HD video can be captured with the following options with various cameras:
frame capture rates of 24, 30, 60 fps for NTSC and 25, 50 fps if PAL with 24/25 being preferred for those wanting a more film-like appearance, 30p is not a preferred rate.
if you capture at 60/50 fps then one can get a 2x slow motion video from it. If it was possible to capture 720p at 120 fps you could get 5x slow motion 24p.
video is progressive (p) if all frames are full frames, or interlaced (i) if each frame only captures half the lines on each image.
full HD resolution is 1920×1080 pixels (1080i) while standard HD resolution is 720p
motion jpeg records a series of still jpeg images and thus is easily edited on most computers but does take up a lot of disk space. This also enables it to track high-speed action at 30fps without any of the smeared motion artifacts that plague low-bitrate AVCHD videos. The MJPEG encoder also excels in difficult low-light conditions where the AVCHD encoder cuts down its bitrate to minimum quality levels
AVCHD is a compressed format which utilises the differences between stills, with the 1st image being the i-frame, and subequent frames are stored as P frames but only the data that has changed is encoded. this causes issues with rapidly changing imagery such as a panning camera or moving subjects. The quality is dependent upon various factors including the Group of Pictures (GOP) setting and whether B-frames and D-frames are utilised. Lowering the GOP makes it more like motionJpeg.
the new AVCHD 2.0 specs allow for 1920x1080p 30/50/60 fps 4:2:0 at up to 28Mbps plus 3D support – the forthcoming Panasonic GH-3 is expected to adopt this.
color and brightness can be encoded as either 4:2:2 sampling (requires more processing) or 4:2:0 sampling
sampling quality is generally indicated by megabits per second (Mbps) of image recorded – most current cameras by default record at 13-17Mbps, although the unhacked Panasonic GH-2 records at 23Mbps. Hacking of the firmware is often done to increase this rate to 35-100Mbps but at risk of issues with recording to cards (may require faster cards) and in-camera playback compatibility.
higher quality means you may need a faster SD card, and you should consider formatting the card in camera prior to shooting HD video to minimise card fragmentation.
The AVCHD video of the Panasonic GH-1 gave only 17Mbps quality and this resulted in mud artefacts on motion.
Firmware hacking software for Panasonic GH-2, and GH-1:
Fortunately, the firmware was soon hacked and this hacking has now matured and is virtually risk free thanks to the PTool sofware to the point that it now offers the following features:
works on all Panasonic GH1 and GF1 cameras, both hacked and unhacked
camera switchable between NTSC and PAL modes, in all interface languages.
removes 30min time limit for AVCHD videos
removes limit on batteries so you can buy batteries from other than Panasonic
ability to restore to initial firmware easily or switch between firmwares – just have a different version on each SD card and install as needed!
Expanded video and audio buffers to guard against recording failures at high bitrates
15-frame GOP-size in both PAL Native 25p and NTSC Native 24p video modes
Standard patch: 30Mbps iPad-compatible VGA MJPEG mode records in 960×720 resolution.
Anamorphic patch: 65Mbps 2X anamorphic VGA MJPEG mode records in 1920×720 resolution.
apparently recommended for night, or indoor videos
will not playback in camera if MJPEG or if high bitrate AVCHD.
AVCHD 4GB file-spanning for long video takes may not work reliably at high bitrates. For reliable recording of takes longer than about 12 minutes, select the “H” video mode instead of “SH”. This will produce average bitrates of about 24Mbps in 720p25/30 modes.
For extended recording times at moderate bitrates, selecting the “L” video mode instead of “SH” will produce bitrates below 17Mbps.
If shutter speed is set longer than the frame rate (e.g. slower than 1/30 at 30p), low-quality video files may be produced
While AVCHD bitrates may drop to very low levels in extremely dark situations, the 1080p FHD modes should continue to record even in total darkness. 720p SH modes may stop recording if subjected to darkness for over 10 seconds at a time.
GH2 maintains error-free recording stability at bitrates significantly exceeding those that can be used reliably on the GH1. And where the GH1 struggled to produce FHD-size videos in MJPEG mode, the GH2 can be readily patched to record in any MJPEG frame size, all the way up to 1920x1080p.
