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GH4 for theatrical feature films?
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  • @discomandavis

    It still looks like something is amiss with the compression. Really blocky.

  • There is, I didn't have time to fix it last night. Will put something new up tonight.

  • It mystifies me how people complain about the GH4's low light. I've shot with the original GH1 in low light situations! You can make it work.

    Plus it seems people quickly forget how bad other cameras are at low light, such as the RED One. Or more recently, the BMPC4K.

    Sure the GH4 is not the Sony A7s, but that camera is insane, and the GH4 is just fine with its low light capabilities!

  • I prefer the Sony A7s and the AX100 to the GH4, but there's lots of choices for "cheap high end." They are all way better than what we had a few years ago, and lighting and sets and other production factors are going to weigh more than sensors and lenses. If the Canon MKII was good enough to film House, the A7s is good enough for megahaus.

  • @DouglasHorn If you don't mind coming back to the discussion these few days later, I had a few follow-up questions and thoughts - possibly even recommendations. But first, a barrage of questions. :)

    You mentioned that noise moire and post-production workflow were question marks for you but you didn't mention anything about the primary demands you foresaw for the feature you were shooting. Anything you can mention about what the image quality and budget priorities are for the shoot would really help to ascertain what camera (or cameras) might be strongest for your needs.

    Is 4K a priority? Is dynamic range in situations with adequate light a priority? Is low-light shooting a priority? Is dynamic range a priority? Do you tend to need longer shooting times vs. more flexibility in post afforded by some form of RAW (or RAW-like) codec? Are you looking for a particularly sharp image or is it your intention that the camera provide a somewhat "flattering" take on detail, even with traditionally sharp lenses?

    And in terms of logistics, is there a need for the rapid setup time afforded by some smaller setups, or are there other limiting factors that would likely make that of limited value for you?

    On a related note, what were your primary qualms about working with RED cameras and which models did you use? My only experience with the RED range was with the RED Scarlet (MX not Dragon) and there were both pros and cons for me relative to working with a GH2, but in terms of image quality the clients were always happier with the Scarlet than the GH2, at least once it was graded to taste.

  • @onion @chauncy That was my post from a few months back. Turns out his "review" was nothing less than a total hit piece on the GH4. He showed absolutely no willingness to listen to any of the commenters who disagreed with his opinion in lieu of their own hands-on experience with the camera. His answer was basically "don't believe your lying eyes... I'm more experienced than you... 5DMKII blows this thing away." Basically an insult to anyone with eyes, a brain and nerve enough to question his results.

  • @thepalalias - Thanks for offering to share your thoughts. Sorry, I don't check in daily these days--I'm really trying to break the forum/social media addiction and get real work done...

    So my criteria are both general and specific because there is a specific project that I have in mind but I'm also interested in the general. But for your questions I'll mention my most pressing specific concerns.

    1) Overall quality - Will I finish shooting the movie and then turn in a film that will look artifact-heavy or otherwise not ready to hold up on theatrical screens?

    2) Post workflow - Will getting an acceptable image take an inordinate amount of work in post?

    3) Operational - Will my ACs or camera ops revolt because the camera is a royal pain operationally?

    4) DR - If my movie includes many scenes in harsh desert daylight and others in low-light "moonlight" nighttime, am I going to have a hard time with dynamic range?

    5) Codex robustness - If I want to do some serious color effects or have a few scenes with major VFX, is the codec up to giving a gradeable VFX-ready image?

    I would like to shoot a lot of desert exteriors in natural light if possible on this film. That's a pretty tall order in terms of DR, codec, etc. and of course that's not necessary on every theatrical film. I'm actually a big fan of the light weight and the smaller sensor size is not a problem for me as I personally think Full Frame is often too big and difficult to keep much in focus. I like the GH4's small size as I'd like to use gimbal systems on a lot of the movie. 4K is not a huge plus, but given what I've read here about the slight image improvement, I would probably shoot 4K so I had the luxury of this better footage, repos, and possibly future-proofing my opus by delivering in 4K.

