Vitaliy hacks ‘photographic’ looking 42Mbit 1080/24p AVCHD out of GH2

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Hacked GH2

Above: EOSHD’s hacked GH2 with Zacuto EVF Flip and Iscorama!!

Codecs are currently the biggest weakness of DSLR video but that is about to change, and no – not with an external record but inside the camera.

The hacker Vitaliy Kiselev says he has had ‘a break-through’ – raising the AVCHD bitrate of the hacked GH2 to an average of 42Mbit – almost double the original Panasonic specification and higher than the top AVCHD PS setting of 28Mbit. And unlike the GH1’s encoder, the GH2 has B-frames making it more efficient, so for the same bitrate it delivers more image quality than other DSLRs in the 40Mbit ballpark like the Canon 5D Mark II.

Vitaliy says on his forum that the video looks ‘like a photo’ in terms of quality. The next PTools release containing the patch is due out soon.

It’s important to note that testing is ongoing and nothing is final or 100% reliable – there will be more progress as Vitaliy and testers seek to understand the GH2’s inner workings. He currently thinks that 42Mbit isn’t the top rate and he thinks the camera will go further.

There is also the question of 1080/60p and improvements to the HDMI output of the GH2 which will make it into a real monster, but testing on those so far hasn’t unlocked the full potential. I’ve been testing the HDMI behaviour of the camera and 1080/60p. As an example, there are several settings in PTools that nobody, not even Vitaliy knows the function of yet and must be tested.

The purpose of testing is to methodically change one at a time, in an effort to understand how it effects the camera. Seeking out better image quality and fine tuning settings is the last thing that happens – first testers must be very systematic and understand the camera’s programming. There is one setting Vitaliy has labeled as Encoder Setting 4, for example. When this is changed, it seems to affect the type of feed which is given to the LCD and HDMI output during recording, but in a very limited way. So the mission goes on to find more settings, combine settings and understand what they do.

ExTele crop mode now works over HDMI but only after the record button is hit. Quality is exceptional.

In terms of 1080/60p, things are nowhere near there yet. PTools seems to change the encoder to progressive 60p but information in each frame is corrupt, with some kind of interlaced image in the top half and garbage in the other half. But I am optimistic we will get 1080/60p in the end. According to Panasonic’s own specifications the GH2’s sensor output is ’60p’ in 1080i mode, so it should be a case of changing just the high level firmware parameters and image processor, not the fundamental operation of the sensor.

The AVCHD implementation in the GH2 is highly advanced, and understanding it takes time. In the GH1 it was very basic in comparison!

Without the heavy compression or poor scaling common on DSLRs, the hacked GH2 really will look like a Micro Four Thirds version of a RED camera at this rate. No line skipping and no heavy compression artefacts as well as an efficient encoder and super high bitrates.

It certainly beats the hassle of having an uncompressed HD-SDI and external recorder. The GH2 can rival the quality of that all inside it’s own toy consumer shell! Incredibly powerful hardware for the money.

Viva the revolution.

About Author

British filmmaker and editor of EOSHD, Andrew works in Berlin on his own self funded filmmaking and video projects.

42 Comments

  1. Perry Morris Jr. on

    OML! Just think, one could build a production company around 2 GH2s w/external audio. I think I just might do that. My Hacked GH1 is impressive, a GH2 without the hack is better that my GH1.3. Now I can only imagine Hacked GH2s would satisfy me until Red’s fixed Lens X8 Scarlet arrives (Or beyond).

    “Without the heavy compression or poor scaling common on DSLRs, the hacked GH2 really will look like a Micro Four Thirds version of a RED camera at this rate. No line skipping and no heavy compression artefacts as well as an efficient encoder and super high bitrates.

    It certainly beats the hassle of having an uncompressed HD-SDI and external recorder. The GH2 can rival the quality of that all inside it’s own toy consumer shell! Incredibly powerful hardware for the money.

    Viva the revolution.”

    Nothing else need be said!

