Intrigue – How far will you go ?


I’ve been flat out in pre production on a new Telemovie I’m shooting in Vancouver, but I wanted to share this little short film project from earlier in the year.

Following on from the launch video I did for the Olympus EM-5 Mark II, I thought it was time to put some of the newly updated features to the test on an actual short narrative style shoot.

I’ve been doing a lot of testing of the new FLAT video profile for the Olympus E-M5 Mark II and I was really keen to find out how far I could take the image if it was recorded to a more robust codec using an external recorder.

After the initial launch of the E-M5 Mark II Olympus have been taking feedback from video users and have included some of that feedback into firmware updates to further improve the video capabilities. Most significantly they’ve created a FLAT profile for shooting video and the thinking is to try and squeeze a little more DR into the image by starting with a lower contrast and flatter picture profile. This then allows you to put the colour and contrast back in during the final grade.

About the Shoot

I wanted to see how the camera and new profile would produce in a very minimal environment.  For me, this is when using a mirrorless camera really excells.  I can be very discrete and shoot without any requirement for permits.   With just two crew and the two actors, I was keen to try the camera in a few scenarios where I knew it might shine.

So I had three days.  Luckily I had some friends in LA on a recent trip to California that I was able to rope in for this shoot.

Now who hasn’t thought about driving the open highway in a classic car like a nice ’65 Mustang ?

So I had in mind to shoot some in-car work and also to visit some of the more iconic locations of California.

Starting at a wonderful standing “movie version” of an American gas station, we set the scene between our couple who meet for the first time.

The Story

After some initial frisson over the bowsers he leaves before they can talk, but she eventually finds a little surprise he’s left her.  A ring !

Later she realises that he’s left her a message inside the ring, it’s an Instagram handle.  Looking it up she realises he’s left her a picture clue for where he might be next, so she takes off to track him down.  After arriving at the beautiful Joshua Tree, she again finds another ring.  Checking in on Instagram, he’s left yet another clue, and she’s off again, this time to the snow capped mountains of inspiration point, about 90 mins outside of LA.

Once in the beautiful mountains she finds a third ring and it points her towards Santa Monica Pier where she finally meets up with the mysterious stranger.  They have a dance by the sunset before he finally offers her a final ring.

The Rules

I had no tripod.  This is all shot handheld.  No gimbal, no monopod.  There are a couple of shots where I had the camera mounted using a suction mount when it was on the car, but that’s IT !  So everything you see here is done using the amazing 5 axis image stabiliser.

The Outcome

With a grand total of four people, three days and 600 miles of driving this is what we got done !

The Gear

Everything was recorded on an external recorder over HDMI using the “clean feed function” of the camera.  I used a 5″ Blackmagic Video Assist recorder to record the HDMI signal to 1920 ProRes HQ on it’s internal SD card.

Intrigue was edited and graded using Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve (which is available as a free download here)

If you’re interested in what the visual differences are with the flat profile, you can get a sense of where the grade started to where it ended up by looking here. The first image is the final grade and the second is the ungraded shot.


I used a combination of lenses, mostly the outstanding Olympus 12mm F2, and the Olympus 9-18mm F4-5.6.  I love these lenses because they are so lightweight !  For ND I used the SLR Magic Vari ND and in addition to these lenses I had some PL mount Zeiss MK 3 Superspeeds from my friends at Blacklist Digital and an MFT–> PL lens adaptor from Hot Rod Camera.

Thanks to

Special thanks to the awesome Jane Harber,  Armen Taylor on acting duties and especially to Jessica Clarke-Nash, who helped shoot and cut this for me. My good friend Hook did the grade.

I also really want to thank Kristy Galea and Olympus Imaging Australia for her awesome support and making this shoot possible, and Quett Lai for his masterful technical support.

Download your own files

For direct viewing in vimeo go here.

If you want to download some juicy large ProRes files to try editing and grading your own clips then go here.

Very special thanks to my friends at Digital Pidgeon for making these files available for download, it’s not easy doing such fast hosting of large video files.

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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36 Responses to Intrigue – How far will you go ?

  1. I was wondering, how much money was spent on this short film?

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  5. Mr. Pickles says:

    I really liked the video and the work that went in to making it. A great example of Olympus abilities. It won’t help you much, or Olympus much, but I added a post in my PhotoCamel forum to help spread some love for the brand and you.

  6. Scott Stacy says:

    Nice … color looks very natural and organic + Hook did a nice job with the grade. My favorite cameras in my film days were the Olympus OM-1 and my Hasselblad. So, I have kind of an affinity for Olympus cameras.

  7. jake.carvey says:

    Thanks for sharing John – always great to have dramatic, visual real world examples of what can be done in cinema, when all of the components are expertly controlled. Story and shot making are of key importance – this short proves that sensor size is NOT a significant limiter of cinematic vision. Love it.

  8. Bruce says:

    So in the end, what’s your conclusion? Are you happy with this workflow, and the FLAT profile?

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi Bruce. The FLAT profile is a start but Olympus can go a lot further. I hope they do. 10bit recording would be the next major improvement for me but I suspect they’ll go for 4K first.

  9. Frank says:

    I really hope this vid is seen by the execs in Japan to let them see what this camera is capable of. Maybe it will spur them on to continue with improving the video. They should ask what you’d like to see and do their best to make it happen. Thrilled that you’re a longtime Olympus shooter.

  10. Chris says:

    This camera was absolutely trashed and tarnished on its release for video users, but you have proven that it is a very capable camera to tell stories. Beautiful shots with minimal equipment. All natural lighting? Because this is all insanely impressive, and I hope people realize it’s more then enough to make decent films. Cheers.

