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My Panasonic GH3 arrived - for my documentary film project about a motorcycle club - tips needed!


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Hello all! I am new here, so this is my first post/thread here ever. 


Today I got my Panasonic Lumix GH3. Before I have used Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Fujifilm X-E1/X100s for video recording. I have never used a camera that allows me full control during video recording before.


I ordered the GH3 because I am going to make a documentary movie about a motorcycle club during this coming summer. They ride together every Monday during the summer period. I am going to follow them.

I am going to record video from the places they visit, maybe some video during their rides. Making interviews etc.


During autumn after the season is over - I am going to edit the movie and burn it to DVD:s. Then sell the movie to the members of the motorcycle club (a few hundred members). 


The selling point of this documentary is the nostalgic value. It does´t need to be the most professional looking movie. But I would like to make it as good as I possible can.


I have a few months to prepare myself, training video recording with the GH3.


I would love to get some tips of what I need for this project. Rigs (for walking), shotgun mics etc.?

I live in a PAL-area; what frame rates are recommended; 24p, 25p, 50p for different situations (interview, motorcycles moving...)? In full manual does it go the double shutter speed over the framerate (like 1/50 for 25p etc.)?


All tips are deeply appreciated!

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PAL region  is 25p

so film everyting at 25p and 1/50 second shutter.

Pick a picture profile you like the look of - I use 'Natural '


if you are outside in the summer you will need some ND filters ND 4 & ND8 , I use Cokin

get a set of descent prime lenses  14mm 20mm 24mm 35mm 50mm 85mm

and a good constant aperture zoom

the Canon fd 35-105 f3.5 is very good also the Canon fd 24-35 f3.5

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Things you'll want to add to your kit:

  • Lots of media (sd cards)
  • Lots of batteries
  • A shoulder rig (my favorite piece of kit for documentary shooting)
  • Monopod
  • Fast glass (Sigma 18-30!!)
  • EVF/Z-finder (so you can shoot outside)
  • Camera mounted shotgun mic (Rode Videomic?)
  • Lavalier mic (if you want to do seated interviews)
  • ND filter (for when you shoot outside)

Check out this page for more info: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/indepth/video/hands-reviews/shooting-video-panasonic-gh3

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I recommend shooting with the aperture wide open for a more romantic look.  Seems like the subject matter would benefit this style.  


Also, I'd suggest shooting everything at 50fps, and then edit in 25fps.  This way you can make some shots slow-mo if you wish.  Slow motion motorcycling looks awesome.


You need ND filters so when you're outside you can get the proper exposure.  If you're shooting a shutter of 50 with a f2.8 @200iso, you'll most likely need two 0.9 ND filters on a bright day to get a proper exposure.


Previous post are good advice regarding the audio.  For all that's holy, do yourself a huge favor and work VERY hard at getting great audio.  You won't regret it if you do.  You will if you don't.  I use a wireless lav on my main subject at all times when shooting a doc.  It's easy and gets clean sound.  If you can't do that, consider hiring someone to run a boom.  Shotguns mounted on the cam?  Just not a fan of that, but better than nothing.

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It doesn't really matter that much which brand or model mic or other gear you'll get, because in the beginning the more important question you should be concern with is how, not which brand. Don't fall into severe GAS, and don't go into hyper spending mode right in the beginning. You really don't need all that much to get started.


Røde, Sennheiser, or even Azden will all do, but instead of obsessing about particular brand shotguns or other type mics to go for, make sure you get a separate audio recorder, and preferably a stereo mic for that, like the Røde Stereo Videomic Pro, for example, along with dead cats for the mics. Even though the GH3 has adjustable audio levels, don't rely on the in-camera audio alone. Use it only for reference audio and possible b-roll sound, but always make sure you'll get a proper soundscape for the final edit. 


If you plan on selling your film to the riders, make sure you get the sounds of the bikes recorded properly. Also pay attention to getting the ambient sounds in each location. For that you'll need the separate audio recorder and optimally placed mic. It doesn't matter if the sounds aren't always 100% real time sounds, they'll love your film if you get the sounds of the bike appear 'larger than life' in your film. You'll get away with less than ideal footage, as long as the soundtrack sounds good. A little bit of Hollywood-esque magic isn't bad for documentaries, either.