    As to my concerns about RED - I've shot on a few models, but not the Dragon yet. I don't really like the color--it just never looks quite right to me. Again, I like a lot about the GH4 and whether or not it's right for theatrical is not the same as whether it's a good camera--or even whether it's right for a feature film that will be TV and VOD only. The theatrical space is its own beast.

    Thanks, I look forward to your thoughts.

  • @DouglasHorn That's definitely very helpful in terms of getting a bit more concrete in terms of recommendations. Keep in mind that this is my own perspective as someone that spent a lot of time helping test custom settings in-depth for DSLRs but has only shot a minority of my work on more expensive cinema cameras.

    While your points one and two might vary a bit depending on expectations and demands, your third, fourth and fifth criteria really help to zero in a bit.

    4) DR - If video dynamic range is a priority, then that greatly narrows the playing field. My first thoughts are Sony's higher end models, the RED range (which doesn't work well for you in terms of colors, so we'll rule that out), the ARRI range, the Canon C500 (less for the dynamic range in general and more for the highlight roll-off, which I listened to graders wax rhapsodic about) and certain members of the Blackmagic range. Depending on how soon you need it, the KineRAW and Panasonic Varicam 35 options might be worth considering - but I'll treat this as an "already in the field" comparison for now.

    5) Codec Robustness - Honestly, this is where I would express a strong preference for some flavor of RAW or wavelet raw (like REDRAW or Cineform RAW). I'm not sure if onboard recording is important to you, but I'll mention the models that support this first. Since we've ruled out RED in your case, that leaves some ARRI models with native ARRIRaw support (the ALEXA XT range), most of the Blackmagic products (the BMCC and BMPC4K seeming the most appropriate in your case). Once a recorder gets thrown into the mix, Sony has some powerful RAW options available in their higher-end offerings and while the Canon C500's are less impressive (white-balance is baked in, etc.) I've seen some very good grading done with it.

    Since you said neither 4K nor lowlight performance was much of a concern, we can't rule out much based on that. But so far we've been able to rule out the DSLRs and most of the least expensive cinema cameras (exempting the Blackmagic range). This brings us to point number three.

    3) Operational - I'm not sure what your ACs have been accustomed to in the past, but if it was a cinema camera wasn't a Blackmagic camera, then they might be happier with one of the non-Blackmagic offerings (more familiar workflow, etc.) if the difference in price wasn't an issue for you. If you can kit the it out a bit (external screen, etc.) it might help smooth the transition a bit but it's worth keeping mind. If your crew is used to working with something other than DSLRs, then 3 might be as much a reason to avoid them as 4 and 5.

    So far that leaves the ARRI ALEXA XT range (if you don't want an external recorder) and the Sony high-end range (if an external recorder isn't an issue) as the two most straightforward options in your case if money's not a concern. If money's more of an issue and/or your team is happy working with the Blackmagic range, you could save a lot of money that way and work with lighter cameras. And the C500 is worth a look to see if you like highlight roll-off, etc.

    I would say that the ARRI ALEXA XT and Sony high end range offer very clear advantages to the project you specified over the GH4 if neither the larger camera budget nor the larger camera size are an impediment. The same might be true of the other cameras I mentioned if the caveats aren't an issue.

    The GH4 is a very powerful camera for the money with a lot of great strengths but they really don't seem to be consistent with the priorities of your project.

    I hope that helps at least a little. I make no claims of hand-on expertise with the cameras I'm recommending - this is based on my interpretation of a combination of the readily available specifications and comments passed on to me by my peers. My own needs on a project would be very different and I might very likely choose a different camera, but the ones I suggested seem well-suited to what you specified.

