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Panasonic GH2 at Sundance and Slamdance: Carruth's 'Upstream Color' and Orbegoso's 'Musgo'

The Panasonic GH2 is something of an anomaly in the camera world. Out of the box it looked good enough, but it wasn’t until the hackers got to it that things really got interesting — which was a very similar situation to the previous camera, the GH1. The Panasonic line hasn’t quite taken the industry by storm the way the Canon DSLRs have, which could come down to familiarity and/or high-profile endorsements. Either way, that hasn’t stopped a couple of festival-worthy films — Shane Carruth’s Sundance film Upstream Color (which won an award for sound design at the festival and is being self-distributed in April), and Gami Orbegoso’s Slamdance film Musgo from shooting on the camera. Check out some footage and clips from both films below.

Here is the trailer followed by some clips for Upstream Color, which Shane directed and starred in, and also acted as Director of Photography:

Shane has been quiet on the budget (there are some rumors it may be under $50,000) and the camera used on the movie thanks to the situation that happened on his last film, Primer, which was shot on Super 16mm for $7,000. Primer, which came out in 2004, has become a cult hit, but he did not like that so much of the focus was about what he did with so few resources, instead of the actual film itself. It may seem like we’re doing exactly that with this post, but in fact I am pointing it out not because of what he did without a ton of resources, but that many of you reading have some of these very same resources at your disposal.

Mr. Carruth doesn’t strike me as the person who would settle for a look he wasn’t happy with, so it’s clear that the image held up on the big screen. We don’t have too many more details other than an IMDb page and some photos, but we do know that they used at least a Rokinon 85mm lens, and supposedly Voigtlanders were used for much of the shoot. Here are the only two behind the scenes photos I’ve found so far:

That’s not the only Panasonic GH2-shot film that made its way around Utah just a few weeks ago. Gami Orbegoso’s film Musgo made an appearance at the “rival” Slamdance festival. Some of you may have even seen this trailer that made the rounds just a few months ago:

Gami also made available the first 5 minutes of the film, and released a couple behind the scenes videos:

Musgo was shot in only 7 days in Spain on a budget of 3,500 Euros. They used the 42mbps patch and the Smooth profile (all -2), and the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Nikon 28mm, and Nikon 50mm lenses.

From what I’ve seen of the GH2 on the big screen (which was at the Zacuto shootout), it certainly holds up much better than Canon’s DSLRs in terms of clarity and resolution (excluding the 1D C for now). I personally felt at the time that the image looked a bit processed and sharpened (which would have happened in the camera), but it’s definitely outputting more resolution than the Canon DSLRs, and held up a tad better overall to grading. While there are so many more cameras to choose from than even a year ago, the GH2 is still a heck of a bargain when you consider that you can get one for under $1,000 and it can take basically any lens out there, including old and new PL glass.

The real lesson to take away, is that the tools exist cheaply enough to get you a professional looking result. You don’t have to spend $20,000 on a camera, especially if a sub-$1,000 camera can get you 3/4 of the image quality. You don’t need to shoot on RED or Arri to get a movie into a bigger festival. Shane and Gami both prove that it’s a combination of everything that makes your film worth watching, and it’s likely you already own most of the tools necessary to make your own feature film.

Who has a GH2? What do you think of the results the filmmakers got above? Has anyone seen either of the films above, if so, what did you think?



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 85 COMMENTS

  • Love my gh2. Excluding the gh3, I think it’s the best dslr on the market below the 5d. And after seeing The Raid Redemption on the big screen (shot on af100 but basically the same thing) I have all the confidence in using it on a feature film. It’s tough to find better bang for your buck at $800!

    • marklondon on 02.5.13 @ 1:57PM

      An AF100 is very definitely not a GH2. :-)

      • They both have a VERY similar image and are both extremely powerful and affordable tools. The differences in the sensor are pretty minimal. The gh2 makes a phenomenal bcam when used with the af100. And in many ways the gh2 is superior due to all the hacks that are available. My only point was that these cheap tools have been involved with some phenomal films lately and scale very nicely on the big screen.

        • The GH2 is FAR superior. Sorry, to sound like a fan-boy, but I’ve shot both and seem plenty of videos from each. The sensor in the GH2 is a generation newer and of a better design and the cadence of the AF-100 SCREAMS video. I’ve never seem anything resemble film-like motion unless you’re using an external recorder. The resolution on the AF, while better than cameras like the 7D, still doesn’t have that smooth “2k look” that the GH2 seems to pull off. The GH2 looks like a Fuji-Film digital intermediate, IMO, while the AF-100 has always looked like video.

