4K video production

Ninja blade screen showing on screen display features
Some of the on-screen video exposure features of the Ninja Blade

To enable higher quality video production and 4K filming and editing I’ve added some new kit to my gear list:

The latest addition to my filmmaking equipment kit list includes the Lumix GH-4 which now allows me to film higher quality 4K footage. I’ve really enjoyed filming with the Lumix GH-3 for the last year and am looking forward to the higher quality images from the GH-4. The GH-4 will now enable me to shoot 4K and then either transcode down to 1080p for editing or edit in 4K and use FrameFlex to pan and scan for 1080p delivery. Either way, I will be able to produce higher quality images.

It will be interesting to explore my 4K Avid post-production work-flow in more detail and I look forward to uploading my first native 4K edited short in the coming weeks.

Compact kit

As a freelance videographer when travelling around the UK and Europe filming it is important for me to be able to carry my filming and lighting kit on different forms of both private and public transport. With the small size and light weight of the Lumix cameras ensures I can now carry two cameras in my filming bag along with my sound recording equipment, grip and LED lights. This enables me to film two different framed shots of interview type setups which can really help in the edit especially if you are cutting between the same person in vision.

I’ve been able to greatly improve the visual quality of my filmed interviews with the shallow depth of field that the GH-3 offers and that has been helped by adding both a soft-box and grid on my key light LED panel. The soft-box gives a far nicer look to the image rather than using the LED panel on its own. I’ve also been using an additional LED panel to ‘cut out’ the interviewee with a close proximity back-light.

External digital recorder

Another addition to my kit has been the Atomos Ninja Blade. I was recently co-producing, co-directing and filming a music video. We built a black box space in the filming studio using a scaffolding rig and black wool serge. To light the set I rigged and installed 4 x watt lights (with fresnel lenses) and 4 x 650-watt profile lights that were all connected to two 3-way dimmers and a three-phase mains supply. I wanted to make sure that I was exposing the performer’s skin tones accurately so brought the Ninja Blade to help with that. Connected to the GH-3 via an HDMI cable I was able to check the luminance levels and make sure I wasn’t under exposing or over exposing the shot. I was reassured to be seeing the recorded image on a slightly larger screen which also helped me to check the focusing with its focus assist. The Ninja Blade also saved me a lot of time in the edit as I could record the HDMI output of my GH-3 as Avid DNX based media on its internal SSD. I could then avoid the transcode process when I started editing with the filmed footage in my Avid.

It was interesting to note that the DNX180 media from the Ninja Blade OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD cards had deeper blacks than the .mov files that the GH-3 created on its San Disk SDHC card. I believe that the GH-3 HDMI output is still 8-bit so I assume that the quality difference is that of the DNx 180 media as opposed to the 1080p.mov. As you can see from the picture the Ninja Blade can also record higher resolution DNx 220 if required.

All the shots from the music video looked great with no hot spots so I think the Ninja Blade really helped me expose that black box shoot correctly. Most of the time I mounted it on the hot shoe of the GH-3 which was fine on the tripod. I will be looking at the half cage options for the GH-4 so that I can mount the monitor on my fig rig or another motion-based grip.

By filming in 4K I can test and explore the 4K workflow process. This enables me to ensure that I can deliver in either HD or 4K as requested by my clients. Even if projects do not require delivery in HD I can still improve my HD output image quality when filming in 4K.

The Atomos Blade can now also be used to help me monitor my GH-3 shot if need be on a long HDMI cable when I am filming with two cameras.

Modern technology is really helping me to create very professional creative work to broadcast standards.

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Julian Langham

Julian started his career in media in 1994; shortly after Julian was invited to join the BBC where he was quickly promoted to Editor. Julian left the BBC to develop his freelance career in 2009. Highly-practised and skilled in constructing engaging narratives, Julian’s key strength is his ability to produce strong visually-led stories. In his work, Julian shares his passion for creating powerful synergies between story content, visual rhythm and music.