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Two years worth of hacked Panasonic GH2 shooting - my conclusions...
  • Let me introduce myself, I'm Christiaan Blok. I'm a shooter and director from Sydney, Australia. For two years I've been using a hacked GH2 for my professional work. I've shot interviews, events, short films, corporate, training and commercial video. The GH2 has followed me down mines, up arctic mountains, onto race tracks, across beaches etc.. etc.. You get the idea... I've used it a lot! :-) So, as a little thank you to the hard working people behind the hacking scene I thought I'd post my experiences and conclusions after two years of testing and shooting.

    THE RIG:

    • PAL GH2. Shooting a mix of HBR & 24p. Shooting people, settings are generally SMOOTH -2 contrast, -2 sharpness, 0 Saturation & -2 NR. If no grading is going to happen or I'm shooting products I might bump up the sharpness & contrast a bit. I used NOSTALGIC for a while but found it added too much warmth to the image & highlights went funny. SMOOTH has nice roll-offs and good skin tones.

    • 32GB Sandisk Class 10 Extreme HD Video 30MB/s SD cards for reliability. 2 of these make sure I have more than enough space for a day of shooting.

    • Official Panasonic batteries for max battery life, compatibility & reliability of the battery meter.

    • Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 & 42.5mm f/0.95 - two beautiful lenses. The 42.5mm's ability to go 'click-less' is a very nice feature.

    • Tamron 18-50mm f/2.8 - a solid workhorse lens. Fully open and wide, this lens is a bit soft but it gets better around the 24mm mark onwards, stopped down a little. The short focus throw makes focusing a little tricky. Not knowing my exact f/stop is a bit annoying. My Novoflex adapter had issues connecting so I use a cheapo ebay adapter with iris control. This is the lens I use when I don't have time to use primes.

    • 50mm f/1.8 Nikon E-Series - the lens I used before I got the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95. A great interview & portrait lens. Very forgiving on facial features. Dirt cheap. Here's a shoot using this lens and the Sanity hack:

    • 100mm f/2.8 Nikon E-Series. A bit soft but it gets me out of trouble when I need some more zoom.

    • Custom Gini Rig: 2 x arm mounts, a follow focus and 1 x handle. The follow focus on this item is very, very good - BUT HUGE! I attach handles & a shoulder mount when I need it.

    • Zoom H4N recorder for audio

    • LN2MIC-ZMGH-MON cable for syncing audio from H4N to GH2 & monitoring. Set the headphone output of the H4N to 64, the input level on the GH2 to level 2 AND make sure you've installed the Pasadena Pulse Audio v2 beta patch which gives increased flexibility and quality with audio levels and recording.

    • Good headphones to monitor - I use the Sennheiser HD280 pro

    • Carbon Miller DS20 Solo. A solid, light, beautifully smooth tripod.

    • Small HD DP6 monitor for focus - the colour is always a bit off though.


    For me to use a hack it must be ROCK STABLE. If it fails unexpectedly I never use it again. For this reason I only use:

    • Sanity 5 with Pasadena Pulse Audio v2 beta
    • Flowmotion 2.02 with Pasadena Pulse Audio v2 beta.

    Sanity is my workhorse - super long record times, good quality, very reliable. Anything that is time limited or I've only got 1 x shot at, Sanity is used.

    Flowmotion is if I want to push quality higher eg: on a short film or larger production with more time to set up.


    Driftwood Seaquake: My first hacked shoot was with Driftwood's SeaQuake 24p. File sizes were huge, recording time was limited to 4 mins & my editor complained about the files being tricky to process due to their off the charts bitrates. My editor also mentioned that grading was tricky - the image seemed to fall apart easily. Visually, the results were outstanding, however the usability of this hack was it's limiting factor. Here's the shoot, we used the 25mm Voigtlander f/0.95 lens & a single 2K:

    Driftwood Quantum x v4b Orion CBR (HBR): I used this hack for a while on corporate shoots. For the shoots I was doing (interviews), the large file sizes seemed unnecessary. This hack failed on me a few times with grass and trees so it was scrapped.

    Driftwood Quantum x Orion v4d Dark Matter + HBR Fix CBR, Driftwood Quantum x v3 rocket RC 100+M, Driftwood Sedna Q20, Driftwood Span My Bitch Up v2b

    All of the above hacks failed on me on HBR, generally on grass and trees.

    Sanity 5 with Pasadena Pulse Audio v2 Beta:

    This hack has generally been rock solid. The only times it has failed have been situations which the creator had already warned of. That is:

    • Shooting EX-Tele. Often it works, however times where there is a lot of movement it may fail. For example, I was shooting off a boat using EX-Tele. The mix of Tele-EX & lots of moving water caused constant fails.

    • Shooting using very high ISO. Generally I stick between 160-1600 ISO. Over 2000 ISO is gets a big dodgy. The night sequences of the shoot below caused constant fails due to high movement & high ISO - we wanted it grainy though. We used the Voigtlander 25mm 0.95 & LED lights.

    Flowmotion v2.02 with Pasadena Pulse Audio v2 beta:

    When I want more information in the high and low-lights, more room for grading & finer grain I use this patch. Generally pretty stable, I like how it handles low-light and my editor mentioned that grading was much better. Here's a test we shot that had TONNES of highlights which generally held together:

    The above was shot with the NOSTALGIC setting - again, I'm not too happy with how this setting treats skin tones and highlights, but the hack held together well.

    As for low-light - this film was shot with SMOOTH & the Flowmotion patch and worked very nicely: It's a shame I can't post the entire film as it's doing festival circuits at the moment.

    So that's my experience and over-all workflow with this camera. Its been a great little camera, but I do often miss proper ENG style ergonomics - not to mention, built in ND filters! If anyone has any questions about what I mentioned, I'll try and answer them in batches.


