Stephanie Shiu: shot with the Panasonic GH4: field report

Stephanie Shiu: shot with the Panasonic GH4: field report

Stephanie Shiu: On the hour: from Mike Kobal on Vimeo.

We talked about this shoot for weeks, scheduled, rescheduled and rescheduled again. A last minute booking or weather issues, too many reasons to list and I am sure many of you know how frustrating it can be to get everyone together on the same day.
more after the break

I was ready to forget about this project when we suddenly decided to shoot the next day.

I called Adoramarentals for a second GH4 body, however, since they just started renting this popular camera, they didn’t have one available on such short notice. I hopped on the subway to check the location I had in mind, the southern section of Coney Island beach. The weather forecast was in our favor, clear skies for the next couple of days. I brought a few lenses, a tripod and shot a few test clips.

I was really looking forward to this shoot, however, it was clear that we would have to work very fast. To catch the best light, we had two hours.
Shooting with one camera wasn’t a good idea. We wouldn’t be able to get enough material in such a short time.
And with the chilly water temperature, I had no idea how long it would take before Stephanie would get goose bums or turn blue.
I texted Ricardo and asked him to bring his Nikon D800 to shoot B roll.

The day of the shoot:
We got there a little early and as we approached the section where we were planning to shoot I spotted only a few beach bums, what a relief. We hung out, set up the tripods and waited for the sun to get low. The wind was a little stronger then the day before, actually, it was quite a bit stronger and as the sun went down it really picked up. I looked around and we were the only ones left on the beach. The reason for that was probably all that sand floating in the air, something I had encountered in the desert but rarely at the beach. Nahh, guys, we didn’t panic, I just felt a little uncomfortable remembering the time I had a shoot in Joshua Tree National Park and ended up with a few sand damaged lenses.
Both, the GH4 and D800 are weather sealed, we were set on getting this shoot done that day, somehow I had the feeling if we would try to reschedule it would never happen.
We decided to shoot with the lens we had mounted and if possible, avoid changing lenses.

From the moment we started shooting, Stephanie was amazing in front of the camera. To communicate we had to scream and it wouldn’t carry further then 10 feet. We couldn’t hear the music we had playing full blast. Within minutes I realized something was off, I couldn’t mf as easily as I was used to. I took a look at the lens and noticed that the UV filter was covered with a very thin layer of sand and so was the viewfinder. Luckily we had enough lens cleaning tissues and we wiped off our lenses as often as possible. I accepted nature’s gift of a free Zeiss T* Softar filter, there was no way to keep the lenses clean.

Time to move into the water, Stephanie was even more in her zone by then.
Hand held shooting was out of the question right from the start, we wouldn’t be able to get a steady shoot, we were stuck with our tripods. The current of the water was stronger then the day before, the waves unpredictable, chances were high that I would get knocked over. Watching Stephanie work, it would be worth it, the SD card would survive.
(didn’t happen:)

At the end we knew there was something special about this shoot, the sand in the air gave the light a peculiar quality and with no one around to accidentally walk into the frame, gave the location a remote and eery quality.
Working with Stephanie was an amazing experience, so creative in front of the camera and behind as well, her vision and input on set and as an editor was invaluable.

Working with the GH4. I have to admit, I love this camera, ergonomics, handling, the buttons are in the right place, it is very easy to operate and one can navigate intuitively, even under stress. I also love all the tiny high quality lenses we find in the m43 line up. I wish they would make a full frame GH4 :))))

Camera set up:
The GH4 was paired with the very compact Lumix 45-150mm 4-5.6 HD lens, it turned out to be a
life saver. I got this lens at a bargain price on eBay and it arrived a couple days before the shoot. The quality is stunning for such a cheap lens.
Although I prefer mf on video shoots, I like to have image stabilization, especially with longer lenses. To compensate for camera shake without IS, one would have to drag on lots of heavy sandbags to weigh things down when shooting with a tele lens. I did shoot a few 4k clips at 30p but decided to go with slow motion,
the flying hair and fabric looked too nervous in real time.
Profile set up:
Cinelike D
contrast -5
sharpness -3
saturation -2
produces very flat and gradable footage.

We tried to match the D800 to the GH4 as well as we could by turning down contrast, saturation, sharpness, too bad it lacks cinematic options, we couldn’t even get close to the flatness of the GH4 profile, although I do like the footage it produced, held up well in grading, even when slowed down to match the clips from the GH4.
The D800 was paired with the Nikkor 85mm 1.4, however, we ended up shooting at f8 or 11.

All bokeh shots came from the GH4 :)
Film grain was added in post.

Equipment damage:
My carbon fiber tripod wasn’t happy to be stuck in saltwater and sand. I took it completely apart, cleaned and lubed it, just ain’t the same since that shoot.
Lost one ND filter.

That’s it for now guys, questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

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