Finally got to jump the GH2!

As soon as the church service was over, I ran outside to check the sky. I have not been able to get out to the Parachute Center, AKA Lodi, for a couple of months due to weathered out Sundays, my day of ‘rest.’
It was iffy, but I decided to head out anyway because I could not bare waiting any longer.
I have had a Panasonic GH2 for about a month and have been very anxious to jump it to see how it performs on freefall.
It was a good call, driving out. We only got 7500’ on my first jump, but full altitude on the second. The clouds made spectacular background.
GH2 performed well. The built-in stabilization kicked in, smoothing out the video a bit. I still had to use the FCP Smoothcam to make it silky smooth. The resolution is noticeably higher than T2i. The video looked quite sharp even if I had to zoom in a bit during post.
The footage color graded nicely. The kit lens looked crisp during freefall, almost TOO much. I will try the lower quality Computar lens next time to see if I can get more filmy look.
Overall, I am very happy with GH2. It’s much better than T2i for freefall videography. It’s smaller, sharper and has more features for what I do. The two biggest features I find is very useful are,
(1) Being able to look through the viewfinder or in a Liveview mode.
(2) Being able to manual focus quickly by zooming in 10x with one button.
Oh.. this just might be the first freefall footage ever taken with GH2!

$18 Computar 6mm f1.2 lens!

Okay, okay. I need to get out and shoot some “real” footage instead of running around the store like a lemming in a cage, but heck, it’s better than nothing! Since I am a cheapskate, I am always looking for bargains. When this $18 lens popped up on eBay, I was not even sure if it was going to fit GH2, but for something that was so cheap, I had to take a chance. I was ecstatic when it fit my existing C-mound adapter! It even focuses to infinity without any modification, unlike it was for 12.5mm Computar.
Anyway, the footage is a little worse than I expected. I did not anticipate so much distortion and CA on the edges in 1:1 crop mode, since the crop modes uses only the ‘good’ center parts of the lens. Also, just like for 12.5mm Computar, it gives really funky blocky kind of noise in dark areas. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of a cheap lens or GH2. I need to run some tests. Denoiser in post can clean up good parts of it, but not all. When it all fails, I guess I can always crush the blacks!

Converting 720p 60 fps footage into true slow motion for FCP

Converting 720p 60 fps footage from Canon T2i is pretty easy using Apple Cinema Tools. It’s just a matter of opening the file and pressing a button.
With GH2, however, it’s not so simple since Cinema Tools can not open MTS files written by GH2.
The first thing that has to be done is to convert the MTS files into ProRes with Final Cut 7, THEN use the Cinema Tools.
The easiest way to convert the files is to use the FCP’s built-in Log and Transfer function.
Phil Bloom shows quite nicely how it’s done here.

Update:  I have switched to Premiere Pro CS6 recently (July, 2012), AFTER this blog was written.  Above rule does not apply to Premiere since I no longer transcode MTS files to ProRes.  Premiere, however, can conform 60 fps files directly to 24 fps within the time line.  This Vimeo video shows how it’s done very nicely.

Panasonic GH2 with Computar 12.5mm CCTV lens

There is a hair stylist not far from my house who is very film-able personality. I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out my newly acquired Computar 12.5mm f1.3.
She, however, didn’t want have anything to do with it, so I was stuck with video’ing just the kids. I was anxious to see how the lens performed indoors with whatever lighting that was available.
Fast lens are really expensive for GH2. Computer 12.5mm CCTV f1.3 is faster than pretty much anything else out there, and it costed me only $39! Add a $10 C-mount adapter, and voila, I have an excellent low light indoor lens!
Vignetting is too noticeable at the standard setting, so I used it in 1:1 crop mode.
Color grading with Colorista II tend to bring out quite a bit of noise from the shadows so I had to denoise the footage after grading. I was pretty careful with highlights so I would not blow them out, which is a true sign of a footage that looks videoish.
I think the clip below, so far, has been my most successful attempt to make GH2 look very filmy. The lens is not really sharp, but that’s okay since it tend to soften the image bit more like film. Now I really need to try this camera skydiving. I am anxious to find out how well it can handle the range in a harsh high noon sunny setting.
The focus ring set at infinity does NOT enable the camera to focus to inifinity. To overcome this, a screw under the focus ring pad needs to be taken out. It, then, can be turned beyond the infinity mark, enabling the camera to focus to infinity.

Here’s the location of the screw that needs to be taken out to achieve infinite focus. The rubber focus pad can simply be pushed out of the way to have access to the screw. No other parts need to be touched.
Screw that needs to be removed to achieve infinite focus on Computer 12.5mm

Panasonic Lumix GH2 under the sunlight

I usually work on Saturdays, but I decided to take a day off and bring my two sons to a 2011 California Yo-Yo contest. I “lost” money in doing so, but heck, life if short. They are growing up fast and the main thing they are going to remember me by is me working on weekends, and I probably would do anything to buy those times back. They really enjoyed the outing, and as usual, I could not resist video’ing the surrounding with my new toy — GH2. The footage didn’t look so good on a cheap Panny viewfinder while filming, but the actual turned out much better than I thought it would. I opened the kit lens all the way up at ISO 160 and adjusted the shuttle speed accordingly, between 1/50 to 1/125. Everything was shot flat as possible (-2 in everything) and color graded with Magic Bullet Looks and Colorista II afterwards. Most Magic Bullet users tend to oversaturate everything because they can. My goal is to simply enhance the footage, making it pleasing to the eyes, but not so much that it’s obvious that it’s color manipulated. That’s the problem with many block buster movies lately as well. Colorists tend to show off their skills rather than enhancing the footage.