Intermediate Tutorial 11

Your modern digital camera doesn’t only take photographs – if you’re not using the video option, you’re missing out on a whole area of its functionality! This tutorial introduces the formats and technical options available when you first start to shoot moving footage.

11

Using Video mode

There is no doubt a still picture can capture drama and evoke emotion that might otherwise be lost in a moment. However, video is also a powerful medium – and sometimes a mood or action is better appreciated when captured over a longer period, giving the viewer time to study and absorb all the contributing factors.

The LUMIX G6 with power zoom video lens and MS2 Shotgun Mic

The LUMIX G6 with Power Zoom video lens and MS2 Shotgun Mic

Since video is a composite of still images captured over time for playback in rapid succession, adding a ‘movie’ mode to ‘stills’ cameras was an obvious step, especially considering today’s powerful processors. And with the added advantage of interchangeable lenses for all shooting situations, you won’t appreciate how good video can look until you’ve seen it shot on a Compact System Camera.

Shooting video with your camera requires many of the same principals as photography. Composition, lighting, focus, depth of field and exposure are all as important with video, but with an additional element photographers largely ignore – sound.

All digital cameras with a video function include a built-in microphone, from mono on basic models to full stereo recording models – capturing fuller audio with a greater sound stage. Some models, including LUMIX G6 and GH, also feature an input jack socket for an external microphone.

The ability to add that extra dimension to a scene and capture sounds as well as movement can sway the decision as whether to shoot ‘still’ or ‘video’.


Focusing during video recording

One principle of videography that requires a slightly different approach is focus. Cameras offering ‘Live View’ will support Auto Focus (AF) in video mode; you can set to manual, but novices will find it easier to let the camera automatically maintain focus on moving objects.

Video AF speed can be critical, some older DSLRs are unable to offer AF in video mode and even some of the newer models struggle to maintain focus on faster-moving subjects. Panasonic’s LUMIX G models, however, offer ‘Continuous AF’ which re-evaluates the focus point at lightning-quick speed. If, on the other hand, your subject remains at a fixed distance, ‘Continuous’ can be disabled, enabling AF to be performed at the start of the shoot and fixed for the duration.


Video recording formats

Manufacturers usually offer a choice of formats and you should choose the one that best suits your resources. Specifically, consider the available storage space on your memory card and the means by which you intend to play back or edit.

Here’s a breakdown of popular recording formats:

Recording format Description Pros Cons
Motion JPEG Video format that captures each frame as a JPEG image with sound. Uses MOV (QuickTime) or AVI file containers. Highly compatible with PC / Apple Mac hardware. Supports lower resolution (VGA or QVGA), so is suitable for email attachments. HD resolution, i.e. 1280×720 and above files will be larger than competitor formats, so require minimum speed Class 6 SD card.
MP4 Part 14 of the MPEG-4 global classification family. Container format for H.264, AVC & AAC media etc. Largely replacing MJPEG as it supports more efficient compression formats. Supports a wide range of resolutions and bit rates. Good compatibility with PC / Mac hardware / editing software. No real issues.
MOV Container format belonging to the QuickTime multimedia framework. Shares many attributes with MP4, but supports wider range of audio / video compression formats. Can suffer playback compatibility issues as format options are so widespread.
AVCHD Global standard HD video format, jointly developed by Sony & Panasonic for camcorders. Uses MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 video codec & Dolby AC3 or Linear PCM audio codec. Highly efficient video compression up to 24Mbps. Supports up to 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Now widely compatible with PC / Mac editing software. Plays back directly on TVs with SD card slot. Requires compatible editing software on PC / Mac. Requires minimum speed Class 4 SD card for higher bitrates.
AVCHD Progressive Version 2.0 of AVCHD specification, supporting higher bitrate & 1080/50/60P video recording. High-quality, high frame rate Progressive video, up to 28Mbps making it suitable for super-smooth sports action. Requires AVCHD Ver2.0-compatible hardware / software (available since 2012) & minimum speed Class 6 SD card.
AVCHD Lite Progressive video format, part of original AVCHD spec, but limited to 1280×720 resolution. Offers HD video recording with smaller file size. Requires only minimum speed Class 2 SD card. Requires compatible editing software on PC / Mac. Captures less detail than FHD AVCHD.

The video recording options for the LUMIX G6:

Video Record option MP4

Video Recording AVCHD option

As AVCHD was developed specifically for consumer video camcorders, it offers the best compatibility with other consumer electronic HD devices, such as TVs and Blu-ray players/recorders.


Video recording quality options

Once you have decided on format, select a resolution and bitrate to determine your recording quality. The key issue is that the best quality is produced via high resolution and high bitrate – but these create larger file sizes and require more powerful computer hardware and software to manage. So, think about what you will do with your recordings.

AVCHD 50P

AVCHD Lite

Both these examples offer 50-frame Progressive recording, but the first offers Full HD resolution compared to the other’s lower HD resolution – fine, if you have an HD Ready TV. The first option’s higher bitrate means a higher-spec SD card is required and recording time on an 8GB card will be about 35 minutes, compared to the second option’s Standard speed class and 1 hour recording time.

