‘Photographers already know how to compose and expose for great visuals,’ says Griffin Hammond, New York based documentary filmmaker and global brand ambassador for the Panasonic GH5. ‘They really just need to understand video resolutions, framerates, and editing.’ [Panasonic Promotion]
Griffin Hammond, who studied film at New York University and earned a Masters in Communication from Illinois State University, has been an executive producer for the YouTube channel IndyMogul, shot and edited the award winning documentary ‘Sriracha’, produced a popular DIY filmmaking tutorial series and, most recently, spent 30 months on the campaign trail covering the 2016 US presidential election for Bloomberg TV.
As global brand ambassador for the Panasonic GH5, Hammond, who has been using Panasonic cameras for his work since 2010 when he started shooting with a GH1, has a freewheeling approach to his work that will be familiar to many stills photographers.
‘I’m more of a run-and-gun filmmaker, so I don’t storyboard,’ he says. ‘I prefer to let the environment inspire me when I arrive.’
There are of course significant differences between the disciplines of filmmaking and stills photography, nevertheless Hammond says, ‘I compose video the same way I compose a photograph, but the addition of movement makes some shots compelling that just wouldn’t work as a still frame. I often start rolling, hold my handheld framing as if I’m locked on a tripod, and wait for some movement to happen in front of the camera.’
‘You can use a slower shutter in video. Video frames don’t need to be as sharp as still photographs “” motion blur creates a smoother relationship between frames. There’s a rule in cinema called 180-degree shutter. It means your shutter speed should generally be half your framerate. If you’re shooting 25 frames per second, use a 1/50s shutter. That will create an appropriate amount of motion blur.’
In his most recent documentary, Hammond used the Panasonic GH5 to tell the story behind the clear ‘artisan ice’ used by some of New York city’s most on-trend bartenders. In five minutes he takes the viewer from, as his website describes it, ‘chainsaw to cocktail’.
‘Hand-cut’ which was shot at 4K resolution and 60 frames a second, is a tribute both to the Panasonic GH5’s sophisticated technology and Hammond’s skill as a filmmaker.
‘Not only was I shooting in dark bars, but because I opted to shoot at 60 frames per second, my shutter speed was 1/120s ““ half the light I’d get at my usual 30fps framerate,’ says Hammond. ‘Because I relied on my favorite primes ““ the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 and 42.5mm f/1.2 ““ I never needed to shoot above ISO 1600. I was really happy with the GH5’s low-light performance. Since the GH5’s sensor is capable of capturing 4K video at 60fps, it has a faster readout than the GH4, which cuts rolling shutter in half. I love the image quality, and using the “Natural” picture profile, most of my shots require no color correction ““ they’re perfect out of the camera.’
As you watch ‘Hand-cut’ (see below) it gradually becomes apparent that Hammond builds his pacey little story by using very brief sequences. ‘I present 147 shots in 287 seconds (just under 2 seconds per shot),’ he says. ‘Other editors get mad at me when I deliver my raw footage, because I don’t hold my shots very long. Most people say to hold a shot for 10 seconds, but I know my own editing pace is very quick, so I only hold a shot for three seconds, and then move on. My average recording time is 15 seconds, but I capture several compositions in each clip. Filmmaking for me is experimenting, so it usually takes me a few compositions before I find the perfect shot.’
Of his lenses for ‘Hand-cut’ he says, ‘I primarily relied on those Panasonic primes ““ the 12mm f/1.4 and 42.5mm f/1.2 ““ but also used the 7″“14mm f/4 for time lapses.
While that 12mm prime is my new favorite, the 12″“35mm f/2.8 has always been my go-to lens for documentary. It’s the perfect focal length for wide shots and interviews and capturing handheld, run-and-gun shots. Plus f/2.8 does well in most environments, and it has its own image stabilization. You could film an entire documentary with that lens””in fact, I shot the majority of ‘Sriracha’ with it.