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GH4 V-Log L: my thoughts

Belfast GH4 V-log L 03

Much like the rest of GH4 owners, I’ve been watching the progress of V-Log since it was first announced nearly one year ago. In that time I have watched footage recorded by those close to Panasonic with eager anticipation. Then on September 1st 2015 they told us we would be able to get our hands on it.

This is where excitement turned to confusion both for the customer and Panasonic. Firstly for the customer there was no clear factual information on by who or how V-log would be delivered. What was clear was the fact that we would have to pay for the update (£79 in the UK). This kickstarted much anger on social media aimed at Panasonic. I personally didn’t care about paying for it. I read several conflicting reports and even noted several confusing social media posts by Panasonic themselves on how and when we would get it. Many of them turned out to be false. More confusion.

Secondly Panasonic slipped up big time. Some clever user noticed a back door accessible via the Panasonic mobile image app which allowed those who followed simple instructions to access and use V-log without any hacking or handing over money. Panasonic quickly went on a hilarious PR excerise telling us to update to firmware version 2.4 or the world would end! Nice try Panasonic. I happily shot my first V-log footage and was very impressed. I was one of the few I think! More on this later.

Eventually I was able to order a non-apocalyptic version of V-log L for £79 from Panasonic UK. Again this was not actually advertised anywhere, but thanks to a fellow user on social media I had the link. Long story short it arrived in the form of activation codes on a piece of paper taped to a card in a very large box. Why not a digital download? I now have an ‘official ‘ V-log installation on my GH4.

Anyway, enough of this verbiage. On to the good stuff. What does V-log do? Does it improve the Gh4?  What follows are my findings and personal thoughts. You have the right to disagree. I don’t mind.

What does V-log do?

Simply it’s a flat profile that is less processed and is known as LOG. Canon called theirs C-log, Sony has S-Log and now Panasonic has V-log. The GH4 version is called V-Log L. The L stands for ‘lite’ as it is a cut down version of their full VariCam camera version. According to Panasonic we gain up to 2 stops of dynamic range. In reality it’s not easy to quantify this. A LOG image is not intended to be a delivery look. Rather it is intended to be graded and coloured to attain a final look. You can get my technical information here.

Personally I enjoy shooting and editing log profiles. I’ve shot and edited C-log,  S-log and Blackmagic Film, so I was excited to get my hands on V-log. Up to this I had used the CineLike D profile on the GH4 and had never loved it’s baked-in look especially skin tones etc. I also found highlight roll-off to be very harsh. I shot a few quick V-Log tests in my garden and was immediately impressed by the improvements in all these areas over CineLike D.

Does it improve the GH4?

I’ve touched on this above. In terms of skin tones and highlights I have noticed a vast difference in comparison to CineLike D. I have never used the other included profiles so I can’t comment on those. Skin tones no longer have that ugly orangey yellowy mucky plasticy look. I always wondered how the engineers at Panasonic didn’t notice that! I’ve read that most other profiles on the camera exhibit similar characteristics.

Highlights have similarly been improved. I have found it much easier to retain highlight detail and V-log has a much nicer roll off curve.

Shadows also retain more detail, however the first thing I noticed was an increase in noise in these areas. After reading other users experiences and after my own testing I have found that overexposing by up to 2 stops helps reduce the visibility of noise. I also found that shooting at 800 ISO has helped. I noticed that the low-light failure that is the GH4 is producing cleaner footage at higher ISOs. Others are reporting great results at 1600 and higher ISOs.

These screenshots are from a shoot in a typical low light location that I find myself filming regularly as part of my work. They were shot at 800 to 1250 ISO and 1 to 2 stops overexposed. The lenses used were a fast Zeiss 25mm f2 and 50mm f1.4 on a Speedbooster XL. I love this combo! They were graded and coloured in Final Cuto Pro X using ColorFinale. I applied the Panasonic supplied V-Log to REC709 LUT and then adjusted the curves and colour balance. I don’t own an external recorder so all these clips were recorded internally in 8 bit 4.2.0. colour space.

ESG Promo 2015 02 ESG Promo 2015 04 ESG Promo 2015 01

I shot the following 2 videos to test the ability of V-Log in different weather conditions. The camera setup, grading and colouring is the same as that described above.

