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Panasonic GH3 Uncompressed HDMI Might Be Useless

09.20.12 @ 8:52AM Tags : , , , , , , , ,

It should be pointed out that Panasonic has gotten almost everything right with the GH3. They have addressed more user suggestions in one version update than most companies do in three. Not only have they given higher bitrate recording modes, but they also seemed to have increased dynamic range (even if only slightly). The other big feature that wasn’t given as much attention is the ability to record the uncompressed signal from the HDMI. There have been rumblings about the color space coming from the HDMI, and it had been noted in many places that the output was only 8-bit 4:2:0. Since the camera isn’t final, and not all Panasonic employees were familiar with the finer details, I had initially been hesitant about posting the information. Now EOSHD has an interview with a senior engineer at Panasonic about the issue.

Yoshiyuki Inoue, a senior engineering planner at Panasonic, said this in EOSHD’s interview about the GH3:

Ah, the format after processing for HDMI – has no compression. It is 4-2-0…This depends on the system internal structure. This one is optimised for the still picture quality also.

When asked if there was any way to bring back this functionality (ideally through a firmware upgrade), he responded by saying:

I cannot at this time because of the structure.


This is what I had been hearing from different sources for a few days now but this is the clearest information I have found regarding the issue. This is a problem for many who were hoping to use external recorders and get high quality 4:2:2 video in ProRes or DNxHD — or even uncompressed for that matter. The users who would benefit the most from uncompressed output are those who want to do any chroma keying or those who would like to do heavy color grading. While a good chroma key is much more difficult with less color information, color grading is possible (even if not ideal) with 8-bit 4:2:0 footage, as we know from most DSLR footage.

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning for why the HDMI output has to be 4:2:0, and that answer could definitely be lost in translation somewhere. He seems to be saying that the still image quality affects the color space of the HDMI in some way, and this has something to do with the imaging pipeline and the internal electronics. I know a bit about the inner workings of digital cameras, but if someone understands more than me why optimizing still image quality would affect the color space of the HDMI output, I’m all ears. The only possibility I can think of is that it has something to do wit the camera’s ability to take a still image without interrupting video recording.

Regardless, the internal recording on this camera is as good, if not better, than any DSLR currently out there. Since the bitrates are already so high and they are also including an intraframe codec, there would be a point of diminishing returns by recording externally anyway. While you can definitely still record externally if you’d like to have the least compression possible, the files that an external recorder would produce will likely not be much better than the internal recordings. It’s not likely that the HDMI capability is something Panasonic addresses hardware-wise before the camera is released in November, but I guess you never know, stranger and more unexpected things have happened.

Link: Interview with Yoshiyuki Inoue, Senior Engineering Planner for the Panasonic GH3 – EOSHD

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  • Very disappointed!! I was really hoping it is a clear 4:2:2 out of the HDMI…because the potential is ENDLESS with that!! what a pity…Nikon D600, here I come!

  • One more reason to save up and get the NIKON D600. I love my GH2, but this upgrade isnt worth twice the price of a GH2.

    • Come one now, it’s not twice as much as the GH2 when it was released! It’s less than twice as much as the current price of the GH2, that is what, 2 years old now? Comparing release price to release price, the GH3 is ~44% higher, for a much better camera with a ton of new features, including much improved build quality. It’s a very reasonable deal, actually. Especially if you compare to its main competitors in this category: Olympus OM-D EM-5 ($1299, the same as GH3), and Canon 7D ($1499).

    • Three things about the D600 bother me, though:

      (a) You cannot adjust aperture in Live View during recording. Possibly fixable with firmware, but for anyone using electronic lenses, this is a bummer

      (b) The internal codec is a measly 24mbps and only records max of 20 min. Yes, there is HDMI out 4:2:2, but that adds another layer of complexity, weight and cost to the camera.

      (c) Early clips are showing that there is still noticeable moire/aliasing issues. Not as strong as the D800, but not as clean as the Mk III or GH2/3.

      So it’s an awesome step in the right direction, but I’m not sure it’s the perfect answer just yet. I’m waiting to see more in-depth tests.

