Going wild for Panasonic 4K
The low weight and compact form factor of the AG-DVX200 helps the next generation of wildlife film students work out on location with the UK Wildlife Film School
Panasonic cameras have a proud legacy of use in natural history programming. Used on major BBC productions such as Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Africa, as well as serving as a primary camera at the BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol.
The latest camera to find a home within Natural History is the AG-DVX200. The camera features a V-Log L function, similar to that on the VariCam series, giving flexibility in post-production. In addition, the DVX200 provides 12 stops of dynamic range, making it suitable for HDR production, and offers variable frame rate in Full HD from 2 to 120fps.
Natural history productions remain some of the most popular television series in the world, and there is a continuous need for new camera talent. Successfully filming on location out in the wild takes skill and patience. Far from the comforts of modern life, camera operators can often be out in the field for weeks, living entirely self-sufficiently.
The UK Wildlife Film School was formed by Ric Swift to teach students who had a keen interest in natural history production and prepare them to take on the challenges that come with this by way of practical, hands-on film courses. The UK Wildlife Film School has adopted 4K technology after having various requests from students.
The UK Wildlife Film School approached Panasonic about possible camera sponsorship at IBC in Amsterdam in 2015. Panasonic offered a practical field evaluation of their AG-DVX200 4K camcorder, with its excellent mobility and its integrated zoom lens. The UK Wildlife Film School was more than happy to undertake this for us.
"The students stated that the DVX200 really comes into its element because of its very light weight, when you carry it and put it in a rucksack you don't really know it's there. Because it's more compact than some of its larger counterparts, the whole camera was less than half the weight of one of the 4K lenses we were using, and you also don't need as bulky a tripod to support it," said Ric.
"With the other cameras, the students have to carry and change the lenses, which with the bigger ones can be heavy, especially as they usually need to bring a few with them."
Ric spent 12 years in the army working in covert recognisance & tactical surveillance; this has given him a skill set that has transferred well into his work in wildlife cinematography, such as the ability to cope with wilderness conditions for extended periods, while maintaining extremely high level of patience. “Basically I’ve gone from observing people to observing animals. Animals are very wary, their senses are far more superior. That said the behaviour of both can be just as unpredictable,” he adds.
"We were impressed with the image quailty of the DVX200"
Wildlife is obviously nervous around humans, so to get closer Ric and his students often use a hide in order to blend in and get the best footage, as well as to offer protection from the elements. Mosquito and water repellent, the ‘Throwover-hide’ is camouflaged to fit in with the foliage. The camera operator can sit there with the hide over them - "You throw it over your head and you can sit there all day. It can cover you and your camera," explains Ric.
"Our students we were impressed with the image quality of the DVX200, and added that (unlike some other 4k cameras) it is a real bonus that the DVX200 camera records .mov files onto inexpensive SD cards."
The UK Wildlife Film School has spent the past nine years running courses across the Highlands & Islands of Scotland. For 2017, the School's tenth year of operation, their 12 day film courses are moving to Arusha, Tanzania. Home to some of the best wildlife safaris in the world and an excellent testing ground for students to cut their teeth filming ‘real wildlife’.
"Because the weather is more dependable I'm hoping to be able to run courses through the year. The bureaucratic system in Africa is a challenge to work with, but Tanzania's wildlife is so uniquely spectacular we hope our students will see it is worth the extra costs of the film permits," he adds.
"When you carry it and put it in a rucksack you don't even know it's there. Because it's more compact, you don't need as bulky a tripod to support it"
During 2017, UK Wildlife Film School is also running an 8 week Diploma course on the Scottish island of Mull which is home to an incredible array of wildlife with a diverse range of seabird species. UK Wildlife Film School is the only film school offering an 8 week Diploma course in the world. This longer course means our students have even longer time to get to know the camera functions in more detail and be able to create a professionally finished film by the end of the course.
"Weight and compactness are important but the students were impressed with the image quality of the DVX200. The image must come first, but the fact that the camera is extremely lightweight is also a real bonus."
"The difference between the AG-DVX200 and some of the other cameras we have, can be very noticeable. Some of the larger cameras can be a lot more bulky, you may need to carry lenses, lens rail support systems and a heavy duty tripod as well, so the students find them challenging to work with. The students liked using the Panasonic camera as it is very lightweight," added Ric.
For more information on the UK Wildlife Film School and its courses, visit their website at www.wildlifefilmschool.com