Panasonic Gh4

Apr 012014

I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:

  • Audio Technica ATR 3350
  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Olympus ME52W
  • Zalman Zm-Mic1

My Audio Technica 3350 First Impressions

The Audio Technica ATR 3350 is the most popular lavalier under $50. It comes with 20 feet of wire! Maybe that’s why it costs more than the Sony ECM-CS3 and Olympus ME52W? The microphone is smaller than my other lavs, the clip is small and black. It is a nice sized microphone if you need to hide it.

When you open the package and look at the mic, you will notice that there is nothing interesting about the ATR-3350. It is small, has no special features, is drowned in cable, has a rather large compartment for a battery, and that’s it. You get a foam wind cover. The clips does not allow for any adjusting. Pointing the mic perfectly at your subject could be troublesome.

Audio Technica ATR 3350 Specs

  • Condenser
  • Omnidirectional
  • Mono
  • Frequency response: 50 – 18,000Hz
  • Microphone sensitivity: -54 dB
  • Impedance: 1k ohms
  • Battery types: LR44 or SR44 or 357 type
  • Weight: 6g (0.2 oz)
  • Cable: 6m (20′) 3.5 mm (1/8″) dual mono mini-plug
  • Price: $18 – $25

An In Depth Look at the ATR 3350

The two biggest turnoffs are the fact that the cable is very long and that the mic requires batteries. Maybe you need a 20 foot cable? In that case this mic is awesome. Needing a battery for such a weak mic is annoying, and the fact that the on off switch has no light (reminding you to turn off the mic) only adds to my frustration. I’m very forgetful and it’s only a matter of time before I forget to turn off the mic and it runs out of juice. If you don’t need the 20 foot cable I would probably skip this mic and check out the Sony ECM-CS3.

Battery powered: You cannot plug your lavalier into a device and use plugin power. I hate batteries, and as your battery slowly dies your mic will sound worse and worse. Audio Technica recommends LR44 batteries, but these batteries die off slowly over time. You are better off getting SR44/357 batteries because they work strong right up until they die meaning you will not experience weak mic sensitivity for the duration of the battery life.

If you buy an Audio Technica ATR-3350 and it sounds quiet or bad, then try replacing the batteries. The ATR-3350 ships with a Maxell LR44 battery, and Lithium batteries gradually die off. Try putting in either a fresh LR44, or an Energizer 357 silver oxide battery (they work perfectly up until they die).

Lithium vs Silver Oxide

Audio Technica ATR 3350 Sound Quality

Fortunately, this little mic delivers when it comes to sound quality. The mic sensitivity is low (a bad thing) so everything sound quiet and you will have to turn up your gain. Once you have boosted your signal it sounds decent. If all you need is cheap usable sound then get an ATR-3350 or a Sony ECM-CS3. Don’t get an Olympus ME52W if you need usable sound, that thing sounds pretty awful. The ATR3350 delivers a flatter sound than the Sony ECM-CS3 (gives you a bit too much at the high frequencies). But unfortunately, because the sensitivity is low, once you boost the audio you get preamp and room noise. For this reason I would buy a Sony ECM CS3 over an ATR 3350.

Things I Didn’t Like About the ATR 3350

  • On/Off switch has no LED, so you might forget to turn the mic off.
  • Mic placement: the mic has no swivel, so pointing it in a particular direction is a bit difficult. Luckily the polar pattern is omnidirectional and so the mic placement is not as essential as with a cardioid mic like the Olympus ME52W.
  • Weak mic sensitivity: -54 dB means you will have to either use a lot of preamp gain, or boost your audio in post. -54 dB is the lowest mic sensitivity I have encountered amongst the cheap lavaliers.
  • Cable length: way too long for normal use.
  • Price: Overpriced. If you only need good audio get a Sony ECM-CS3. It is often priced lower than the ATR 3350, and the audio quality is superior.

Things I Liked About the ATR 3350

  • Frequency response: The sound from this mic is like night and day when compared to the Olympus ME52W. The 50-100 MHz that this mic picks up really makes a difference.
  • Omnidirectional polar pattern: you get a fuller sound, and mic placement is not as crucial.
  • Cable Length: I know, I know. I was bitching and moaning about the long cable length. If you don’t have an external recorder and need to plug this lavalier into your camera, you will appreciate the long ass cable. So when I need 20 feet of cable, I like this mic.