          Not to mention the bit-rates… where as with the GH2 you can get nearly uncompressed 8-bit footage and the AF-100 is only outputting a cell-phone-level measly 24mb/s. You cannot do ANYTHING to the AF-100 in post.

          • You’d be crazy to use the GH2 as a “b-cam” to the AF-100. Just get 2 GH2′s. Skip the AF-100. The only justification I can see to using it as a b-cam, is that some people just can’t get over the “physical size” of the GH2 and need to impress clients on set, or something of the sort…

          • I’m pretty sure Panasonic recently released some sort of upgrade to the AF-100 that enabled uncompressed output. Also, being a camera optimized for video, there are a lot of convenience-based reasons one might pick the AF-100 over the GH2.
            That said, I agree with your assessment about the GH2′s image quality — it’s definitely better than the AF-100.

  • I have two of the lower end Canon DSLRs, but have been eying up a GH2 as wel….hmmm. :)

  • Darren Wolff on 02.5.13 @ 1:48PM

    Resolution looks pretty damn good to me!!

  • marklondon on 02.5.13 @ 2:01PM

    “It may seem like we’re doing exactly that with this post” – yes, its exactly what you’re doing. Weird he would make another microbudget if he doesn’t like that kind of attention. He obviously doesn’t want to give up control.
    Nice to finally see some decent GH2 films, given the relentless fanboys over the last few years. Its a very nice image, but I didn’t enjoy shooting with the camera itself.

    • Joe Marine on 02.5.13 @ 3:24PM

      The idea is not that the films look good for what they are considering the budget, but that they look good period, and they just happened to be shot on the GH2. I’m trying to make the point that people don’t have excuses about this or that camera being limited. The GH2 is producing fantastic results with a little bit of work for absolutely dirt cheap, and with pretty inexpensive lenses.

      • marklondon on 02.5.13 @ 3:50PM

        But sadly, that’s not the attention the film’s getting. Almost every review notes the budget. ‘Monsters’ had the same problem. And now ‘The Canyons’. My point is that if he doesn’t want that mentioned, usually as code for ‘please forgive the film’s tech issues’, he needs to get over the 7 figure hump.
        Given that he chose not to given the profile of his earlier film, I’m making an educated guess he was not interested in giving up the amount of control that an even slightly larger budget means.
        All that said, I’ll VOD it when its available, as I enjoyed his last one. I won’t care what he shot it on unless it looks spectacularly good or bad.

        • “My point is that if he doesn’t want that mentioned, usually as code for ‘please forgive the film’s tech issues’, he needs to get over the 7 figure hump.”

          This is completely false. There is nothing “tech wise” in these clips and trailers that give away the fact that these films are under “7 figures”. They look as legitimate as anything other feature, minus the gigantic sets in something like StarTrek or Batman.

          Monetary “figures” are not what make films legitimate. Only talent does this. The modern indie-film producers/directors these days would LIKE for it to be money, because now that we have feature-film-quality tools, they need a new scapegoat for the lack of talent MOST people have.

      • Fresno Bob on 02.5.13 @ 4:56PM

        Joe – I was surprised to see Ryan in his latest post cite old technology as a reason your work may not be taken seriously:

        “If you have directed before but your material is of a different genre than your feature script, if it’s in a different style, if it’s dated technologically, if it was of a different (or non-existent) budget level… you’re also probably going to have a hard time getting your feature made.”

        I would have hoped that NFS would be more along your line of thinking – it’s not tech it’s talent.

        • Joe Marine on 02.5.13 @ 5:08PM

          He’s talking about getting serious financing for a feature (hundreds of thousands or more), not making one for no money, which is a whole other different ballgame.

        • “I would have hoped that NFS would be more along your line of thinking – it’s not tech it’s talent.”


          I think, though, as we get even more legitimate gear (like the BMCC) at lower prices, you’ll see people use budget as even more of a scapegoat. Most people would like for it to be the budget that is “holding them back”, but in 99% of the cases, it’s just that innate talent that only a few really posses. Sorry, but it’s the truth. No point in denying it.

        • “I would have hoped that NFS would be more along your line of thinking – it’s not tech it’s talent.”

          Kind of ticks me off when I see comments like this, along the lines of “you guys do too much tech and not enough of what really matters.” Take a few moments to browse through the blog and look at which articles generate by FAR the most community involvement – it’s the tech-focused ones hands down. Other topics don’t get near as much love. So consumer demand obviously points to more tech-focused content, but then people complain when it’s offered. If you want to see more “talent over tech” content, then start spending your time commenting on those articles instead. The only way we can reasonably expect NFS to shift more content in that direction is if we ask them to with our behavior, not our words.

