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1080/25 GH2 patch required for capturing low motion in low light.
  • Hi, I'm not an enthusiastic independent filmmaker, I just want to capture some 1080/25 footage of musicians similar to this I shot in 2013:

    At the time I was photographing weddings, so had two 5D mkii's at my disposal, and lots of exotic fast 'L' glass. I loaded magic lantern, and was happy with the results, particularly enjoying the focus peaking. I used a Tascam DR40 for sound, and pluraleyes to sync the footage together.

    I've since finished with weddings, and parted with all of my expensive equipment. I've just picked up a used GH2 so I can do manual exposure in video and hack it to remove the 30 minute record limitation. It's soon going to be followed by another, but I'm on much tighter budget these days, so can only afford kit-level glass (F4-F5.6 territory, not constant F2.8 zooms). I don't want the framing restrictions of using old primes with adapters just to get faster apertures, as my seating position is dictated for me. Shooting at F1.8-F2 would also give me problematic depth of field for this content anyway, so I'm pretty much resigned to shooting at F4-F5.6, at the cost of having to use higher ISO's.

    I have read these forums for hours and hours with fascination, regarding gop structures, encoding matrices, DCT coefficients etc... but many of the patches seem to be trying to maximise the data rate captured to get every last ounce of quality, and many people seem to also be shooting 24P.

    I want to be able to capture 2.5 to 3 hours of footage on a 64 GB card, of reasonably static musicians, with low noise at sensitivity of typically ISO 1600 and 3200. All this at 1080/25p. This will be viewed on YouTube, but also down-converted to pal DVD, hence me avoiding a more web-friendly 30p, or a more filmic 24p.

    I don't need fancy colour grading capabilities, or the latitude to fix exposure in post... I just need to faithfully capture what's happening after performing a manual white balance.

    Can someone suggest a suitable low-noise patch for my needs please? One of Driftwoods Moon patches? An Apefos patch maybe? These have drawn my attention. There are just too many patches for me to rationalise between them all, or possibly have the time to test first-hand.

    I want to stick to 64 gb cards, because of the sheer data size after a three hour concert with two or even three cameras, for both editing, and storing long term. The concert in 2013 was around 180gb of data, which is the maximum I really want to have to deal with.

    looking forward to your kind input.

  • 18 Replies sorted by
  • Imo..your asking a lot. Based on what you said two entirely different settings come to mind. One is moon 8 which has the best low light preformance IMO. Good luck getting it to run that long. The next is my old favorite Sanity X. Very good low light and stable. Others will have their preferences.

  • Thank you peternap.

    Yes I realise I'm asking for the best of all worlds... low data rate whilst achieving low noise at high ISO, but at least my subject is pretty static, so there are no rapid changes effecting large parts of the image. Would this therefore better suite a long (6 or 12) GOP structure? Do long GOP structures have a negative effect on image noise, or blocking artifacts?

    regards

  • P.S. I assume if I try Sanity X it has at least reliable spanning?

  • Don't know how much noise is your limit; I shot a lot of concerts (not professionally), and the lens that I've used most when I had the GH2 was the Panny 20mm 1.7. With good stage illumination (small stages, not anything fancy) I could use it in f/2.8 and ISO between 800 and 1600; the noise was ok, and no problems with DOF (musician in front always in focus, the drummer in back slight blurred but recognizable). In smaller places like bars, couls be different.

    At the time I was using the Sanity 5.1 patch, much better quality than stock firmware, with very reasonable file sizes. Spanning was not reliable (I did not have the correct SD card at that time), but this info you could get in the Sanity thread here in the forum.

  • Marcio, Thank you very much. I have two 64gb cards at the moment which are not fantastically fast, but then I'm not looking to shoot at 80Mb/s rates, more like 40 Mb/s. I need to ensure reliable spanning so that recording does not stop. I have the Panny 20mm F1.7, but I need to avoid Primes because I cannot be in enough control of my shooting distance to frame the shots as I may desire, so I am really limited to F4-F5.6 at 1600 or 3200 ISO given the available light. I did buy a used 2/3" ENG lens with a 2x teleconverter in it, but it is just too soft to be any real use. I think I will have a look at a Sanity patch, as you are the second to suggest so.

