Sunday, October 04, 2015

Got a GH2 and learning editing - keyframing brightness filter

I haven't made any direct progress yet on the stopmo flick, still haven't got the power fixed. But I did buy a couple of cameras and start to learn Final Cut Pro. In the spirit of journaling - largely to preserve the info here in case I need it later, here's the quick rundown.

First I decided to get another camera. Not for doing the stopmotion - the G1 is plenty good enough for that, but to document the process, to shoot stills (with the G1 in shot) and video and maybe even some time lapse. So I needed something capable of HD video, and I thought it would be wise to get another micro 4/3s camera so I could use the lenses I already have. Checked eBay and immediately found a Panasonic Lumix GF3 going for the ridiculous price of $58!! - they're usually more like $400 to $600 body only, even used. So I snatched it up, got a couple spare batteries , and then made the disappointing discovery that it doesn't do time lapse and has no socket where you can plug in a remote shutter release. Well crap! In fact, a little more digging turns up that it was aimed at people used to a camera phone or point and shoot who wanted to step up to M4/3s. So made to be used mainly in full auto mode, though it does allow manual control.

I played with it for a while, and cooked up a crazy plan to devise some kind of electronic shutter release using a linear actuator, something I've seen the Mythbusters use a lot for pushing buttons. Researched that (ok, I begged on SMA and Thomas Nichol was kind enough to talk me through the whole thing) and bought the stuff I need to rig it together, including a beginner's soldering kit for electronics.

Meanwhile I had also bought a 7" monitor since the camera's rear screen doesn't flip out allowing you to see it when shooting selfies. And it turns out it will work with a monitor - sort of, that is until you start recording, at which point the signal shuts off and the monitor goes black.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I ordered a Panasonic GH2 - a filmmaker's wet dream said to capture video as good as $5,000 cameras and nearly as good as the $10,000 ones. That's if you use a hacked GH2 - this Russian guy named Vitaliy Kiselev found a way to get into the coding and trick it out so people could start creating patches to upgrade various parameters of its performance.

The GH2s tend to go for around $600 - $800 body only, but I found one for $330. Started researching on how to hack it, downloaded all the stuff I need and when the camera came in I started getting familiar with all the menus and features, and suddenly realized it must already be hacked, because the ISO goes all the way up to 12800! That's definitely not factory. No idea which hack it has, but the amount of detail and clarity is astonishing. And it should get even better when my new SDXC card comes in - the write speed of the card determines the data rate while filming.

Anyway, aside from that, I've been recording some video every day and editing it into little movies - stupid ones at this point, littered with bad cuts and bad shots and every error imaginable, but this is how you learn. By the time I get to work on the stopmo flick I plan to have reached a point of competency with editing and getting the right kind of shots to allow for good editing and good storytelling.

Last night I was testing various lenses for low light performance while walking through the house, some dark rooms some lit, and outside a bit. And I figured out how to add a brightness filter and keyframe it to bring light up smoothly in the dark areas and back down in the light ones. Really sweet!

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