      • Totally agree with all of your points here, especially b. I’ll take a strong intra-frame codec that I can shoot with straight out of the box over 422 HDMI out, any day.

      • Nathan Carr on 09.20.12 @ 1:31PM

        The D600 has waxy skin tone – clearly visible in all the samples Nikon has posted. Very poor.

        For video the D600 might be ok, but do NOT film anything with people in the shots.

  • srikanthvishnu on 09.20.12 @ 9:06AM

    does it has the full frame censor like 5d mark II and III ????

  • Antonio Pantoja on 09.20.12 @ 9:11AM

    No, it’s micro four thirds ^^^^

  • I realize that there is a strong editorial tendency here to prioritize internal links (4 in this post alone!), but it seems slightly odd that the only link to the source of the interview is at the very tail end of the post. One within the body of the text might help the reader find it more easily, and be a nice tip of the hat to the interviewer.

    That said, the GH3 looks like a fine camera, quite responsive to dslr shooters needs. You’re probably right that the internal recorder is good… I’ll be interested to see how it stacks up against against the same footage captured on an external recorder.

    • I thought that was kind of odd too, and figured it might be related to the spat between the owners of both sites a few months back.

      • I don’t know what happened, we generally link back to sources before the end but did not in this initial post. We corrected it, thanks for pointing it out. “No Film School regrets the error.”

  • Jeff Akwante on 09.20.12 @ 9:42AM

    I thought we all knew this already?

  • Considering “clean HDMI out” was never officially advertised by Panasonic, the GH3 still has the same great feature set at the same low price it was yesterday.

  • can anyone tell me what the effective crop will be at 1:1 video mode? taking into account the sensor crop and 1:1 crop? somewhere around x8?

    • The officially listed crop factors for movie modes are 2.4x, 3.6x, and 4.8x, likely associated with 1080p video, 720p video, and SD video resolutions, respectively.

      • I should have said, those crop factors are for ETC mode, or in other words 1:1.

        • so effective crop factor in ECT mode is 2.4×2 so 4.8? This is a pretty cool trick for people who want large DOF and/or very long focal lengths. I just want to know what my 70-200 will be in 1:1 mode. you are thinking 200 = 960?

          • nevermind i see that they list it as x7, that is really awesome 1400mm at 2.8 (ok not exactly the same) but that is really really cool

  • Hi,

    I think the title of this post might be a little too provocative… I work as a colorist, and while I am indeed disappointed that the GH3 HDMI output is not 10 bit 4:2:2, I wouldn’t say it’s “useless” to record to an external recorder.

    While I believe that just recording 72 Mbit ALL-I or 50 Mbit IPB (for 60p) will be fine for 70% of uses, there are still many situations (for instance with a lot of movement or very fine detail, like the leaves of trees), which can benefit from higher bit rates — even at 8 bit. In these situations, the Atomos Ninja or Samurai can record up to 220 Mbit.

    Also, for workflow reasons, it is HUGELY helpful to be able to record directly to a ProRes or Avid DNxHD codec. Maybe I misunderstand, but I don’t see anything in this post that tells me that the HDMI is WORSE than the internal recording, just that it’s not 10 bit 4:2:2.

    Also, for those saying “Just get the D800,” remember that the D800 can’t do 1080/60p, and while it may have a 10 bit 4:2:2 HDMI out, it can NOT record to the internal card at the same time as the HDMI. With the GH3, you can record externally and internally as a backup. With any tapeless workflow, this is hugely important.

    And the GH3 DOES have a “clean HDMI out.” Clean doesn’t mean 10 bit 4:2:2, just like the D800 can’t record 12 bit 4:4:4 or RAW, which would be much closer to a true uncompressed output.

    And the BMCC camera is great — as a colorist I salivate over the RAW recording… but I’m more attracted to the GH3 for the practicality of it (especially as a hybrid for stills & video).

    Watch Philip Bloom’s “Genesis” video again and its Behind the Scenes, and tell me which other camera that sells for under $2000 can do that? Especially with so much of Genesis shot with available light or minimal light?