My Final Thoughts on the Audio Technica ATR 3350

In conclusion, I have to say that if your sole mission is to improve the audio from your DSLR, then you will benefit from the ATR-3350. The omni directional polar pattern is easy to work with, and this mic picks up a good bit of the low end frequencies. You get nice flat audio for $20. What is there to complain about? Not much really. The sound is okey, not great. If you own an external recorder, then you most likely don’t need 20 feet of cable, and getting a plugin power lavalier that does not require external batteries would result in a more relaxing experience. If this mic did not have a long-ass cord, did not require batteries, and was more sensitive then it would be an amazing value. But as is, priced at $20+ I’d go for the Sony lavalier.

Mar 302014


I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:

  • Audio-Technica ATR-3350
  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Olympus ME52W
  • Zalman Zm-Mic1

First Impressions of the Olympus ME52W

The ME52W  it is minimalist and sturdy. Even though it’s cheap and made in China (I assume) it feels like it will not break as easily as my other cheap lavaliers. I flat out love the feel of this thing.

The cable length is a bit short and that the silver microphone clip is big and draws a lot of attention. The short cable length is not a big deal for me because I plan to use the ME52 with a digital recorder that will be in my pocket. The ugly silver mic clip is not a big deal either because I will be using this mic setup for personal use. If I was using it for a wedding or corporate work I would prefer a black colored clip. The clip is ugly, but nice and big – I am not concerned about it breaking.

The microphone articulates/swivels very nicely. You can position the mic which ever way you like. Overall, I am very happy with the ergonomics of the ME52. I would have liked the cable to be a bit longer. The cable is long enough for me to attach the mic to the collar of my shirt (I’m 6 feet, btw). But I would have liked an extra few inches…

Olympus ME52W Specs

  • Electret condenser microphone
  • Mono
  • Impedance: 2.2 k￿ ohms
  • Unidirectional (Cardioid)
  • Microphone sensitivity: – 40dB/kHz
  • Dimensions: 17.5mm x 27.3mm
  • Cable length: 1.05m
  • Weight: 4.2g
  • Frequency response: 100 – 15.000Hz
  • Input: 1.5v – 10v
  • Plug Type: 3.5mm mini-jack
  • Power Supply: power is supplied by recorder
  • Price: $10 – $15

In Depth Look at the Olympus ME52W

The first thing I wanted to test was mic sensitivity. The more sensitive a mic is the less you have to boost it via preamps. If your preamps are crappy, then increasing the gain will add noise. So in order to get nice clean sound it’s nice to have a sensitive mic and good preamps. The ME52 has a sensitivity rating of -40dB. What this means is that it is more sensitive than the Olympus ME15 (-42dB), but less sensitive than the Sony ECM-CS3 (-38.0 dB).

The ME52W claims to have a unidirectional polar pattern. I assume this is a cardioid polar pattern. Most lavalier have an omnidirectional polar pattern (they pick up sounds from all sides). A cardioid polar pattern picks up sounds mostly from the side facing the microphone, though not as aggressively as a shotgun mic. Olympus’s claim that this mic reduces ambient noise is just marketing speak for “this mic uses a cardioid polar pattern”. I tested the mic a bit by turning it away from the source, and it certainly is directional. So if you need a mic that doesn’t pick up sounds from the sides this is a decent choice.

ME52W Sound Quality

If you need a cheap microphone that delivers good sound, then you are probably asking for something that does not exist. In my microphone shootout this was by far the worst sounding mic. Personally, I will likely never use this mic for filmmaking or anything that requires good sound. If all you need is a mic for basic voice recording or for Skype calls, this will be fine. But forget about it if you need good sound quality; your voice will sound as if you’re speaking through a can. If I was producing youtube video, I would skip this mic and get an Audio Technica ATR-3350, Sony ECM-CS3, Giant Squid Lavalier or Church Audio CA-10 (if you can afford to spend $100).

Frequency Response

This is the second biggest problem with the ME52W. The frequency response is 100 – 15.000Hz and as a result everything sounds very weak and your cutting out the low end in your voice. Your voice will sound mediocre with this lavalier. If people are listening to the audio from this mic on laptop speakers or iPhone speakers, they won’t know the difference. If you listen on decent speakers or use headphones, you will notice the “lacking” sound quality instantly.

What I Like the Most About the ME52W

  • No battery necessary, plug it into whatever device you have and it should work.
  • Ease of use. It does not have lots of wires, the clip is big (too big maybe), and the mic can be easily positioned.
  • Rugged build quality. I know this thing is not rugged compared to professional gear, but it feels tough. I am not afraid of handling it.
  • Impressive directional performance: you don’t pick up a lot of the noise on the sides.
  • Fair value. I got it for about $13, and it performs better than what I expect from  a ~$10 mic.