Finally here are some screenshots from interviews I have shot using V-Log. I can say with full confidence that the skin tones are vastly improved and they are closer to those of my Canon C100 and Pocket Camera. Again these are recorded at 800 ISO and 2 stops over exposed with the same grading as above.

ten andrew TEN Promo - Kerry
Any issues?

Of course there are issues! Its technology. Whether its mobile phones or cars there are always issues.

I was an early Canon C100 adopter and there were issues that raised their heads in relation to C-Log and 8 bit recording – noise and macro-blocking. I read of many issues with S-log 2 on the Sony A7s when first available – mainly excessive noise. Similarly Panasonic’s V-log L implementation on the GH4 has these issues – noise and macro-blocking and some colour-shift. I all cases users cried foul! However, when the dust settled users found that these issues could be worked around and mostly eliminated, whether through over-exposing,  proper grading in post or recording to 10 bit external recorders. The same will happen with V-Log L. The fact the users expect perfection is laughable on cameras in this price range. Working with LOG profiles is not as easy as using the baked-in heavily processed profiles that manufacturers include with cameras that are designed to reduce noise and other issues. The bottom line is, if you want to shoot colourful clean video and avoid spend time grading and colouring in post, don’t use LOG. Simple.

I have been happily and confidently using V-Log on paying client projects since I could get my hands on it and I have learned to work with it as I did with C-Log, S-log and the Blackmagic Film profile. I instantly saw the increased dynamic range that gives the look and feel that I had grown to love on my Canon and Blackmagic cameras – more filmic images. I can’t go backwards to the look and limitations of Cinelike D or any of the other included profiles. I can fully recommend V-Log L and I suggest you try it for yourself.

Or not.

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Drew Curran

Director at Pixol
Drew is a filmmaker and designer and the founder of Pixol. Pixol produces corporate and commercial promotional films as well as graphic design and print for clients across the UK and Ireland. Drew is also a freelance cameraman and video editor for other production companies as well as a self-confessed camera nerd.

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7 Comments
  • Brian Satchfield

    October 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm Reply

    Great overview, Drew. I appreciate you sharing your initial findings and giving us a head start on V-log implementation. Your video samples helped, too, as we can clearly see where crushed blacks and/or blown-out highlights may have creeped in without the log recording. Good post.

  • Clayton Moore

    October 20, 2015 at 4:29 am Reply

    I really appreciated your observations here.
    I think that Panasonic has clearly been very aggressive with this. I started out on Canon DSLR, but the GH4 is the best value out there right now. Im very interested in what the URSA Mini can do for me at some point but for now, I think getting an outboard 4k Monitor/Recorder seems like a good idea. Ill wait for another year to see what both Black Magic and Panasonic come up with. Its getting very interesting!!!

    • Drew Curran

      October 27, 2015 at 4:46 pm Reply

      Thanks Clayton, the Ursa Mini is a very interesting prospect, as is the A7Sii. I used an A7Rii at the weekend in a lowlight shoot, and i was able to get clean 4K footage up to ISO 10000. Unfortunately the GH4 just wasn’t going to hack it! But for everything else, the GH4 and V-Log will keep me happy for now.

  • Drake Hatfield

    January 24, 2016 at 12:34 am Reply

    Drew thank you for posting this article. I have been curious about Vlog since it was announced and I purposely waited a bit for ‘everyone else’ to get their hands on it. We use GH3s and GH4s for all of our work and the last thing I’d want to do is load a profile that kills SD cards or grades terribly etc. It seems that Panasonic actually did a great job on this! I am off to buy it…

    Thanks!

    • Drew Curran

      January 24, 2016 at 4:14 pm Reply

      Thanks Drake, I’ve really enjoyed using vlog and still do. In fact it blends very well in post with Slog3 on the A7Sii. I’m going to write a post on that soon.

      • Drake Hatfield

        January 24, 2016 at 5:32 pm Reply

        Honestly I have been shocked at the amount of people being hyper critical of Vlog. It seems that many people who have no business using such a flat profile are attempting to use it as a primary ‘look’. Not the purpose at all. Great article… Thank you for your insight and for verifying much of our gut instinct!

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