February 3, 2015 at 1:00AM

0

M4/3 Sensors and Achieving the "Film" Look

I'm a bit of a novice, have just purchased a GH4, and have a few questions regarding the M4/3 sensor and achieving the revered "film" look. As I understand it, the M4/3 sensor is just smaller than the traditional full-frame sensor (~equivalent to 35mm), and provides a cropped image relative to a traditional full-frame sensor. Can this just be remedied by using wider lenses and/or moving the camera to achieve the same composition? Also, if I'm about to start investing in lenses, especially cine lenses, should I stick with native M4/3 options, or should I go with a Metabones EF Speedbooster/EF cine lens combo? Will the latter help me to achieve that "film" look better than a native M4/3 lens would?

25 Comments

Almost all feature films are shot today using Super35 format cameras. The Super35 format is a little bigger than the standard APS-C digital camera format.

To get the same look from the Micro 4/3 format as you would with Super35 camera, you have to shoot with a lens that has the same FOV ( field of view ) and is 1 F-Stop faster. So if you had a 25mm lens on a Super35 camera, you would need a 17.5mm lens on a Micro 4/3 camera. And if the Super35 lens was set to f/2.0, the Micro 4/3 lens would need to be set to f/1.4 to achieve the SAME depth of field.

Abelcine FOV Calculator
http://www.abelcine.com/fov/

For wide lenses this usually means using dedicated Micro 4/3 lenses, because the focal length of other types of lenses are too long. Fortunately there are some great Micro 4/3 lenses are very fast, like the Voightlander lenses which all have an F-stop of f/0.95. ( 10.5mm, 17.5mm, 25mm, 42.5mm )

The Metabones Speedbooster is very handy when using Canon or Nikon lenses with your Micro 4/3 camera, as it shortens the focal length by 0.71x and give you an additional F-stop of light. In terms of FOV your Micro 4/3 camera will function like a Super35 camera with a SpeedBooster attached to it. So a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens becomes a 35mm f/1.0 when used with the SpeedBooster. You will still have to use dedicated Micro 4/3 lenses for wide shots, but for the "normal" to telephoto lens range Speedboosters are a great tool to have in your camera kit.

Lastly, if you must match the look of a 35mm Full Frame camera, you need a Micro 4/3 lens that is half the focal length, and 2 F-stops faster. So a 50mm f/2.0 lens on a FF camera is equivalent to a 25mm f/1.0 lens on a Micro 4/3 camera.

February 3, 2015 at 9:35AM

7
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30468

Thanks very much, Guy. Very helpful.

Navarre Megali

February 3, 2015 at 11:47AM

Would a 17.5mm lens + an anamorphic adaptor work for achieving a wide shots?

Cyberjunkie

September 12, 2016 at 11:17PM

Everything Guy said (especially regarding the Voigtlanders), but adding also that one of the benefits of MFT mounts is that there are adapters available for pretty much any type of other lens mount. You can rent high-end PL glass and put it on your GH4 if you're so inclined. In general, the quality of the lens will go a long way towards making it "filmic."

But really, just get a set of Voigtlanders if you can afford it. Those lenses will never steer you wrong.

February 4, 2015 at 1:21PM, Edited February 4, 1:21PM

0
Reply
avatar
Alec Kubas-Meyer
Writer/Director/DP
236

For my GH camera's (gh2/gh4), I use a set of older Yashica ML and Zeiss Planar T* glass in Contax/Yashica mount, paired with a C/Y mount Metabones Speedbooster. Very plentiful and affordable on eBay, and VERY Filmic. Sharp, yet great falloff.

SLR Magic (Chinese) also makes several MFT lenses ("inspired" by Voigtlander, you might say) which offer comparable speed and image quality to Voigtlanders at a lower cost (Chinese). 25mm F/0.95, 50mm 0,95 and 10mm F/2.0 are outstanding. Excellent lenses all around. I have the 25 and the 50, and they are simply epic, and absolute light canons. Good luck!

February 5, 2015 at 10:16AM

1
Reply
Darby Powell
filmmaker
152

It is also useful to know the crop factor of your camera because there are variations that can affect your choice. My Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera for instance has a x2.88 crop factor.

