10.17.2019

The Byzantine process of unlocking V-Log on the Panasonic Lumix S1....

Creepy marketing...

I recently bought a Panasonic Lumix S1 along with the "kit" lens (24-105mm f2.8) and the Sigma 45mm f2.8 lens for the L mount cameras. I'm pretty happy with the camera and lenses but I am mystified by the arcane process by which we implement the V-Log upgrade for this camera. I bought into the full frame Lumix system specifically to make some videos and to take advantage of the 60 fps frame rate the camera offers in 4K. But to get all the juicy stuff one might need if one intended to work at a higher level than just tossing video stuff onto Instagram TV you will easily convince yourself that you need the "pro" niceties like V-Log, the ability to use the microphone adapter (first introduced with the GH5 ---- no unlocking required for use on that camera) and the ability to work with .Mov files and to output clean signals in 4:2:2, 10 bit at 4K 60p.

Once you convince yourself that you need all that crap (and I will admit that I'm coming around to appreciating good V-Log for super contrasty subject matter. It just means more dynamic range and more room to rescue shadows and highlights in post....) you'll need to go through a weird process to unlock all these features. 

The sneaky thing is that all these software features are resident on the S1 camera when you buy it but they are hidden from the menus and there's no way for normal humans to access them without a ... key. What you are basically required to do is jump through numerous hoops in order to do a ten second activation, on your camera, of the stuff that's already packed inside.

First step, find a retailer who actually has an activation in stock. This is tricky. They were in short supply for a while, which is also mysterious because what you are essentially buying is a small, white, cardboard box. Inside is a very spare user's manual and, in a filmy black envelope, you'll find a small square of paper with a long code of numbers and letters printed on it. Purchasing the piece of paper will cost an aspiring filmmaker about $200 US dollars. 

I bought the activation key, opened the box and read the flimsy manual. One thing stopped me... in the disclaimers Panasonic tells you that once you've completed the upgrade you must keep the code safe and sound and with the camera. If the camera ever, ever needs service you must supply the code along with the camera in order for the camera to be serviced. Better be organized with this particular piece of gear.... One more point; the activation you are buying for $200 is for ONE CAMERA ONLY. If you decide to splash out for a second S1 body (some of us do shoot multi-camera video shoots...) you'll also be splashing out an additional $200 for an additional piece of paper that will unlock the goodies on the second camera. No bulk discount??? Not that I know of...

So, you have decided to be brave and organized. You are about to unseal the plasticized, black envelope with the code and begin to follow the chaos theory instructions. Okay. 

First you'll need to format a memory card in your S1 camera. Then you go to one of the "wrench" menu items and find "activation." You'll work through that submenu till you get to .List and you'll hit button that basically puts the camera indentifiers (serial number, et al) on your memory card in a very specific sub-folder. Now you turn your camera off and insert the memory card into your (web-connected) computer. You'll type in a long URL and it will take you to a Panasonic site where you'll work through the process of telling their app exactly where your identifier file is on the card you inserted. Once you do you hit a button to activate. 

Then the website asks you to download the activation key and place it into the same very specific folder on the SD card. Once you've done that you'll need to eject the card from the computer and put the card back into the camera. You'll scroll back to that arcane "Activation" menu item, hidden somewhere in the wrench menu, and hit the activation sequence. The final step, which the camera does on its own takes about three seconds. Then you turn the camera off and then back on again and.....if the photo gods are smiling down on you the camera will show you that the goodies are now....REVEALED.

Whew. It's a long way to go and a lot of money just to get yourself a really, really flat file. But those video folks are a crazy band and the lengths they'll go to in order to get a few stops of dynamic range can seem extreme. 

It does seem to work. My Atomos monitor/recorder only allows for 30 fps at 4K so, of course, that's the next thing that might need to be upgraded but I think I'll take my time with that since I can record what I need to in-camera. 

Just a reminder that nothing is as easy as it should be.... 

On a totally different note (can't believe Lloyd Chambers hasn't warned us of this yet!) if you are thinking how great it would be to upgrade the Mac OS on your laptop to Catalina and then head over to Starbucks to type a blog post you will be disappointed that you are unable to connect to the free wifi. Try as hard as you like but here in Austin Catalina and Starbuck's wifi is a no-go. Unless you learn one little trick. 

If you get a small screen telling you that your log-in failed then open your browser and type in: "Blue.com" and you head straight to the log-in page. There you can log in and go right on with your business. Yes, you can thank me for that one. It only took one hour and a handful of gray hair.....

Again, nothing is as easy as it should be....

Halloween table decor at Zach Theatre.  Lovely. 

7 comments:

Michael Matthews said...

Did you find any software glitches with Catalina? A number of plug-in vendors have advised their customers to wait for the inevitable debugging to take place before upgrading the OS. Plus, my older 64-bit Photoshop CS6 has a few 32-bit widgets hiding below the waterline, out of sight.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi Michael, so far I've only upgraded the small laptop which mostly just serves as a newspaper, mail slot. The Starbuck's glitch was the first issue I've had with it so far. I've read about issues with various Adobe stuff so I've turned of auto update on the studio machine and I'll wait until they get all the Adobe stuff sorted before I jump in.

Be aware that some of the installers for Adobe product are also still 32 bit....

MikeR said...

What you are paying for is a license fee for a software feature. In my corporate IT world, I may have a mid-range (or mainframe) computer that has multiple processor cores installed. On initial purchase/lease I might have figured that having two CPU cores activated would be enough, and paid accordingly. Later, especially if the number of users or the demands of applications grows and slows down response time, I can purchase activation license for more cores ... that are already physically there.

So, you're not really paying for what looks like nothing. You're paying for the legal right to use a premium software feature. This has been pretty much standard practice in the software world for the past 20+ years.

Before 2012, which is when I went head-first into M4/3, I had little Canon PowerShot cameras, like the A530. The firmware in these cameras was essentially identical to that in Canon's DSLR's. But ... there was CHDK, a hacker's tool that allowed one to unlock these features. I could zoom during video recording ... but motor noise was loud. I could save in DNG ... but it was slow to write to memory. I could shoot brackets ... I used that one a whole lot. I used, and abused, HDR for a couple years.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi Mike, I get that. And I understand that I'm paying for a license. Perhaps I could have been clearer that what I really thought was just how clunky the process was to get there. It's 2019 after all. I would also expect my bricks and mortar store to offer a service to do this for me as I'll only do it once and they would be able to practice with every camera they sold in conjunction with the license upgrade.

Funny how there's always a paid upgrade path but never a "paid" downgrade path. I.e. Company pays you back when you decide you no longer need their added feature....

Richard Alan Fox said...

Media Pro will not run on Catalina.

I started with iView Media, and then the Microsoft version Expression Media and now the discontinued Media Pro, a sad passing.

Seventeen years of of digital images cataloged.

Chuck Albertson said...

Launching a Minuteman ICBM is easier - and they still use 8" floppies!

David Ingram said...

Kirk,I'll be curious to see how you feel about the full-frame Panasonic video compared to the M4/3 video you have shot in the past.