On Saturday the 23rd of August my alarm clock rang early at 04:30 in the morning, three hours earlier then usual, but with good reason. I left house at five o'clock to pick up my good friend Ivo to go to another birdhide, this time Han Bouwmeester's Sixth Birdhide, a new and really well build hide near Markelo, The Netherlands.

This time it is is situated near a lake, so a lot of waterbirds can be expected here, my main goal of this day was to get some (hopefully great) shots of the Kingfisher that was spotted here numerous times before.

Camera and Lens

For this shoot I used my Panasonic GH4 with Nikon 80-200mm F2.8 (ED) lens with a TC16A (1.6x) teleconverter which I picked up second hand a day earlier at Nivo Schweitzer in Amsterdam. I am really glad I did this because the 80-200mm (160-400mm on the GH4) was not enough to catch the Kingfisher when he sat on the farthest branch. Even with the 1.6x converter to make it a 320-640mm lens it sometimes wasn't enough.

At this time I wasn't aware of the Ex Tele function on my GH4, I could have cropped in 2.4x more using this function but I didn't know I had it. Bad1313 pointed this out to me in one of the comments on this video on Vimeo. This is the main reason for me to publish my videos online, not only can other people enjoy or learn from my videos, I can also learn from their comments.

The Ex-Tele mode on the GH4 works only up to 60fps, I shot this video mostly at 96fps, so in the future I will have to make a choice, shoot at 96fps or do I need the extra resolution (60fps is noticably sharper than 96fps) or extra focal length or do I need the extra frames per second? Added benefit of shooting 60fps in NTSC mode is that it's also possible to record audio.

Camera Support

The birdhide has a built-in Jobu Gimball Swinghead system, but that is mainly useful for photography, I can use it for video but prefer to use a videohead instead.

In this case I brought my Induro Hi-Hat mini tripod which has a 75mm bowl on which I could place my Sacthler Cine DSLR video head. Unfortunately the clamping screw is so high that I cannot use the Hi-Hat in it's lowest setting, which makes the total height of the Hi-Hat + Cine DSLR video head too high for the lens to look through the opening in cabin. (I should have made a picture of this to make this more clear, maybe next time). So I had to switch to plan B and use my Really Right Stuff ball head. Not ideal for shooting video, but the best option I had.

After this shoot, I bought a Wing nut that fits the Cine DSLR head so I can place it on the Induro Hi-Hat even in it's lowest setting.

Settings when shooting

I have shot everything in a slightly modified version of the Cinelike-D picture profile. Some shots (the sharper ones) are shot a 24fps in C4K but most of it was shot in 1080p 100mbit in 96fps.

I tried to shoot most of the time using a 180 degree shutter angle, but probably should have gone to a 360 degree shutter angle sometimes. I had to go to ISO800 sometimes and the GH4 really isn't that good in low light, especially when you shoot at ISO800 and you are a little underexposed the noise is really visible and really ugly (digital).

Editing

I did my edit in Final Cut Pro X (FCP X), I knew I wanted to do a Kingfisher only video this time, I had enough material to do so and so the main problem for me was finding the right music.

I wanted something classical, pretty slow, so I searched on Spotify, iTunes and YouTube and ultimately found the music I was looking for on the Spotify playlist of Iris Hond, a dutch pianist which I saw the day earlier on a dutch television program.

I don't use any rules when editing pieces like this, I mainly try to keep a chronical and logical order to the video so that it tell some kind of story. This clips also have to match the music, I can have a great shot, but if it doesn't fit the music I don't use it or use it somewhere else (if possible).

Result

I am pretty pleased with the end result, although I always see ways to improve. Especially when I am busy editing and switch between a 4K and 1080p 96fps image I am amazed at how much sharper the 4K image is, it's unbelievable; so I would love to shoot in 4K but then I don't have the high frame rates and I really do think, especially with birds, that the high frame rates make it really interesting.

Takeaways

My takeaways after this shoot are:

  • Buy a Wing nut so I can use my Sachtler Cine DSLR head on my Induro Hi-Hat in it's lowest position.

That's it really, it's really hard to get more focal length and maintain the image quality, there is no way I could get higher frame rates at a better quality for the price of a GH4. My A7s shoots at 120fps but that is at 720p... at I only get a 1.5x crop instead of a 2x crop. I cannot think of other ways I could improve the image quality.

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