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Problem with Panasonic Lumix GH4 camera

Panasonic Warranty Woes

David Salahi Gear 0 Comments

I love my Lumix GH4 but I hate Panasonic’s customer support. I recently discovered a very noticeable spot that appears in some images & videos. After an initial phone conversation a Panasonic support technician recommended that I send the camera in for warranty repair work. I did that and, after nearly a month, I received my camera back this week. And the problem is not fixed. Now, after two phone conversations the repair facility is ignoring me.

problem with Panasonic Lumix GH4 camera

Photo of a blank sheet of white paper showing the spot; taken with Panasonic 12-35 mm lens

The spot doesn’t appear under all shooting conditions but when it does appear it’s very noticeable. Through some testing I determined that the problem is worst at very small apertures and in images with a light background. The spot appears starting at around f9 and it gets progressively darker the more I stop down.

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Lightroom 6 error message

Lightroom/Photoshop Integration Woes, Continued

David Salahi Lightroom, Photoshop 0 Comments

I’ve just been through another of the masochistic experiences that I seem to impose on myself every time a new version of Lightroom is released. Ever since Lightroom 3 was released I’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate LR into my Photoshop workflow. And every time I’ve tried I’ve ended up throwing in the towel. I’ve previously written about my experiences on seven different occasions and the major problem I’ve encountered is that there has been no true round-trip Lightroom-to-Photoshop workflow.

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Pilotfly H1+ Gimbal Stabilizer

Pilotfly H1+ Gimbal Stabilizer

David Salahi Gear, Video 8 Comments

The Pilotfly H1+ is a small, lightweight gimbal stabilizer which provides the ability to hold & move a small video camera with one hand while still getting smooth footage. The low cost of this and similar devices is bringing Steadicam-like footage to the low-budget filmmaker and the small size is providing opportunities for getting smooth footage in tight situations where it wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

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ikan video monitor with Panasonic Lumix GH4

Shooting with the ikan VH7i-2 Video Monitor

David Salahi Gear 0 Comments

ikan video monitor with Panasonic Lumix GH4

Much more detail is visible in the monotor than in the smaller LCD screen. But also note that the colors are different.

I’ve been shooting a lot of live performances recently and have been having some trouble maintaining good focus. It’s tough keeping up with performers who are frequently moving around the stage and changing their distance to the camera. With my Panasonic GH4’s small LED screen it’s impossible to accurately determine whether a shot is in focus. (Focus assist auto-zooming doesn’t operate while recording.) So, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my eye glued to the EVF. But that quickly gets tiring and also pretty much eliminates my peripheral vision.

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jiucedLink audio preamp for video recording

Audio Level Padding to Prevent Distortion

David Salahi Gear, Tips & Techniques 4 Comments

juicedLink Audio Preamp for Video Recording

Recently, I shot a live performance and, afterwards when reviewing the footage, I found that I had audio overload problems. I had used my Lumix GH4 with the Panasonic DMW-MS2 microphone and this simple setup just wasn’t equal to the task. The problem was the great dynamic range of the show which included actors and a singer. It was a small venue and when the singer was up close during a crescendo the recorded signal was very loud and badly distorted. Conversely, during quiet moments when the performers were at the other end of the stage or facing the opposite direction the level was too low.

Clipped Audio Waveform

You can clearly see where the waveform has clipped (the current time indicator is right in the middle of a clipped section).

You can clearly see where the waveform has clipped (the current time indicator is right in the middle of a clipped section).
Of course, one thing that would help in a situation like this would be to mike all the performers and set appropriate levels. In this case, that just wasn’t an option. And, it still might not have solved the dynamic range problem completely.

Two-Level Audio Recording

audio padding with juicedLink preamp

Red arrow shows the switch that turns on/off the juicedLink preamp’s -16db padding feature

I’ve since figured out a pretty good solution for this kind of scenario and it doesn’t involve miking each performer. My solution was to buy a juicedLink Riggy-Micro preamp and use its second channel -16 db pad feature. When recording in mono on the left channel you can set the right channel to output the same signal but at a level 16 db lower. This way you have two levels to choose from in post. As long as the left channel doesn’t overload you can use it. But, if it does, you can fall back on the right channel and then adjust the gain in post to an appropriate level. It’s like exposure bracketing for audio.

audio padding

Left channel on top, right channel below was recorded automatically at -16db

This shows what the waveform looks like when capturing a mono signal at the two gain levels.