What I Don’t Like About the ME52W

  • The mic is fairly big, and the clip is rather large and ugly. If you need to mic someone up discretely, the mic may be too big.
  • This microphone has poor sound quality.

My Final Thoughts on the ME52W Lavalier

If you have good speakers or a headphones you will definitely hear the unnatural sound this mic produces. The ME52W sounds very thin and small compared to the internal microphones of my PCM M-10. It is as if you are talking through a can or something. Really gross… It’s a shame because this lavalier has the best construction of any sub $50 lavalier I have tested.  Overall, this is a decent mic for applications that don’t require good audio quality. If you need this mic for video work, YouTube prosecution, or anything that requires decent audio I would skip this mic and buy a ATR3350 or a Sony ECM-CS3 (both cost a little bit more).

Mar 232014

LUUV Stabilizer

A sexy looking stabilizer is being crowdfunded on Indiegogo called the LUUV (pronounced “loove”). At first I thought $250 + shipping was a bit much, but after watching this thing in action, learning about its features and seeing how well it is engineered, I think ~$300 is a fair price for early birds. The retail will be $350 once the early bird specials are sold out. $350, plus shipping is…. a lot.

If you are shooting action with a tiny little GoPro or smartphone, you will experience more camera shake than if you were shooting non-action with a DSLR. You can stabilize your footage in post, but at the cost of resolution. Some day there will be a GoPro with image stabilization. For now, you are stuck with gimbal stabilizers and software. I want one. It’s so damn pretty. But I don’t have a GoPro! And I don’t use my phone for videos :P

Mar 212014


No reviews or test charts of the Samyang 10mm, so this is just your typical bullshit article  (I got nothing else to write about). The lens looks pretty and is shipping late March.

Samyang has a cult following. They make lenses branded as Rokinon, Bower, Pro Optic, and Bell & Howell. I am sure I am forgetting a brand but whatever. If you get any of the above lens flavors, it’s the same lens with a different name. I’d say the most popular lens Samyang makes right now is the 14mm f2.8. It is very sharp (if you get a good copy, it is about the sharpest lens at 14mm you will find!) and relatively cheap (sub $300).

Samyang is a great brand if you don’t need auto focus or don’t mind poor quality control. If you shoot stills, getting a Samyang lens could be a bit extreme because for the most part Samyang lenses are fully manual. This means you won’t even be able to use focus confirmation if you shoot on a Canon DSLR. Not a big deal if you shoot video. Also there is a fair amount of variation in lens quality compared to Canon or Nikon. You might get a bad copy of the lens and need to send it back. Aside from that Samyangs are awesome because they are cheap, sharp and excellent for video.

The Tokina 11-16mm

Well, this is the king of sub $500 wide angle lenses for video shooters. If all you care about is photography then you buy a Canon 10mm-22mm. If all you care about is video, then you buy a Tokina 11-16mm or a 14mm prime. If you want amazing value, low light performance and something that can shoot stills and video, it’s hard to go wrong with a Tokina 11-16. I was able to snag a copy of the Tokina 11-16mm DX II for under $4o0, and since I shoot stills it was an easy choice between the Tokina and the 14mm Samyang given the ~$100 price difference.

Samyang 10mm vs Tokina 11-16

Wide angle and super wide angle shots can flat out look awesome… or awful. The difference between 10mm and 11mm is substantial. I have never shot anything with my Tokina 11-16mm and thought to my self “that is too wide”. I always feel that I can use 10mm or 9mm (on a crop sensor).  When you go super wide, stuff just starts to look fictionally magical. It’s definitely a focal range for having “fun”.

So 10mm is a great focal length. Is it worth shelling out $500+ for that 1mm? No way! If you own a Tokina 11-16, just live with the fact that 11mm is as wide as you can go. For video, 11mm is #$%^ing wide, unless you need a Terry Gilliam look, in which case a fish eye lens might actually work better (you can tame the spherical perspective in post).

How will the Samyang 10mm handle vignetting, chromatic aberration (CA) and barrel distortion?
  • Vignetting: It’s usually pretty harsh on Samyangs. I think there will be a fair amount of vignetting on the 10mm.
  • Chromatic Aberration: Samyang has amazing CA control. Possibly some of the best CA control in existence at this low price range. This is where the Tokina 11-16 lags – it has a good amount of chromatic aberration (easy to fix for photos, time consuming for videos).  Is the CA so noticeable that I feel I need to fix it? No.
  • Barrel Distortion: The Samyang 14mm barrel distortion is very strong. Easy to fix for stills, and video (but you will end up cropping your footage a bit).

It’s a Bit Too Expensive For Me

It goes without saying  that the Tokina 11-16 is priced lower, has better quality control, and is more versatile (it should be able to do everything the Samyang 10mm can aside from the 10mm focal length). So for me, the Samyang 10mm f/2.8 is way overpriced and too redundant. If I owned a Samyang 14mm, and no other wide angle lenses, I would defiantly buy the 10mm. Chances are it will be sharp as hell, and focusing is easy at 10mm. But I would wait for the price to fall. Samyang lenses usually depreciate a bunch over the first two years of their life span. Unless this is the sharpest wide angle lens on the planet (it could be, no joke), $500+ for an all manual wide angle lens that is not built like a tank is a bit too much for my blood.

Mar 162014

Sony Linear PCM Recorder PCM-M10

This is the recorder I chose to buy over the Zoom H4n.

Why I Chose the Sony PCM M10 Over the Zoom H4N

If you go to any audio forum such as taperssection or gearslutz or to most audio websites that focus on recording quality you will get a consensus opinion that the PCM M10 is better than the Zoom H4N if all you care about is recording clean audio. In the $200ish price range, the Sony PCM M10 and Olympus LS-11 are considered the best values for pure audio. The Zoom H4N has a lot of tricks in the bag many of which I did not need: multitrack recording, phantom power, xlr, etc…

I am a one man show and the thought have having multiple XLR cables wired into a recorder, or to be recording and monitoring multiple sources of audio simultaneously while still focusing on my DSLR is pretty laughable for an armature like myself. XLR was not an issue either since any mics I plug into the recorder would have short cable lengths. Unbalanced RCA cables are blown out of proportion, particularly if you are not recording in an environment with electrical interference or long cable lengths. In general you should have a lower noise floor with XLRs. Of course the Zoom H4N’s inferior preamp would negate the noise floor benefit of the XLR cable’s signal to noise ratio. I don’t want to bad mouth the Zoom H4N or anything. If I was recording multiple channels in a studio at home maybe I would opt for it, but from a field recording standpoint I think the PCM M10 is a better choice because:

The battery life will absolutely smoke the Zoom H4N. Recording for hours and hours and hours is not a problem. The recorder is tiny allowing you to stealth record stuff. It is so small that it can fit, with a Lowepro case, into my pocket. I can then shove my wallet and keys into that same pocket, and still have plenty of room. It truly is a tiny recorder for the amount of horsepower it packs. The preamp is amongst the best in it’s class, the mics are also considered to be better than the Zoom H4N’s internal mics, if I need to record a professional line level signal the PCM M10 can handle it (Zoom H4N won’t). Best of all? The recorder is tiny! And the battery life on this thing is insane. Sorry for repeating myself but those two aspects were the most important to me.

Sony PCM M10 and Lowepro Volta 20

So why is the Zoom H4n the weapon of choice for indie filmmakers? Well, it packs a ton of features. You can position the mics for a nice stereo image, you can record 4 tracks, it takes XLRs and in my opinion the best features it has is phantom power. This means it will provide up to +48 volts of phantom power to TWO different mics. Holey smokes that is nice. My PCM M10 unfortunately does not provide phantom power, so I am limited to plug in power (good for lavaliers, electrets, and battery powered mics). If I ever need an ultra portable condenser mic rig, I can plug in a battery powered mic such as the Rode VideoMic Pro, or a Rode NTG2 and I will be good to go. Most professionals use external preamps such as Sound Devices and feed the signal via line in. If I had to summarize the PCM M10 I would say it has fewer bells and whistles, but the things it does, it does very well.

My Initial Sony PCM M10 Impressions

It comes with a 3 volt AC adapter so I can save battery life in the studio. It comes with a strap, and a remote control – both of which I will likely never use. The recorder is very small and could easily be mistaken for a phone (a crazy ass looking phone from the … future? past?). It is light. Does it feel cheap? Yes it feels fairly cheap, and I am glad I bought a Lowepro case that fits it like a glove. It looks sleek. It has a standard 1/4″ 20 thread hole on the rear so you can mount it to a tripod or quick release plate. Best of all it has a sturdy dial for adjusting the levels. I love knobs and dials. Pushing buttons to control the levels digitally seems gross…

My biggest fear was that the recorder would be overly complicated but it turns out that operating the PCM M10 is very intuitive and easy. Accessing the menus, starting and stopping recordings takes no time at all to master.