    Gray Jones,
    TV editor/writer/colorist
    Toronto, Canada

    • “for instance with a lot of movement or very fine detail, like the leaves of trees), which can benefit from higher bit rates — even at 8 bit. In these situations, the Atomos Ninja or Samurai can record up to 220 Mbit.”

      i have to agree. I got a GH2 a few month ago, and the 176mb GOP1 hack is amazing to record movement. and with old canon FD lenses the image gets very organic. and depending the look in need the 9stops of dinamic range may not be a problem, or be a huge problem! :D

      if he GH3 end up having little to no aliasing and moire as with the GH2 it will be a great hybrid camera from my point of view… and if it’s ‘hackable’, with hight bitrates it will be great, i think.

    • i like you , First.

    • i like you gray jones! the comments keep appearing under the other guys post. bug?

  • Well, the problem is not really 4:2:0 vs 4:2:2. The problem is 8 bits vs 10 bits.
    And the HDMI ouput of the GH3, D600, D800 et D4 is 8 bits.

    There is no difference in that matter. So the grading will be more au less the same.

    I have compared different footage from the D800 and there is very little difference between internal and external recording, even after huge grading.

    So all the HDMI output of these DSLR are a bit useless.
    What we need is 10, 12, 14, 16 bits, in order to see any differences. Not 8 bits.

    • Ah, my bad. I had done a quick Google and thought the D800 was 10 bit, but it is indeed 8 bit as well…. even more reason that the D800 is not worth the extra cash over the GH3 (unless you do a lot of stills or have money invested in Nikon lenses).

      And again, again “useless” is a very strong word. We just have to know what the tools do. A hammer may not be able to cut wood, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless, just that we have to know when to use a hammer and when to use a saw.

      For my workflow (influenced heavily by my rapid-paced television work), the form factor and functions of the GH3 fit perfectly. The BMCC is great for cinema, but it just doesn’t have the form factor I need. Also, I don’t do enough green screen or heavy grading to justify a BMCC or more expensive camera, but it’s nice to know I can rent a BMCC when needed, and some of my MFT lenses will work on it.

  • For the D4/D800/D600, the ATOMOS NINJA does record in 10 bits but from a 8 bits source. So it’s just a 8 bits footage in the end.

  • The whole HDMI out thing boggles me. How many people considering a GH3 own an external recorder and actually plan to use it in their workflows if the GH3 had “Clean” hdmi out. I don’t see how this would benefit most people shooting feature-lengths on a $1300 camera.

    • Bingo!

      Same here…

      Well, in time We will have the BMCC available and it already records 10bit 4:2:2. I think the GH3 would be a great pair to the BMCC MFT since they have almost the same crop size.

      well that’s no perfect camera and for the price it is really good I think.

    • you hit the nail on the head with that one. its just a cool thing to have, but certainly not even phased by not having it

    • Honestly not a biggie for me. As a dude who does some chromakey work, the high bitrates footage I get out of the GH2 works pretty well in getting a good key (edges and all) and color grading (in comparison to H.264 footage I had to grade in the past).

      • Jordan you do key work so 4:2:2 would actually be something that is very beneficial to you. Same with my work matchmoving. But for the rest it won’t make much of a difference if at all.

  • The title of this article is quite off-putting. Plus I don’t think singling out the one feature this camera lacks is really headline worthy to begin with. Also, to some of the commenters here, if 422 out is so important as to be the deciding factor between a GH3 or D600, why not invest a bit more for a BMCC and get 12-bit 2.5k RAW internal recording? Paradox of choice, I guess.

    • It’s headline worthy when the camera is such a huge release and Panasonic bothers to advertise as such:

      “HDMI Monitor-Through
      The HDMI terminal on the DMC-GH3 connects easily to a large-screen monitor for real-time image checking. The HDMI output also enables external recording, with simultaneous recording to the SD card.”

      • So “external recording with simultaneous recording to the SD card,” is useless? I think you’ve actually written a decent article but you seem to have brushed that one key feature aside in favor of a sensational headline. It’s not like Panasonic is claiming improved recording via HDMI. That quote makes it quite clear what their intended use for external recording is.

        • I didn’t say useless, I said might be – it depends on your own personal needs. Panasonic clearly knows the spec, why not list this? They obviously put the recording idea into people’s heads based on the other DSLRs that are capable, and then haven’t put any of that information into their specifications anywhere because 8-bit 4:2:0 doesn’t look as nice.