Ultra-HD and 4K video

For the ultimate in video quality, the new ‘4K’ formats offer more than 4x the resolution of Full HD. The Lumix GH4 model was the first to bring ‘Cinema quality’ resolution to a mirrorless system camera and has changed the perception of ‘stills’ cameras as real alternatives to traditional video cameras.

The term 4k is due to the horizontal resolution of around four thousand lines – Ultra-HD 4k offers 3840 x 2160 and 4k Cinema 4096 x 2160 pixels.


Video frame rates

Your final consideration is frame rate, which dictates how many frames per second (fps) are captured and so influences how ‘smooth’ the motion will appear during playback.

Here’s an explanation of the common options:

Frame Format Description Pros Cons
60p High-speed frame rate for USA / Japan areas. High-quality, Full-resolution video offering detailed, smooth motion for high-speed action. Suitable for playback on NTSC compatible displays. Requires high data transfer speed & specialist editing software. Large video file sizes.
60i Standard for NTSC TV broadcast. Highly compatible for NTSC display & recording devices. Lower data rates required for storage & transfer. Suffers from ‘interlaced field’ playback issues (see below).
50p High-speed frame rate for Europe area. High-quality, Full-resolution video offering detailed, smooth motion for high-speed action. Suitable for playback on PAL compatible displays. Requires high data transfer speed & specialist editing software. Large video file sizes.
50i Standard for PAL TV broadcast. Highly compatible format for PAL display & recording devices. Lower data rates required for storage & transfer. As 60i.
30fps NTSC video standard. Highly compatible format for NTSC display & recording devices / PCs. Creates smoother-motion playback than lower frame rates. Frame rate can be a little slow for some high-speed action or sports sequences, causing motion blur.
25fps PAL video standard. Highly compatible format for PAL display &recording devices. As 30fps.
24fps Standard frame rate used for shooting movies since the 1920s. Displays ‘filmic’ look desired by movie buffs. Slow frame rate can suffer from motion blur. Juddering effect sometimes caused when displayed on 50/60Hz screens.
15fps Low frame rate sometimes used for internet video content. Requires very low data transfer speed, making it ideal for internet streaming. Usually used with low-res image. Can be juddery / low-quality on large screens.
Progressive (p) Each video frame captured as complete image, containing full resolution & all visual information. High-quality image, full vertical resolution displayed in each frame. Less flicker on large screens. No motion artefacts. Requires higher data transfer speed for recording / playback.
Interlaced (i) Each video frame captured as two fields, each containing 50% of resolution & information to make up complete video frame. Requires lower data transfer speed for recording & playback. Vertical resolution is halved. Motion artefacts can occur during subject / camera movement. ‘Interlaced field’ errors can occur during editing.

Recording times

Sometimes you have to sacrifice recording quality because you are short of storage space on your memory card.

Here are a few examples of recording times when using different video formats:

Recording Format Resolution/FPS Max bit rate 2GB card 8GB card 32GB card
Motion JPEG HD 1280×720/30

7mins 20sec 32mins 10sec 2hr 12mins
AVCHD / MP4 FHD 1920×1080/50p 28Mbps 8mins 37mins 2hr 30mins
AVCHD FHD 1920×1080/25p/24p 24Mbps 10mins 43mins 2hr 57mins
MP4 FHD 1920×1080/25p 20Mbps 11mins 49mins 3hr 22mins
AVCHD FHD 1920×1080/50i 17Mbps 14mins 1hr 4hr 9mins
AVCHD HD 1280×720/50p 17Mbps 14mins 1hr 4hr 9mins
Motion JPEG VGA 640×480/30

19mins 20sec 1hr 23mins 5hr 45mins
MP4 HD 1280×720/25p 10Mbps 22mins 1hr 34mins 6hr 27mins
MP4 VGA 640×480/25p 4Mbps 49mins 3hr 28mins 14hr 12mins

Note: Times given are guidelines only. Variable bit rate compression means recording times will vary according to content. Max. continuous video recording times will vary by manufacturer.


The LUMIX Advantage

LUMIX G cameras have always been designed with video in mind.

Models such as the GH series are world-renowned for ‘movie camera’ functionality and quality. The introduction of the GH4 launched the world`s first 4K DSLM camera which allows video recording in Ultra-HD 4k ( 3840×2160) and 4k Cinema (4096×2160) format.

LUMIX G models include full-time Live View video display in the viewfinder and on-screen, High-speed Continuous AF, manual exposure video control, dedicated video record button (as shown) and the ability to take stills while videoing.

Panasonic also supports movie-making by offering a range of ‘Silent design’ video-optimised HD lenses, reducing the noise of focus, zoom and aperture operation.

GF6 Video Button

Dedicated Video Record button

LUMIX H-FS14140 HD lens, ideal for video use

LUMIX H-FS14140 HD lens, ideal for video use

Shooting Exercise

Why not try the different effects of shooting video with various lenses? Wide aperture, fast lenses apply a shallow depth of field that is almost impossible to create with a regular video camera, while macro and fish-eye lenses add a whole new perspective to even the most familiar setting!

So don’t just leave video to the experts, get out there and experiment yourself, you never know you may just get hooked on a whole new experience.

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Written by Steve Lucas for Panasonic ©