“Monitoring the Black Panther” – a Wildlife Movie Utilizing Minimal Gear

In Early November 2022, I had the possibility to go to Pench Nationwide Park in central India throughout a enterprise journey and made a mini-documentary about it. After I confirmed it to Johnnie he requested if I might write a publish about it describing my method to how I filmed and edited this wildlife movie. Curious to know extra? Then learn on…

I’m very keen about exploring the connection between people and nature utilizing the medium of movie. I like to work on these private tasks with none restrictions, as I’m free to do them precisely as I would like. Letting the inventive juices circulate is one thing I discover deeply satisfying.

So when my Indian enterprise colleague, avid wildlife photographer, and buddy Parag Aklujkar heard that I used to be touring to India, he rang me up and talked about {that a} uncommon black panther has not too long ago been sighted in Pench Nationwide park – a filming alternative we should always not miss! Accordingly, I prolonged my journey for a weekend and began planning.

What by no means ceases to amaze me, is that there are greater than 100 million folks in India, who’re dwelling in shut proximity to tiger and leopard habitats. Though there are about 50 human casualties per 12 months because of human-tiger battle, these folks have a deep-rooted religious perception in peaceable coexistence with wild animals. With out that, the big Bengal tiger probably would have already gone extinct years in the past.

Local village people sharing space with tigers and leopards
Native village folks sharing area with tigers and leopards – Nonetheless from the timeline. Picture supply: Gunther Machu/CineD

The black panther or black (melanistic) leopard is a really uncommon shade variant of the conventional leopard (see picture above). In the entire of India, there are about 8.000 – 10.000 leopards, however solely 6 black panthers that we presently know of. So seeing (or filming) one is a really very uncommon occurring, to say the least. Our tour information Abhay, who has organized over 2000 safaris, has by no means noticed one himself. However, we shot our shot and did it! I’m not including any photographs right here, to not spoil the movie!

At this level, I’d wish to advocate watching the video first, as I’ll confer with most of the scenes above.

Capturing wildlife movie – Gear

Now, as I used to be touring throughout the nation to go to with shoppers and including the bonus weekend, it wasn’t potential to go extreme with the digital camera gear.

All of it had to slot in my Lowepro Flipside 300 backpack (28x21x49cm) under 8kg to have the ability to take it into the cabin of the airplane.

Capturing wildlife movie – Cameras

Following the above measurement restrictions, my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Digicam 6K needed to keep at residence. As a substitute, I took my trusty Panasonic LUMIX S1 with me. This digital camera can movie each full body and in APS-C crop mode in 4K 10bit 4:2:2 with the V-LOG improve put in. In APS-C it has a really low rolling shutter of round 10.4 ms, 60fps plus you get prolonged attain because of the crop – all very welcomed options for making a wildlife movie.

Additionally, the twin native ISO of 640 and 4000 could be very helpful – even throughout daylight, taking pictures in a dense forest @400mm (f5.6) plus utilizing the 1.4x extender leads to an aperture of f8.0 – right here I steadily and comfortably used ISO4000, figuring out that it will have virtually no influence on the ultimate picture (vs. ISO640).

Two extra batteries and SD playing cards plus a charger had been lots to hold me by the day, contemplating the nice battery life and really environment friendly bitrate of the inner H264 10-bit codec (Lengthy GOP 150Mb/s).

As well as, I bought the larger Panasonic DMW-EC6GU-Okay eyecup which helps quite a bit in broad daylight to get rid of stray mild. I’m a fan of viewfinders, because it retains the setup small and right here the Panasonic S1 viewfinder (OLED, 5.76k dots) actually does shine: a brilliant, very high-resolution picture to manually pull focus in all filming conditions is all I ever wanted.

As a second digital camera, with out hesitation, I took the GoPro HERO11 with me (which I already despatched again, therefore it isn’t pictured above). It now provides 10-bit video, has a gimbal-like stabilization and audio is kind of usable. In truth, many of the scenes within the safari car, additionally loads of the dialogue are shot with the GoPro. This fashion I had the S1 with the massive lens prepared however I may nonetheless movie all of the little interactions and driving photographs in between.

Picture smart it was a little bit of a compromise clearly, particularly in decrease mild conditions, however all in all, I feel it intercut effectively with the Panasonic S1.

Capturing wildlife movie – Lenses

After all, my go-to lens Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM in addition to the Canon 1.4x extender V3 with the SIGMA MC21 EF – L mount adaptor needed to come alongside. Together with the APS-C mode of the LUMIX S1, I might get an equal attain of 840mm on the lengthy finish, whereas having 100mm in full body (with out extender) on the quick finish.

For the huge and medium angles, I made a decision on the SIGMA 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Artwork. That is an APS-C lens and would cowl me from 27mm – 52.5mm full-frame equal. I really like the look of this lens, particularly huge open at f1.8 and it’s comparatively small. The quick aperture of f1.8 assist in lowlight conditions as effectively.