  11. Chris says:

    Do you think if needed, you could’ve done this shoot with only the 12mm and the 9-18mm? You mention there were a handful of zeiss lenses used, I’m curious (as someone who doesn’t typically shoot mft bodies) what shown here wasn’t achievable by the olympus lenses. Blown away at how nice that handheld looks with the 5 axis, only saw a couple blips when the cam was suctioned to the car. Likely because the car was transferring bumps that were too much for the 5 axis to handle. Overall this is crazy with how small of a setup this is, you could pretty much ditch an easyrig to get this kind of look with this setup.

    Also, did you mount the video assist anywhere on the camera?

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi Chris.

      I generally prefer cinema lenses simply because they are usually easier to MANUALLY focus. Most cinema primes typically have a much nicer “action” when you rotate the focus barrel and they usually have up towards 300 degree of rotation. A lot of stills lense are the opposite with maybe 90 degrees of rotation from minimum to infinity. This can make it much harder to manually focus the lens, like I do when I’m pulling off the barrel. Longer lenses are when this becomes more critical too.

      The zeiss Superspeeds are T1.3 and I guess that’s harder to match in primes at the moment in MFT lenses, but I don’t generally shoot much at T1.3, in this anyway.

      I also really like the “look” of the superspeeds, they have great lens geometry and do nice things to faces. They have terrible CA when you go looking but overall, the look is something I really prefer as taste.

      Yes, well spotted on the car mount. I might have been better off turning IS off for those shots actually.

      I had a neat little simple ball hotshoe to 1/4″ whic i had mounted in the flash hotshoe that held the VA in place.


  12. gatesbuster says:

    Did you only film with manual focus ? even with the Oly lenses ?

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi. Yes it was all manual. The AF for me isn’t trust worthy is drama situations. I don’t want the camera to decide what it’s focused on. That’s for me to decide !

  13. Bill Ku says:

    lovely work. gorgeous images.

  14. Hey John,

    Only just came across this short film. Love it!

    We actually met on the launch event of the E-M5 Mk II in Sydney a good little while ago. Not sure if you remember… anyway I guess Olympus AU is our common thread since I’ve joined the Olympus Visionary ‘team’ this year too.

    I would love to pick your brains and learn from your incredible wealth of experience and was wondering if you take on interns/ assistants on projects?


  15. t.r.castillo says:

    Love the work you’re doing with this camera!

    Have you had a chance to test the EM1 Mark II yet?
    If so, are we still going to be seeing 8bit video?

  16. Vlad Box says:

    Brilliant. Watching your initial video sold me on this great camera, which I use mostly for Stills, BUT i have shot video with some primes with fantastic results. Now the 4K has come to the EM1 with an improve 5 axis, will you be able to test it in the future?

  17. Lee Rogers says:

    classy little short and gorgeous naturalistic images, thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. This video is fantastic! I have been following your blog for a while and am always so impressed by your work. In fact, you’re the one that helped me choose a camera for video a few months back (the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II) and I am very glad that I bought it! So thank you!

    Is there by any chance an email address I can reach you at? I have been trying to figure out what sequence settings to use when editing my videos and what sequence to set up inside of the camera itself. Can you tell me what sequence setting you used for this video?

    Also, are you able to recommend the best settings to use in the camera? I don’t mean ISO, f-stop, etc. Merely, what are some of the internal settings that you have altered to make your videos so crisp? I have read so many articles and everyone’s tips are conflicting haha.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Artjom says:

      Hi, Good questions about settings recommendations. This camera is fascinating me, and i’m thinking to move from big Canon DSLR to this one..

  19. Schip says:

    Hi, Great video! Thank you for sharing backgrounds in this blog. But I have still some questions.
    What contrast, saturation etc settings you used? Looks like they were normal settings and just Flat profile was used.
    Also is it only 8bit clean hdmi what you can get out of e-m5 ii? How about e-m1 ii, is it capable to 10 bit?

  20. Daniel says:

    I would like to use a selection of your RAW footage in my DR color grading reels.
    If allowed, what’s the preferred way to credit you?

  21. Vlad Box says:

    That is a great piece. I’d say content is king and it looks better if well photographed. However I wanted to add something that has bother me for a while. Being the owner of this camera mainly for stills, I was curious to shoot some video but I was hesitant due to the Cropping of the sensor (from 2x to a bit more 2.3x I think) This is what I have read in other blogs. I decided to run a test. Shooting with the same lens a 10mm Sigma, I shot some video from an AG AF100 and The OMD against a panel on the wall. Used same settings on both. I noticed that by looking through the OMD viewfinder, the video did not suffer from the cropping (at least visually) that one can see on the LCD. Nevertheless, I put the files on my NLE and noticed that both cameras have in fact the same crop factor, 2X. If one uses the MIS there is a slight cropping. My question is where and when did this cropping story came about? Thanks for the Articles

    • johnbrawley says:

      Cropping is one of the greatest con’s ever. We somehow survived as image makers for a hundred plus years without ever needing o understand “crop factors”. They were introduced as a way to get around the problem on some of the first digital DSLR cameras not having sensors that were not the same size as the 135 format film they were trying to compete with. These phases helped users to understand what their lenses would do on smaller sensor bodies, but it has lead to so much mis-understanding. Crop factor and the phrases like ‘Full frame” are just corporate speak. As you’ve come to realise, the reality in use is very different to the perception inferred.


  22. Ewa says:

    I really enjoyed the video.
    The locations look amazing…remind me of David Lynch ‘Lost Highway’ a little bit.
    Thanks for all the tips! Will definitely be useful as I have just embarked on my own journey of filmmaking.

  23. Pingback: WEEK 10 OF TRI 3- JOHN BRAWLEY – Christine's world

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