The brief came in, the production company had got BAFTA and Webby Award-Winning director Martin Percy, and wanted me as Director of Photography and my brother in arms, Sununu Hernandez as Cam Op.
There was only one catch! Once the script came in, the action scene was to be shot in low light, in a room full of smoke, and the other scene with fire and VFX!
This is the Achilles heel of the current crop of 360 VR cameras. The Insta360 Pro, Zcam and Obsidian use small sensors, which mean they introduce a lot of noise at ISO’s higher than 400. If you are trying to squeeze out the last drop of dynamic range on an Insta, you could use the forbidden ‘FLAT’ mode on the Insta360 Pro. However, the compromise is that the bitrate drops and I have been experienced frame drops too. The Insta360 Pro has a relatively powerful chip-on-board, I suspect the H.264 compression occurs prior to reaching the built-in GPU.
I am a huge fan of the Insta360 Pro and have used in on countless shots, I have pushed it as far as I could in many challenging situations, but for this kind of shot, which demanded detail on the smoke, low light sensitivity, and a high dynamic range, it would not be able to deliver. Our only option was a DSLR Camera, and for this shoot, we chose the GH5s
I had previously watched a review from your boy Hugh Hou on the GH5 Entaniya pairing and was excited to see the footage first hand.
Once I got my hands on 4k footage from the GH5s however, It would not stitch easily, and it looked like the image was being cropped of essential detail.
After reading through lots of technical documentation I finally cracked it. The Entaniya lens has 3 ‘rear groups’, which in combination with the chosen sensor from a particular camera, and its chosen resolution, combine to determine the final FOV.
I tested three resolutions and here are my results:
- Shoot in 4096x2160 and take plates to fill in the large gaps,
- Shoot 3840x2160 and plate the smaller gaps
- Shoot anamorphic in 3328x2496 and use the full sensor to get 220 FOV.
I created a custom template in MistikaVR to allow adding the plates as additional cameras in MistikaVR to streamline the process of adding plates if necessary and avoid additional transcoding of the footage to maintain the highest quality, but with the reduced FOV, and the particular action shot we had to capture we ended up using the 220 FOV as we did not want the action crossing Stitch lines….
..which leads to the final, and most challenging aspect of this setup.
Having used two lens camera setups before, such as the GoPro Fusion, Xiaomi, Samsung 360 etc, It was always a delight to stitch as we only have one seam to worry about, and as the lens are so close together parallax and convergence problems are minimised. NOT SO on the GH5s
The convergence point on the GH5s Setup is 15ft! that means unless you are 4.5 Meters from the camera when on the stitch line it is going to require some post work to fix anything crossing it. that is far from ideal when Martin wants action in what he likes to call:
“The intimate drama zone’”
There are very few internal spaces apart from halls and studios which have this much space and keeping the action that far away is limiting! This means all walls and ceilings on nearly all internal shots need patching, additionally, as the full setup requires a Tripod, there is a large nadir to work with too.
- Incredible low light performance
- High dynamic range 10Bit 4:2:2 400Mbps
- Single Stitch-line
- Timecode Sync
The GH5 had great low-light performance but on the GH5s it is incredible. There are plenty of videos online which will give you an example of the incredible GH5s low-light capabilities at extremely high ISOs. This is carried over when shooting 360.
They dropped the megapixels in half which unfortunately means we have lost the 6k recording feature, but improved low light performance.
The ability to shoot in Vlog-l opens up a lot of opportunities for the grade and to maximize the dynamic stops to roughly 12. It shoots at up to 10 bit 4:2:2 400Mpbs and if you connect it to an external recorder you can encode in Pro-Res HQ. Finally, the colourist will not weep when you hand over your footage.
The GH5s supports TimeCode Jamming and OK, It is not legendary GenLock, but it does help sync frames in post, having a timecode slate saves time in the edit, and the sound guy is going to love you too!
- Advanced user
- Long Set-up time
- Heavy and Bulky
- Huge Parallax
Many 360 filmmakers do not have a traditional filming background and the GH5s reintroduces the 360 filmmaker to traditional digital filmmaking tools and settings.
There is no auto mode when trying to get the best out of the Panasonic GH5s, you need to know your camera, your settings, and your tools
There are a lot of things to consider when composing your shot and you should have a solid base of understanding when using such a setup.
Long Set-up time
Most all in one 360 cameras such as the ZCam and Insta360 Pro are almost point and shoot, with limited control on exposure settings from a mobile phone and wifi connection. This allows you to focus on unique 360 challenges such as stitch lines.
With the GH5s setup, You can connect your monitor such as a smallHD to check waveforms and vectorscopes, wireless through a Terradek while also simultaneously broadcasting to the clients’ monitor. You have two external recorders set up, a time sync generator, a remote control and enough V-lock batteries to power a small neighborhood. All supported on a Large Tripod which could be the foundations for said neighborhood.
The focus needs to be set up prior to connecting each lens, as does an aperture ring. None of this can be adjusted once the lens is attached to the camera.
This all takes time to setup, Sununu estimates 45 Minutes and has time-lapsed it to help you out, I’ll add the link here when he has sent me the video.
Additionally, this makes it awkward to move in between shots or trying to go upstairs!
The GH5s and Entaniya lenses are a very interesting pairing! I am highly appreciative of Entaniya for creating such an incredible high-quality lens for 360 filmmaking. And the GH5s is an impressive camera given its price.
This is not a simple setup however, you really need to understand 360 film-making to a high level to get the best out of this camera and at least an intermediate understanding not to ruin your shots beyond repair!
It is not a 360 Camera for all occasions but does have its place as a premiere 360 camera setup. We had unique requirements and in that this camera and lens pairing excelled where very few others would. I think as a 360 Drone Camera it will be unmatched, as the GH5s removed optical stabilisation and the Entaniya lens allows you to use ND filters. I’m hoping to test this soon on our 360 drones and will post footage shortly after.
A big shout out to Brownian Motion hire company who provided the awesome kit and incredible support!