I’ve tried this a couple of times and it’s worked out well so far. I just choose whichever channel is better, copy it, and paste it into the other channel. It does create more work in post but everything is a compromise, right?

Problems with the Panasonic DMW-MS2 microphone

Panasonic DMW-MS2 Microphone

In my particular case my solution presented another problem beyond the increased workflow complexity. What I didn’t realize when I ordered the preamp is that my Panasonic mike won’t work with it (or any other analog preamp). The DMW-MS2 is designed to be plugged directly into the camera. When connected directly to the camera it offers some nice features like software selectable response patterns (shotgun, super shotgun, stereo, or lens angle tracking). But, as far as I can tell, the microphone only works when plugged directly into a compatible Panasonic camera like the GH4.

For me, this means I have to use my backup microphone, a lower quality off-brand unit, when I want to use the juicedLink preamp for audio bracketing. So, there’s a word to the wise if you’re considering the Panasonic mike. If you’re sure you’ll never need to use it with an external preamp or audio recorder it will probably work just fine for you. Otherwise, you might be better off with another microphone.

Glide Gear DEV-1000 Camera Slider

Glide Gear DEV-1000 Camera Slider

David Salahi Gear 2 Comments

Glide Gear DEV-1000 Camera Slider

Glide Gear DEV-1000 Camera Slider

I was looking recently for an inexpensive slider and I settled on the Glide Gear DEV-1000. I had read and watched a number of reviews and the DEV-1000 looked like a decent option. At a price point of only $89 I knew I wasn’t going to get top quality or special features. But, in this case, I was more interested in low price than top quality. I wanted something that would allow me to get some experience using sliders and then later, if needed, I can get a longer slider or one with more features.

Wobbling

At this point, I’ve done some testing and can report that I’m reasonably happy with it. There are a few problems but I’ve mostly been able to work around them. The most serious problem is that the carrier can wobble. Here’s a clip showing the extent of the wobbling:

As you can see, the amount of wobbling can be substantial, more than enough to ruin a shot. Even so, I’ve found that I can work around the problem simply by not exerting any force in the axis that would cause it to wobble. Here’s a shot of the carrier sliding smoothly without wobbling:

There’s also a shot below showing some footage taken using the DEV-1000 and, as you’ll see, there’s no wobbling (forward and backward). Still, the wobbling is a problem and not the sort of thing that most people would accept in a piece of professional gear.

Tensioner Screw: Either On or Off

One thing that occurred to me to try to stop the wobbling was to tighten the tensioner screw on the carriage. That didn’t work. By the time I tightened the screw enough to prevent wobbling it was impossible to move the carriage, at least, with any smoothness. This speaks to a problem with the tensioner screw itself.

The only the thing the screw is good for is to lock down the carriage completely. At times, that’s both necessary and useful but it means you can’t adjust the tension to fine tune the amount of force needed to move the carriage. As soon as you tighten the tensioner the carriage sticks. There’s really no usable amount of tension greater than none.

Mounting Hardware

Glide Gear Slider Carriage with Mounting Hardware

Glide Gear Slider Carriage with Mounting Hardware

The final problem I’ve encountered is with the mounting hardware. As provided, there’s a ¼" bolt that you can use to attach a camera directly to the carriage. Of course, that’s not very useful. Usually, you’ll want to attach some kind of tripod head to the carriage and then mount the camera on the head.

Since most heads are built to screw onto a 3/8" stud the DEV-1000 slider comes with a bushing that can be screwed onto the ¼" stud. This does work—until the time you remove the head to switch to a different one or to use the head on some other piece of gear. What happens is that the bushing comes off the slider stud and is instead screwed into the head. And, if you had securely screwed the head onto the slider the bushing ends up being screwed pretty tightly into the head.

