The GH4 became one of the most popular and highly demanded cameras for video shooters available on the market in 2014. As with any other camera system, it takes some time and practice before one can master the tool, especially when it comes down to using the optimal settings for shooting video and especially 4K video.
Back in the old days of Canon DSLRs, it was a lot easier to accomplish the flattest possible look in-camera by loading the CineStyle Profile and just dialing down the contrast, sharpness and saturation. Now, the Panasonic GH4 gives you a lot more room for tweaking and adjusting. You have dedicated Cinema style picture profiles, curve adjustments, master pedestal settings, etc.
The camera is flexible, indeed, and provides many options to achieve the desired look. However, it is a lot easier to take the things too far by overdoing the adjustments and ruin the picture. All you need is the flattest image possible with the maximum dynamic range captured inside the camera, thus giving you better grading experience in post.
According to Noam Kroll, we shouldn’t treat our GH4 as an ARRI Alexa or Red Epic and try to emulate their Log settings because by pushing the levels too far it would be almost impossible to recover the image in post afterwards. For instance, pushing up the black levels will introduce a lot of noise in the picture and won’t help, on the contrary.
In general, when shooting video with the GH4, one should try to achieve the desired look inside the camera by applying the optimal settings, but not pushing them too far.
After spending some time with his camera, Noam suggests the following settings for achieving more cinematic look:
CINE D Picture Profile
Noise Reduction: -5
Generally with Cine D, the biggest thing that I am focused on is reducing the saturation. Although the picture profile is flat, it’s still relatively saturated (unlike a true log profile), which means in post when I add any sort of grade to the footage it can become over saturated pretty quickly. By pulling down the saturation in camera, it seems to put things at a better baseline for color grading. I also turn down the sharpness and noise reduction as the GH4 is very sharp naturally (almost too sharp), and I can get far better noise reduction results in post using Neat Video. In terms of the contrast, I always leave it at 0 for Cine-D as bringing it down too far can introduce some strange artifacting, and this picture profile is already very flat.
CINE V Picture Profile
Noise Reduction: -5
My approach with Cine V is the opposite of what I do with Cine D to some extent. While I also keep the sharpness/NR to -5 for the same reasons stated above, I do like to dial the contrast back based on the nature of this profile. Cine V naturally has a pretty heavy contrast curve applied to it (which looks really nice), but in most situations it can just be a bit too much. By pulling back on the contrast I am able to get a smoother roll off to the shadows, and keep the image looking a bit flatter. The image ends up still looking a touch too contrasty at times, but I have found that bringing down the contrast in post ends up giving me better results than trying to bump up the black levels too high in camera.
Here are some frame grabs from Kroll’s work using the listed picture profiles:
Depending on the scene Noam Kroll is shooting, 90% of the time he uses one of the two setting combinations listed above. In some rare instances, he makes some additional adjustments within the picture profile to compensate for lighting or color temperature issues. The suggested settings are great examples and excellent starting points for shooting with the GH4. Though, they might seem too basic, they will give you pleasant cinematic look with a plenty of dynamic range.
[via Noam Kroll]