          I for one am very thankful for what I consider a well balanced content strategy DESPITE the fact that seemingly 90% of NFS visitors come here for tech talk.

          • Fresno Bob on 02.7.13 @ 3:48AM

            I’m not pointing fingers at NFS – it’s more the sad culture we’re in when potential shooters keep putting off projects until they get their BMC or new lens or whatever.
            Talent will get noticed.
            Fancy film burns and flares not so much.

          • “Take a few moments to browse through the blog and look at which articles generate by FAR the most community involvement – it’s the tech-focused ones hands down. Other topics don’t get near as much love.”

            Tech is so much easier to talk about. It’s pretty difficult to talk about an art like acting and script writing in real time, partly because it really depends on what your going for. Everybody here is aiming for a good looking film on a cheap budget. Plus technology changes so quickly that it’s so easy to talk about the new camera that just came out or the new camera that x director just used.

  • Was wondering when you were going to post this, now how certain are on shane utilizing the camera for the whole movie or just certain scenes?

    • I was wondering the same thing. I saw the picture of Shane and Co. crouching near the GH2 / Rokinon 85mm in a previous NFS post, but wanted to know if there was any confirmation it was the primary camera used throughout production. Given the GH2 footage I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

      Either way, my GH3 just came in the mail yesterday, so posts like this are really getting me pumped to take it out into the wild.

      • I can conform that this film was entirely shot on GH2. I saw it at Sundance in a Q&A and sat next to a production company from Dallas that was involved in the filmmaking process. I can say that the GH2 footage looked great on the big screen with nice detail and color rendition. I saw “Act of Valor” in theaters just to see the 5D on the big screen, and the hacked GH2 looked much better.

        • Thanks for the insight, Brian. Much appreciated.

        • I saw Act of Valor for exactly the same reasons, and I caught Upstream at Sundance. Totally agree, the Upstream Color image blew away Act of Valor.

          No one for even a moment thought Upstream was a DSLR film.

  • Great post this!

    Why Canon reigns supreme in the video-making DSLR world puzzles me. Perhaps it is due to the high-profile endorsements?

    “Upstream Color” looks amazing! Hats off to Shane, and the GH2!

  • Joe, since you mentioned the Shootout, wasn’t the Driftwood -hack GH2 Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite during the blind screening? It all just keeps coming back to how well one uses the tools they have. And how well one knows how to light (this even more so). Just for the record, resolution aside, I’ve seen work that was done on the good ol’ DVX100b that is way more aesthetically pleasing than at least half of the lower-budget pictures that shot on RED.

    And let’s not forget how ultra-badass that GH2 will become when Metabones puts out the 4/3 version of the speed booster!

  • Fresno Bob on 02.5.13 @ 4:04PM

    Was dreading this post!
    Want my lovely GH2 to remain a secret!

    Remember after that Coppola thing how many new users flooded my Vimeo groups with cat videos and shots of plants & flowers.

    • Haha well its time it gets some attention, maybe it’ll push Panasonic to consider the GH4 more carefully ;)

  • Upstream Color is a great example that a well designed shot is more important than any camera spec. GH2 is looking gorgeous on these examples.

  • john jeffreys on 02.5.13 @ 4:13PM

    Sorry fanboys, but Shane Carruth is only using a GH2 for his feature (and a shitty camcorder for Primer, I believe) because of budget reasons. As soon as he gets the chance, and that will be soon, he’ll most likely use film or RED or something ideal. So don’t treat him like some kind of Jesus figure for your camera.

    Also, the GH series is not a “secret”- Bloom did camera tests with it years ago.

    • ponysmasher on 02.5.13 @ 4:28PM

      Actually Primer was shot on film despite it’s low $7000 budget.

    • Your comments never disappoint, always so cynical, instead of applauding Shane for achieving such a feet, you go on to discourage everyone else. I like how you spin your comments troll.

    • I was fortunate enough to talk with Shane at Sundance this year for a couple minutes after the premiere of Upstream Color. I asked him about his choice to shoot on the GH2; he remarked that he did have the means to shoot on RED as well as the F3.

      Basically, it came down to time and logistics. It was easier to setup, run and gun and use out in the open without drawing attention. He said he felt satisfied with image from the hacked GH2, and seemed good enough for doing film work when he did his initial tests.

