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Does the camera really make a difference?
  • So we all like to talk about what camera is better and what features are must haves to make are content stand out from all of the rest. However, do we really know what matters and what doesn't? Do we really know how much dynamic range we need? Do we really know if 4K will make a difference?

    I recently had a chance to shoot video at the US Youth Sport Climbing Nationals along with several other people. Myself and one of the competitors were just shooting handheld home movie style for our own highlights videos. However, there was a crew there who was hired to shoot the official Highlights video. Since there are so many climbers not much was overlapped between all of our videos.

    I used my GH4 mostly but I always had the GH3 running as a backup with a wide angle lens in case I missed something. The other person was using a Canon T5i and the camera crew had full frame Canon cameras with rigs and stabilizers.

    It is pretty obvious that the extra time the camera crew put in for editing paid off. The overall editing of their video is what they really get paid for. However, I was really surprised at how different the Canon video looks to the Panasonic video. Even on youtube you can see that the extra bit rate that the original file has shines through. You can also see that the Canon cameras consistently clip the highlights in almost every scene. The GH4 only clips it in the scenes with direct sunlight shining through the windows.

    The video in my file was completely ungraded. It is straight out of the camera and just pieced together with the music. I started out shooting 4K @ 30 FPS because I wanted to see if the extra resolution would allow me to do image stabilization in post processing. I quickly realized that while the extra resolution is a plus the slower Auto Focus was a HUGE minus. With these shots the kids are moving constantly and changing direction during falls.

    You can see in the T5i video how often the focus goes out and comes back in. You really need good AFF for this type of video. Therefore, I switched to 1080p @ 60 FPS with a 1/120 shutter duration and 1080p @ 96 FPS for slow motion.

    I liked the fact that I could do super slow motion with the 96 FPS footage. However, there is a severe resolution drop when using that 1080p mode. In the end I found out that the 1080p @ 60 FPS mode really is the most versatile. It simply never loses focus and it still has significantly more resolution than any of the Canon cameras. It also retains all of the highlights in creative movie mode with the Cinema D setting.

    So what do you guys think? Everyone complains about the Panasonic cameras having 13 stops vs. 14 stops, or the lack of All-I for 4K, or the rolling shutter not being fast enough. Does that really matter? Isn't the significant resolution difference and compression artifacts of the Canon cameras a much bigger issue? Yet the professionals still shoot with the Canon cameras and get paid for it.

    So what do you like about the videos below and what do you dislike? I for one love the shallow depth of field of the larger sensor cameras. Even the mighty 35-100mm F2.8 doesn't give me the depth of field I would want on the GH4. However, I wouldn't trade that for the lack of resolution.


    Amateur T5i video. Remember to select 1080p in the youtube player for highest quality.

    Amateur GH4 and GH3 video. Mostly 1080p @ 60 FPS, with some 1080p @ 96 FPS, and 4K @ 30 FPS. Remember to select 1440p for highest quality.

    Amateur GH4 video. Almost all 1080p @ 60 FPS. Remember to select 1440p in the youtube player for highest quality.

    Professional Canon full frame video(I think. Could be APSC as well). Remember to select 1080p in the youtube player for highest quality.

  • 12 Replies sorted by
  • there are many factors to creating a good image…the biggest difference for me was when I used film for the first time about a year ago…stunning

  • The type of project dictates how much of a difference the camera makes. For event production the camera makes limited difference visually, but ENG style is favored for ease of use.

    Good coverage+framing+camera movement+shot selection+editing = professional result. It can be done with an iphone if you want to make a point. All the skills that go into a professional narrative are independent of the imaging device. When you have all those THEN the camera begins to make a difference.

    If you are lacking any of these skills the camera makes no difference. So...answer your own question.

  • @radikalfilm

    I guess what I am asking then is do you think the technical aspects detract from a well edited video? I like the editing and content of the pro video. However, I just couldn't help but get distracted by the artifacts and low resolution when I watched the video on my 1440p surface.

    I totally understand that bad editing is the most noticeable thing. However, lower image quality becomes very apparent with today's high resolution displays.

  • In the 4 videos posted above, the thing that I noticed most between them wasn't related to DOF or color space, but the quality of the shot itself. All the dynamic range in the world (or lack of it) takes a back seat to a stable shot... nothing distracts me more than shaky, handheld video.

    In terms of final product, the 4th video was far and above the best - due to the edit itself. Yes, the slider/jib movements are very nice, but i'm talking about the was it was cut together along with the choice of music. The 4th video tells a story, while the other 3 are basically endless shot after endless shot of a kid hanging from a rock.

    I suppose what I'm getting at is that the choice of camera is only one component in having a quality video - and very often, I see people spend hours agonizing over bit rate when they should be spending hours working on their editing skills, or working on their titles/graphics.

  • @mpgxsvcd Go watch the movie Virgil Bliss (available on Netflix and other places I'm sure). Technically, the image is "messed up". Think it was shot in SD and somehow image didn't hold up. But even knowing that, you get into the story within minutes and forget about the "messed up image". The tools are all available, and they're good enough, it's really about the content produced at this point.

