Week 1 with the Varicam LT

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Art Aldrich operating the Varicam LT at the KPMG WPGA Championship

When Panasonic released the Varicam35, it got my attention. The camera had a great look and the feature set was impressive. I couldn’t justify the expense of that camera, especially since I was invested in EF glass.

I was ready to move to a 10 bit camera system, and looked seriously at the Canon C300 MKII. It had many of the features I wanted, but there were a few drawbacks. Mainly that I would have to move to CFast cards.

Flash forward to February 2016. Panasonic makes a surprise announcement that a new Varicam (LT) was about to be released. I decided to wait on a camera purchase until after the NAB show.

On paper, the camera seemed to offer everything I wanted: EF lens mount, optional PL mount that is user swappable, 4K recording, and up to 240 frames per second. To tie it up in a nice bow, the 16K base price was right where I wanted to be.

My concerns where mainly about the memory cards, and whether I would be able to use my collection of older P2 cards, mainly R and E series. The short answer is yes, in 1080p recording, I can use my existing cards.

The timing was right, and I decided to pull the trigger on 3 units. We went with the complete kit with PL and EF mounts, ENG style shoulder pad, EVF and Express cards. I will use these to replace our C300’s and older P2 cameras.

The cameras were ordered through AbelCine in NY, and we received them one day before a big 10 day shoot at the KPMG WPGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club near Seattle.

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Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson interviewed for event title sponsor KPMG with Varicam LT and cine-style 30-300 lens.

Without much prep time, we jumped in with a mix of Canon photo glass and Cine glass on our three cameras. Out of the box images were brilliant, just using Scene 1, REC709 with no grading.

We even made use of the 240fps recording to shoot some player hero shots, which impressed everyone who watched it.

There were a few wrinkles, like trying to kit out the cameras for 19mm rod support and replacement top handles. The Wooden Camera kits worked great, the Zacuto kit didn’t work with Panasonic’s EVF (thanks FedEx SameDay).

Also, NLE support for the new codecs is still in beta, so we were forced to use our new ExpressP2 media and shoot ProRes HQ. That allowed us to work in FCPX without issue. We later discovered that 4K AVC-Intra works just fine with FCPX.

In order to shoot between 61-240fps, we needed to shoot in a new codec called AVC Intra LT. The LT codec required us to use Davinci Resolve to convert the clips to ProRes. I hope this is fixed with a software update soon.

We even put the proxy record functionality to work in order to supply multiple networks with our footage at the same time. Using a simple SD card, I can record a full raster 1080p picture with a LUT applied at the same time my main recording occurs.

Overall, we are very pleased with the cameras, and look forward to exploring it’s features deeper as we go.

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