The 1st Lumix GH4 in Saigon

It’s almost a year to the day that I waltzed into a shop in Kuala Lumpur and purchased my very first micro four-thirds camera, the Panasonic Lumix GH3. At the time, I’d been researching for the best video camera for the money and was still struggling between the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera and the Canon HF G30 camcorder. It was as a result of reading Andrew Reid’s glowing review that I settled on the Panasonic. As you might already be aware, in Vietnam, you can’t just traipse into the nearest Best Buy and pick up the camera of your choice. Much of what is sold here is grey market, and you can be certain that that Canon battery or SanDisk Extreme SD card you just bought for ten dollars is a cheap Chinese knock-off. Strangely enough though, it’s much simpler to find basic necessities like shaving cream and deodorant here than in a shopper’s paradise like Korea, where, if you can find them at all, they are twice as expensive as back home. Likewise, you’d be sorely mistaken thinking that you could find a Samsung television or an LG DVD player for less in the Land of the Morning Calm, as Koreans happily pay far more than their American counterparts for identical goods. Yet, many of the electronics these clever and resourceful people do manufacture are curiously unavailable domestically. For instance, I recall wanting to upgrade my MacBook Pro with a Samsung 840 SSD and having to ask a friend to bring one back from California because the hottest new drive on the planet was unavailable in stores locally!

Anyway, unlike Canon, Nikon and Sony, who aggressively promote their products in this rapidly developing economy, Panasonic hasn’t bothered to establish a presence in Vietnam: so buying one of their products usually means booking a flight with a budget airline and dashing off to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore or Malaysia: nevertheless, it affords me an excuse to travel. Moreover, even taking into account airfare and hotel rates, it works out cheaper than having goods shipped here: Vietnamese customs can and does impose arbitrarily high duties on merchandise. So, it came as a shock to discover that Khanh Long, a tiny upper-tier camera shop in Saigon, was carrying a brand-new Lumix GH3 and an assortment of Panasonic lenses in their showcase, a mere two years after their release. Naturally, I asked one of the sales staff if they were expecting to carry the GH4. You’d think I’d asked if they could get a 4D 8K camera or something. Anyhow, she took down my name and number and said they’d get back with me. This was on a Friday afternoon. That same day, I received a message, saying that they’d ordered the camera and it would be available the following week. Of course, I was skeptical – so you can imagine my surprise when I received another message Monday morning saying I could come pick up my camera. ‘How can this be?’, I wondered. It was no less startling than if motorcyclists had suddenly begun to yield for pedestrians at crosswalks, or Vietnamese office workers had taken a course in basic elevator etiqette. Was this the harbinger of some great social upheaval?

Many are wondering whether it pays to to upgrade to the GH4 if they have no intention of delivering in 4K. The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ If you shoot in 4K and downscale the image to 1080p, noise levels will be lower, dynamic range will be greater, there is greater freedom with editing, resolution will be marginally better and the dreaded moire will be all but absent. And 43rumors reports that Panasonic will be adding a firmware upgrade for log, which could mean more latitude in color correction. Finally, of all the reviews I’ve read, watched or listened to, Dave Dugdale’s above gives by far some of the most persuasive reasons for upgrading to the Lumix GH4.

Saigon Mini-Doc: 30/4 Park

I learned quite a bit while editing this short. For one thing, I encountered a lot of frustrating performance issues with Final Cut Pro X – sluggishness, beach balls and running out of memory – when rendering stuff as basic as subtitles, not to mention applying LUTs. After uploading the project to YouTube, I did some Googling and ended up over at Larry Jordan’s amazingly informative training library. If you follow these tips, you should experience fewer hangups and faster performance in Final Cut. The first thing you should be doing at least once a week is a safe reboot and rebuild permissions.

  1. Restart your computer holding the SHIFT key down.
  2. When the thermometer appears, let go of the Shift key.
  3. When your system boots, go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  4. Open Disk Utility.
  5. Select your boot disk.
  6. Run Repair Permissions.
  7. When done, restart your computer, holding no keys down.

If Final Cut isn’t as responsive as you think it should be, try this.

  1. Go to the Finder.
  2. Hold down on the Option key and click on the Go menu. The Library folder inside your Home Directory now shows up as a selection inside this menu.
  3. Open to the Library > Preferences folder.
  4. Trash com.apple.FinalCut.LSSharedFileList.plist
  5. Trash com.apple.FinalCut.plist
  6. Trash com.apple.FinalCut.UserDestinations.plist
  7. Empty the Trash.
  8. Restart Final Cut Pro X.

And remember to always quit FCP before doing this and to empty trash before re-opening Final Cut. For more information, visit Larry Jordan’s page here. Finally, I can easily recommend this free application from the Apps Store, a memory app that sits in the toolbar, whose greatest appeal for me is that when my RAM is used up, it allows me to clear the memory cache without having to quit and re-open FCPX.

Update (10.07.2014): With the release of FCPX 10.1.2, deleting preferences has been made much simpler. Just quit FCP and relaunch from the dock while pressing and holding the option and command keys. Thanks again to Larry Jordan!

A mini-documentary featuring interviews with some of the young people that gather at Saigon’s 30/4 Park in HCMC.

Camera: Lumix GH3
Settings: Natural, -4, -4, -3, -5
Lenses: Vario 12-35mm f/2.8, 35-100mm f/2.8, Tiffen ND Filters
Microphones: Rode VideoMic Pro, Rode Stereo VideoMic Pro, Blue Yeti USB microphone Graded with Osiris Jugo LUT in FCPX