After all, bikes like classic Triumphs with 360-degree crankshafts make an awesome sound even without any outrageous aftermarket pipes, so do some classic v-twins and120-degree crankshaft inline triples, and even the classic Harley sound is pretty entertaining. So it really pays off to put some effort into getting those sweet engine sounds on a separate soundtrack which you can then use to beef up the final edit. The weight is on the quality of the sound, not the loudness of it. 

Just don't go for wrong soundtrack for the wrong bike, though, they'll pick it up and hate you for it, even though it's pretty common in Hollywood movies. Nevermind those Japanese inline fours, they all sound the same and they're all equally boring. 


Speaking of following the bikes, if you plan on riding and shooting pillion, you'd better consider getting a GoPro or Sony action cam which you can attach to yourself. Forget about the sound when riding, although you can try capturing something behind your back, but chances are you'll catch just a lot of wind noise and rumble. But if you can catch a decent soundtrack of the engine, maybe with the lavalier taped behind your back, by all means try it.


So all in all, apart from the GH3 and a (wide enough angle) lens, the essential gear to go for in the beginning would be a decent monopod or at least a tripod, an ND filter, (or at least a polariser), a shotgun mic, a separate audio recorder, and perhaps a separate mic and a light stand/tripod for it, and of course furry covers for all the mics. You could also invest a little bit in a basic lavalier mic,  too, but not much point in going overboard with that right in the beginning. I don't think it is one of the most urgent items in your shopping list. Practise with some cheaper one first, or go for a shotgun mike, and buy at least one external audio recorder, like the Zoom H1, for example, which costs less than 100€. 

Good luck with the project. Shouldn't be a boring one. 

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"They'll love your film if you get the sounds of the bike appear 'larger than life' in your film."


I agree with Quirky 100 % here it really is worth putting in the extra effort to obtain high quality

Motorcycle sounds even if it means spending an afternoon recording sound when there is minimal

background noise,people talking ,wind etc.

I video lots of air shows and deliberatly go on practice day because it's much easier to capture 

clean audio -no stupid public announcement system  .Microphone about five metres behind

 exhuasts but out of the prop wash and a Spitfire starting up sounds pretty cool.

"The World's Fastest Indian" has some pretty good motorcycle audio on it -even

Bert cranking her up at 5 in the morning ,no muffler.


Here is a clip of a Manx Norton which gives a reasonable illustration of

how the sound changes according to microphone placement.



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Today I ordered (for my "movie making" camera; GH3):

- Sevenoak Shoulder support rig SK-R01 (79€)
- Dörr VL-120 Plus Videolight LED (45€)

Starting small with a little stabilization system and a little video light :)
I have a good video tripod from before.

My video system starts to grow in small steps.

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I have tried once to get footage from a bike. The shootage was very shaky and framing was very hard. 


I would to multiple tests before the documentary to find a way to rig the GH3 to a bike. 


A 12-35mm with image stabilization would also help here

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  • 2 weeks later...

Today my Sevenoak rig and my LED-light 



Not bad.  I'm not partial to shooting with a shoulder rig myself, but if you find it helps, no problem.  


Using that LED light though?  I'd ditch it.  IMHO, that's not going to do you any favors with creating an attractive image.  I'd say, at the most, use it as a rim light on subjects.  Have a assistant hit 'em from the side or behind if need be, but direct like that?  Nah, not a good thing.


No assistant?  Roll with natural light and then find your angles that compliment your subject.  This is a much better approach to documentary style film making.  Modern cams are great in low light.  Keep it naturalistic and try harder to find your shots rather than just illuminating the first thing you see.


Is that the Oly45mm on there?  If so, that's a great focal length (90mm Full Frame Equivalent) for portraiture and will look awesome...but not handheld --unless you're some sort of zen master shooter.  You'll need a tripod or at least a good monopod.


If you can handle it, I'd recommend shooting the whole thing longer lens @2.8/fps50/and a shutter speed of 100. (adjust exposure with ISO and/or ND filters)  It would make your work look much more elegant and cohesive.  But again, only if you can effectively control the lens movement on that longer focal length.  Easier said than done.  


More practically, shooting @50mm (FF equivalent) would still look nice and give you a bit more flexibility with space.  Personally, I'm not a fan of wide angles with documentaries.  Useful for a few special shots, depending on the subject, but I stay away from them if I can.  I like to pick one prime and shoot at least 80% of my footage with it.


Good luck!

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