  • 49 Replies sorted by
  • Cool - have fun shooting - Flowmotion is popular as it gives good results.

  • matt_gh2 Hey! Thank you very much for trying to help and suggestions. I understood why I was getting confused. Its just that depending on how you export the bit rate changes. (the most obvious thing in the world). Now comparing the files that are right on the card before and after it is 26Mb/s berfore and 99 now. So all good with the hack. I was getting 174 when I exported ProRes HQ. Problem solved))) Thank you again for helping to sort this out!

  • If you're getting 99 Mb/s, you definitely have a hack setting installed. It just may a different hack setting than the one that gave you 174 (there are many different types available and they vary in bitrate as well as other things like differing image characteristics.) If you just had the Panasonic regular firmware installed, it maxes at 24 Mb/s.

  • @matt_gh2 Thank you for your reply and suggestions. Since I last posted here (my previous note), I re-installed the hack. Turned out I didn't select the letter a-j and the patches did not load on correctly. Also the recording time went from 1hr:20min to just 20min, which hopefully means it worked. But....when I check bit rates i get completely confused, because turns out according to quicktime show movie inspector my pre-hacked gh2 was doing 174mbits after the hack its doing just 99....although i have to say that I do not remember which settings i used on the pre-hacked footage I am comparing with. I tried Streaparser but work on a mac and couldnt get to open through wine. Perhaps i'll un-hack and then repeat and see whats up. Thanks again!

  • @mche That's basically what I do. I check bitrate in Streamparser. Usually regular Panasonic set to 24H comes in at 20 Mb/sec. The hack settings I use come in at ~80 Mb/sec. Maybe reread FAQs on how to install hack settings, making sure not to miss any details. (Also you said FCP tells you 13 MB. If that's actually 13 Mb then hack setting not installed, but 13 MB is equal to 104 Mb and would indicate that it has been installed. I would guess FCP shows Mb (bit, vs byte), but I could be wrong.)

  • Hello! I hacked my gh2 with Flowmotion 2.02 or so I think. I went through the whole "body up" process and everything went fine. But I am not sure how to check if IT actually happened...if it actually is now hacked. When I load the file (test video) into fcp7 and go to "item properties" it says the data rate is 13 MB/sec...Another "red flag" that seems to indicate that something is not right and the hack is not working is that I am using a 16G card and I the camera shows that I can record for 1hr:20min. I thought with the hack it would be like 20min.

    Basically the question is: how do I check and make sure that the hack is working?

    Will appreciate any insight or suggestions.

  • Well it was over a year ago....

  • I get only: "Sorry but we couldn’t find the page you are looking for. Please check to make sure you’ve typed the URL correctly." when I click on the links in the OP. :(

  • @xenogears - either Flowmotion or Sanity that I mentioned. I shot some interviews recently on the Flowmotion hack. The GH2 was B-camera to the GH4. I got 45minutes recording with the Flowmotion hack with no dropouts. I was also impressed with the image quality of Flowmotion and the GH2. Still holds up.

  • @leejb4 sorry I don't have any video or stills available showing off the 42.5mm lens. The fact is, I don't use it that much anymore. Most of my work calls for faster setups so I use my 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G lenses almost exclusively.

    That being said, it's a fantastic lens with very similar image quality to the 25mm Voigtlander. It's a great portrait focal length too.


  • @a3yd These are the cards I was referring to:

    Now that I use the GH4, I use these faster cards and they haven't skipped a beat. I've recorded well over 1 hour's worth of 4k footage with no problems:

    The funny this is, when I bought my GH4 it came with a Panasonic approved 4k SD card ( Out of all the cards I've used, this is the most unreliable when shooting 4k! :-)

  • Anyone have a link to the exact SD card used in this post? Searching for a 'Sandisk 32GB Class 10 Extreme HD Video 30MB/s' turns up few cards with similar names.

  • Anyone use Driftwood Moon T7 with Pasadena Pulse Audio v2?

  • Good Morning @cblok ... I was wondering if you had any sample photos AND videos available for viewing that were taken with your GH2 and the 42.5mm. I have been contemplating the purchase of the lens because I am sure it will last for many years and work well on all M4/3 bodies, but just wanted to see some samples. Please let me know!

  • Most Hi bitrate settings allow both: Use H or FSH for Best quality or L/FH settings for lower quality, long durations & spanning

  • The Sanity hack works great on the GH2, even using inexpensive SC cards.

  • Hi cblok; NIce review!, i have one question i'm sure many GH2 user can answer me this; What hack allow me to playback in camera and high stability on recording? no need to be crazy high rates.

  • Hi @Jacekk I mostly shoot 24p on flo motion. HBR on Sanity X.

  • Flowmotion with Pasedena is new to me, how do I get the pasedena patch? Thanks again , am saving up for a 25mm voigtlander now!

  • Great review @cblok thank you so much - I'm curious at what frame rate you mostly shoot at with flo motion 24p or HBR? I know you said you shoot with both but what is the decider for you?

  • what hack would you recommend for HBR-PAL, i mean 25p recording?

  • @falconking this software : will let you know how the hack has applied to your camera.

  • @falconking The noticeable ways to see it is just looking at your record time, it should be a lot lower than usual because of the higher bitrate. You can also just look at the properties of the video files on your computer and see that the bitrate is higher. There are no "new controls" that you get from the hack. (You really should post this question in the flowmotion thread like Vitaliy said)

  • Hi. I recently bought my GH2 and decided to hack it with the flow motion v2 hack. But since I am new to this camera, I don´t know where to look to see the changes the hack has made in the system. I searched the entire site, but nobody explains how to operate the new features after the hack, they just explain them, but not how to find them in the camera menus. Can somebody please tell me where to find the new controls ? thanks !