  • @thepalalias - Thanks for putting so much thought into this response. Yes, that's pretty much what I've been thinking as well. I've shot with a number of these cameras. I love pretty much everything about the Alexa system and the C500 I don't really love, but it often turns out to be the right combination of cheap, light, and good for many projects. I'm not going to completely write off the RED--I will probably check out the Epic/Dragon and see if the colors are better or if I can live with them (and the post workflow).

    My main point in asking about the GH4 is that it is such an amazing camera system for the cost and weight that I would love to use it if possible. It makes it a lot easier for me to fly them around on copters or gymbal systems with stunts happening at close range. My assessment at the moment is that it's not quite there for me, but I'll reassess when I'm picking camera systems for this project. Hopefully in a few weeks-months. Perhaps something new will be available like the rumored RAW encoding. Or maybe Shogun recorders will have all the kinks worked out by then. I don't think it would be smart for me to be the test case for that with a lot riding on the project.

    Thanks again!

  • Perhaps give a second look at the Sony A7s? (remember, you don't have to shoot it in FF mode. You've got the option of APS-C)

    Not for its low light ability, but for its combination of dynamic range and low weight. Which I'm getting the impression is two of the most key factors for you.

    A few things to keep an eye on in the coming few weeks during the early part of next year:

    1) Panasonic bringing out new firmware for the GH4, a log profile is rumoured to be in the works.

    2) Sony's frantic pace of new cameras! Seems like every time I blink I then discover they've got a new one in the works. Most recently they released the A7mk2 which has IBIS! The A7S is still the better camera for filming with, but I suppose whenever they get around to a new A7Smk2 (probably only a few seconds away.... :-P ) that will get IBIS too (and internal 4K I'd presume?) which will make it an even more drool-worthy camera! They also have been shipping out their new FS7. And early next year there should be the new pro level A9 (and A7000), but also new camcorders coming too (which could make for a lighter/cheaper option to the FS7):

    3) Nikon D7200 which is coming out, I doubt it will be revolutionary. But who knows! Nikon has lately really been lifting their game when it comes to video in their cameras. (such as with their D800, D5200, D750, etc)

    4) The Atomos Shogun is now as of today finally shipping:

  • @IronFilm It would be very nice if they added 4K internal to that model and even in the current form the A7S would be one of the top choices for me if I had a gear budget lying around. But we shouldn't presume anything. I mean, many of the things that happened with the GH4 were things a lot of us had expected for the GH3 and some of the Sony models really took a long time to get decent video, so you can't really count on anything until it's actually there. But still, it will be nice if they add it.

    But honestly, the very thing for all the consumers is for the market to remain highly competitive. We want a fair amount of pressure on the manufacturers to keep making their higher end technology available at lower price points. I mean, look at Sony's last CineAlta camera before the F65 and then the F65 in terms of pricing - that was definitely a reflection of the increased competition. :)

    Anyway, getting back to what the OP was saying - the A7S might be nice in terms of dynamic range but it does not have the codec robustness at present of the more expensive options discussed. There's a fairly significant gap between the 12-bit wavelet REDRAW acquisition or some of the other RAW or pseudo RAW formats vs. what even the external recorders can provide if we are talking about especially serious post-work, let alone vs. the 8-bit or 10-bit lossy compression that's often on offer with the DSLRs.

  • @DouglasHorn If you're not completely writing off the RED line, then keep in mind that the Dragon has the widest dynamic range of any camera tested so far. Personally, I don't often find the colors of a given camera to be a major issue (exempting some major over-saturation in a handful of super inexpensive ones), but then I make my evaluations after the graders are finished, not off the raw footage (which can vary much more widely). In terms of the post-workflow for RED, I like the compression characteristics of the codec a lot and really the only that's in the same league for me is Cineform RAW (which unfortunately is only used in a handful of cameras). Both of them use so much less space than Cinema DNG but I honestly do not have the experience with ARRIRAW to talk intelligently about it one way or the other.

    Anyway, that's enough of my rambling - good luck with the project either way. :)