    • I’m sure Shane will use film or RED or something ideal on his next feature. Probably because the budget will allow him to use those ‘tools’. Just like the budget on this film only allowed for that ‘tool’ (GH2). The film looks great. End of. Surely that’s what counts John? The GH2 is a useful tool, unlike yourself.

    • Tyrannosaur on 03.20.13 @ 9:28PM


      Trolls gonna troll…

  • Looking good, especially Musgo.

  • Oh dear
    In every bunch of roses , there is always a prick ideals are subjective to the individual I believe and budget
    Well done guys x!
    great thread

  • Joe,

    Just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your hard work. This and the Soderbergh post are very fine examples of what I love reading.

    Along with the two-hour BMCC presentation and all the usual technical stuff you’re giving us, I feel very happy coming here almost every day.

    Thanks Joe.

    Thanks NFS Team.

  • marsupial_44mbps on 02.5.13 @ 4:34PM

    Kudos to using a cheap camera. It’s what he had and it did the job. Perhaps he’s not a fanboy and will move on when/if the currency comes in.

    Filmmaking tech is so volatile, with new gear and rumors every minute, and pre-order offerings galore but no product delivery. If you have a film idea shoot with what you got. However, many filmmakers obviously don’t abide by the “shoot with what you got” mantra. How many are waiting for their BMCC before they put down their shot glass and go shoot footage? How many are waiting to see what NAB has before organizing a session? How many hang out in the forums 24/7 and speculate/debate via comments?

    Stephen Stills was ultimately correct? “Love the one you’re with.” Now go out and shoots, doggs!

  • If you think you’re talented, there really is no excuse to not have a product to back that claim up these days. It used to be film was too expensive to buy shoot edit. But now, without even raising any real funds we can make low budget features that look great. The hard part of course is a great script with great characters, good actors, and some balls. I find a lot of naysayers are lacking in the undercarriage area.

  • I wish people will stop saying or bringing up the GH3 , there is a reason it is not being marveled at or compared in test or major reviews, because it is not a true successor to the gh2. The sensor, picture, and look are not made by sony, it is a sony camera with nice features it is said to be better with handling blacks and highlights but i cant really tell.

    GH2 is an amazing camera and bang for buck even without the hack, but with the hack i promise it just has such a nice almost 2k look to it, Just curious on how the hacks hold up as far as not overheating and curious to hear about some flat picture profile options

    • Um….the GH3 is, in every way, a better camera and a sucessor to the GH2. It’s frankly ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

  • I have a T2i, but I?m deffinetely considering getting one GH2, especially after readin the EOS HD anamoprphic and GH2 shooting guide.

    • I would recommend maybe down the line, if your just starting out then stick to what you have first. Master you craft as it is most important, then the tool later. Your t2i is not too shabby either, you can get great results already, may not be on par on resolution and detail wise as the gh2 but if you dont have the money then dont bother. Its the knowledge you learn from using the tool thats most important, remember its the user that makes the film look good not the tool, the tool can help, but its not a requirement to use a RED over say a t2i or gh2, this article proves that.

      • The T2i is a great camera, but I recommend leaving it behind sooner rather than later in favour of a GH2.
        I may have over invested into my T2i gear in retrospect, once I moved to the GH2, i never looked back. Though the T2i is a wonderful tool for it’s price point, mine is just gathering dust on the shelf since I started shooting on GH2.

  • Love the Gh2! Shot this short horror flick with it over the summer .. thoughts?

  • If you’re looking to get one, get the GH3. I can’t begin to explain how much an improvement the design is, from just about every perspective. An outstanding camera all around. I loved the GH2, but the GH3 makes it look like a toy.

    • Fresno Bob on 02.6.13 @ 3:48AM

      GH3 can’t do anything the GH2 doesn’t already, save the higher ISO recording.

      • …and improved color, less banding, increased dynamic range, 1080 60p, a much cleaner EX Tele mode, sharper LCD, and live audio monitoring&adjustment while recording. Oh, and weather sealing too. You know, just a few incremental upgrades. ;)

        • Haha, exactly. Was just going to say the same thing. You’d have to be insane to not consider the GH3 a substantial upgrade. At $1300, it’s a no brainer – there isn’t another camera in that price range that even comes close.

        • Fresno Bob on 02.7.13 @ 3:51AM

          No one has yet to actually show me proof of increased DR.
          I keep asking for figures, but no one offers them.