          • You could devote an entire blog to reporting all the unlisted specs that companies leave out because they “don’t look so good”. But it’s a bit of a stretch to think of this as misleading information. Customers have to do their homework (and a lot of your articles help with that!) Anyway, I’m worried you’re taking my critique a little too personally, Joe. All I’m saying is it would definitely have been a better, more thorough, and journalistically balanced article if you scratched the sensational title and mentioned something about simultaneous recording. It’s an interesting and USEFUL spec with clear professional advantages, not to mention it’s feature no other DSLR has. Take my two-cents and spend it how you will.

            • Not taking it personally, believe me. I just feel it’s a little like gifting someone a Ferrari only to find out it tops out at 80mph…

              I’ll take your two cents and ideally use it to fund my next movie :)

              • I have three projects that are in post-production purgatory (from 2010 and from this year), so we’ll see, they all should be finished eventually. I might be a slight perfectionist… Lots more on the way but other than that there are a few things on my Vimeo account which are far from current – but if you want to see them, they are there. But at the least I should probably have trailers from the current stuff – so I should really get to that…

                Forgot to mention that I shot a couple last year that are not on my account but you can find them through the Appearances tab on the Vimeo home page.

          • Ha! Two cents well spent! By the way, and this is totally off-topic, but I’d love to see some of your work some day!

  • i’m purchasing a blackmagic cinema camera but only plan on recording proreshq, now lets just say if this camera was able to output a 4:2:2 10 bit signal, would it compare in resolution and dynamic range, would it be similar?

  • Credit where credit is due. EOS link should be front and center of this post, goes against the spirit of blogging.

  • You get what you pay for (although in this case you get a lot).

  • I’d really like to know what ‘wider’ dynamic range is. 10.5 stops? 12?

  • The problem for me with the A99, D600, D800 , D6 and D5 mark III is that YES, they are full frame, but NO, their video resolution is not a true 1080p. The vertical resolution they achieve in reality is pretty close to 720p. People think they get full-HD, but they don’t. What they get is similar to a 720 resolution stretched to 1080p and I dont like that.

    The GH2 is not full frame, but get very close to a real 1080p vertical resolution, in my own tests the hacked GH2 comes close to 900-1000 vertical lines, so that’s great. I think the GH3 will be the same. Will I ‘buy a GH3? I don’t now, I’m not sure it is that much of an improvement in image terms. I do like the 3.5 inch microphone connector and some of the other new features. All of this means there will always be trade-offs. I just like resolution over full-frame DOF. The GH2 and GH3 excel in that.

    • Great point, Erwin! All these cameras are just recording something around 720 and up-rezing it in-camera to cover 1080. None of those you mentioned, including 5Dmk2, resolve 1080.

    • Honestly, for all of the uproar over this “IT ISN’T TRUE 1080P” thing, I find the distinction to be nearly irrelevant in the vast majority of material I’ve seen – including direct comparisons between the Mk II/D800 and GH2. Considering most material is viewed online at a compressed 480p, 720p or if you’re VERY lucky 1080P – this quibble over actual line resolution seems a bit moot.

      Even if it were a major concern (e.g. for making a cinematic print, etc), you certainly wouldn’t be using a $1000-$5000 camera anyway.

    • You are right that 5D MkII and such seem to have low resolution video. D800 is a different beast though, and I’ve been pretty happy about what it resolves in my own footage. Would be very interesting to see some more comparisons of BMC vs GH3 vs D800 though.

      Here is an interesting analysis that a photographer has done of the resolution and sensor sampling of the D800: http://falklumo.blogspot.se/2012/04/lumolabs-nikon-d800-video-function.html

  • I should mention that if you Google, you will indeed find several examples where the D800′s internal recording is compared to external recording, and there is a measurable difference.

    Here’s one:
    http://vimeo.com/40788982

    Of course we will not know until we put the GH3 through its paces (I will be doing this with a Ninja-2 as soon as I receive my pre-ordered GH3), but I am convinced that there are situations where a higher than 72 Mbit rate will be helpful, even if it is 8 bit 4:2:0.

