What to do in these pandemic times, you ask? Well, British Director of Photography Ben Sherlock decided to unveil an unseen world in the back of his garden. He took a Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H, a Venus Optics Laowa 24mm macro probe lens, and off he went.
As a keen reader, you might have heard the name before. We met up with Ben a couple of times (you can read about it here) and in these special times our very own Johnnie Behiri caught up with him to follow up on a recent short doc piece Ben did: A microscopic journey into the back of his garden!
Filming Bugs with Ben Sherlock
Ben restricted himself by limiting his gear: A camera body, one lens, and a slider. That’s all he needed in terms of equipment. The Panasonic LUMIX DC-S1H was his weapon of choice because of its superb 4k 10-bit (@ 25p) mode. For higher frame rates he would need to drop to 1080p 8bit modes which still are quite nice but since the Laowa 24mm macro probe has a (very) slow aperture, the needed high ISO setting would introduce noise rather quickly. That wasn’t an issue in bright sunlight but once Ben got deeper into the soil, shooting became tricky with such a slow lens.
The Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 (that’s not a typo) macro probe lens is a pretty special piece of gear (see our in-depth review here). It combines classic macro abilities with a rather unusual wide focal length of 24mm, resulting in a much more pleasing depth of field. But it’s slow. Very slow.
As Ben points out, it was a joy working with such a minimal setup. A camera, one lens, and a slider is all you need to capture stunning footage. Combine it with a bit of editing, a slight touch of color, and a nice soundtrack and off you go. All you really need is a good idea, some spare time and passion.
Ben stated that his color grading skills are “fairly lacking” so he shot everything in Cinelike-D setting and only adjusted a bit of contrast and saturation in post production.
4K 10-bit was the mode of choice, 1080p 8-bit were required for slo-mo shots but that resulted in increased noise so Ben limited the slo-mo shots in favor of the better looking 4K 10-bit @ plain 25p.
Most of the camera moves you can see in the film are executed with a Syrp Genie II Linear head on a slider but sometimes a slider is just too slow to setup, so Ben reverted back to good old handheld mode, capturing some of the bees in slow motion for example. The Panasonic’s IBIS helped in that regard.
Ben worked on a 1080p timeline in post so he was able to make use of the captured 4K footage to occasionally crop into the 4K image and re-frame the shot slightly without losing resolution.
All in all, Ben seems to be very pleased with the performance of the Panasonic LUMIX S1H camera. When using his favorite 4K 10-bit mode @ 25p, the resulting footage was very clean up to ISO 4000 or even 5000. The in-body image stabilization (IBIS) performs well enough for some handheld camera work, even in macro territory and the overall build quality and the menu system supports his workflow rather than slowing him down.
A Call to Action
If you, just like Ben, have a little bit of spare time to spend on passion projects: just do it! Go out, find something that sparks your imagination, and go for it. There’s nothing better than training your skills like doing it. Shoot, edit, grade, upload: pull off a passion project from start to finish, you’ll see how much you’ll learn by just doing it.
Links: Ben’s Website
What do you think? Do you have some ideas for passion projects in these weird times? Let us know about your ideas in the comments below!