  2. wow! I mean it if Canon won’t release a revolution camera I will switch to panasonic, it was already the best with the GH1 then the default GH2 and now this! Can micro four thirds sensors compete with aps-c for the dynamic range? How is it the GH2 at the moment compared to others?

  3. Andrew,
    Great news on the hack settings! I asked this question on PV and didnt get a reply, “Do you think the hack will at some point allow us to change the aspect ratio of the ETC mode to allow higher resolution shooting?” Maybe you could ask for us? :)

    Looks like the in cam under/over crank options are handling the bitrates as well?!? I thought i seen Vitaliy say that. Was the initial problem with them just low bitrates?

  4. I have a feeling everything within logical grasp he will achieve eventually. If it’s possible within the firmware’s constraints, it will be opened up.

    Some stuff is low level, fundemental to hardware design. Others are on the surface and can be reconfigured by PTools, if not now then when it is better understood.

    What Vitaliy can’t do is heavy recoding or redesign the hardware.

    It does however go to show how far current camera hardware needs to be throttled back to comply with consumer electronics market compatibility issues, like TV playback, slower SD cards, etc.

    I have hopes for ETC that we could see 4K from a larger portion of the sensor, than the 1080p window we have at the moment. The GH2’s hardware supports sensor windowing, but it’s not clear how configurable it is (if at all) and where the limits of the CPU power are with regards encoding and image processing.

    I’m expecting 80Mbit AVCHD, 200Mbit MJPEG, so 4K 1:1 is not out of the question based on how fast I think the GH2’s processor is. That is pure speculation until the research and testing is done however.

  5. I would agree. I’m no hacker, but I’ve been reading everything GH-X related on PView, and I would also conclude that 4K is not out of the question. I’m sure Mr. K will have a public-friendly hack out fairly soon, but it seems clear from all the happenings on PView that the Stalin hack project is far from over. Many great things have been done already, but it seems that much more is still unsolved. Wherever it all lands in the end, I’m confident in saying it is going to be surprising and impressive. For any of the testers out there, I cannot encourage enough: document well. be systematic. change one thing at a time. (also, set aside some time to think out of the box!)

  6. To get rid of the tonal banding, you seem to be arguing for at least 10-bit encoding. I think the GH2 works at 12 bits (or is it 14?) internally, but there doesn’t appear to be any way to record 10-bit AVC/H.264 on the camera or to get a true, usable 10-bit stream out of the HDMI.

  7. Canon’s sensors are 14bit A/D, GH2 not sure but it has 12bit RAW for stills.

    It’s possible we may get rid of banding with higher bitrates instead…but 10bit would certainly give us more smoothly gradated tones – more of them with smaller steps.

  8. Very cool! Going to hack my GH2 soon! Some of the Personal Views forum messages made me concerned about if my SD cards would be fast enough or not. I have the Transcend 32gb class 10 cards. I think they should be more than fast enough, but wasn’t sure if the new high bitrate hacks might give it trouble. I doubt they would handle the 200Mbit MJPEG rate you mention, but that sounds pretty crazy high, and doubt I would use that mode myself anyway. Just looking for really good 1080p24! Would also really love to see a high quality 1080p60 mode or maybe at least 30p or 48p, 50p. That 4K sensor window or anything above 1920×1080 would also be awesome, if that was ever pulled off! Do, I need a better card though?

  9. aah! 4k would be so glorious! Canon snobs would be positively forced to acknowledge GH2 superiority. (It’s superior right now, but the cameras are “similar” enough that Canon fanboys have rationalized their expensive 5DmkIIs. But not for much longer!)

  10. If I bought a new gh2 now would the firmware still work?
    I’ve seen a second hand gh2 in john lewis with the 14-42 for £549
    I see on sony alpha rumors that theres a sony compact announcement on july 20th.
    Jessops currently have the sony hx9v for £260 (after rebate)
    I was going to buy the hx9v first and wait for a while to see what sony or samsung come up with, but now I am tempted with just forking out for a gh2 now.

