“Roadside” – Impromptu GH2 Short Film

I’m currently on a reality shoot in Texas and had my Panasonic GH2 along for interviews.  During a drive from San Antonio to Austin, I got an itch to go jogging and pulled off at a random exit.  I noticed the wind rippling off the fields and decided to do a quick video along the way.

I chose the GH2 with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens because I knew I wanted to do some shallow-focus shots of barbed wire and cacti, and it also grades quite well with the Vanilla Hack.  The 20mm is not a very wide lens, though, and with no stabilization or tripod I had to get creative to avoid nauseating camera shake.  I ended up wedging the camera into dirt  for worm’s eye shots and occasionally propping the cam on a fence post.  I also made extensive use of the GH2’s swivel screen for self-shots.


color correction screenshot

color correction, vignette, and letterbox effect

In post, I used FCP X’s native color correction tool (as seen above) with the vignette effect. I shifted the shadows to blue and the highlights to yellow, then desaturated the shadows a bit to keep them realistic but saturated the mids for more pop.  I then lowered the mids’ exposure for a more contrasty look.  The final touch was a 2:35 letterbox effect (also native to FCP X).  The new “offset” feature is handy for re-framing shots that require more or less headroom.

Filming certainly made my jog more enjoyable. I highly recommend keeping a good camera nearby at all times.

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Latest Comments
  1. Vrais

    A great little short. It has it all, love it.
    BTW, the FCPX screenshot caught my eye… How come your windows seem undocked?
    Am I missing something important here not being able to rearrange my interface?

    I’m really happy you chose my videos in your RX100 entry,

    • Brandon Li

      Hey thanks man! Glad you approve of the use of your vids. Also happy to see others using the RX100 for artistic videography. Regarding the screenshot, I actually just photoshopped it to fit on the screen better. I wish FCP X was that modular.

      • Vrais

        I suspected it was a composite, but the arrow in the top right of each window made me hope you were test driving the next update…
        Anyway, great blog.
        All the best for 2013.

        • Brandon Li

          Thank you Vrais! Happy New Year to you as well.

  2. KeithF

    Hi Brandon,
    I noticed you went back to the GH2 after what seemed like a full time switch to the RX100. How do you decide which camera to take with you? How did you run with the GH2? I guess with the 20mm pancake it was still reasonably light but I would have thought the pocketable RX100 would have been your choice yet again?

    • Brandon Li

      I decided to use the GH2 primarily because I wanted shallower DOF on this one, and I just kinda felt like switching things up. The 20mm pancake is an almost-perfect self-shooter lens because it’s lightweight, autofocuses (albeit not well during shooting: pre-focus and lock it), and plays well with the swivel screen on the GH2 for checking framing. I could definitely carry this combo with me all day without feeling encumbered, and its 40mm FOV feels very natural.

  3. elona pawelzik

    nice work? I am a photographer and just starting to do vidio…I appreciate all the work that goes into a 1 min….vidio……good info in your blog….

  4. Ivo

    Great film! I just started with the RX100 and movie making. Could you make a simple how to, explaining the settings and effects how to make such as movie with the Sony RX100?

    • Brandon Li

      This particular short was done with the Panasonic GH2, not the RX100. But yes, I am planning a post specifically dedicated to camera settings on the RX100. Thanks for watching!

  5. debinatx

    Hi, Brandon. Great work. Love your blog.

    Just curious whether you find your Vanilla Patch is stable on your GH2? I’ve tried about 4 or 5 different patches, all with high spanning cards, yet still deal with awful instability/glitches.


    • Brandon Li

      Hi Deb,

      Vanilla has been stable for me, though I’ve never used the GH2 for anything more intensive than a couple hours’ interview. If you’re continually having problems I would suggest trying other camera bodies and memory cards. You can take advantage of Amazon’s 30-day return policy to accomplish this. It’s how I discovered I had a defective NEX-5n.

      • debinatx

        good advice. many thanks and continued luck.

  6. L.J.

    Hey Brandon!
    Loved this. Just discovered your site. I am working on my first doc, and at the beginning of my project, I a GH2 literally fell into my hands. Good to know it can be used to such great effect. Was advised to maybe switch to a video camera due to lack of XLR inputs on the GH2. Thinking of using wireless lav for man on street interviews. Have you done this? Will be watching more of your vids and sending more questions!

    • Brandon Li

      Hi, glad you enjoy the tips! I personally have always used second-system audio with DSLR’s instead of wireless RF mic’s. Details in this article. I shoot solo and don’t like to mess with radio frequencies, excess bulk, or too many sets of batteries dying. For man-on-the-street interviews, I would just have the talent hold a Zoom H1 or similar recorder, then sync it to the video in post via FCP X’s internal syncing feature. Or Pluraleyes, if you’re running FCP 7 or Premiere.

      A couple things to watch out for with the Zoom H1: It will pick up handling noise easily, and it requires a windscreen. There is an accessory package on Amazon which will provide you with a handle and a windscreen to combat these issues.

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