On the GH1, MJPEG HD mode could be relied on to produce bitrates over 24Mbps even in dimly-lit scenes. With patch settings optimized for consistent bitrate production, the GH2 can maintain high bitrates of up to 100Mbps across the entire exposure range, producing high-quality images under any and all illumination levels. Combined with the GH2′s low-noise image sensor, MJPEG HD mode can render clean, gradable images in conditions that the GH1 would have found hopelessly underexposed.
Panasonic has just announced it will be developing a world first twin digital interchangeable lens – a compact, twin 3D lens for instant 3D video and still photos.
The 3D lens will be similar to that on its new 3D HDC-SDT750 camcorder and will project dual images onto the sensor and allow instant creation of 3D video compatible with its 3D VIERA televisions and 3D Blu-Ray TM disc players.
In the camcorder version, the 3D images result from capturing the right and left images (each with 960 x 1080 pixels) that enter through the lenses and are recorded using the side-by-side method.
If this same method is used in M43 cameras, one would assume new cameras or at least new firmware would be needed to record this, and still images perhaps would be limited to 960×1080 pixels.
If you are a Panasonic GH-1 user and wanting the highest quality video – you can now have it courtesy of a free firmware hack by tester13 but please, if you use it, make sure you donate some money to him because this firmware hack is said to be truly amazing – yes – even better image quality than the full frame Canon 5D Mark II.
I must admit, I have not installed it myself yet as I mainly shoot at 720p 50fps motion jpeg as it suits my needs and I am happy to wait a little longer for resolution of a couple of the issues outlined below.
AVCHD may be the latest and greatest HD video compression for consumers but it is not easy to work with, and on the GH-1 without the firmware hack moving subjects or panning tends to result in mud artefacts.
The official GH-1 firmware limits HD video to 17Mbps data rate with options of AVCHD 1080i at 50/60fps derived from native 25fps, or 720p at 50/60fps in either AVCHD or MJPEG.
The firmware hack allows an astounding 50Mbps data rate at 1080/30p MJPEG (detailed scenes with sharp lenses and wide depth of field may deliver up to 70Mbps data from the sensor but then tends to crash the system – they are working on how to limit the data rate to 50Mbps), or 32Mbps AVCHD 1080/native 24p (although currently videos shot in this mode crash the camera on attempting to play them back and you may need to remove the battery to reboot the camera – but seems this has been fixed here). Some users are achieving 80Mbps at 720 30p on Class 10 SD cards.
The GH-1 50Mbps video images are cleaner than the Canon 5D Mark II at 35Mbps partly due to the fact the GH-1 bins the pixels to down- res the 12mp sensor whereas the Canon skips lines to down res its 22mp sensor, and partly as the MJPEG gives less compression artefacts than the Canon’s H.264 codec.
Surprisingly, it seems the GH-1 can write data to the SDHC card at over 8MB/sec which is almost double the Canon 5D Mark II’s rate. The other good news is, you only need a Class 6 SDHC card and not the more expensive Class 10 SDHC cards as one would think.
Be warned though, at 50Mbps 1080p MJPEG, you only get about 2 minutes 39sec of recording until the 2Gb file size limit is reached, and you no longer have the option of shooting in smaller file sized official 17Mbps video without re-installing firmware and incrementing the firmware another integer. Furthermore it seems in 720 mode you can now only get 30fps not 50/60fps but they are working on this.
Finally, Remember…version numbers cannot roll back which may have implications for future official firmware releases.
Post-script: it is possible that the latest production of GH-1 cameras which come with v1.3 firmware pre-installed MAY NOT allow updating the camera with the firmware hack – see here. I am sure if this is the case, there will soon be a way around this.
Carl Zeiss has just announced a new cine lens – the Lightweight Zoom LWZ.2 – which has an image circle of 24.9×18.7mm for ANSI 35mm cine which is just larger than APS-C Canon and DX Nikon sensors, and obviously large enough to cover Micro Four Thirds camera sensors as well.
