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class="style18"> My First Real Red Experience

Published : 13th April 2009


I have just wrapped my first real job using the Red cameras. It was a 7 week, under $10 million feature in Louisiana. Before this I had really only tested the Red for another feature. That time it was build 8. This time we were on build 16. Had build 17 been ready when we started I would have used that since we could have then used the 16GB cards.


All in all I liked the results from the camera. I do believe that the ASA rating is closer to 250 than 320, even in daylight. I found that when trying to underexpose to get a noisier (grainier) look it really fell apart quickly in the toe. Also, as others posted recently, the Redspace LUT is pretty bad as a general reference. I did try to make new LUTs during prep and apply them while shooting, but none of them really carried over. I ended up looking mostly at the RAW image on the Panasonic 1760 (great!) monitors though the director preferred the Redspace. It was really biased towards green / yellow, even when we tinkered with the phase / tint control.


The best things about the camera were : final image quality and relative ease of use and small size. The worst things were: the un-ergonomic design, connectors and some of the accessories. The EVF could be great and even though it IS better than most others, it still leaves much to be desired. Image flicker (almost invisible but definitely there) really tires out the eyes. It goes into TILT every now and then with weird color imaging and needs to be re-plugged to reset it. And since we had to record sound for editorial on one track, the image seemed to respond to the volume level by pulsing and flashing. Not always, but too often. The Red LCD monitors are good, but still not for operating in full sunlight or trying to judge exposure / color in bright light. I used my Spectra meter just as I would on a film shoot and found that to be the most reasonable way to set the T-stops. The after market accessories from ET were great. The EVF bracket was necessary and the rails and other brackets too. The double battery holder was not good. The idea is good, being able to hot swap, but it had very poor contact and too often shut down the camera. Our tech installed some magnets which allowed us to read the power meter in the camera, but it still broke contact too often, with or without the magnets installed. We ran off of AC as often as possible. We started using the hard drives but I switched to the 8GB cards as soon as I realized that the director (also acting in the film) would try to keep it running for the entire drive time! We actually ended up with 10TB of data in 36 days of shooting!! This of course made for sleepless nights for those downloading and cloning our data and doing dailies pro-res conversions. Not to mention the editorial staff of 1 who had to ingest this into the Avid!


We did have some problems with wide lenses and back focus, even though our tech did collimation and flange settings for everything. The worst offenders were the 18 and 32 mm Cooke S2 lenses. We shot with S2's and Ultra Primes for two distinct parts and looks to the film. We also employed a Cooke 18-100 (no problem), an Angenieux 24-290 (ditto) and an Arri Nikkor 80-200 T2.8 (ditto). We used a Zeiss T 2.1 12mm with no problems and the same for the Century Periscope with an underwater condom. I did one shot with a lensbaby that seemed fine.


The shots that did have problems were not noticeable on the monitors, only once we did a full screen projection from the files and a DI film out. That being said, the good folk at CO3 did the tests for us and were able to use some sharpening which made the softer images acceptably sharp comparing favorably with the other lens's material.


We did a lot of Steadicam with CF cards and it worked fine, though the operator wasn't crazy about the weight distribution / balance of the body with batteries on it.


It performed flawlessly on the technocrane with the Z head and the Libra, as well as the Aero-jib with the SL pod head. No complaints there.


We also did a bit of process trailer work on some not so great trailers and roads. Fortunately we had the Red Solid State 128GB drives for 2 cameras. We could do hood mounts, hostess trays, dollies and bazookas. No dropped frames or lost data. They worked flawlessly. The ET shock mounts weren't yet available so I couldn't report on those. We also used this configuration for some free driving car mounts on rough road surfaces, all excellent results. On the process trailer we used AC power. One thing I found is that if you have the camera low by the wheel, use a 1/24th shutter speed and it eliminates the "reverse roll strobing effect" that you usually see on car shoots. Sexy.


In the end we had to send back 2 camera bodies for mounting flaws and operating crashes. We carried 4 bodies at all times, and we needed them! It was 1 or 2 camera shoot, and the backups were used most everyday.