Sony PCM M10 Contents

The stereo image on the PCM M10 is not very wide. You will notice that it is stereo, but not ZOMG AMAZING STEREO. The reason for this is that the two mics are not pointed too far outward (they are nonadjustable) and their polar patterns are omni directional. Lucky for me since I mix and edit everything in post having a wide stereo image is not necessary for me. If ever I need wider stereo, I will plug an external mic in and bypass the internal mics.

What’s My Opinion About the PCM M10 Recorder?

The audio sound great. The PCM M10 has a built in speaker that is pretty useless, and you should listen to everything on good speakers or at least some decent headphones. The recorder picks up base very well. I certainly prefer using the PCM M10 internal mics for voice recording over any cheap lavalier. It absolutely smokes all the sub $30 lavaliers I have tested. The omnidirectional mics do not pickup wind noise as much as cardioid or hyper-cardioid polar patterns do. However you will still need wind protection in moderate winds. I was recording the street when a slight gust encroached and sure enough the mic picked it up.

The limiter works wonderfully. I was was walking by train station when I noticed a train was zipping by. Quickly I pulled out my recorder, didn’t adjust the gain, hit record, and the train absolutely blew out my eardrums and the recording started flashing red (clipped audio). So I went home listened to the recording and could not believe how great the recording sounded despite my levels being set way too high. So I fall into the pro limiter school. The limiter saved my ass there.

Rear of Sony PCM M10

I find myself taking the recorder everywhere. It’s like a cellphone. Lugging a DSLR everywhere would be nice, but it’s not practical. The PCM M10 fills that void. I can record stuff wherever I go. Its not video, but so what, its just as fun. Plug in some tiny in ear headphones for monitoring and no one will know what the hell you are up to.

Some of My Personal Sony PCM M10 Recordings:


Voice Test:

Room Noise Floor (low sensitivity):

Room Noise Floor (high sensitivity):

Construction Zone:

Airplane Cabin”.. *wink*:

Sony PCM M10 Specs:
  • Dimensions : 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ x 7/8″
  • Power Requirements : Two AA size Alkaline batteries (supplied). Two AA NiMH rechargeable batteries (optional)
  • DC Input Jack : 3V
  • Frequency Response : 20 Hz to 40 kHz (Line in) @ 96KHz
  • Built-in Mic : Electret condenser microphones. Max input level: 123 dB. Frequency response 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Weight : 6.6 oz
  • S/N Ratio : 87dB
  • Internal Memory: 2GB
  • Additional Memory: Accepts Memory Stick Micro (M2) and microSD

My Recommended PCM M10 Settings

  1. Definitely don’t record in mp3 format. I use the 24 bit or 16 bit PCM recording setting. The sample rate should be whatever you choose. 44.1K is a common standard for broadcast audio and CDs so I choose 44.1K.
  2. 44.1 vs 48k: Very little signal is captured above 20k, even with the best audio gear. 44.1 handles the sub 20k frequencies perfectly fine and so you don’t lose out on much by recording in 44.1k
  3. 24 Bit vs 16 bit: If you can handle the larger file sizes definitely record in 24 Bit. The internal storage can handle 3+ hours of 24 bit 44.1k audio. Switching to 16 bit 44.1k should increase recording time to 5+ hours.
  4. I set Auto Gain Control off. You should always use manual gain. Never use automatic gain. Never you automatic gain. Never use automatic gain. Set levels manually.
  5. I turn the limiter on. If ever I set my levels too high and my audio would have clipped and sounded like shit, the limiter does its best to automatically save it. The limiter is completely different from the automatic gain. The school is split amongst professionals whether or not to use the limiter. Half do, half don’t. If you think your audio might clip, you should use it.
  6. Low cut filter: off
  7. Memory (Memory Card)
  8. Cross Memory Recording (on)
  9. Plug In Power (on)
  10. PRE REC (off)
  11. Min Input Sensitivity is a switch on the side/back of the PCM M10. You should keep it on low. The 20db boost is too much for most applications.
  12. Generally you want to set your levels so that they peak as high as possible without clipping (going over 0db). Some people set their levels around -6db. This does not give much room for error, and so I think you should aim for -12db if you have an audio source who’s volume may fluctuate. If you have a consistent sound, go ahead an record at -6db… or -3db if you like to live on the edge :)
  13. The M10 internal preamp unity gain is set at around 6. What this means is that if you set the levels above unity gain, you could get a lower signal to noise ratio because of added noise. To be safe try to record audio without setting the levels too high, particularly if there is a chance of the source getting louder (the limiter would engage or your recording would clip and distort). The best way to avoid noise or possible distortion is to set the levels conservatively (set to 5 or 6) and then boost the audio with software. For line in unity is between 4 and 6.