Ball head with 3/8" bushing

Ball head with 3/8″ bushing (click image to see larger)

This is a particular problem because the bushing is then difficult to remove from the head. As you can see in the photo, the bushing has a slot that allows it to be unscrewed in a situation like this. But the problem is in finding a tool that will fit that slot. I have a pretty good collection of screwdrivers but none has a blade that is both wide enough to span the width of the slot and thin enough to fit into the slot.

Without a good tool it is impossible to remove the bushing so I started to look around for something other than a screwdriver. There’s probably some tool that’s designed for situations just like these but I don’t know what it is and I don’t have one. What I do have is an ancient metal shoehorn. The narrow end of the shoehorn is both wide enough to span most of the width of the bushing’s slot while also being thin enough to fit into it. That shoehorn was my ball head’s salvation—I was able to extract the bushing so that I could once again use that head on my tripod or monopod.

But if you don’t have an old metal shoehorn or a proper purpose-built tool you may have a problem with this slider. So, beware before tightening your tripod head onto this slider.

Another Glide Gear DEV-1000 Slider Workaround

1/4" to 3/8" adapter

1/4″ to 3/8″ adapter

This time my workaround was to order a little kit which contains a threaded screw adapter. The item that did the trick for me is the ¼" to 3/8" adapter. After screwing the adapter into the carriage I could then screw a ball head or fluid head onto the slider—and still be able to remove the adapter later.

I did have a bit of a problem screwing the adapter into the carriage. When I first tried, I met with substantial resistance after the first couple of turns. That was puzzling because if the threads had been mismatched I shouldn’t have been able to get as far as I did. In a case of mismatched threads you can usually tell pretty quickly that there’s a problem. But in this case, I was able to screw the adapter in a ways before encountering resistance.

In the end, I grabbed a pair of pliers and worked right through the resistance. Later, when I removed the adapter a couple of metal shavings came out. As far as I can tell, I haven’t actually damaged any threads. It seems to have been a case of poor machine work with either the adapter or the slider. I can’t say which.

The Proof of the Pudding

So, I now have a workable slider setup and have done a few practice shots. Here’s an example:

There’s some obvious lens distortion in this sequence that I would normally want to avoid but it shows the movement well enough. I still need to practice my technique some more but the motion looks good enough to me that I’ll be able to use the DEV-1000 slider for a while before needing something more expensive.

I do have another problem with clearance for my Manfrotto ball head’s knobs. My pan lock knob can’t be rotated all the way around without hitting the slider. Fortunately, the knob can be pulled out and rotated to clear the slider and then released in to continue tightening or loosening. But it’s a slow and tedious process. These are the kinds of things you only discover in actual practice and the type of thing I was expecting to learn with this inexpensive slider. Now, I have one more thing to look for when contemplating the purchase of my next slider.

Removing Unwanted Sounds with Adobe Audition

David Salahi Audio, Video Editing 0 Comments

On a recent video shoot I had an audio problem with my monopod. What’s that you say? How does a monopod affect the audio? In my case, the problem was a sort of creaking noise it made when tilting or rolling from side to side. The problem was caused by friction in the ball at the foot of the monopod. Each time I moved it would make a small thumping noise as the motion started.

Video Monopod

It’s a new monopod and I was aware of the problem before the shoot. I had tried loosening the tension on the ball and I thought I’d loosened it enough that it wouldn’t be a problem. But, as I later discovered, I was wrong. It was an avoidable blunder which I could have prevented.

If I had been using an off-camera mike it wouldn’t have been a problem but I was shooting on location at the Camino Real Playhouse again and I needed the mobility.

When I got home and listened to the audio I found these fairly obtrusive creaking sounds in the soundtrack wherever I had made a rotating motion with the tripod. At first, I was worried that the noise was going to ruin the footage. Fortunately, I was able to remove the sound using the healing brush in Adobe Audition.

I’m a longtime Photoshop user and I make frequent use of its healing brush tool. But I was surprised a while back to learn that Audition also has a healing brush. And, like the Photoshop tool, the Audition healing brush is almost magical.

Removing Noise with Adobe Audition CC’s Spot Healing Brush Tool

By simply brushing with the spot healing brush you can often easily remove unwanted noise but there is a catch or two. First, you have to be able to identify the noise visually in Audition’s Spectral Frequency Display. In many cases, that’s not very hard. With this display it’s often easy to identify sounds that are different from the ambient sound and dialog. For example, a typical phone ringtone will usually show up quite clearly. But if your noise includes a broad spectrum of frequencies then it’s going to be harder.

In my case, the squeaking, creaking sound was easy to spot. One way to find the noise in the spectral frequency display is to look for an obvious visual pattern at the times where you hear the noise. Another way to home in on the noise is to take a guess at the frequencies it includes and look closely at those frequency bands.

In the video tutorial below I demonstrate the process I used to find and remove the noise.

After “fixing it in post” I went back to adjust the monopod to prevent any future repetitions of this noise. I fiddled with the tension/drag on the ball quite a bit but couldn’t get it to a point where the noise was gone without loosening it way too much. In the end, a squirt of WD40 was all that it needed. After that, I could tension the ball to get just the right amount of drag and still be rid of the offending noise.

Failed Kingston SSD

Kingston SSDs Down for the Count

David Salahi PC 0 Comments

Failed Kingston SSD

Earlier this week my PC locked up hard again—another Kingston SSD failure. I’ve written before about my recent problems with Kingston SSDs (read about my first crash; and my second crash). I had hoped such crashes were behind me but, alas, on Monday this week the Kingston SSDNOW 300 that was my Windows system disk died. Like the first failure, this time the failure was complete. There was no reformatting and reinstalling. It’s as dead as a doornail.

I have a total of seven Kingston SSDs in two PCs that I’ve purchased over the past few years and, ironically, the earlier ones have always worked great. But I’ve now experienced three crashes with the newer Kingston SSDs within two months. I’m sorry, Kingston, but you’re now down for the count as far as I’m concerned.

On Monday, while I was waiting for my Carbonite restore to complete (more on Carbonite below) I posted a review of the Kingston SSD on Amazon. When a product works well I’m happy to post a positive review but when it fails I don’t pull my punches. I wrote a harsh, but fair, review on Amazon and the next day the review received a comment from a Kingston employee urging me to contact their tech support department. So, I did that. I called and spoke with someone who sounded very concerned. He asked me a number of questions, told me he would investigate the problem and get back to me. Two days later I haven’t heard anything back.

I have received approval of my RMA and an email just now says that my replacement SSD is on its way. Hopefully, this one will last longer than the previous one (which was just about five weeks).

Restoring my Failed SSD Using Carbonite

Since this is the third failure of my Windows system drive within two months I’m getting pretty good at restoring my drive. I’ve been using Carbonite’s Mirror Image feature to make automatic daily backups of my C: drive so that when a drive fails I can get right back to work with a minimum amount of distraction.

Carbonite has been working pretty well for me although it’s had its own issues (see my post Carbonite Pros and Cons). And this time around I discovered another problem with my Mirror Image backup. After my last failure & restore I had some trouble getting the Mirror Image backup process restarted so I called Carbonite tech support and they walked me through a procedure to get it going. Or so I thought.

It turns out that it wasn’t going at all. During the Carbonite restore process the most recent Mirror Image backup was from March 26—right before my last SSD failure. The Mirror Image process hadn’t done a single backup since then.

This situation was far from ideal but, admittedly, it was a lot better than having to reinstall Windows and all my software (which is a lot of software). And I guess I’ve been remiss in not checking up on Carbonite to see what it’s been up to (or not up to as the case may be). I’m sure checking it now and it claims it’s making daily snapshots of my Windows drive as expected. Even so, with Carbonite, I’m never quite sure. I’ve written previously about its balky user interface and that continues to be a source of irritation. Even so, it’s come through for me when I’ve really needed it. Switching to another solution would involve extra work and open my system up to new and unknown risks. So, I’ll stick with Carbonite for now. But I’m done with Kingston SSDs.