Liz UnbrandedFilms

February 8, 2015 at 8:03AM

Don't concern yourself with crop factors. Just know your system (MFT) and understand this:

The equivalent of any "full-frame" lens for your camera, is halved for you.
SO:
If you want the classic 85mm interview shot (full frame), you need a 42.5mm lens for an MFT camera.

Also know that lenses for MFT cameras are extraordinary. I wouldn't worry too much about using adapters or speed-boosters, unless you consider them investments for future cameras.

As far as achieving the "film look" with your GH4, understand that the "film look" mostly has to do with a couple basics, namely: Composition, focal length (discussed above), your skill in lighting your scene, and post color-grading (extremely important to avoid that awful digital consumer camera look). The GH4 has decent color profiles for color correction and grading, especially Cinelike settings on the GH4 (see https://vimeo.com/110007082 for grading tips and read their article). Paying for grain assets like Gorilla Grain will also help you achieve the "film look" you may be looking for, since it can hide digital noise and helps add an organic feel to your footage.

Enjoy!

February 7, 2015 at 7:15PM, Edited February 7, 7:15PM

2
Reply
avatar
Brandon Neubert
Color Artist / Writer / Director
615

Concerning lenses, a cheap approach I used was to get a dummy m4/3 adapter (with in-built aperture blades).

So I took an EF Canon lens; put it on a friend's 7D, electronically open up the aperture and then use it on the gh4 (now controlling the aperture manually with the dummy)

Not the best solution though

February 7, 2015 at 7:30PM

0
Reply
avatar
Luke Oyovbaire
Filmmaker
107

Since there were other formats than s35 "back in the day" (hate saying that), the size of the sensor is not an issue. There are still formats like s16 and s8 film and MFT is closer to those. The film look is something which is a lot based on post processing and color correction, as Brandon mentioned.
The thing is, that film, as opposed to digital, never used any sort of interpolation or electronics. Single sensor cameras (like most on the market) have a bayer-pattern... (bla bla bla, things you either already know or can check on youtube any time)...which causes the tones in your image to be sort of "mathematic". Film is a chemical reaction, so there is no computer assigning voltages to tonal values in your image. the roll-off between tones (and usually the dynamic range, too) appears much larger, especially in the highlights when using film. In order to achieve that rich tonal look of film in post processing you need a lot of Bit-information. The GH4 records to 4:2:0 8 Bit. Fortunately it can output a 10 bit 4:2:2 image via HDMI and here you could find an external recorder handy. (8 bit=256 tones per channel 10bit=1024 tones per channel).

So really dont bother with crop factors. As you see there are workarounds for that, and the small sensor can even come in handy (steadicam or gimbal in low light for example).

February 7, 2015 at 8:06PM

0
Reply
Stefanos Knapp
DoP, Operator, CA
84

Everyone has given really great advice. I'm a GH4 user myself, and so I thought I'd share what I do to achieve a more cinematic look.

I decided to get a Metabones Speedbooster (Nikon mount). There are absolutely some great M4/3 lenses out there but ultimately I felt the Speedbooster would A). give me a focal length that I was familiar with and B). allow me to invest in one set of lenses that could be used across multiple bodies. (I plan on getting a Nikon for stills eventually.)

The GH4 can record in 24p so if you're going for a cinematic look that's pretty essential, of course. Watch your shutter speed. ND filters are very important for outdoors shooting.

Turn your sharpening all the way down in-camera. In my opinion, the GH4 overdoes it and it definitely steers into the look of video when it's at its default setting.

Then there are non-GH4 specific tips as outlined above. Smooth movement helps a lot (even a simple lateral slide adds so much). I'm a fan of the Glidecam even if it's not nearly as good as a more expensive gimbal system. Lighting, of course, is key.

Here's a link to some of the stuff I've shot on my GH4.

https://vimeo.com/106053015

Personally, I'm very proud of the look I've been able to get out of the camera. I absolutely love it.

February 7, 2015 at 8:31PM

6
Reply

Chris, good job! I like that look!