  • Well, then you need zooms. Since you said that would be working with smaller apertures, one lens options would be the 14-42 II from Panny - it is much better than the kit lens that comes with the GH2 (the first version), probably could get one used very cheap, and have a good OIS. I've recorded this with it - footage right from the GX7, except for a little EQ in audio, at ISO 1600 if I can remember well (not great footage, I've bought the camera about 6 hours prior of this).

    A good manual option could be a Minolta MD 35-70 f/3.5 - bought one some time ago, never played much with it, but is a VERY sharp one.

    But I guess that people here could have better suggestions.

  • Thanks marcio. Good footage. I had originally picked up a G3, not realising it couldnt be hacked for manual exposure control, but I was lucky enough for it to have a nice 14-45 on it, which is superior to the 14-42.

    When I picked up the GH2, it came with a first generation14-140 (f4-f5.8), and a 20 f1.7. I also managed to pick up a panny 45-200 cheap, so I'm all good for glass right now, although a constant f3.5 35-70 does sound interesting.

    Which brings me right back to my original post then really... I could just do with a patch that will deliver circa 40-50mb/s 1080/25 with low noise when used with a reasonably high ISO (1600-3200). It must span very reliably though, to capture a couple of hours at a time without failing.

    Is Sanity X or similar the patch to go for, or is there anything else worth considering at my desired modest data rate?

    Do I need a long GOP oriented patch, or a short GOP oriented? Many thanks, Craig.

  • I think you're going to be disappointed with the GH2 in low light

  • I agree with mrbill. Better off picking up a GH4.

  • Sorry Guys, I just cannot justify the expense of two GH4's. I only wish I could! My 5D mlk II's did a grand job shooting video at F4 and either 1600 or 3200 ISO, and I know that the 5D mk II line-skips to record video, only capturing every third line from the sensor. Both cameras are from a similar era sensor technology-wise, and a 4/3 sensor has a 2x crop factor, so one quarter of the surface area of the 5D.

    This would mean if the native sensitivity of the actual CMOS were similar between cameras (I need to look this up), then the GH2 would only have a minor disadvantage in light gathering capability during video. DXO shows 5D as having low light ISO of 1815, with the GH2 as 655. I'm not sure if my maths is correct, but if you divide 1815 by 4 (sensor surface area difference between sensors), you get value of 453, not 655 which indicates the GH2 sensor is somewhat more sensitive per square millimetre than the 5D mkII's sensor.

    Upshot is I cannot afford to invest more than about £800 for two cameras, so I need to look second hand. I want to shoot without 30 minute restriction, so any UK camera would need to be hackable. I don't want to go to APS-C, but I have looked at 1" sensor cameras, and smaller still, but surely the GH2 should have more light gathering capability than a 1" sensor?

    regards

  • The fpn noise will kill you. Mine is a liability in low light, which was half the reason I bought a gh4. You can do all the theoretical math you want, but the gh2 is THE worst low-light camera I've ever used - and one of the nicest in decent light. You can't use it professionally in low light situations. I would rent camcorders when you need to. I would respectfully suggest that most of your glass is pretty slow too.

  • yes mrbill, my glass is REALLY slow (other than my 20mm prime), as I sold my 16-35 L 2.8, 24-70 L 2.8, 70-200 L F2.8, 50 F1.4, and 100 F2.0 macro with my two 5D mk II's when I stopped shooting weddings.

    Basically all I have now is strictly consumer grade glass for the GH2. I don't want to really shoot any wider than F4 though because of DOF limitations at equivalent focal lengths of 100mm full frame.

    This is only a hobby for me, I'm not a professional. I had looked at camcorders, but unless I go for a semi-pro model worth a grand, then camcorders have such a tiny sensor, I thought I'd get better image quality/sensitivity from a 4/3 DSLR sensor. I used to have a Sony HDR-FX1E a few years ago, and it was great for a pro-sumer video cam.

    So the GH2 has massive fixed pattern noise? I guess I'd better test some patches and see what I can do!

    Thank you for your input, I really appreciate it.

    So do I need to bin the idea of a GH2, and start looking at a semi-pro vid cam set up instead, like Sony nex VG10 or VG20, or a Panasonic AG-AF101? I can probably do £450 for a second hand body, but not twice that.