          All the pros you list are just packaging.
          All I care about is the image, and for that there is no real reason to upgrade.
          My audio is done externally as it should be

          • I haven’t seen any official numbers either but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I own both cameras, so I can tell you from experience that the that highlight roll off is noticeably smoother on the GH3 and there is less noise in the shadows. If comparisons are what you want, here’s just a couple:

   (this one pits the GH3 vs the 5DmkIII)

            There’s more subjective things I like about the GH3 image over the GH2 too, like how much more organic the grain structure is in the ALL-I mode. That’s a difference you feel more than you see. As for the physical upgrades, these make the camera far more versatile for a greater variety of real shooting situations. The GH3 is an incredibly comfortable and easy camera to handle, and that counts for a lot when the pressure ratchets up.
            But if you’re perfectly satisfied with the GH2 then that’s great, stick with it. This article is proof of how great a camera it still is. But what you’re saying about the GH3 not being a significant upgrade, even in terms of image quality alone, is just not true at all.

  • Great filmmaking is about vision, not cameras.

    That said, I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of Upstream Color at Sundance and see it on the enormous screen at the 1500-seat Eccles theater. The image, even at this size, was SPECTACULAR. Everyone just assumed it was shot on RED. Nothing about it even hinted that it was shot on a DSLR.

    HUUUGE props to Shane Carruth and his team.

    • From watching the trailers online, and with the success of Primer, I completely assumed he shot on RED. Incredible results and humbling to know that if you cannot get a good result with your camera it’s not the camera!

  • I have no idea what that movie is about but now I have to see it after viewing that trailer. It looks great.

  • Anthony Marino on 02.6.13 @ 12:54AM

    Great piece. Wow, watching these films there’s no need to notice anything but the story. They both look beautiful, talented filmmakers for sure. Great news how the Gh2 resolves on the big screen. Would love to see an in depth article on that process (Hint). But I love my GH2, it’s simply an amazing tool and those few who write these hacks are doing brilliant work on the imaging. You can grab one now for under 700 bucks and under the right conditions you can use it on just about anything as your A cam, B cam or C cam. It’s my B cam and I use it more than my A cam…hell it’s the closest thing I got to a Red. But seriously I would recommend the Gh2 to anyone and wouldn’t think twice about it.

  • Upstream Color looks magnificent!
    But not a fan of the punchy “Musgo” look at all. Looks like they pulled it into Adobe Camera Raw and jacked the “clarity” slider way up. Almost like a fake HDR look. It is effective in setting an uneasy mood though.

  • Ally Mchume on 02.7.13 @ 4:19PM

    I’m getting Gh2 no doubt about it

  • Alien Astronauts on 02.7.13 @ 9:16PM

    Great article. I plan on buying my first dslr camera within the next couple of weeks, and was set on the t3i, but after seeing these images I’ll have to do more research. The GH2 might be the way to go.

  • Jason De Ford on 02.7.13 @ 11:00PM

    I’m selling my 60D and buying a GH2. I got so sick of the muddy images coming from the Canon. I get double the clarity of image from the GH2. In combination with a Canon FD 28mm f2 and 50mm f1.4 I am very happy.

    • I felt the same way from shooting with the 7D for a long time. Last year I picked up a cheap used GH2, hacked it, and fell in love with the image. This year I finally sold my 7D to get a GH3. I don’t think I’ll be looking back at Canon anytime soon.

  • I think that even with five-figure budgets, the cost of the camera (usually rented) becomes something of a non-issue compared to the cost of lighting, locations, props, grip, costumes, wages, post production, marketing, distribution etc.

    It’s only on really low budget projects (four-figure) that ‘which camera can I afford?’ becomes an overriding concern, and people start to obsess about pixels.

  • I think the quality of the audio and sound design went a long way to give Upstream Color such a great look.

  • Seriously, who really cares THAT much about the camera, jesus.

  • This might sound… well I don’t know… but does anyone know if the gh2 can shoot video on format 4/3 (versus fomat 16/9)?

  • Yeah, I saw upstream color at the Sundance Film Festival last January and I have to say this film is visually stunning. Audio, editing, music, performance, cinematography is fantastic (in fact, I’m listening to the soundtrack right now). The script is strange, but definitely works with the setting its being presented in. Whatever camera lens he was using, it worked effectively. Try to see it in April when it comes out!

  • So I’m assuming both films were shot on hacked GH2s at 24p. One thing the GH3 can’t do (at this point).

  • We shot Tiger Lily Road on an unhacked GH2. Lenses: Oly 14-35 f2 (rented) and an assortment of nikons. It’s a great camera. better than canons. Only thing that intrigues me more right now is BMC. Cinematographer was Nils Kenaston and you know, that’s what gave us the picture. He really knows how to light in all circumstances. Some scene clips here: