The Panasonic GH series (GH3, GH4, etc.) are possibly the best non-camcorder style cameras available for long form interviewing. We use the Panasonic GH3 for a variety of reasons: They are a great value, they produce an excellent image and record it with a robust codec, you can attach almost any lens on its M4/3 mount, the camera bodies are incredibly durable and hold up well to student use, they feature excellent battery life (about 2 hours!) and as such require no external power source, and they even have modest weatherproofing. But by far the most important consideration is that they are literally the ONLY DSLR or mirrorless camera that will make a continuous recording without having to be stopped and restarted at 29 minutes.
The problem is that to achieve this, the Panasonic GH3 will chain together a series of files that collectively add up to your recording. Recording at the camera’s highest bitrate of 72 MBPS (ALL-INTRA) you will end up with a series of 7:58:00 long clips that are 4.27GB in size. If you make longer recordings as oral historians are wont to do, this file structure will ultimately become a nuisance. Moreover, when producing multi-cam shoots, synchronization can be a nightmare. If you run, say, a documentary and oral history studio, it also can lead to an extraordinary large amount of wasted hard drive space and the accumulation of a confusing pile of individual numbered files.
The Workaround Workflow.
The short version of how we handle GH3 footage in the Studio is as follows: First, we import our H.264 codec GH3 footage into a scratch FCPX library and transcode it into ProRes422. Next, we place all of the files that make up an interview’s camera angle into a project and then we Share -> Master File to a full-length single ProRes422 file for that camera angle. Last, we import this shared master file into our working FCPX library. Ultimately we discard the scratch FCPX library to rid ourselves of the needless collection of “original media” and the individual transcoded files of the 7:58 minute long Panasonic clips.
Importing GH3 Footage for the Unindoctrinated.
I have produced this tutorial with my Loyola students in mind, but it should be useful to anyone who is new to the process of recording long form video with the Panasonic GH series and is managing it with FCPX.
Step 1: Import your GH3 footage into a scratch FCPX library.
Step 2: Create a ProRes422 master file from your imported clips.
Step 3: Import your ProRes422 master file into your working library.
Now that you have imported your master file into a working library, you are ready to start working with it. The first step of this process will be to synchronize your video clip with the audio tracks recorded on the Tascam DR-70.