August 29, 2019

4 Short Films That Reveal the Cinematic Look of Panasonic's Lumix S1H

Carissa Dorson with the Panasonic S1H
Filmmakers found the capability to shoot in both full-frame and Super 35mm to be liberating.

Yesterday, while half of us techno-journalists were getting hands-on with the Panasonic LUMIX S1H, in order to write their first impressions, the other half was watching a series of short films to show off the capabilities of Panasonic's new full-frame mirrorless cinema camera. I say "cinema camera" because that's the quality of the imagery that this new camera delivers. So much so, that one director called it the "Varicam Micro."

And while I had a steep learning curve with the camera while shooting some brief test footage, these four masters of the Lumix platform squeezed every ounce of performance out of this new camera. And the proof is in these short films. 

Maintaining a Cinematic Look

The first film we saw was called In Hope of Nothing, which was directed by South African director Peter Hamblin. The film takes a look at a pair of down and out filmmakers, who are estranged brothers, with one looking to give his Hollywood Dream one more try. Hamblin shot the film using a vintage 70s Japanese anamorphic lens to give it a dated, gritty look that you would expect from a disappointing life on the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."

Hamblin added that the S1H is a lightweight rig, contrasted by its larger and heavier Varicom cousins. He also said it performed really well with a series of photo lenses while maintaining a cinematic look. "(The S1H) is a perfect tool for young, aspiring filmmakers, Hamblin added. "It opens up a cinematic palette, to achieve the look that you want at the budget you have."

After my hands-on experience with the camera, I'm not so sure I agree with him on it being a great tool for new filmmakers. This is a higher performance mirrorless camera, and to cut your teeth on it is like learning to drive in a Ferrari. Sure, it's cool, sure it's fast, but it might be too much for a beginner to handle, especially for the price. But in the experienced hands of a DP like Hamblin, it's definitely a great camera.

Director Peter Hamblin with the Panasonic S1H
Director Peter Hamblin with the Panasonic S1HCredit: Panasonic

"The Varicam Micro"

Experienced DP David C. Smith is the one who coined the nickname "Varicam Micro" for the S1H, saying that the overall look of the footage is seamless when intermixed with other models in the Varicam line. Shooting his boxing short Live Your Play, Smith concluded that the S1H would make a solid B or C camera on a professional set because it offers all the same tools and features of the Varicam, but in the smaller form factor. "It can handle holding highlights and detail on both sides of the dynamic range spectrum really well," Smith said. "It's clearly the mirrorless cinema camera we've been waiting for."

https://youtu.be/NV-Xf_P42o4

But while he thinks that smaller form factor is its greatest strength, he also admits that it's also its weakness when it comes to attaching a monitor to the S1H via HDMI. There is a noticeable 7-9 frame latency, a limitation that is largely due to the state of HDMI, not the S1H. Smith gets around this limitation by simply viewing the footage in the pull-out touchscreen LCD. Panasonic doesn't try to hide this either, as one executive said that they are working to improve the HDMI connection. So look for a future firmware update. 

DP David C. SmithCredit: Panasonic

Creative Use of Dynamic Range

Perhaps the finest example of how well the S1H handles the extreme ends of its 14 stops of dynamic range came from Los Angeles based filmmaker Carissa Dorson, who made Alive, a film about a laundromat worker who copes with her the lonely drone of life through dance. The film is sad and dramatic, and the dance is very artistic. Dorson shot the film using the Panasonic S1H, Atlas anamorphic lenses, all while mounted to a DJI Ronin 2 handheld gimbal, and the camera movement is buttery without being betrayed by rolling shutter.

https://youtu.be/cJfWmT2xQBM

But what impressed me the most was how much detail you could pick up in bright ambient light and in the darkness of the bar's shadows. You could really catch the fine weave of a window screen while focusing on the dancer looking out the window, and catch the herringbone brick in the dark night as she danced. It's a very impressive example of how a camera can use dynamic range.

DP Carissa Dorson with the Panasonic S1H
DP Carissa Dorson with the Panasonic S1HCredit: Panasonic

Using Sensor Crop to Your Advantage

The most emotional short of the day came at the end thanks to the cinematographer who got his start on YouTube. Jacob Schwarz and his wife created a space opera in about 7 minutes, which is as compelling as Christopher Nolan's InterstellarKepler-138 is the story of a young astronaut who grows up with a single father who is blind. She records her surroundings so her father can experience the world as she does. So when she travels to another planet and is stranded there, she manages to send those same audio recordings so that her father knows she's alive and living marooned on a marvelous world.

https://youtu.be/iFJgv8Tfz6E

What Schwarz loved about the S1H is that he could have the same 6K image with multiple sensor croppings and switch between Super 35mm and full-frame depending on what the scene demanded. Schwarz also believes that the digital 6K emulsion of the S1H could work well, not only with other Panasonic cameras but other camera brands as well. 