Interestingly, Zeiss has decided on designing it with interchangeable mounts – in Nikon F, Canon EF and cine PL mounts so that videographers can change their cameras to give a different look or feature set without having to buy new lenses.
Of course, this need for interchangeable mounts did not apply to Micro Four Thirds camera users anyway as they can buy an adapter to use practically any mount lens, including cine PL mount.
Although they call it “Light Weight”, it is 2kg – much too heavy for hand held work with a small Micro Four Thirds camera, but it would be awesome on the recently announced Panasonic professional camcorder for Micro Four Thirds!
This lens has a focal length range of 15.5 to 45mm at T 2.6 aperture
Why spend all that money on one of these lenses when it will only be manual focus anyway?
There is a good reason for the discerning videographers out there who usually do not use auto focus anyway but need the following features which these lenses provide (assuming it has the same feature set of the Compact Prime CP.2 lenses):
easy manual focus via longer focus rotation
consistent manual focus distances unlike dSLR USM lenses which are unreliable in manually setting a focus to the distance scale – a critical exercise in professional videography
ability to attach geared follow focus equipment to manually focus and adjust iris
cine-style housing dimensions for compatibility with existing cine equipment
iris diaphragm has an incredible 14 rounded blades (most current dSLR lenses use 8 or 9) to ensure it remains as circular as possible at all apertures to give circular out of focus images and thus contributes to more aesthetic and “natural” bokeh
T style aperture which presumably is step-less to ensure changes in brightness are subtle
superb image quality, free of distortions with T* XP multi-layer coatings to reduce flare
Carl Zeiss are also revising their Compact Prime CP.2 lenses which cover a 35mm full frame sensor without vignetting, and which have a common maximum aperture of T2.1 – more on these here. A set of 6 prime lenses will set you back $US20,000.
The Micro Four Thirds camera system has taken the still photography world by storm, and the Panasonic GH-1 HD video camera is the ONLY dSLR-like camera that can continuously autofocus during HD video, but as good as this camera is, it lacks a number of features which professional videographers really want.
Enter the newly announced Panasonic AG-AF100 AVCCAM HD professional camcorder which will shake up the whole video industry by introducing a professional level tool, with a Micro Four Thirds sensor size (4x larger than a RED Scarlet video camera and much larger than most HD video camcorders), and with the ability to use industry standard Micro Four Thirds lenses, and via adapters almost any lens ever made. They say it is scheduled to ship by end of 2010, no pricing yet although it is said to be ~$US6000, so you can bet it will be MUCH cheaper than a RED Scarlet.
No wonder Kodak, Fuji, Sanyo and Sigma have decided to join forces with Panasonic and Olympus in extending this incredible new photography system.
The features which are driving excitement amongst the videographers and which have been announced here include:
Micro Four Thirds 16:9 MOS sensor for shallow depth of field and high image quality
Micro Four Thirds lens mount
uses advanced professional AVC/ H.264 Hi Profile AVCHD codec compatible with a wide range of editing tools and affordable players
records 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) and 720/60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) in AVCHD’s highest-quality PH mode (maximum 24Mbps). Ready for global production standards, the camcorder is 60Hz and 50Hz switchable. (GH-1 AVCHD modes only records 1080/60i,50i, 720/60p,50p and at only 17mbps data).
built-in ND filtering
dramatically reduced video aliasing
HD-SDI out and HDMI – now you will not be limited to AVCHD compression but can record uncompressed video via an external recording device – now that is awesome!
time code recording
built-in stereo microphone
two XLR mic inputs with +48V Phantom power capability
48kHz / 16 bit two channel digital audio recording, support for LPCM/Dolby AC3
dual SDXC memory card slots (can use SDHC cards as well) so that 2x 64Gb SDXC cards will allow 12 hours recording at maximum 24mbps video rate in PH mode
I presume it will not have a power zoom, but then I would imagine most professionals wouldn’t use that feature anyway.
I went on a modified storm chase today hoping to get to a vantage point and take some storm and lightning shots.
Unfortunately the rain clouds kept coming after the main storm producing low cloud and preventing vision of the cumulonimbus structures or the lightning, so I headed to my favorite forest to smell the Eucalypt leaves in the air after the rain and watch the hurried activity of the ants coping with the flash flooding.