Two other important notes- I had an excellent 1st AC who was experienced with the Red system AND an amazing tech who can fix anything from hair dryers to nuclear submarines- and he worked for Red for a while too! Very important to keep the shoot running smoothly. The tech was with me on an Arri shoot in western China as well and kept that one rolling along too.


I think that I've covered most all of my experience here. If I think of anything else I'll post again, and if anyone has any specific questions, please respond to this.

>Roberto Schaefer, ASC



I too, have just wrapped my first feature using the RED One camera.


It was a four week shoot using Cooke S4s, and a Cooke 18-100mm zoom.


Our original intention was to be either handheld or on steadicam 100% of the time, so we started out using the CF cards. However, our director is fond of long takes, and running a series of performances in one go, so we quickly switched to using the RED Drive, which performed just fine, not a single dropped frame. Our steadicam op liked the RED just fine, but I have to say, as others have already commented, for handheld work, it's a bitch. Not so much the weight, but the balance is totally shot. We were doing 3 or 4 minute takes, often fairly static shots, and with that much weight all stacked towards the front end, it gets tiring very quickly.


I thought the EVF was surprisingly good, although as Roberto noted, it was prone to brightness and color changes when the audio level meter flashed. It also never agreed with the LCD, being noticeable warmer. We were monitoring with a 26" Panasonic, perhaps not the sharpest of monitors. That combined with only 720p outputs made critical focus hard to see at times. A live 1080 (or better) output is desperately needed, I think.


On the whole, the camera was pretty reliable. We had one instance where the camera refused to boot up after a battery change, and one where it wouldn't format a drive, but no major downtime.


I'd like to see some way of altering the camera's sensitivity downward. Even in autumn the sunshine in LA is reading t45 at 320asa.


That 's a lot of ND for those that like to shoot at t4 or thereabouts....


I loved the pictures we got out of it. Lots of latitude, and a knee that didn't clip in a really ugly way. My only complaint would be a surprising amount of noise in low light tungsten balanced scenes.
Hopefully this can be addressed in later builds (ours was build 17).


All in all, I like the images, but the camera itself still has a way to go.


Stuart Brereton
DP
UK/LA


Roberto Schaefer, ASC wrote:


"If anyone has any specific questions, please respond to this."


Hi Roberto,


Welcome back! I am eager to hear how the P2 HD Video Assist we discussed prior to the shoot worked out?


James MathersCinematographer
President, Digital Cinema Society
Studio City, CA


Roberto Schaefer, ASC"

class="style19">"I think that I've covered most all of my experience here. If I think of anything else I'll post again, and if anyone has any specific questions, please respond to this.

>Thanks for sharing you shooting experience with us. Very useful info.
Could you comment on how you handled managing your looks?
Did you do in camera looks, and/or tweaking in REDALERT/REDCINE?
Or did you stick to digital reference stills?
I find the ability to pull 4K tiffs has basically eliminated the need for a DSLR on set for references.

Dylan Macleod, CSC
Cinematographer
Toronto, Canada
www.dylanmacleod.com




As others have already commented, for handheld work, it's a bitch.


I thought the EVF was surprisingly good, although as Roberto noted, it was prone to brightness and color changes when the audio level meter flashed.


I too have found it annoying the way the EVF changes brightness as the meters change or even as content within the scene being viewed changes (like the red LED's of the TC slate.) This only happens on the EVF but not the LCD.

>I then discovered by turning off the dark detail setting, that brightness *pumping* with image content seemed to stop. Anyone else try this with the EVF ?

I'm using a prototype of the ET hand held bracket right now and as Geoff has already mentioned, it's sweet. In fact it should be great on just about any camera. It makes the RED almost useable in hand held. I still find though that the camera sits so high up on the shoulder. And even with the ET mount, I can never feel like I can never get the EVF down low enough to stop my neck craning.