Levels: Notes:
2-4: Good (risk attenuation noise)
4-6: Ideal (unity gain)
6-10: Good (risk gain noise)

If you ever think there is a chance of your audio clipping, set the recording levels lower.

Suggested PCM M10 Accessories

The PCM M10 doesn’t come with any pouch or case, so I suggest you buy a cheap Lowepro Volta 20. It fits the PCM M10 like a glove. Unfortunately the case is too tight for fitting accessories like a windscreen or lavalier. The case has a toughish shell-like exterior and feels like it can protect the PCM M10 from falls adequately.

You need to buy headphones for monitoring. Otherwise you are kind of shooting in the dark. Even cheap $15 earphones are better than nothing. And if you plan on recording outdoors, I suggest a windscreen.

Also, you may want a cardioid or hyper cardioid mic to go along with your recorder, particularly if you are getting the PCM M10 for filmmaking. The cheapest I would go is a Rode VideoMic. Not the new Rode VideoMic GO (it sounds like utter shit and you are flushing $100 down the drain). Get the Rode VideoMic, or Rode VideoMic Pro. To my ears the Rode VideoMic pro sounds very similar to the Rode NTG2. Or get an Audio Technica AT897. The Rode VideoMic, Rode VidoMic Pro, Rode NTG2 and Audio Technica AT897are all battery operated and do not need phantom power, so they will work fine with the Sony PCM M10.

You may want to add a lavalier to your setup as well. Cheap plugin power lavaliers are not as awful as most people think, particularly if you get one that can pick up the low frequencies.

Lastly, you may want to mount your PCM M10 onto a tripod, or at least something that has a handle so that your internal microphones don’t pick up any handling noise.

My Rating for the Sony PCM M10: 5 out of 5

The Sony PCM M10 comes in three flavors: red, white, and black. If you wanna take your audio production to the next level, the PCM M10 is a great start. I suggest picking up some headphones (Panasonic RP-HTF600-S are the best bang for your buck) so you can fully utilize this recorder.

Sony PCM-M10 Portable Linear PCM Voice Recorder with Electret Condenser Stereo Microphones, 96 kHz/24-bit, 4GB Memory & USB High-Speed Port – Red

Mar 132014

The contest is called “My RODE Reel” and I think you can technically you can win $70,000 worth of prizes if you win every single category. Rode has confirmed on their Facebook page that you can submit multiple entries. The competitions has already begun, and it lasts until May 31st, 2014. If you submit your film before April 1st, you get a free t-shirt as well as PluralEyes 3 (software that is very useful for syncing audio and video, worth about $200). In fact, the first 1,000 submissions get a free t-shirt.


The prizes are split across 3 grand prize categories and 6 smaller categories. The smaller prize categories consist of Best Sound Design, Best Soundtrack, Best Cinematography, Best Documentary, Best Non-English Film, and Best Location. The winners of these categories receive a Rode NTG3, Blimp, Boompole and Event 20/20 monitors.

The Grand Prizes are awarded to four categories: Judges’ Film, People’s Choice, Short Film Sound Design, and Judges’ Behind the Scenes. Basically you get a shit ton of gear if you win in these categories. Tons of Rode Gear, Zeiss lenses, Black Magic cameras, Kessler Cranes etc… This is where the majority of the $70,000 prize pool lies.