Alex Zakrividoroga

February 8, 2015 at 7:45PM, Edited February 8, 7:45PM

I don’t think that anyone has mentioned this yet – lens perspective. This is a long post, but well worth reading as the issue never seems to get mentioned.

Firstly, I agree with everything said above. The sensor size of the GH4 (and the similarly sized 16mm film cameras) can produce beautiful looking movies – especially with expensive lenses. However, creating the full-frame equivalent field of view and depth of field by using wider and faster lenses, will not give exactly the same result as shooting with a 35mm sensor.

The reason for this is to do with the “perspective” changes inherent with using wider lenses. Imagine taking a photograph with a 35mm-sensor camera like a Canon 5D, fixed on a tripod with a 50mm lens pointing at a beautiful landscape. Then, without moving the camera, swap the lens for a 25mm. The field of view is now much wider, but we can still achieve the same view by cropping, as if the camera sensor were the size of the GH4 sensor. However, compared to the 50mm lens, the wider angle of the 25mm lens means that objects in the foreground look larger than those in the background – and that perspective distortion is still present in the centre-cropped image.

If you take this example to extremes. On a full-frame camera a 16mm lens is very wide and the distortion is obvious. However, if you stick an 8mm lens on the same camera, then the world turns completely fish-eyed. Even if you do a 2x crop like a GH4 sensor would, the remaining image will still look more distorted than the photograph taken with the 16mm lens on the full-frame camera – even though the field of view is the same.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the lens the more pleasing the image. The longer lens makes objects in the foreground appear to be part of the same world as the background. It has a flattening effect on our three dimensional world which is pleasing to the eye. This is well known in the world of photography, where medium and large format film cameras produce stunning, hypnotic images which cannot be equalled by 35mm cameras. This is because they use much longer lenses to achieve the desired field of view.

Movies shot on 70mm film have a similar quality. Even if they are printed onto 35mm film for projection purposes, the original “perspective” of the longer lenses which shot the movie still remains in the image. Arri has produced the Alexa-65 with a 65mm sensor. It’s a 6k camera, but that’s only 20-million pixels which could easily fit onto a 35mm-sensor. The reason for the big sensor is to allow DP’s the use of the long lenses that they love. This “perspective” phenomenon is also the reason that even the highest quality video cameras do not create a filmic look – because their tiny sensors need wide lenses.

The good news is that the more towards the centre of the image you look, the less pronounced the “perspective” qualities of the lens are. The GH4 may need doubly as wide lenses as a full-frame camera, but it only looks at the centre 50% of the full frame – so the “perspective” issue is minimised – but it is still there.

So, in summary - don’t worry too much about it because the GH4 has a pretty big sensor and, as mentioned by many people above, there is more to the look of a movie than this one issue. But if you want the really real filmic look, then you’ve got to go full-frame 35mm or larger.

February 7, 2015 at 9:20PM

9
Reply

"However, compared to the 50mm lens, the wider angle of the 25mm lens means that objects in the foreground look larger than those in the background – and that perspective distortion is still present in the centre-cropped image."

I do not believe that this statement is correct. There may be a little lens distortion (actually quite unlikely), but no perspective distortion. If the camera is in the same spot, all crops of the same portion of the image should look exactly the same, regardless of focal length.

Elliot Kramer

February 14, 2015 at 5:00PM

Using Speedboosters with M42 lenses worked really well for me, since you are letting more light in, and increasing the amount of Depth Of Field. There is actually some pretty cheap Speedbooster out there ( Like some from a company named Roxsen ) Also the 2 key things that will almost automatically make you achieve " The Film Look" is Camera Movement, and Anamorphic adapters ( or Anamorphic done is post )

Sorry bad English... I am from Denmark

February 8, 2015 at 5:09AM

0
Reply

Possibly not something you'd find useful, but I'd suggest finding compelling things to film and spending some time considering *why* you're filming that thing/place/person. I think the cinematic look is as much to do with these intentions as the technical considerations.