John Brawley
Cinematographer
currently in LA
818 641 0481
www.johnbrawley.com



>>?...I am eager to hear how the P2 HD Video Assist we discussed prior to the shoot worked out???


Some of you may have followed my initial requests for info on doing an HD "video assist" for the Red Camera shoot. What we ended up with was a system consisting of 2 P2 HD mobile recorders and 2 Panasonic 1760 HD monitors, as well as a live switcher for our VFX twin work. From my point of view it worked out great. We had 720 output from the cameras into the decks and full HD monitoring for live as well as playback of everything without having to resort to the original data. The VA guy then dumped the cards to his Mac for storage and reference throughout the entire shoot. All of our twinning VFX work was done using live camera inputs into the switcher and then recorded as a mix onto 1 of the P2 decks. Playback was then in HD to really check out matching eyelines, etc. ?It was a steep curve for the VA guy who hadn't worked with this gear before. He was used to SD assist. To be fair to him it did handicap him on playback as he couldn't go to exact points on each take when asked to, but had to go to camera start and then shuttle ahead to the desired point. Very old school.


But he did a great job, and reasonably fast too. I was very happy with how it all worked out.?


I must acknowledge that the P2 decks and cards were a free loaner from Panasonic who did it as a favor to James Mathers and myself. I think it was a success. Especially on the process trailer work!


Roberto Schaefer, asc


Dylan McLeod wrote:

class="style19" >>"Could you comment on how you handled managing your looks??


Did you do in camera looks, and/or tweaking in REDALERT/REDCINE?
Or did you stick to digital reference stills?


I find the ability to pull 4K tiffs has basically eliminated the need for a DSLR on set for references."
I wasn't happy with the in camera looks even after building several LUTs. I didn't tweak them too much other than phase / tint. I looked at Redcine on a powerbook and a 23" Apple Cinema Display. There I played with the controls and did my color adjustments for the dailies person. I made High Res 4K TIFFs from these as references for him.?


That being said he didn't look at them or maybe didn't understand them and did what he wanted to do for our dailies. They were of such low quality that I immediately threw away the DVDs and only looked at the ProRes files which were also sent to editorial. Those were better, but varied greatly from shot to shot, day to day.?


I didn't use a DSLR like I do when shooting film. I have been using the 3CP system but didn't here. I only used their Electronic media color chart each day, which the dailies person also didn't refer to. I didn't have the newest 3CP system which is made for digital, so it was more convenient for me to use Redcine than convert and use any other system, although I did do a trial run with both 3CP and Speedgrade.?


The thing that I did leave out of my post was this- as many people have noted the post flow from any digital system is so different from film, and the Red seems especially challenging to many post houses. It is really important that you have a facility that knows what it is doing. Ours didn't. It was imposed upon us by the producers for financial and tax reasons. That was a mistake. I'm not sure when or where, but I guess that it will come back to bite us somewhere down the line in post. I won't mention them by name, but they are in Louisiana, not in New Orleans.


Roberto Schaefer, asc




Roberto schaefer wrote:


> That being said he didn't look at them or maybe didn't understand
> them and did what he wanted to do for our dailies.

class="style20">> It is really important that you have a facility that knows what it is doing.

I cannot agree with this more. Even after numerous discussions with the post house, they consistently failed to apply looks to our rushes, even when the look was merely In-camera settings, rather than a REDAlert look. There are too many people out there with a couple of cameras and some software, passing themselves off as a fully equipped post facility....


Stuart Brereton
DP
UK/LA



Never a truer word.


Rupert Watson
+44 7787554801
www.root6.com
There are too many people out there with a couple of cameras and some
software, passing themselves off as a fully equipped post facility....

>ROOT 6 LIMITED
Registered in the UK at
4 WARDOUR MEWS, LONDON
W1F 8AJ
Company No. 03433253


class="style20">>>There are too many people out there with a couple of cameras and some software, passing >>themselves off as a fully equipped post facility....

Hey, I have _no_ RED cameras and some software, and I pass myself off as a post/VFX facility


Tim "don't need a camera to do post" Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA