Setting up a GH4 for Diving by Peter Walker

To a lot of you who’ve been shooting video with DSLRs for some time, the settings on the GH4 might be a bit “ho hum”. But, for me, shooting camcorders for the last 10 years, it’s been a sea-change. I spent a lot of time studying the settings and came up with something that works for me. I thought that I’d share it.

Firstly, I have to say that I prefer a “natural” look; I like my finished video to look as close as possible to what my eyes saw underwater. So that "natural look" bias is in my settings. I don't WB to white or add a lot of red. You can adjust to your own tastes.

Secondly, when I am underwater, I want to focus as much of my attention on the “story” and the “subjects”. But I rarely use an “auto-everything” approach as that does not work well in many situations. But, I do like to quickly get to as close to the "optimal look" without too much fiddling and adjustments (while the whale shark swims away).

So, I have found it very useful to leverage the custom setting feature in the GH4. It works really well with this camera.

After a lot of research and testing, once I had an idea of what I needed, here is the process that I used:
1. Set all the “in menu” settings (my preferred settings are below)
2. Set the camera controls to your most “usual” setting
3. Set the WB presets (more on how to do this below)
4. Save this to C1 (in my case, C1 is full manual)
5. Without changing the menu settings from C1, change the camera settings to your second most “usual” settings
6. Save this to C2 (in my case, C1 is shutter of 1/50 with AFL/AEL for focus and exposure)
7. Change to your third most “usual” settings.
8. Save this to C3-1 (in my case I use “shutter 1/50; auto-everything-else”)
9. (you could do two more settings, C3-2 and C3-3, but I don’t use these because they are not so quick to access)

GH4 "In Menu” Settings

Tool Menu:
Personal choice but set date, time and system frequency first, I use 24.00Hz

Motion Picture (set dial to motion picture):

  • Cine D (flat - good for grading)
  • Contrast 0 (neutral)
  • Sharpness -5 (none)
  • Noise Reduction -5 (none)
  • Saturation 0 (neutral)
  • Hue 0 (neutral)
  • Rec Format Mov (less compression)
  • Rec Quality C4K 100M 24P (as many pixels as possible)
  • AFS/AFF: AFS (half-press focus)
  • Continuous Auto Focus Off
  • Highlight/Shadow: Flat diagonal line
  • i.Dynamic Off (don’t want it to mess with the CineD profile)
  • i.Resolution Standard (does some selective sharpening)
  • Master pedestal 0 (neutral)
  • Luminance level 0-255 (full range - can limit later in editing)
  • Synchro Scan Off (used for shooting TVs and monitors)
  • Ex Tele Conv Off
  • Digital Zoom Off (just crops the image)
  • Time Code Off
  • HDMI Rec Output 10bit 422 (eady for the Shogun)
  • Info Display Off (Shogun has its own)
  • 4K Down Convert Off (No thank you)
  • Sound output Realtime (only relevant for monitoring sound with headphones)
  • Silent operation On (tries to keep zooming quiet)
  • Mic Level 0db
  • Mic Limiter Off (no auto sound gain)
  • SS / Gain Operation SEC/ISO
  • Color Bars SMPTE

Custom Settings Menu:

  • Cust Set Mem - here is where the Custom setting (1, 2, and 3) are saved.
  • Silent Mode On (no lights or noises inside the housing)
  • AFL / AEL Lock - Off for Manual custom setting, Both on for other two settings
  • AFL / AEL Lock Hold - On (locks it until you unlock it with another press)
  • Shutter AF On
  • Half Press Release Off (not good inside a housing)
  • Quick AF Off (wastes battery)
  • Eye sensor Off (does not function inside a housing)
  • Pinpoint AF Time - Mid (does not seem to matter)
  • Direct Focus Area Off
  • Focus / Release Priority - Release (not relevant to video)
  • AF+MF On (allows fine manual adjustments of focus)
  • MF Assist On (the lens barrel) -(expands the manual focus part of the monitor)
  • MF Guide Off (personal choice)
  • Peaking Off (personal choice)
  • Histogram on (and moved to bottom-left corner)
  • Guideline - Grid On (personal choice)
  • Center Marker Off (don’t need a grid and a marker)
  • Highlight Off (Histogram is better)
  • Zebra 1 Off Zebra 2 Off (Histogram is better)
  • Monochrome Live View Off (want to see the colour)
  • Constant Preview On (not relevant to video)
  • Expo meter On (for manual exposure guide)
  • LVF Disp Style - text over image (larger image in VF)
  • Monitor Disp Style - text over image (larger image in monitor)
  • Monitor Info Diaplay On - see the settings
  • Video Priority Display On (gives more data for video shooters)
  • Fn Button Set - I changed Fn1 to Auto Focus On but don’t use it - still finding a use for Fn1
  • Q.Menu - no changes
  • Dial Set - no changes
  • Video Button On (but I always use the shutter button anyway)
  • Eye Sensor - High / Mon (don’t use it - always use Monitor)
  • Touch Settings - all Off - can’t access them in a housing
  • Touch Scroll L - irrelevant as settings are Off
  • Menu Guide Off
  • Shoot w/o lens On - doesn’t matter either way

My GH4 Underwater WB Presets:

How to do the WB preset? Print 4 A4 sheets of paper filled with the four colours above. (I have attached my pdf files). Set the camera to C1 to load up your custom settings. Place the first A4 sheet (light blue) in a natural light (sunlight - not artificial light as this would introduce a different colour cast). Open up the WB set function for WB1, point the camera so the colour fills the image and set it. Do the same for the other 3 papers into WB2, WB3, and WB4. Go to the Custom Settings menu and “save” (overwrite) the C1 settings. Now the WB presets are locked into the camera. You can change the WB settings underwater but you can always get back to the presets by simply moving the mode dial. Do the same for C2 and C3.

Then, when you are diving, use:

AWB: for near the surface and when video lights dominate (cave / night)
Kelvin 6500K for 5 meters down to 12 meters
WB1 for 10 meters to 20 meters (in tropical blue water)
WB2 for below 15 to 20 meters (in tropical blue water)
WB3 for 10 meters to 20 meters (in green water)
WB3 for below 15 to 20 meters (in green water)

The depths mentioned above overlap because you need to make a judgement call, depending on the conditions.

My GH4 “Usual” Camera Settings, saved in Custom 1, Custom 2 and Custom 3, respectively.
1. M; ISO 200; f2.8; 1/50s; AFS, centre-area focus - this setting is for when I really want full control over everything, even using manual focus if necessary; great when you have time to get a shot really right
2. S; ISO 200; 1/50s; AFS, centre-area focus - this setting is for when the aperture is not so important and I want to quickly do an AFL / AEL lock before shooting than have the camera hold those settings, quicker than Manual but fast enough for most situations
3. S; ISO Auto; AFC, multi-zone focus; multi-zone exposure; +/- set to minus one notch - this setting is for when something happens fast. e.g. a big creature swims past, and you don’t have time to think - flip the mode dial to C3 and let the camera do its best to figure it out. Shutter is set to 1/50. Camera will adjust Aperture and ISO to get a good exposure. +/- reduced to avoid the camera trying to make the image too bright.

Might all look a bit complicated, but, if you set this all up once, you don’t need to do it again unless you want to make some adjustments.

Underwater, it is very simple:

Use C1 if you want manual control
Use C2 if you want to use a focus lock and exposure lock (NA-GH4 has a handy lever for this)
Use C3 if you want the camera to do everything for you

Then depending on your depth and the conditions, flip the WB setting quickly between AWB, Manual, WB1, and WB2. (or WB3 and WB4, if the water is green)

The other upside of this C1, C2, C3 approach is that, if you have been fiddling with any settings, a quick flip of the mode dial gets you back to a known state.