Panasonic has just released a firmware update which delivers a raft of new recording modes and features for the Varicam 35 and Varicam HS cameras.
2014 was a big year for Panasonic shooters as the company ramped up plans to convert its line-up of cameras for 4K capture. Last year saw the company introduce the very popular GH4 mirrorless in a DSLR form factor, as well as the LX100, a fixed lens 4K point-and-shoot for around $900, among others. But the Varicam 35 and its high-frame rate cousin, the Varicam HS, were potentially the most impactful cameras for productions with a budget to spend.
When the Varicam 35 and HS were first announced, Panasonic promised that Prores recording and other features would come to the cameras in December through firmware update. It may have taken an extra month or two, but the company has made good on its pledge and then some.
New recording modes
First off, those Varicam 35 and HS shooters who need Prores HD capture are in luck, as the firmware update found HERE unlocks Prores 422 HQ recording on both cameras. Some of the more exciting additions are exclusive to the Varicam 35, such as AVC-Intra 4K 4:4:4 12-bit recording, and AVC-Intra 100 and AVC-Intra 4K-LT (4:2:2) variable frame rate recording support up to 120fps. AVC-Intra 4K 4:4:4 12-bit represents the highest quality possible capture from the Varicam 35, while the AVC-Intra 4K-LT (4:2:2) gives the camera the ability to record those higher frame rates, albeit delivering a more compressed image.
Rounding out the list of new features, there's a new Multi Home Page for both cameras that assists in set-up, a new clip naming structure that conforms to industry-standards, Skin Tone Detail control and a Window Burn (most useful for proxy recording). LAN connection has also been implemented in both cameras, making use of AK-HRP200 camera remote controller possible. In-camera color grading is now possible on both cameras with tools such as Pomfort's LiveGrade over LAN and Wi-Fi.
There have been grumblings on various forums from Varicam owners who were growing impatient from the lack of recording options and other features at release. And the major NLEs still do not support the 4K footage from these AVC-Intra 4K 444 12-bit and AVC-Intra 4K VFR settings. But the recent expansion of record options, features and workflow tools suggests that Panasonic is actively improving the Varicam 35 and HS models, making a serious case for their use on mid-to-high end productions.
For more details about the Varicam 35 and HS firmware update, check out the full press release from Panasonic on Page Two!
Full press release:
PANASONIC IMPROVES WORKFLOW, INCREASES FUNCTIONALITY FOR VARICAM 35/HS CAMERA/RECORDERS WITH FREE FIRMWARE UPGRADE
NEWARK, NJ (February 5, 2015) – Panasonic has announced a free firmware upgrade for its new VariCam 35 4K and VariCam HS camera/recorders that incorporates ProRes 422 HQ* support for HD recording in both models. Additionally, AVC-Intra 4K 4:4:4 12-bit recording,** and AVC-Intra 100 and AVC-Intra 4K-LT (4:2:2) variable frame rate recording support** up to 120fps are new to the VariCam 35.
These upgrades are immediately available for downloading at the Panasonic service support website, http://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/pro-av/support/content/download/EN/ep2main/soft/upgvaricam_e.htm.
The inclusion of ProRes 422 HQ positions the VariCam 35 and VariCam HS within a well-established and widely accepted HD production workflow. The VariCam 35’s AVC-Intra 4K 4:4:4 12-bit codec is optimized for the highest-quality field production (especially when extensive grading maybe be required) and graphics flexibility, and the expansion of VFR up to 120fps in the VariCam 35 enhances its utility in 4K and HD sports / VFX production. The firmware upgrade also enables the LAN connection on both models so that Panasonic’s AK-HRP200 camera remote controller can be used with an Ethernet cable connection to facilitate camera matching during live production and staging. With this firmware version, LAN and WiFi connections are now available to utilize tools like Pomfort’s LiveGrade color grading (CDL/LUT) application software for in-camera color grading in both the VariCam 35 and VariCam HS.
Other firmware assets newly included in both VariCam models are a Multi Home Page system for easier set-up; a new user clip name function that adopts industry-standards for film-style nomenclature (Camera, Reel, Take); the addition of Skin Tone Detail control; and Window Burn, a workflow enhancement that improves identification and secures content. Further improvements exclusive to the VariCam 35 are the addition of 24.00p system frequency support in DCI 4K/2K mode, important for cinema production; and a Dual Native ISO menu function, so that DPs can select either the display of the VariCam 35’s native ISOs (800 and 5000) only, or the display of all available ISOs.
For more information about the VariCam 35 and VariCam HS, visit www.us.panasonic.com/varicam or contact Panasonic at 877-803-8492.
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* The Apple ProRes format is licensed from Apple Inc.
** NLE and grading system support for AVC-Intra 4K 4:4:4: 12-bit recording and AVC-Intra 4K VFR to 120p are forthcoming.