There seem to be plenty of people who obviously have the right gear and can apply a filmic grade, but who don't find interesting or beautiful things to shoot and are simply 'gathering footage' to try and make look interesting later. And, of course, people without impressive gear who manage to find locations or scenarios with great light and something intriguing going on. When watching the latter, I tend to forget that I clicked to check out the dynamic range, and simply get lost in what's happening on screen for a moment. Which is probably a good test of whether or not something is 'cinematic'.

As mentioned above, understanding traditional composition and lighting skills would be a big help. And, from what I've see the GH4 seems to do some odd things to skin tones which, if you can find ways around, would help too. Good luck!

February 8, 2015 at 6:21AM

1
Reply

>>>However, compared to the 50mm lens, the wider angle of the 25mm lens means that objects in the foreground look larger than those in the background – and that perspective distortion is still present in the centre-cropped image.

This ONLY occurs if you shoot from a different position with the 25mm lens. If you shoot from the SAME position the perspective will be ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL. No distortion, no difference in perspective.

In the early 80's I started out shooting still photos in an advertising studio, where we would sometimes have to produce the same shot in 35mm and 4x5 inch film formats to complete the job. This was fairly easy to do as long as you positioned the lenses to shoot from exactly the SAME position.

Perspective distortion occurs when you use a wider or longer lens and then move your camera position to obtain the same framing of your subject.

This is also why you never shoot a head-shot closer than 5 feet from your subject or you will distort the person's features.

February 8, 2015 at 4:12PM

1
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30468

>>>And, from what I've see the GH4 seems to do some odd things to skin tones which, if you can find ways around, would help too.

It all depends on the camera settings. Where I have seen wonky GH4 skin tones is when people are shooting with the CineD profile and are messing around with the hilight/shadow controls / any of the electronic imaging controls / using the wrong color-balance / setting the Master-Pedestal too high / or setting color saturation to zero and trying to bring it back in post.

I recommend thoroughly testing your camera settings until you find combinations that you like. ( start with everything zero'd, and slowly move away from this until you achieve the look you are after )

February 8, 2015 at 4:21PM

10
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30468

Agree. When using Cinelike-D settings with extreme highlight and shadows settings, skin tones can start to look odd. I now prefer the natural settings with contrast turned all the way down. You have many options on the GH4 to get the colors you want,and then do the color correction and grading later.

Erwin Hartsuiker

February 12, 2015 at 6:02PM

Didn't read all the replies, so apologies if any of this is redundant. In order of importance.

1. Light your shots well.

2. Compose your shots well.

3. Shoot enough coverage for a good edit.

4. Have good-looking locations.

5. Have good-looking costumes. That aren't white. More on that… http://maketimemove.com/white-walls-wardrobe

6. Whenever possible, place as much distance between your subject/actors and the terminal background. Shots of actors constantly two feet from a wall behind them generally doesn't make for good-looking cinema. Also, if you want certain scenes to feel small & claustrophobic, then the juxtaposition to prior scenes with spacious backgrounds will strengthen that (if that makes sense).

(Those are overall general qualitative things, but audiences strongly equate "real" films with them)

7. In final color grade, have very few actual whites present. Few people are aware of this, but a theatrical released film will usually have 80-85% luminance maximum be the brightest of anything in the image for the majority of shots. There are many reasons for this that would take too long to type out. For great examples of Rec.709 framegrabs of "A" film Blu-rays, check out http://evanerichards.com/film_index

8. Avoid having rolling shutter "jello cam" in your footage. It has a strong subconscious resonance with the viewer that they do not associate with "real" films. The same with roll-axis movement/shake. More info on this… http://maketimemove.com/key-to-good-handheld

9. Use light diffusion filtration. It's almost ubiquitous amongst high-end DPs, at the very least for close-ups. If you can't afford the real thing, there's now a very accurate post plugin… http://invisiblechainsaw.com

10. Use of a haze machine will often give shots a more "Hollywood" feel due to association. For certain shots, it lends a feeling of depth.

There really isn't any standard "shallow depth of field" for a film look (which is why it's not on my above list). It just needs to not be insanely wide all the time, like the old 1/3" video sensors. Common interior shooting stops range from T2.8 to 5.6.