For those who have not been to Australia, one of the conspicuous features of Australian fauna is the ubiquitous bullant – short for bulldog ant as it aggressively defends its nest and has a nasty little sting in its tail which may be lethal to those who are allergic to it.
The bullant species belongs to the ant genus Myrmecia which only exist in Australia, apart from a rare species in New Caledonia, and its nearest relative is a fossilised ant which lived some 135 million years ago.
The most common species of the bullant in my area is a medium sized black ant approximately 1cm long and which creates a nest often 1-2 metres in diameter at the surface, and often on gravel paths in forests.
We also have much larger bullant species and I had the pleasure of watching them busy at the entrance of their nest while I was waiting for the rain to stop.
I decided I would try out continuous AF of the Panasonic GH-1Micro Four Thirds camera with its unique 14-140mm 10x zoom lens which is the only dSLR-like camera – lens combination which allows continuous autofocus during HD video.
The light was very poor necessitating ISO 1600 and 1/80th sec at f/5.8 at 140mm focal length and white balance was set to cloudy, video set to 720p motion jpeg, while digital zoom was set to 2x which in effect gave me focal length reach of ~ 560mm in 35mm terms, and this was hand held.
The continuous autofocus was surprisingly good given such magnification and a relatively fast moving ant which measures only 2-3cm in length.
I had to make sure they didn’t crawl onto my feet as I was only 2 feet from their nest and they have good eyesight and aggressively chase away and sting intruders.
The short unedited video complete with rain drops in the audio can be seen on Youtube here.
One could have used intermittent autofocus but this would have been difficult with the ant running around so much and would add noises of the half-press of shutter button to the audio track.
Now that we are getting cameras with HD video capability and some of us are getting enthused into the prospects of becoming videographers as well as photographers, we need to also look at the other half – the audio recording which is also a critically important aspect of the video but which is rather neglected by the current cameras.
The Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera does its best to make it possible to capture good quality audio without any accessories or post-production.
The GH-1 is the only digital camera with interchangeable lenses which has a built-in stereo mic, external mic input, and a superbly quiet lens, BUT even this camera does not give you adequate control over your audio (unless firmware updates correct this – and hopefully they will soon) – there is no audio level meter and no method to alter these levels as the camera always uses an automatic level.
In addition, no matter how quiet the lens, if one wishes to adjust any other feature on the camera during recording such as manual exposure, the on-board mics will pick up the clicks.
The situation is worse on the other dSLRs with video, as none have silent lenses for AF, and none have built-in stereo mics, only some have an external mic port, and none have manual audio level controls (unless you use the unauthorised, warranty-breaking hack firmware for the Canon 5DMII).
One of the best solutions appears to be using a stand alone audio recording device to simultaneously record audio while the camera records both video and audio. The files can then be easily synchronised in video editing software and the camera’s audio muted.
With this in mind, I have decided to purchase the highly recommended audio recorder – the Zoom H4N which can produce incredible sound with its special stereo mics and with the option of using 2 external mics via XLR inputs including phantom powered mics.
This device then allows you to get it close to your subject and away from your camera’s noise (and your noise) and can even record 4 channels and mix them with special effects and preamps before saving them on a SD card as high quality WAV or MP3 files.
The Zoom H4N was particularly designed for musicians so they can plug in their guitars, and there is built-in metronome and tuners to assist them which adds to its versatility.
You can also use this for lectures, etc as it has a nice auto record function which starts recording when a sound level is reached and stops it when silence occurs.
OK, the Panasonic GH-1 is NOT in the same league for video capability for sports when compared to a Sony EX-1, or a RED video camera, but then it is about 2-10% of the cost, size and weight of these cameras and so can play a significantly different role.
Last night, I decided to drop in on a night football game under lights and give the GH-1 a quick test to see how it would do under these demanding conditions.