For example, the winner of the Judge’s Panel wins:

  • BlackMagic Cinema Camera
  • GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition
  • Kessler CineSlider
  • Kessler Paralax
  • Miller Air Tripod System
  • RedRock Micro UltraCage
  • SmallHD DB7 Pro SB
  • Teradek Bolt Pro HDMI
  • Zeiss 35mm ZE lens
  • Zeiss 50mm ZE lens
  • G-Technology G-Dock EV (2TB)
  • ThinkTank Photo Airport Security
  • ThinkTank Photo SpeedRacer
  • ThinkTank Photo DSLR Battery Holder 4
  • ThinkTank Photo Pixel Pocket Rocket
  • Tether Tools iPad Teleprompter kit (including iPad case, connect bracket, RockSolid arm, Pro Clamp, 15mm rail adapter)
  • 12 month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud
  • RedGiant Color Suite
  • RedGiant Shooter Suite
  • RedGiant Keying Suite
  • $500 licensing credit for The Music Bed
  • Event Opal (pair)
  • RODE Blimp
  • RODE Boompole
  • RODE PG2, 1 x RODE WS7
  • RODE Reporter
  • RODE VideoMic Pro
  • RODE Stereo VideoMic Pro
  • RODE DeadCat VMP
  • RODE DeadKitten
  • RODE iXY
  • RODE smartLav (4)
  • RODE Lavalier (2)
  • RODE Micon-2 (2)
  • RODE Micon-5 (2)
  • RODE RODEGrip+
  • RODE iClamp

So what is the catch? You need to submit an original short, plus an original behind the scenes video that shows you using a Rode microphone. Both videos must be at least 60 seconds long. The short film is limited to 5 minutes, while the behind the scenes film is limited to 10 minutes. Just go to to learn more.

If you don’t own a Rode microphone, I would suggest renting one. If you don’t have any local rental shops, BorrowLenses can ship you one. Or, you can always buy a used Rode microphone off Ebay or Amazon. If I had only $150 or so to invest, I would just get the new Rode VideoMic ($150). Rode also sells a GO version of that mic (Rode VideoMic GO) for $100 brand new, but that mic has poor sound quality.

lens rental

The best deal on Amazon is the Rode VideoMic bundle that comes with a Rode Dead Cat ($40 value) for $160 shipped.

Mar 112014


Panasonic LUMIX GH4Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)

Both B&H Photo and Amazon are preselling the Panasonic GH4. The body is priced at $1,698.00 on both sites. B&H expects the availability to be “end of April” while Amazon has flat out announced that it will available April 30th.

The optional interface unit that attached to the bottom of the camera known as the Panasonic LUMIX YAGH Interface Unit is priced at $2,000. The unit is optional, and it is intended for professionals who need time code and other odd features, and will like not sell very well (at least at the obscene price of $2,000).

The big deal about the GH4 is that it is a mirrorless camera (kinda like a DSLR without a mirror inside) that can shoot 4K video for under $2,000.  The GH3 was considered one of the most powerful video cameras under $3,000 (many people would still take a GH3 over a Canon 5D mkIII). So what do we expect from the GH4? Basically it is set to be the ultimate video camera under $2,000. Yes, the $1,698 price tag may be daunting but you are getting a professional video quality from a highly regarded pedigree (the GH1, GH2, and GH3 all received massive acclaim from the film community).

So, is it worth it? If you have a 4K TV, a 4K computer monitor, and the computer resources to edit 4K video then I think this camera is defiantly worth it. You are buying a camera that will not feel obsolete for at least half a decade. If you don’t have a 4K TV or a powerful computer, you may want to invest in a TV and computer before you invest in a GH4.

Mar 012014

I don’t have a GH4 that I can play with hands on. But that won’t stop me from explaining some of the best features of this awesome little camera! Obviously it can shoot 4k. It can also export 10bit 4:2:2 via HD monitoring. Lets take a closer look at the Panasonic GH4.


Panasonic GH4 Bitrate

To have equivalently compressed video, 4K resolution should have about 2x the bitrate of standard HD video. This is a loose rule and the logic behind it is that compression artifacts are smaller because the pixels on the display are smaller. Point of the matter is; the 4K video of the GH4 will have a bitrate of 100Mbps and the 1080p video will have an extraordinary bitrate of 200Mbps. The 4K video has a lower bitrate because 4K 200Mbps video requires more hardware resources. Like I said, it’s not a big deal.

  • The GH4 can shoot at 100Mbps (4K) or 200Mbps (1080p)
  • The GH3 can shoot at 73Mbps
  • The Canon 5D mkIII has a variable bitrate, averaging 91Mbps
  • The Canon 5D mkII maxes out at 38Mbps

The moral of the story is that the GH4 has a very high bitrate, and you will see fewer compression artifacts. Even though the bitrate of the 4K video is only 2x bigger than the bitrate of 1080p (4K video is about 4x the resolution) the compression should look about the same. And guess what? If you downscale that 4K video to 1080p, the compression artifacts will be greatly reduced!

