse of classical music - the dreaded score. I love it when people don't use them!!

  • @THX1965 Sounds great. He can also record at higher sample rate just fine as long as he doesn't downsample using the ProTools algorithim - you can see on graphs how it's performance is one of the worst in the industry and you can hear it to.

    Recording at the right sample rate is easier for you and foolproof, but he might want the higher sample rate for any audiophiles in the orchestra.

  • Excellent info, everyone. I really do appreciate all this great feedback!

  • Sounds like some fun THX. If you haven't yet I would mention that you should go down there with your GH2 beforehand and see what show lighting really looks like and what ISO you will be able to shoot at. Sorry If I sound like my mother. Sounds like you have probably already done that.

  • @Bueller - you are absolutely right. But I did shoot a concert there already last fall. Only I didn't have my GH2 then - I was a Canon guy until early this year.

    The good thing is, the orchestra is going to do a full rehearsal right before the actual concert - with the actual lighting and everything. I'll have 2 hours to get everything set up optimally. Without that luxury, I'd be very nervous, since you never know what your'e going to get... ;-)

    If I can get them to wear their actual concert attire during the rehearsal, I could get some great close-ups that I couldn't get during the actual concert.

  • @THX1965 Way to think ahead. :)

  • You can use cut ins from rehearsal that are real closeups, then you won't see that the music stands are not in the same place, and so on. Just make sure they have the same accessories. The thing is, it is a real pain to sync the audio with cut ins from a rehearsal. That's why I like the IS zoom for closeups.

  • @ DrDave I shoot a lot of orchestra stuff. just make sure your cut ins are face close up where you cant see the hands hitting notes/chords. No need to sync that.

  • I was directed to this thread because I had a similar question: I'll be shooting a theatrical performance, where many of the issues are the same. I've installed the Cake 2.0 patch, and I hope that'll work.

    I did learn that, when the audio sample rates are set higher than 19200, the sound won't play back on the camera. Will it play back with an external HDMI monitor?

    (And yes, I did try several searches to find previously-discussed answers to this question. Didn't work out.)

  • @Brian_Siano, I am using a combo of bkmcwd's Natural v1.11, sedna matrix and the Pasadena Pulse Audio V2 Beta2 audio patch. It's working really well for me with a sandisk 64gb SDXC card. Spans perfectly and even if the card runs out it keeps the last file.

    Attached are a copy of these merged settings. I am new to this so I hope I have done it right :)
  • @edgenumbers, I'll give that a shot, too.

    I just tried the Cake 2.0 patch, but under very loose conditions. Seems to work OK, but for some reason, my camera screen blanks out every so often. I haven't seen this happen before.

  • That's not the LCD / EVF auto-switching is it? Sometimes loading new firmware will change the camera's settings, for example switching to the EVF when you get too close to the back of the camera. You can reduce the sensitivity of this, or disable it.