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YouTube: that is the key word for today. YouTube has had a gigantic impact on our business: what started off as a way to keep my books up to date, and to add teachings that are not part of any of the original books, has morphed into an immensely powerful education tool, and a wide net for our workshops.

And many have told us that the ‘received wisdom’ of the internet marketers and gurus is simply wrong (“videos should be no longer than two minutes”, etc.); a now very large group of people have said that they have both enjoyed, and learned a great deal from. our longer videos. We will move more in this direction; jump ahead to the last paragraph if you want the ‘take-home’ message about the 99¢ downloads.

So the other subject of today’s post: a new camera that is DSLR in form factor (but, being mirrorless, smaller and lighter). But first the back story: most readers will not know about an arcane piece of EU zone tax legislation—but cameras that can record video as well as make still images are taxed an extra 5.8% if the possible record time is 30:00 (thirty minutes) or more. Accordingly, the NEX series of cameras, and the vast majority of other combo stills/video cameras, can only record 29:45 or so—then the recording stops. While down in Melbourne recently, and shooting a sequence featuring Miss O teaching, I ran into this limit a number of times, simply filming one segment of the workshop.

The alternative is to carry, and shoot with, a real dedicated video camera (like the pair of Panasonic HMC-152s that Paul J and I own; our standard way of shooting two-camera programs), but carrying these full size cameras (and ancillary tripods, fluid heads, sound gear) to Melbourne would have used up our entire baggage allowance, so strictly no go. This is why I have been searching so hard for run-and-gun stills and video gear: keeping size and weight manageable while travelling.

After an intensive week’s research, I have found a camera: the Panasonic GH3, the successor to the wildly successful GH2, made famous by Vitaliy K and his merry band over at personal-view.com—the home of GH hacking. VK and the team have dug into, and rewritten, the firmware of the GH series of cameras, so that high bit rates are enabled (and other associates have made specialist hacks that handle water movement extremely well; there are dozens of hacks available there with different attributes). I owned a hacked GH2, but there were many ergonomic aspects of that camera that I was not enamoured of, and I sold it. The GH3 is, I believe, a better camera, and clearly Panasonic has been watching what’s been happening over at personal-view, because the new GH3 has many codec and other improvements that the VK team pioneered. And, of course, the GH3 is in the process of being back-engineered too, so if the standard GH3 video (which is gorgeous, by the way) will not do what you need, become a member over there and stay tuned.

And unlike all other stills/video cameras (and in distinction to dedicated video cameras like the HMC-152s), the Australian-model GH3 has no recording limit (up to the size of the cards on is using), and can take all the manual focus lenses I own via ‘dumb’ adapter, (no electronic communication between lens and camera; all manual operation, in other words). This adapter cost $22 on evilbay.

So, for a while at least, I will run the GH3 and one of the NEX 6 bodies side by side, with the GH3 being the ACam (“A camera”) and the NEX 6 (on a tripod on a bookcase, last weekend) can shoot the necessary ‘cover’ (what we editors need to shorten a presentation, by cutting the ACam video/sound, and covering that edit by footage from the BCam).

Apart from the risk of possible operational confusion (the GH3 has more buttons and dials than I have ever seen on a camera) I want to run the two cameras together for a while, because I like the NEX 6 as a stills camera much better. The second NEX 6 body will be sold.

***Nerd alert: ignore this paragraph if you are techno-phobic: the GH3 has a µ4/3rd’s “micro four thirds”) sensor; by design, this sensor is exactly half the size of a “full-frame” sensor (‘full frame’, soi disant, because these are the size of the old 35mm film negative, or 24 x 36mm). One of the effects of the smaller sensor is that the focal length of any lens you attach is twice what the same lens will perform like on a full-frame camera body. The NEX series uses an APS-C sensor, which is halfway in between the µ4/3rd’s sensor and a FF one; accordingly, whatever lens I put on it has its effective focal length multiplied by 1.5. The beauty of running these two sensors side-by-side is that my widest lens (the incredible Cosina Voigtländer 12/5.6) is an 18mm EFOV (equivalent field of view) on the NEX, and 24mm EFOV on the GH3, and so with the others: each lens will be a different focal length, depending on which body it is mounted. And most of the time I expect to be shooting with old manual focus lenses anyway, because (for reasons I will not go into here), most of the time I am recording, I simply set up an an area, focus on that, and hit ‘record’ (and try not to move too much!).

 

And the 99¢ download? I am finalising two mobility sequences, one taught by Olivia and one by me; we are setting up up the back end as I write, and I expect that half-hour and one-hour classes and sequences will be available shortly—I want to have hundreds of hours of teaching available to everyone with an internet connection! We want to make these programs too inexpensive not to buy. Let’s see if it works.