The GH4 Crop Factor

The crop factor is 2x when shooting 1080p. The Gh4 has a 2.3x crop when shooting 4K. The reason the crop is greater in 4K is a choice made by Panasonic to get better image quality. Because most cameras have sensors that are designed for photography, they have too many pixels for video. You can either fill the whole sensor (so the crop factor does not increase) and skip lines (recording all the pixels would give you some crazy shit like 8K video or something!), or you just record a smaller portion of the sensor with less line skipping (less aliasing!). The moral of the story is that if you interpolated the 4K footage to maintain a 2x crop factor, the video quality would be slightly worse.

Buying a Metabones Speed Booster is popular now a days. It is a way for micro four thirds shooters to increase their aperture and decrease their focal range. With the Metabones .71x Speed Booster, your effective crop would become 1.42x when shooting 1080p, and 1.633x when shooting 4K.

Panasonic GH4 Dynamic Range

The GH3 had better dynamic range than the Canon 5D mkII. Do I expect the GH4 to have better dynamic range than the GH3? Yes. I predict the GH4 will have excellent dynamic range. Not as great as the Black Magic cameras, but excellent by non RAW standards. Because the GH4 can output 10bit 4:2:2 video, the dynamic range of the 4:2:2 10bit output will be even better and should rival the Black Magic cameras.

Panasonic GH4 Rolling Shutter

Estimated 50% reduction in rolling shutter: The GH3 had excellent rolling shutter reduction making the GH4 possibly the camera with the least rolling shutter under $3,000. The Digital Bolex D16, priced at $3299, and the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, priced at $2,995, have global shutters meaning they do not suffer from the jello effect caused by rolling shutter. Rolling shutter can be fixed in post production, but having clean footage in camera is always preferable to fixing everything in post.

Panasonic GH4 Gamma Curves

The Panasonic GH4 features Cinelike D and Cinelike V gamma curves. Cinelike D allow you to make the most of your dynamic range by preserving details in the shadows and highlights, it gives a very flat look. Cinelike V is more contrasty and gives you a good all around gamma curve for every day shooting. Basically, you can adjust the gamma curves inside the camera so that you can shoot with whatever “look” you want.

Panasonic GH4 Audio Features

The camera comes with your standard built in microphone. I assume the microphone sucks. You have a microphone jack and a headphone jack. So you can use an external microphone and use headphones to monitor audio. The best solution is to buy and external recorder, an external microphone and forget about the GH4 audio features.


GH4 Accessories

To get the most out of this camera, I suggest you at least buy an interface that can capture 10bit 4:2:2  video. The most popular devices for capturing uncompressed video are monitors made by Atomos.


  • Atomos Ninja: Low resolution 4.3 inch 480 x 272 touchscreen monitor. It only has HDMI input (no output). It does not feature useufl monitoring features such as focus assist, zebra & false color monitoring. Records 10-bit, 4:2:2 in ProRes format to HDD/SSD. $280
  • Atomos Ninja 2: A fairly low resolution 4.3 inch 800 x 480 touchscreen monitor with focus assist, zebra & false color monitoring. Records 10-bit, 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD to HDD/SSD. $700
  • Atomos Ninja Blade: 5 inch IPS 1280 x 720 touchscreen monitor with focus assist, zebra & false color monitoring. Features waveform vectorscope display and records 10-bit, 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD to HDD/SSD. $1,000
  • Atomos Smurai Blade: 5 inch IPS 1280 x 720 touchscreen monitor with focus assist, zebra & false color monitoring. Features waveform vectorscope display and records 10-bit, 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD to HDD/SSD. Has HD-SDI input and output, and 12 channel audio. $1,300
  • Atomos Ronin: 5 inch 800 x 480 touchscreen monitor (pretty mediocre if you ask me), XLR audio recording, focus assist, zebra & false color monitoring. Features Timecode and records 10-bit, 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD to HDD/SSD. Has HD-SDI input and output, and 12 channel audio.$1,300.

If you don’t want an Atomos for some reason, you can settle for the Panasonic LUMIX YAGH Interface Unit (DMW-YAGH). It allows you to synchronize the time codes of multiple cameras for simultaneous recording. You can record uncompressed video without this giant brick. Just buy an Atomos Ninja 2 instead. I would only get the YAGH interface if I needed timecode. Keep in mind that the YAGH mounts like a battery grip; it has no monitoring capabilities (no screen).  I don’t know how much the YAGH will cost, but the thing look like it will cost $600+. For that money you would be better off with an Atomos Ninja 2.

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