  11. Yes it works with new GH2s unless there is something at Panasonic’s factory we don’t yet know about!

    £549 is ultra-bargain for that kit at John Lewis, grab it NOW

    Ditto HX9v, very very good price. Looks like a lot of heavy discounting going on at UK retailers due to recent sales crunch.

    Just get a GH2, different entirely to a compact, good though the HX9v is, the GH2 is different world. be prepared to spend more on lenses afterwards though, you’ll need a few fast primes as well as the kit zoom. £50 Canon FD 50mm F1.4 great place to start.

  12. My only worry with the GH2 is the 2x [actual 1.83x ?] crop factor and finding good, budget friendly, lenses for it. Hopefully you can ease my fear with your lens knowledge but I am not good with lens adaptation. I would like something around 32mm 2.0 equivalent for the GH2. [so something like a 18mm] Are lenses sparse in the fast and wide angle category? Would I need to do a lot of adapting?

  13. adaptors are cheap, and legacy glass is the same (if not free). For helping and elderly friend with her computer last week, I was given: 28mm FD and (suuuuper excited to try this out . . .) Tamron Adaptall 2 17mm (FD) f3.5! My church pastor heard I was hunting for lenses, and he gave me a 40mm f1.4 in Pentax K mount. Check yard sales and with friends. Nobody uses 35mm stills cameras anymore, and many people have them sitting in the back of their closet. Naturally, most people want to just get rid of all of it, so I’ve taken in a ton of mediocre zoom and kit lenses, along with camera bodies too.

  14. Thanks for the reply, that gh2 was at the john lewis in oxford street. To speak to anyone now, you have to take a ticket and wait 15 mins. Looking through the glass cabinets it looked as good as new, but its difficult to say why the previous owner didn’t want it, it might possibly have dead pixels. Don’t laugh, but even £549 is a stretch for me, and panasonic lenses are very expensive added to the fact that compared to aps-c the 4/3s system is a stop slower. Thinking about it now, I don’t think I actually need to use it that much in low light, I shouldn’t be thinking about november when the days are short, but from what I’ve seen I think with the canon fd 1.4 it should be bright enough with street lights outdoors.

    I am much more of a run-and-gunner, what you described in your review of the sony hx9. I wish I could afford both, the sony seems perfect to me, would be nice to have an oversized sensor but thats nit-picking. Some will say the dof is much deeper on a compact, but imo the dof is overused, sort of like when I first used a camcorder and kept zooming in and out, looks very amateur, I also dislike in a way as to how in modern cinematography everything is isolated but the subject, I haven’t seen citizen cane or the older movies where they used to try to get everything in focus and not have a telephoto lens attached with the actors/actresses face full blown all the time.

    I know I am going off topic, if you don’t mind me asking how is berlin or germany as a place to live? How difficult is it keeping up with things in the uk? I mean television wise, I see you have access to iplayer somehow, if I had money I could get a slingbox.

    I saw in an appleinsider article about how rejected screens for the ipad were being used by chinese manufacturers to make android tablets. Wouldn’t it be great if they could get camera nearly as good camera sensors and make the whole thing entirely programmable. Knowing china the quality would still be very poor but looking at all their cloned mobile phones, some of them have more features than the manufacturers own products themselves.

    With all the hacking going on be it lulzsec or all the other major hacking groups, not to mention NoW, wouldn’t it be great if all these people use their skills to do something more useful like hack all the new camera releases lol.

  15. I can see pros using hacked GH2 bodies with Canon or Nikon lens at next year’s Olympics and just use video to film all the action and use stills from it for publication. They will never miss a shot.

  16. Actual is 1.9x crop over full frame. APS-C and 35mm film motion picture standard is roughly a 1.6x crop. So not much difference. The 5D Mark II has a beast of a sensor, it’s not a fair comparison. Compare Micro Four Thirds to Super 35mm film and it’s actually quite similar.