Here's the rough formula for matching your GH4 to a particular super 35mm shot...

To match field of view: Take the focal length of the S35 lens and multiply it by 0.72.

To match depth of field: Open up the T-stop 3/4 of a stop.

So for example, a S35 shot using a 25mm lens at T4 will give you a very similar shot as an 18mm lens at T2.8+1/4 (that's 1/4 towards T4) on a GH4.

FWIW, that's hard math, not my opinion. Hope this somehow helps and best of luck.

February 9, 2015 at 7:37PM

3
Reply
Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP
1333

Great tip about avoiding white in this way. Hadn't really thought about that before.

Ben Johnston

February 14, 2015 at 1:02PM

Jaan, can you talk more about "9. Use light diffusion filtration.", particularly about hardware ways to get it? Thanks!

February 10, 2015 at 12:11AM

4
Reply
avatar
Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3664

@Alex Zakrividoroga -- In case the phrasing was unclear, I meant glass diffusion filters, in relatively light grades. For instance, Schneider Hollywood Black Magic or Tiffen Black Pro-Mist in grades of 1/8, 1/4, or maybe 1/2.

February 10, 2015 at 5:32AM

10
Reply
Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP
1333

Hi Navarre,

For me, the key thing is to figure out what you mean by 'film look'. I was a big fan of early Spielberg, and studied his films in-depth. On my own microbudget feature (www.dontstoprunning.co.uk), we shot primarily with fairly wide lenses (24mm and 35mm equivalents), with long tracking shots and careful blocking. For me, that creates the film 'feel' as clearly as any particular camera look. That said, the BMPCC (shooting in RAW) gives an incredible feel and texture, and added a lot too!

February 12, 2015 at 10:59AM, Edited February 12, 10:59AM

0
Reply
avatar
Alex Richardson
Director
2933

Thanks for all of the help, everybody. To clarify a little bit, I understand that there are many elements that come together to achieve that "film" look, but I am primarily concerned with matters pertaining to a MFT sensor (and I've received a lot of feedback about that, so thank you); specifically aspects of that particular sensor type that need to be taken into consideration when crafting a particular filmic look, i.e. crop factor, GH4-specific native abnormalities in skin-tone, which lenses look best on a MFT sensor, etc.

February 17, 2015 at 11:48AM

0
Reply

Hi

This discussion is really interesting and I agree with most the answers.
However, I'm surprised that no one mentionned (or I missed it) Anamorphic lenses (adapters in fact). Indeed, it DOES create "film-look" and I'd say that it's the kind of image that I've been looking for a while. Moreover, GH4 (with its M4/3 sensor + recent update) is really made for it. You can try lenses like SLR Magic Anamorphot as it's a modern version of anamorphic (easy to use & setup) but it's "only" x1.33 so lots of fan say that it's not enough (x1.5 is better, etc but it costs). Anyway you should have a look on it.
Having said that, I come back to "lens discussion" and confirm that this the thing on which you have to mainly focus (ha) if you're looking for film-look. Some lenses are way better than other for that.
And I'll summarize that "film-look" is possible on GH4 by paying attention to, or getting, the following :

- Good lighting / expose carefully (+ white balance)
- Fast lenses (1.8 or 1.4 and more if possible)
- Anamorphic adapter (not mandatory but really aimed for...)
- Speedbooster in order to get S35 look + more light & bokeh
- CineD (-5 except tone) + 24p + all "i-stuffs" turned off
- ND variable Filter (take great brands like Tiffen or Haida)
- Spend a lot of time on Color Correction (use LUT's and, if possible, DaVinci)...THIS is REALLY important !

Based on that, here are some examples with 4 of the videos that I made with GH4 + 12-35 (+ Speedbooster & Canon 70-200 F2.8 on 3 of them), all filmed in CineD :

https://vimeo.com/104370003

https://vimeo.com/105861587

https://vimeo.com/111551415

https://vimeo.com/113994747

I'm now focusing on Anamorphic adapter in order to continue my search of Film-Look ;)
Thx.

February 18, 2015 at 5:19AM

0
Reply
avatar
Romsprod
FILMMAKER
86

Your Comment