Bristol-based Daniel Peters is one of a new breed of indie filmmakers discovering that you dont need big budgets to create filmic shorts. Often working solo, shooting and editing his own work, he creates the look and feel of bigger productions with only limited resources. His commitment to the craft is so great he had to sell much of his own gear to fund his most recent short film Deserted in Paris, after he went over budget due to lost locations and actors pulling out.
Because every penny counts, he relies heavily on more affordable camera kit. He is currently using the Panasonic GH5 coupled with the Atomos Ninja Inferno 4K external recorder and monitor a combination that has received a lot of buzz in indie film circles because it offers a lower-cost way to get excellent 10-bit 4K images at 60fps, direct to Apple ProRes. Combined with the right lenses and lighting, the skilled Director of Photography can make footage shot on this combination look like it was done on a fully-fledged cinema camera.
Along with the 10-bit quality, one key advantage for Peters is the ability to work in Apples ProRes codec all the way through the production chain. The camera files are recorded directly to SSD drives in Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHR formats, and can be easily brought into most popular editing software. Peters explains: I was recording to 10-bit ProRes to speed up my editing, rather than converting the files to ProRes afterwards. NLE systems are still a bit behind supporting the in-camera GH5 10-bit files to work without hiccups.
It isnt just about cost. The GH5 and Ninja Inferno make sense for his style of filmmaking, he explains: The FS7 and Ursa Mini are both great cameras but for low budget filming, sometimes you want to draw as little attention to yourself as possible, especially if you end up near locations where they dont like you filming. So even handheld with the GH5 draws less attention.
Deserted in Paris was shot in the Mojave Desert and Palm Springs California, in bright conditions where it could have been very hard to see most monitors without a sunhood. The 7-inch high brightness screen on the Atomos helped Peters focus and compose with ease.
Anyone who has shot in desert conditions also knows that setting the correct exposure can be tricky. Thankfully, the AtomHDR tool on the Ninja Inferno helped Peters get the right balance between protecting the highlights and getting detail in the shadows of the image. Although the AtomHDR function is primarily designed as a tool for HDR, many shooters like Peters have also discovered that it is also a quick and reliable way to assess exposure when capturing Log for a standard REC.709 finish as well. With a simple slider, the user can quickly check the detail and noise in the shadows, and the level of detail retained in the highlights, then adjust exposure to their taste.
Peters also loves the look of anamorphic lenses. The Ninja Inferno can aid when shooting with these by displaying the footage correctly de-squeezed for the correct aspect ratios. Having all the anamorphic options to de-squeeze 1.3x, 1.5x or 2x is amazing, Peters enthused.
Another advantage to the Atomos 4K monitor recorder range is the ability to load creative looks as LUTs. Up to eight can be stored on the devices internal memory, with the option to store many more on the SSD drive to be loaded when needed. Peters is expert at creating his own LUTs and having them loaded on the device proved very useful: Viewing my LUTS on the Inferno meant I was pretty much viewing my final result, he said.
He added: The GH5 and Ninja Inferno produce stunning images. Yeah, the GH5 has a smaller sensor and may not be the best lowlight performance in the world, but I love what it can do and the price is amazing compared to the FS7 and USRA Mini.
Id happily recommend this setup to other filmmakers, especially for quick turnaround edits. Recording to 10bit ProRes is great rather than transcoding afterwards. The monitor is also great to use to keep an eye on noise in an image/scene, plus viewing the image with the Inferno gives more confidence when setting up scenes.