    Get fast glass… F2 or better, and you are good to go. Easier to focus than on full frame, and you can use the Nokton F0.95 and actually focus in low light… try that on 5DMkII with 50mm F1.0!! M43’rds is more practical.

  17. I do like the point about focusing in low light. The Nokton is out of the budget range though. The crop factor still kinda gets me. .3x isn’t much over the APS-C but the difference is 24mm = 38.4 vs 45.6 or 50mm = 80 vs 95. I might be picky there but I do believe the benefits of this camera out way that issue. Especially with this new hack. Is there a list of lenses that will adapt to M43′rds and how adaptable they are?

  18. You know, brand new cars are legitimately modified for performance (often electronically) and re-sold by third parties (“tuners”) who appear to have supportive relationships with the manufacturers. Some obvious examples are BMW and Dinan (here in Mountain View), Mercedes and AMG, Shelby and Saleen with Ford Mustangs.

    It seems there’s a community of people who would gladly buy performance enhanced GH2s, or the firmware patch. I don’t believe this high-performance-minded community would cut into sales for the broader GH2 consumer. An average school teacher would most likely buy an average Ford Mustang over a Shelby Cobra Mustang that can boil tires.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love and support this independent revolution. I am VERY excited about the promising developments–especially for shooting anamorphic lenses at ~2.35:1. I just wish Panasonic would support it too–help Andrew, Vitally, and Testers to squeeze all possible performance out of the GH2 for us budget-minded indie filmmakers. I’m sure Panasonic is reading this blog. Consider this an open letter.

  19. Every single lens ever made adapts. Type ‘panasonic adapter’ into eBay and look… Leica M, R, Canon FD, EF, Nikon G, AI, AI-S, RED, Olympus, Four Thirds, Sony Alpha, Contax Zeiss, LOMO OCT18, OCT19, C-mount, Minolta, Pentax K, Pentax 110, how many lenses are you planning to buy? :)

    I use MFT and APS-C side by side and I hardly notice a difference with same lens in practical use, let alone with different lenses.

    You cannot adapt half the lenses to a Canon or Nikon body than you can to MFT because the flange back distance of the mount to sensor is so large to accommodate a mirror, whilst mirrorless… you get the idea!

  20. For once a car analogy rings true for cameras, this is a great point well made. Panasonic are being handed a whole new set of customers on a plate by a third party hacker doing it unpaid. Yet they see it as a threat? AF100 US product manager Jan Crittenden Livingston should be reporting back to the HQ that the hack is an unqualified sales boost and a success, so that Panasonic refrain from blocking it with the next factory firmware update.

    In fact… minded to do a blog on this and passing feedback from customers onto Jan, so she can do just that in the coming months. One of the reasons Panasonic haven’t embraced it is because we haven’t really communicated it in the right way directly to the right people, so they still see it as a bit of a risky unknown quantity.

    The other reason Panasonic want to block it is because they’re afraid of customers bricking their cameras and seeking returns. Well, easy answer to that is – don’t let them. As soon as a patch spells trouble, it won’t take long for word to get around to prevent further damage. And every step of the development Vitaliy has done so far has not damaged the camera, so reliability rates are pretty nigh on perfect anyway.

  21. Andrew, it is not as simple as that. Many times people outside of Japan ask why a manufacturer hadnt done this or that pointing out the obviouse as if these companies don’t what they are doing. The answer lies with the way Japanese run their business. An agreement between all manufacturers are made behind closed doors to compete but not to outdo completely one another. If you look at Canon and Nikon for example every dSLRs they released are complimentary and not directly competing each other. Canon could have easily wrestle the FF market from Nikon with 5D and 1Ds releases this year in the aftermath of the tsunami but chose to waite until Nikon sort itself out.
    Panasonic would privately rather someone hack the GH2 than be seen as dishonourably releasing cameras with features that kill off more expensive competition.

  22. If that’s true I hope it’s an unwritten agreement. Cartels are illegal and so are anti-competition practices like that.

