Last weekend I bought a new camera, a Panasonic Lumix GH4, for video work. This camera is a technological marvel and an amazing value. I researched it carefully online before making the purchase and I’m pleased to say it not only meets, but exceeds, my expectations. In this post, I’ll give some highlights on the features I like and end with a tutorial on speed remapping in Premiere Pro CC 2014.
Lots of Great Features for Shooting Video (and Stills)
One of the features that clinched the deal for me is the ability to shoot 4K video without an external recorder. I don’t have any immediate plans to produce 4K content but the ability to shoot in 4K provides several important advantages for HD delivery. There’s the ability to make major crops in post which opens up lots of creative framing options. Similarly, it provides the ability to pan & scan; i.e., to simulate camera moves in post. 4K has an advantage in reducing noise. Also, when applying stabilization in post you end up with a cropped version of your footage. If you’re shooting in 1080p for delivery in 1080p you can’t zoom in as tightly if you think you might want to stabilize in post. But when shooting in 4K for delivery in a lower resolution it’s no problem.
Native 4K shooting is just one of a long list of features that makes this micro four-thirds camera a terrific value. Here’s more:
- Two levels of focus peaking
- Automatic super-zoom in (to your choice of several zoom levels) for manual focusing
- Articulated touchscreen (tap on it to select the spot to focus on)
- Variable frame rate up to 96 fps (camera automatically delivers the retimed footage at the chosen frame rate for a finished slow-motion effect; e.g., 24, 25, 30 fps)
- Free remote control apps for iOs and Android
- Up to 7-shot auto-exposure bracketing (great for HDR)
- Up to 12 frames/sec burst mode for still photography
- Built-in time lapse
Panasonic Lumix GH4 Reviews
The list goes on. If you want more info check out the Panasonic Lumix GH4 product page. And see these reviews:
- Dave Dugdale’s outstanding, in-depth video review of the GH4 with a primary emphasis on using it for video (I also recommend his 5-hour Panasonic GH4 Getting Started in Video course)
- DP Review’s written review of the GH4 done in their usual thorough style
- Nick Stubb’s excellent detailed video review of the GH4
Now that I’ve had my hands on the camera for a few days I’m pleased to say that I find the user interface to be quite well done. The camera has myriad options which take a while to learn but the process of going through the menus feels quite natural. One way the camera makes things easier for the user is by providing multiple ways to do things. For example, you can typically change settings using either the joypad (4-way controller), the command dial controls (aperture/shutter speed) or by using the touchscreen. Any of these methods can be used at any time so you can work the menus in the way that’s most natural or convenient for you.
Time Remapping in Premiere Pro CC 2014
I took my new GH4 to the Irvine train station a couple of days ago in search of something interesting to shoot. It turns out that departing trains build speed really slowly so watching a train leave the station isn’t the most interesting thing. In an attempt to make it less boring I remapped time progressively in Premiere Pro so that the shot starts out at a normal speed and immediately begins speeding up until the footage is playing at 400% by the end.
To do this in Premiere CC 2014 right-click on the FX icon at the upper left of the clip in the timeline and enable time remapping:
This creates a marker-style icon at the beginning of the clip and adds a horizontal white line across the clip. You can adjust this line up to increase the speed of the motion or drag it down to decrease the speed.
If you do this you’ll be remapping the entire clip at the same rate of playback. In my case, I wanted the speed to build steadily throughout the clip to simulate the train gathering speed on its own. To do this, you can split the marker icon into two halves. But first you need to create a new icon somewhere in the middle of your clip. Control-/command-click (you’ll see a plus icon while holding down the Ctrl key) on the horizontal white speed line. This will create an icon with two halves that can be dragged apart:
Next, I dragged up the line on the right side to increase the ending speed:
With the two icon halves pulled apart the speed will build steadily from beginning to end. My initial drag didn’t get the speed just right so I wanted to fine-tune the start and end rates. It’s tricky to move the line up and down if you have the markers at the very beginning and end of the clip. What I found is that moving both markers slightly inward provides a bit of flat horizontal line which you can then drag up and down. When you then hover the mouse over the flat part of the line you get a double-arrow cursor indicating you can drag the line up/down.
You can then adjust the speed at each end to any desired value. You can check the exact amount of increase/decrease in the Effect Controls panel:
When you’ve got the speed slope just right you can then drag the icons all the way to the begin/end of the clip if you like. Here’s my result below with a tiny bit of color correction and stabilization applied. The handheld camera work still looks very bumpy near the end of the clip. Admittedly, the camera work’s not great but the bumping motion is also exaggerated by the 400% speed increase. This clip was downsized from 3840 x 2060 to 1280 x 720 for posting here.