The one draw back of this mixture (i.e. EF lenses with the SIGMA MC21 adapter) is the supply of “single focus” solely. Therefore, no steady autofocus – due to this fact focus for each single shot on this movie was pulled manually.

Additionally, I used a little bit trick in instances a wider lens was wanted: at round 22mm the Sigma 18-35mm virtually covers full-frame; you do get vignetting, nonetheless. However at evening, f1.8 and with the suitable composition it isn’t so noticeable, giving me a really huge choice in case it was wanted:

This little trick solely works as a result of my SIGMA 18-35mm is a Nikon mount, utilizing a “dumb”, mechanical Nikon F- L mount adapter. If I had used an EF model of this lens the complete body choice would have been locked because the MC21 adapter acknowledges if a lens is for APS-C solely.


It was very robust to resolve on audio tools. When making a wildlife movie, you wish to have a great stereo sound to seize the ambiance. To seize the sounds of animals and likewise the dialogue of people a shotgun mic is right. For interviews, correct lavalier mics and a wi-fi transmitter/receiver system is the way in which to go.

Once more, I settled for a compromise: I used the TASCAM TM-2X stereo capsules, plugged instantly into the LUMIX S1, and left the shotgun at residence (as I didn’t have the area for it). The TM-2X is a surprisingly good however cost-efficient stereo mic (round 100€) which captures ambiance in actually good high quality. I additionally used it for dialogue (e.g. the introduction of Parag and Abhay and for one scene on the hearth).

Now you would possibly say, how are you going to seize correct dialogue with a stereo mic!? Right here, an outstanding new characteristic of DaVinci Resolve 18 comes into play, which I additionally used to reinforce voice with loads of the GoPro scenes: Voice Isolation. That is a synthetic intelligence-based algorithm that detects the human voice and isolates it from background sounds. You may dial within the power, and it doesn’t sound synthetic.

For the fireplace chat, I used the RØDE Wi-fi GO II equipment, utilizing the transmitter’s microphones instantly with none lavaliers. The problem right here was, that we had a very nice dialog occurring on the hearth, which I wished to seize. So I shortly arrange the digital camera and snapped the Wi-fi GO II transmitters instantly on me and on Parag, the receiver plugged into the LUMIX S1. Had I fumbled round to arrange lavalier microphones as effectively, I feel our dialog would have died off shortly.

Being quick shouldn’t be all the time good, as I forgot to regulate the enter sound stage on the LUMIX S1, and as such the entire dialog was clipped within the video file. A pleasant characteristic of the Wi-fi GO II equipment saved me: the transmitters have an inner backup recording characteristic (in case the transmission will get misplaced), therefore I had a pleasant clear WAV file to work with in post-realigning the clips utilizing Resolve’s synchronization characteristic which aligns audio with video.

Postproduction with DaVinci Resolve Studio 18.1

Clearly, every part was shot handheld, and right here the IBIS of the LUMIX S1 together with the picture stabilization of the Canon 100-400mm lens was very useful. APS-C crop photographs had been straightforward to additional stabilize in DaVinci Resolve with out warp results, because of the low rolling shutter of 10.4ms. For among the photographs, I used to be even in a position to tick the “Digicam Lock” within the Stabilizer tab – mimicking a tripod.

The usual image profile was V-Log, and I color-graded every part utilizing the “Golden 1 33 E-E” LUT from the Panasonic VariCam LUT pack. Adjusting the white steadiness in Resolve to about -700K (within the “Primaries – Coloration Bars” tab) gave me an excellent start line, and from there onwards I used the “Raise”, “Gamma” and “Achieve” controls so as to add/take away distinction. A few of the photographs had been a bit noisy, so including a tiny little bit of temporal noise discount helped an ideal deal.

General, I’m actually impressed with how far you’ll be able to push the internally recorded 150Mbit/s H264 10-bit codec. It’s a rock-solid picture regardless of the low bitrate. The outcomes jogged my memory once more that you simply don’t all the time want RAW and 2000 Mbit/s bitrate (hi there BMPCC6K)…

For the GoPro photographs, I added a little bit of movement blur in Resolve to clean out the shifting photographs as I didn’t have ND filters with me.

Within the Resolve Fairlight tab, I did a little bit of audio work to enhance the dialogue scenes (utilizing the “Vocal Channel”, “Multiband compressor”, “Dynamics” and “EQ” controls – there’s a good tutorial right here in case you’re ), and as talked about above I used the brand new voice isolation fairly a number of occasions. It’s actually wonderful how effectively this works, even on GoPro audio!

All of the music was licensed from Audio Community – they’ve a very nice assortment of orchestral scores.

What do you consider this method to creating a wildlife movie? Something you wish to point out when it comes to wildlife gear? What are you utilizing? Tell us within the feedback under …

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