  23. The Japanese has a saying “a nail that sticks out must be hammered down”. Individualism is not a virtue that get cherished over there. Respect the elder and conform to expectation is the norm. Japanese kids never shouts at their parents, few question about their government wrong doing
    Don’t be surprise if far fewer Japanese GH2 users want the hack compare to the rest of the world.

  24. “Panasonic would privately rather someone hack the GH2 than be seen as dishonourably releasing cameras with features that kill off more expensive competition.”
    I doubt that. When Panasonic released the HVX200, it was the cheapest 1080p 4:2:2 camera on the market and to some degree changed the market. Sony’s F3, though not 5K camera, is certainly the cheapest APS-C 1080p 10-bit camera on the market and in some ways undercuts even Sony’s other offerings. The Japanese manufacturers are competitive, but they also seem paternalistic and often appear not to understand why some market segments — like indie filmmakers — insist so vocally on certain features (like 24p). Also, like manufacturers in other countries, they’ll innovate only so much so fast. They see no need to give consumers 4K RAW (or 10- or 12-bit) video or global shutters as quickly as we want it, because the cost/benefit analysis undoubtedly dictates that they delay doing so as long as possible. After all, the more they give us, the more we’ll want.

    It also doesn’t matter whether the agreement is written or not. Any such agreements — written or oral — are collusion and, in the U.S. at least, would generally be illegal (there are exceptions, like player lockouts in major league sports).

  25. Have lived in Asia and some traditional virtues are worth keeping and the West could learn a lot from them. Indeed the elder generations in Asia and conservative but look at the younger generations in Japan, Tokyo especially and you’ll see some of the most creative and exciting scenes to be witnessed anywhere on the planet.

    What the photographic giants need is a bit of a balance shift toward the new guard. It isn’t easy, but it must happen soon if they are to keep up with the electronic giants.

  26. Collusion is definitely illegal and I think it goes on right at the top of the photographic industry in terms of fixing prices amongst retailers, but I think the arms race between the Japanese corps is a different thing entirely and not a process of collusion or some kind of Japanese conspiracy.

    Where are the US, UK and European camera giants? Where is the US’s version of Canon? Competition is global these days and it’s about time other countries stepped up (like South Korea have with Samsung) and got their act together on the camera side.

    Optics, no problem. Zeiss for a start!

  27. Well then… Thank you! I think in the near future I may switch to this camera. [when the hack is mature enough and the wallet is thicker] Really appreciate your replies posts and service to the DSLR community.

  28. They don’t mind exceeding their own product with newer and cheaper offering, sometimes they cripple it though, ie new Nikon D5xxx series with 1080p but sucks on manual control The devils in the details. The 5DMkII video did not have a FF dSLR competitor in, claiming to accidentally stumbled into its usefullness so felt free to realse firmware updates.
    These companies have been in the business for too long, its marketing decision to cripple and not hold back on true features.I doubt very much their production team failed to explore the potential of their own product until a lone hacker sussed it out for them.

  29. Patents… wow if ever there is an industry in need of reform that is one.

    Good job the Sumerians didn’t patent the wheel!

  30. Makes me not want to give them any more business, now that we know for sure how much they’re crippling products. Good thing with this “GH2vK” there’s not really going to be a need to for a while… where else can you go beside Red territory? Until the big 3 start rolling out lossless-RAW codecs, there really isn’t any incentive anymore to buy their “professional” models. Good job Sony, Panasonic, and Canon… you’ve dug yourselves into a hole with all your “slow-rolling” over the years. Serves you right.

  31. You are right. The DSLR video buffs have a sexual like lust for DOF which, quite frankly, is getting boring. Shallow DOF is something to be used on a needs basis. I have a 5D which is a focus puller’s nightmare, so I wish to get a couple of GH2s to compliment the 5D

    If only they’d all cut the crap and give us more info on how to improve audio via hacking if possible. Audio is 50% of your video, yet this is forgotten

    Yes, I know to use independent audio, but that is hardly the point

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