GH2 split screen versus RED Scarlet


David Cole of BeamPath (3D rig builders) kindly shot this footage. This comparison is just for fun. This is for informational purposes to show what the GH2 looks like with this particular scene, against a $10,000 digital cinema camera. I have set the video to stream in 1080p if you full screen it, but for best results download the original and play it back on the best display you have available.

I have done a split-screen edit of David’s footage, which was taken at the same time with the cameras mounted on the same rig.

The Scarlet produces RAW video which requires grading, it is far flatter than the GH2’s AVCHD straight off the card and the GH2 does not have a flat image profile like CineStyle.

So what I have done is grade both sets of footage in Premiere Pro CS5.5 to match as closely as possible (although I think the GH2 was set to automatic white balance as the warmth of the image seems to vary – see the colour of the grass toward the end). The GH2 has quite a baked in high contrast look which is only removed to an extent with the Smooth picture profile on -2,-2,-2,-2 which is what David used to shoot this test with. It is certainly nothing like as flat as CineStyle or RED RAW. It also has a sensor that delivers less latitude in the highs, and clips the shadows. This is in fact the main area where the Scarlet differs.

If you imagine a moving RAW DSLR still, that is a bit like what the Scarlet does but in video mode. The question for you should be – do you need such a gradable image? The GH2 outputs very high quality JPEGs with low compression in video mode, but it isn’t RAW.

I’ve slightly cropped the top and bottom of the video as I moved the GH2 clip down slightly to match it closer to the height of the Scarlet shots.

The Scarlet footage is downscaled to HD on export by REDCINE-X PRO from RED RAW. The extent to which it is sharp, soft, punchy or flat really does much depend on post with the Scarlet. With the GH2 it depends on what picture profile you use at the time of recording and the lens. However I was impressed by the way the GH2 held up to my light colour grading, and I am sure a professional colour grader could get it to match far closer than I did with a few minutes in Premiere!

Does this matter? It depends on you, and whether you need to do extensive grading and VFX in post.

Forum member ‘chenopup’ describes how he sees the GH2 stacking up in post. He’s worked with footage from both cameras.

“We’ve got footage shot on hacked GH2s in color right now (on a 30 foot screen). Aside from latitude (which RED does much better), colorist said that we could bring in DP after DP off the street and they wouldn’t know what cam it was shot on. He was blown away. Definitely doesn’t fall apart like most H.264 footy.”

The affordability of the GH2 and the picture it gives you per dollar is astounding.

Of course future DSLRs (most likely some of them this year) will improve on what the GH2 has to offer. Here’s where they can get better:

  • A 10bit codec and 4-2-2 colour sampling allows for more shades of the same colour. It means far less visible banding over parts of the image where the tone of a single colour varies only slightly but over a large area. With an 8bit codec you see banding mainly in skies and over painted walls and low contrast surfaces. This is also be helped by better scaling from the full resolution sensor.
  • More latitude and dynamic range. A wider dynamic range gives you more leeway to adjust exposure in post and it can reveal more details in shadow areas and highlights. Furthermore the space in between highlights and shadows is larger the more dynamic range you have – so there is generally more data in the image.
  • Faster sensors – faster CMOS sensors allow for better scaling of the image to 1080p from the 18MP+ on DSLRs designed for stills, and a faster scan of the sensor with a rolling shutter reduces jello and skew on fast movements. Even better would be a global shutter which would output the entire frame all at once.

Personally I vary rarely do any post work on my footage, I like to shoot naturally by eye and to choose an optimal picture profile on the camera. Nearly all of my footage on EOSHD that I’ve shot with the GH2 has not been graded. So that is why I don’t personally yet need a highly gradable image!

What the GH2 offers straight off the card, especially with the hack, is fantastic. It is far better than what you get with the moire ridden line skipping footage from other DSLRs. It is definitely the closest you can get to the Canon C300, RED Scarlet or Sony FS100 with a camera costing less than $5,000. Substantially less!

The level of detail and noise grain is very fine on the GH2, approaching the C300 (from which I have seen original MXF files shot at ISO 20,000). Just be aware that on the C300, the actual ISO level is 6400 at 20K, so although it is very clean for ISO 6400 it is not any more sensitive than the GH2 would be at ISO 6400. I’ve been doing some low light shooting with the GH2 this week in Berlin at ISO 6400 and it really does have a similar noise pattern to the C300 in most areas of the image – not all, but most.

If a $700 camera can do this, it makes me wonder what the EOS 4K DSLR will be doing come NAB 2012.

Source: David Cole of BeamPath