Cinematographer Jacob Schwarz
Cinematographer Jacob SchwarzCredit: Panasonic

Final Thoughts

So when you put the Panasonic S1H into an experienced hand, the camera will perform like the racehorse that it is, squeezing every bit of data and dynamic range out of it.  Can it grow with a new filmmaker who decides to invest the $4,000 into this solid platform? Absolutely. The images are really the best that you can get out of a full-frame sensor. Just some, like the ones above, are going to be more compelling than others.      

Your Comment

14 Comments

This looks a lot better. Only downside is footage looked a little noisy. But this was well shot. My only concern is how much extra gear and rigging to this camera was done to get this footage out of it? I mean like a recorder, support equipment, etc.

August 30, 2019 at 1:24AM

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Keep in mind that the S1H firmware is currently at 0.4B, so lots of things are still unfinished on the camera. I expect that the final image will be even better once the firmware hits 1.0 and the camera is ready to ship. ( the same thing happened with the GH5 camera, where there were small issues with the preproduction cameras because the firmware was only half done )

August 30, 2019 at 12:39PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31427

Nice article

August 30, 2019 at 3:00AM, Edited August 30, 3:00AM

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Mafia
162

Save your money and get the Panasonic SH1! Then all you have to do it put Cooke glass in front of it!

I'm only kidding, it looks nice.

August 30, 2019 at 8:51AM

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Robbie Patton
Editor
86

Most of the projects are highly stylized which doesn't necessarily give a good impression of what this camera can do. I find the images on my 1080 display murky, jittery with a yellow bias. I can't get a good feel for this camera with the low contrast look in a lot of these examples. I am glad the camera is out but boring chart, skin tone and sharpness tests would go a long way in capturing the capabilities of this camera.

August 30, 2019 at 3:47PM

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Richard Metzker
Operations Manager
17

It seems like most of these are a good sales pitch for fog machines. 4k on an A7III might match or even be better. I noticed one film where the blacks completely fell off and were destroyed. That's the camera ops fault, and then the colorist/editor decided to double down and make it even worse.

Now I have to buy a fog machine... Damn it!

August 31, 2019 at 2:57AM

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Paul G Newton
Screenwriter/Filmmaker
83

for that price buy or rent a real cinema camera: sony, canon, bmd do better for the same price.
i'm filmaker that i start with camcorder (panasonic) , i went to mirrorless (panasonic) and i continue with mirrorless(gh5) AND camcorder(sony) AND Cinema camera (canon and Bmd).
When a photo camera basic kit cost like a cinema camera it could'nt be a good choise.
4000$ +1500$ for a good lens (it's fullframe, it's 6k, need a quite decent lens), some batteries to have the ability to work... how many $ you invested instead to check other cinema camera price and rental price...

August 31, 2019 at 6:28AM, Edited August 31, 6:29AM

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Carlo Macchiavello
Director
730

relay!

August 31, 2019 at 6:25PM

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Alax
74

Awesome, thanks sharing a great info

August 31, 2019 at 6:24PM, Edited August 31, 6:24PM

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Alax
74

Since when does flat and boring ungraded look become "Cinematic Look"? show me the color. Panasonic marketing department really need to do a better job, plus, they disable the commenting for all these shorts in youtube, classy act, not letting the user to comment and discuss.

August 31, 2019 at 9:57PM

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Sam
78

Alax, if you look closely at most of the videos, they were uploaded in 4k HDR, which is great if you have an HDR capable set and watch your youtube videos on your TV. But, for 99% of people out there that don't own an HDR capable monitor, the resulting image does indeed look flat and washed out. AND there is no way to select a non HDR version. The only video that wasn't HDR was the two guys bowling video which was uploaded in 1080p.

September 2, 2019 at 5:28AM

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Film Voltage
Director
392

This looks awful. And some of these samples are uploaded in 360p.....the unprofessionalism. None of these people utilized color grading. It looks like gray compression.

September 2, 2019 at 12:54PM, Edited September 2, 12:55PM

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That is great! All what young and aspiring filmmakers need is a new camera with a full frame sensor, not meaningful stories with amazing actors, you know the kind of stories that makes you tell yourself, I'm so glad I saw this. What matters is definition, blurred background. Oh yeah, the cam is the most expensive and crucial element of a film, not the story, not the locations, not the dedicated crew and 99.9 % of the budget simply goes to the camera. I can't wait for the thousands of work of art that will be created with this cam and will keep me riveted to my screen. The ridicule keeps piling up; every technical aspect mentioned in this "nice" article, mainly related to the sensor, dynamic range etc will be totally missed by any audience who goes to see a movie for the story while having no knowledge of cameras. I'll repeat myself: the ridicule nonsense continues.

September 3, 2019 at 1:23AM

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Looks like video.. its using those same crappy sony sensors that has that video look to it..bla

September 5, 2019 at 10:28PM, Edited September 5, 10:28PM

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Hunter Senftner
Director/DP/Editor
164