I was seated in the highest tier seats quite a long way from the action, and certainly not an ideal position – here is a shot from my seat using the GH-1 mounted to the Canon EF 17mm TS-E tilt shift lens(as usual click on it to open a larger image) – remember, in 35mm film terms, this is actually a 34mm field of view not 17mm – so you can see I was a LONG way from the action:
The first video I shot of the St Kilda players bursting through their banner at the other end of the ground – some 200m away, was unfortunately a bit jerky due to my poor panning technique hand held, BUT it shows how good the 2x digital zoom is in video mode. This video has a 35mm equivalent field of view the same as if one was using a 546mm f/5.8 super telephoto – but all I had was the compact, light GH-1 with Lumix 14-140mm HD lens – quite remarkable!
These videos were taken in motion jpeg at 1280×720 at 30fps then converted by YouTube into their format. Sound is via built-in mic. This was with v1.0 firmware – I have not yet updated this to v1.1 which should give even smoother movies and AF. Furthermore, the 720p AVCHD video mode with its 50 fps capture should give a smoother result for action as long as the panning is not too fast and there is not too much background detail (grass should be OK), as this combination causes artefacts in AVHCD.
PLEASE NOTE: If the videos look blocky on your screen, it is because of the YouTube conversion, and you certainly don’t get to see the videos how they appear on my computer at full 1280×720 resolution.
You would have to agree, very impressive for such a lens and telephoto reach.
At half-time I decided to walk to the bottom level and take a couple of shots from the back row.
First, here is an example of how surprisingly fast the contrast detect AF is. I saw the ball coming to my side of the ground and quickly turned the camera on (already zoomed to 140mm and in Manual metering mode at ISO 3200 with AF mode in single central AF area), and before I could see anything in the EVF I had half-pressed the shutter for a split second hoping AF would kick in, and then pressed the shutter. Not an ideal way to take a shot, but look how good it came out:
Now, you have to admit, that is pretty good AF and what noise at ISO3200? Who cares about it?
When you can achieve this at 280mm telephoto reach with such a small package, noise at high ISO just doesn’t matter! The best camera will always be the one you bring with you.
Now for a demonstration of poor novice panning and with no digital zoom this time, but this video demonstrates that the GH-1 can AF for sports during HD video, and, with a little practice, you can manually zoom and then re-acquire AF. No dSLR such as a Canon 5DMII or Nikon D90/D5000 can do this (of course if the action wasn’t as fast and the people closer, I could have used face detection AF as well).
So, if I can manage to do videos like these, anyone can!
One day I might learn a bit about videography and do some really nice videos and make use of the GH-1′s shallow depth of field and ability to use Lens Baby lenses, etc.
The firmware updates for the GH-1 and for the Lumix 14-140mm HD lens can be found here.
It would be nice if Panasonic would update firmware to add a few extra movie mode options:
improved AVHCD – using B-frames and perhaps option of higher bit rates than 17mbps
additional frame capture rates for ease in combining with other videos – eg. Sony Ex-1 offers 1920×1080 at 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p, while 1280×720 at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p.
1080 24P native recording mode
option to use fn button to toggle 2x digital zoom ON/OFF
ability to capture a still image even if mode dial set to creative movie – currently if you want to set aperture, shutter, ISO for movies, you must be in creative movie mode but this does not allow still image capture, you must move the dial to any other mode to allow this
live video out – so can use external device to monitor video capture
There is no denying, that for all its faults, the Canon 5DMII, now with its firmware update to enable manual control of shutter, aperture and ISO during video, has become a popular dSLR video camera.
It allows high quality video with low image noise at high ISO, and shallow depth of field which is just not possible on consumer camcorders.
Unfortunately, though, its not really designed as a video camera which makes taking quality videos a touch more difficult – unlike the Micro Four Thirds options such as the Panasonic GH-1 and Olympus E-P1, there is no image stabilisation and no auto focus during video, furthermore there is no electronic viewfinder as on the GH-1, so you are forced to use the rear LCD screen which makes manual focus more difficult and perhaps worse, keeping the camera steady hand held, much more difficult.
Fortunately, there are some after market options which videographer Philip Bloom has just created a blog on and which I felt is worth mentioning here:
The Hoodloupe 3.0 and Zacuto Z-finder V2 – a couple of options to help you view the LCD screen in daylight and at the same time allow it to be held to the eye to help steady the camera.