    • It is measurable but is it worth the price of an external recorder ($450 for Hyperdeck Shuttle 2 or $990 for Atomos Ninja 2) ?

      I personally don’t think so, even if I was very close to buy one. But the difference is really minor. It exists but it’s too expensive for a slight improvement.

      I need at least a “good” improvement to buy an external recorder.

  • Questions.

    My regular drop in for NFS stopped showing up so I re-upped so not sure if A 99 has been covered yet.

    Does the A 99 Sony bring anything to this debate? My DP pal tells me it also is 4.2.0.

    The D800 into an SSD, although missing the safety backup records at 10 bit, DNxHD at the highest quality setting according to Premiere read out after ingest. Is this not similar to oversampling at 24bit versus 16 bit in audio?

    Some of us (moi) have dual purposed the D800 as a full frame stills camera, which, by some accounts is hard to beat given the MF competition especially where Nikon glass collected over the years, is part of the locker/kit.

    That is not to say one (I) wouldn’t invest in something which ups the ante but 36Mp is hard to beat, and 4.2.2 YES does a better job, more than slightly than h.264 as the above post indicates.

    All opine my me is rhetorically intended so chime in at will.

    Rob

  • After reading all of your posts, am more convinced that this is a great camera, and a great purchase. Hopefuly it will be available before December. Any news on its release date?

    • They don’t have a hard ship date yet, but they’ve mentioned November. I would expect to see it in more volume in December if it does ship in November. It will probably be sold out immediately a lot of places.

  • I can’t wait to see footage… I hate specs shopping, but it seems like, given the price and the lenses I already have for my GH1, this might very well become my primary camera with the GH1 becoming the B-Cam… we’ll see once it’s out in the wild for a couple of months. I have just been so impressed with the footage from the hacked GH1 (let alone the GH2).

    Between this line of cameras and the BMD camera, I’m getting more comfortable investing in the micro 4/3 format… I’m about to order my first dedicated M 4/3 lens.

    Dealing with adapters and the difficulty of finding a sharp wide-angle for the 2x crop factor has been difficult, so I’m going native mount for wide lenses.

  • Hi folks,

    I’m a newbie interested in filmmaking. I’ve been lurking here for a few months trying to absorb and learn as much as I can before buying a new camera. When I saw this camera announced it looked like it might be the one for me. I wanted something could take good pictures and also be used to shoot good looking video. The price vs sensor size value equation seems about right for me too.

    This debate thread is very helpful but I have some questions regarding the colour encoding of the output. Specifically, the complaints regarding not being able to get better than 8-bit 4:2:0, even recording off the hdmi port. Is calling it “useless” compared to 4:2:2 is a bit of hyperbole?

    1. How much harder is it to colour-grade 8b 4:2:0 footage? Is this a “can’t do it” or is it that your results won’t be broadcast quality?
    2. Can 8b 4:2:0 footage be reasonably match-moved?

    As an beginner these are skills I want to learn so I need a camera that can give me footage I can use. Is the GH3 still in the running?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

  • Sounds like a competitor is posting doubt here.

  • Also remember no Bayer sensor camera can ever be more than 422. It’s just physics unless you super sample by a lot. The Red, Alexa, F5 and BMC are all at maximum 422. The F55 and F65 are real 422/444 because they have the higher res 8k chips to draw from.

    The gh3 being 420 is quite normal.

    • *one last thing, a 10bit 420 signal is way better than a 8bit 422. Bit depth is way more significant an increase in quality than color space.

  • D600 does not have FullHD HDMI output anyway. Moreover, D600 picture does not have details GH3 has. Over moreover, D600 is not weather sealed.

  • I will stick to my GH2 for now. I considered the GH3 but the GH2 gives me (most) everything I need

  • From the above discussion I understand that the HDMI output is 8 bit, 4-2-0, but does anyone know what the bit depth and color space is when the GH3 records internally? I guess I was thinking that the All-I codec at 72 Mbps would give more than that, but I can’t find the INTERNAL specs anywhere – I know it’s probably the same as HDMI out, but it would be good to know.

  • Maybe I still need time to observe my surroundings.

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