The Reverie Effect… Panasonic GH3 Breaks Out in Cinema

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by James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

It’s called the Reverie Effect. At least that’s what I’m calling it. It’s that moment when, in the hands of the right filmmaker, a movie is made that shows not only what a digital SLR camera can do, but makes people wonder why it took so long to happen in the first place. And it may have just happened to the Panasonic GH3.

The Effect was given birth when a young photographer by the name of Vince LaFloret had an idea for a short film.  And he knew he wanted to shoot it with a DSLR.  Nikon had recently put out the D90, which had 1080p HD video, but LaFloret had a friend inside of Canon, and they were working on a prototype DSLR that would compete with it called the 5D Mk. II.  They gave him the camera and cart-blanche to shoot with it.  The result was a short film with the title … you guessed it … REVERIE.  And that film sent shockwaves around the internet and the industry.

Next came the Fox TV Series House.  Producers saw the results of LaFloret’s film and had the idea to shoot the season finale of the series with a Mark II.  Then came Shane Hurlbut, cinematographer of the film ACT OF VALOR.  Who shot over 85% of this feature film about Navy Seals with the 5D Mk. II.  And suddenly, the Reverie effect rippled out like a wave of a still pond.

But up until now, the Reverie effect was largely centered on the 5D Mk. II.  But Philip Bloom had another idea.  Seeing how well received the Pansonic GH2 was during the Revenge of the Great Zacuto Shootout, and how well it performed on his own holiday camera test last year, Bloom wondered if a sub $2,000 DSLR could hold up to the big boys.  Sure, filmmakers like Francis Ford Copolla had said he liked the results of the image, and it was popular with guerrilla filmmakers who needed a lot of bang for their buck, but could it hold up to the Reverie effect?

Bloom didn’t have long to find out, as he was hired by director Bruce Logan to shoot GENESIS, a short film commissioned by Panasonic about a cop chasing after a woman he’s been pursuing.  The film was meant to showcase the new Panasonic GH3, which, like the 5D Mk. II, was only in prototype form. The shooting conditions were very similar to Reverie, pushing the dynamic range of the GH3 to the max.  From bright, desert sunshine, to the shadowy confines of a train station, to the dark, yet colorful nights of downtown, the GH3 was pushed across the spectrum, and in doing so, Bloom got his Reverie moment.

What I can say is it’s bigger and it’s heavier…it’s also a massive step up from the previous model and has a superb 72mb/s All-I codec which is a world away from the compressed-as-hell AVCHD codec that we are used to on many cameras and on all their previous GH series cameras. –

“We put the GH3 through just about every condition you can think of,” said director Logan.  They went guerrilla style, hand held, with minimal gear throughout Los Angeles subways, streets, and even Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.  They attached the GH3 to driving cars, shot in natural light, and got some amazingly cool, and colorful shots.  And Bloom says thanks to the Panasonic’s QuickTime wrapper codec, they had little problem previewing and editing on the fly.

The effect …. digital cinema is here and a lot of director’s aren’t looking back.   “I’m over film. It’s in the past,” said Bruce Logan. “… all digital has to do is double its resolution (which it seems to do every five years) and the result is the same or better (than film).  I’m not going back.”

Hat tip: Philip Bloom

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About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.