  • @mpgxsvcd VHS breaks? yes they do detract :) ...from SD and up no. The camera hasn't been an issue for at least a decade now. If anything, the wide access to cameras has been an issue, if that makes sense. To jest, I have a better Panasonic camera than your GH4; it's called DVX100. When you'll figure out by yourself just how is my camera better than yours, you'll cease being distracted by artifacts on your 1440p tablet.

  • I have to wonder as far as view count and likes goes, which is one way to look at it, whether a hint of grunge, a camera shake, some grain etc makes the whole thing somehow more real and less processed, and therefore get more views. Certainly the top five vids on my channel all have technical issues, or used SD cams, bad lighting, etc, etc.

  • @DrDave well certainly! it would be freakish to film cats in a box with a dolly, HMI lighting and an Alexa! The masses have voted with Likes, the cats must offer an unmediated, transcedental, grungy grainy unlit experience. I'll crawl back in my corner now....

    Wtf are we even talking about anymore DrDave? So we have the OP presenting a faux dilemma "oh the pixelses they hurt my eyses my precious" We jump him good, tell him he's polishing a turd with moar pixelses.

    You now bring in the unthinking masses "Views! Likes! must be the grungy pixels"

    All the above are utterly disconnected perspectives, with unrelated ultimate motivations.

    I think it goes to show how different our understanding of the craft is; we all somehow ended up here on PV.

  • I think there is a deeper meaning here, which is that for some things, there is a risk of looking slick or overpolished, as if subconsciously we have been photoshopped into thinking anything that looks too good is unreal, or fake. So for a fantasy film, you might want that super polished, pixel perfect look, but for a live event, you might want it to somehow seem live.

    To think of it in terms of analogy, it is like a bit of visual folio.

    I'm not saying as the aritist one should apply even more fakery to make it look less fake, but one should factor in the impression that basically unlimited editing tools create.

  • This is a rabbit hole. Shake that camera until you get motion sickness if that relates to the masses as "realism" - "lame like us" (there's been a spy movie in recent years done like that - sorry I can't recall but it's part of a well known series - I couldn't watch it more than 5 min in). Use as many pixelses as technology allows. Use all the pixelses in the local group of galaxies. Spare me an SD raster, I'll take rectangular from the refuse bin.

    But tell a story.

    So we have the OP putting forward tech specs frame rates masturbation and when I clicky click on his product I see cross-dissolves between endless bad shots. Then he goes "theirs looks better because of editing, yeah that's where the budget went" to quote "It is pretty obvious that the extra time the camera crew put in for editing paid off. The overall editing of their video is what they really get paid for"

    OP the editing was done by an editor who likely wasn't even on set. Where was the set you ask? Well you were there as well. Are you saying the editor was/should be paid with like 90% of the budget? That he could use your takes/coverage and end up with a similarly looking product?

    OP kill me nowwwwww

  • I don't think it is a rabbit hole, I think it means that the editing tools give us choices that were unavailable ten years ago, and we need to make those choices wisely.

    For example, most CDs are over-edited. They are perfect, but they sound fake.

    Video editing is certainly at that point, as the software has become better and faster.

  • I'll stop replying after this one as I honestly don't understand what is the point you're trying to make. I don't care to have the last word. The way I see it, the more tools/choices you people have, the more unwatchable crap ends up on youtube. It's not about the tools. It's never been about the tools. Or not the tools you're referring to. It's about skills and understanding limits of tools. Look, I own a 4.5m jib/crane, a 7.5m dolly track, and literally half a ton of other gear. Those are tools, more valuable than any advances from CS6 to CC, however nice those might be. The people I work with, should they not have the tools above at hand, will improvise a set-up that achieves the goal, or not shoot. They will not go DSLR in hand to shoot a fly on a climbing wall ( just using the example at hand). We will shoot with cameras with 5 stop DR and the shoot will look better than the latest 13 stop DSLR in clueless hands. Our first question is what's the lighting situation, not how many pixels the camera has. We don't go in without a plan, even if it's an event we have no control over. I'm not even talking narrative here which is a different game altogether. Having said all that, there exists the odd "amateur" fellow who with a handheld camera and a sandbag gets shots and makes edits that give pause to professionals. There's one even on this forum, and I would hire him for 1000EUR/day for the right project.

    I think we operate in such different headspaces communication between us is meaningless. All we likely have in common is a GH2 patch. Even the reason we got the patch is different.

    I think everyone should clearly state his goals, in fewest sentences. Everything else is hubris. Like:

    I want views/likes on my channel. (fine, nothing to do with any notion of production).

    I want to masturbate to pixels and tech specs. (fine, it could have been car engines)

    I want to/I shoot professionally (fine, but lifelong learning curve)

    I want to tell a story (fine, but storyboard it first)

    I'm a geek with obsessions/spare time, this is my interest du jour (fine, knock yourself out, but don't sell yourself as something else if you want any respect).

    peace out.