  • Test the GH2 in some low light scenarios before you buy anything else. You won't be able to fix the fpn with different hacks. I have used Flowmotion 2.2 for a number of years because it's great image quality and reliable - other people will have other opinions. Look at some canon fd glass for some faster options at great prices too, before you move towards the camcorder end of things. You might want to look at a GH3 body, which is a significant improvement on the GH2 in terms of fpn.

  • P.s. The gh3 produces a very nice image if you don't start dialling down contrast settings in an attempt to produce a log-like profile. Leave the settings alone, shoot standard or natural, and you'll make nice pictures.

  • @sadanorakman Check out Flowmotion v2.02 as recommended above. I find it still very much useable on a semi-professional level for shots in lowlight (stages, concerts etc. since you hopefully have the lights shining at your subjects ;) ) just stick to iso800 as max iso setting (really never ever go over iso800 if you want to get useable footage out of that camera with that hack) and you should be fine, check out some of the free noise-reduction programs if you want to clean up the footage some more, or just drop your dark areas and lift up mids and highs in post. I admit I'm slapping myself right now for that sentence - I NEVER settle on that practice on professional jobs, but it's really the only way to do what you want with that tight budget and camera(s) since no other equipment in that pricerange offers the possibilities - unlimited recording times and all.

    I did not extensively test Sanity X (but it's supposed to be very good for such long shoots) but Flowmotion should work out fine too, since all the dark areas get compressed real good, I guess. My SanDisk 95MB/s 64GB card (use that one and no other) offers around 2-3 hours of recording time when shooting bands in low lighting conditions.

    Hope this helps a bit, but you should really test with your 1 GH2 first, to see if it works out for you ;)

  • Another great Hack would be the Valkyrie 444 series from bkmcd, those have a ood low light performance and work with about 50 mbit/s in 25p mode ;)

    And definitely check out those old but fast manual 28mm, 40mm and 50mm lenses you can find on auction sites or at local second hand traders. you need them!

  • Thanks for your advice all.

    MrZz: you suggest using Flowmotion V2.02, yet state don't go beyond ISO800 with it... It might be a good all-round hack, but you don't make it sound like it is a particularly optimal low-light/high ISO patch?

    I first used neat-image (noise reduction) probably almost a decade ago, but have never tried their neat video. Besides this sort of post-processing, combined with crushing blacks etc to hide noise, I want to capture as much fidelity as I can in the first place given my low light-high ISO scenario. There's no point to me in running 100Mb/s capture however, if the shadows look no better than a 40Mb/s codec.

    I've installed Sanity 5.1, and will now try this in low light. I'm certainly amazed with it's low bitrate so far (similar to stock values), which does make me a little skeptical about the detail it will retain in the darker areas of the image.

    Which hack in your opinion preserves the most shadow detail without it breaking up into loads of blocking artifacts, or having loads of streaking/FPN?

    regards, Craig

  • I've now tried Sanity in low light at high ISO's, and conclude that at ISO 3200 noise is just too excessive. I don't believe the best codec in the world will change this situation... it seems to be plain-old sensor noise due to being driven at excessively high gain.

    ISO 1600 seems quite acceptable for my amateur purposes; maybe with just a little correction in post. I'm not noticing fixed pattern noise in the image anywhere though; just random, speckly, high-frequency noise. When FPN was mentioned earlier, I was dreading I might find horrible constant gridding or vertical lines present, but they are just not there on this particular camera example as far as I can see.

    At 3200 I see spade-loads of larger red/green speckles like you'd see when pushing ISO too high in a still picture on any digital camera, and of course the dynamic range really starts to suffer at this point too.

    I could try another couple of patches at 1600 to see what they look like, but I think the results I've got with Sanity are really fantastic considering I'm clearly running the ISO as high as I'd like to go with this camera/sensor.

    If F5.6 is still too slow for me, then I can look to buy the odd manual F2.8 zoom with an adapter. I quite liked the Tamron 28-70 F2.8 using it both on my original 5D, and my 5D mk II's also.

    At the end of the day, I was trying to find something to do an amateur shoot of musicians, that would give better clarity, dynamic range, and signal to noise ratio than a consumer video camera. I feel the GH2 does manage to achieve this for me at just a couple of hundred quid per body. I don't see how I could practically better this without at least doubling that spend, and as far as I understand, the GH3 isn't hacked for continuous recording beyond 30 min limit, which I need.

    thanks to all for your help.