RED EPIC vs RED Scarlet - What you need to know!

The RED EPIC and the RED Scarlet are both made by RED sharing the same impressive 5K Super-35 sensor but the Epic costs twice as much and this is reflected in the rental price too.  This article explains the differences between them and their best environments for production.

EPIC and Scarlet both shoot in 5K - so what's the difference?

The RED EPIC and RED SCARLET share much of the same electronics, the same form factor but vary in a subtly different shades of grey and abilities.  They share the same solid state drives (SSDs) and VMI supply either 256GB or 128GB SSDs with these cameras. 

They are both marketed as 5K cameras but we always recommend that they are used in 4K, as both EPIC and Scarlet have proven themselves to be both solid and dependable at this image size.  Whilst it is true that they both use the same 5K sensor and they can both shoot in 5K, in our experience this should come with a health warning, as the 5K signal path represents a huge amount of data and media storage which can causes problems both in production and also post - certainly not what you want on a theatrical production…

Stick with 4K - it works excellently!

SCARLET 5K acquisition maxes out at 18fps so is targeted  firmly at the photography market, therefore, although you can shoot up to 96fps on an  EPIC at 5K, the lower specification SCARLET only functions in 4K at film acquisition speeds (up to 30fps at 4K) so you can’t use them in tandem at 5K on a motion project. 

However, although this could seem to be a compromise on acquisition, the reality in terms of workflow is that  4K is really still maturing as an established balance of quality over specifications and storage and that 5K can be viewed as ‘ future proofing’ both the camera and the data stream. Both cameras shoot up to 30fps at 4K, so the SCARLET plays a very good B camera to EPIC at 4K.  The first feature film which used EPIC had a really good experience and required a considerable amount of 4K spec slow motion - see ‘Fast Girls’ on http://vmi.tv/HD-today/stories/8.

Compression codecs are shared, as are the sensors, so both cameras will seamlessly intercut for regular acquisition.

4K/5K and HDR Function for additional Latitude

The cameras are also marketed as stills cameras that shoot 5K images, which they do well.  We know that the data signal path and storage demands of shooting video is greater than stills, hence the current instability issues at 5K, but the EPIC and SCARLET take this to a new level entirely with the introduction of an HDR feature.  The HDR function on these cameras increases latitude (or dynamic range) to 14 stops by blending 2 frames together to by taking a faster and slower exposure of every frame, effectively an exposure bracketing technique, and this works incredibly well.  The HDRX and Magic Motion software  specifically developed by post house The Foundry  functions only in high 4/5k mode. The consequence of course is that using the HDR function means that the camera actually shoots twice the quantity of frames as the frame rate, so 30fps, actually means 60fps are required to shoot in HDR mode.  This has the advantage not just of increasing latitude but also reduces motion blur when shooting in 24p/25p, to make much cleaner images, helpful for  3D and  anamorphic formats. The EPIC does this 5K whereas the SCARLET will shoot video in this mode at 4K (but it still takes amazing stills in 5k!).  Clients can now easily grab a proper still for their project and using HDR, means that they are not constrained to a 1/50 second shutter speed. The HDR frame that deals with highlight exposure will by definition use a shorter exposure time than the actual fps or the project time base.

Shoot and Instantly Review up to 400fps at the press of a button!

Unquestionably, the RED EPIC is the best RED camera yet. The unique selling point of the EPIC is its slow motion capability and it allows up to 400fps capability in a sliding scale of resolution ** upgraded from 300fps Jun '12 ** , whereas the SCARLET will only shoot a maximum frame rate of 120fps ** upgraded from 60fps June '12 **. With the streamlined RED workflow, though be aware that not all frame rates are available in all picture sizes;

The EPIC will shoot  96fps @ 5k, 120fps @4k, 150fps @ 3k and 300 fps @2k anamorphic (ie less than 2K, without actually saying it…)

SCARLET will shoot regular speeds of up to 30fps at 4K and up to 120 fps @2k. It will shoot only 18fps @5K

Take careful note however that by shooting in 2K mode, you will have a crop factor of around 40%, so a 24mm lens will act like a 32mm lens for example.  The example below shows a 300fps 2K shot of a hotshoe mount being dropped into a glass of water. If you look carefully, you can see a perfect still of the hotshoe mount.

Compression Rates

RED EPIC and Scarlet permit 12 and 16 bit RAW to be recorded and with these a choice of compression from 18:1 to 3:1 with all variations in between.  This means that you can choose the quality and size of images to suit your budget and quality requirements! 

The fundamental at work here is that the more data you record, the better the quality is but also, the more data you record, the bigger is your headache in post too!

Important to stress though that 300FPS on Epic for a 16:9 frame actually works out at noticeably sub-2K resolution - the quality is OK but an enormous drop, even from 3K, so again, it does depend on what you plan to use it for but it is in a league of its own compared to 60 or even 120fps on other systems.

Storage

VMI has elected to supply the EPIC with 4 x 128GB SSD cards and the Scarlets with 2 x 256GB SSD cards, so this means that at 4K, you have about 90 minutes storage at 3:1 or over 7.5 hours at 18:1 or any variation if using other variations.

Storage varies depending on image size and compression ratio of codec and frame rate.  The table below is computed to be the size of media required to shoot 1 minute of images shot @ 25fps at 2K,4K, 5K at:

Modular Construction

Unusually for a Video Camera, this camera has a completely modular design in common with the RED One, so that many bits including side handles, top handles, viewfinders, LCD screens, cheese plates etc can all be removed to make the camera body small.  The RED and Scarlet are both based around very small lightweight camera 'brains', which enable them to be used as very small sand-alone units.  This makes them extremely suited to applications which require a high degree of portability and especially 3D.

The modular design of the cameras also permits a high degree of customisation for how the camera operator handles the camera in handheld/shoulder mount/crane mounted operation.

The REDMote device is a new development which permits the camera to be completely remote controlled by means of a small touch control device for start/stop and menu configuration. 

 

 

Workflows

The RED workflow is no longer a mystery as it is now very well established.

This is usually beyond the scope of rental companies' involvement but if you want to go down this route, then you will need to equip and familiarise yourself with the native R3D media structure and the RED Cine X Pro/FCP workflow.  REDCINE-X PRO software provides you with a wealth of integrated tools to import, finish, and export your images all within minutes. Offload your media using one of our REDSTATIONS and process your images with familiar grading modules and filters. Whether you’re working with a still or motion workflow, REDCINE-X PRO hosts an array of advanced features such as HDRx control and an integrated timeline to help you finish successfully. You can even take advantage of RAW potential with REDCINE-X PRO— as long as you are using RED tools, then software download is available free from RED.com.

Ensure that you are clear about the workflow before you start and have engaged a trial run with your post house before you begin a major project!

Proxy

I stated above that the RED workflow is very well established but the truth is that sometimes, the quality of the RED codec is too good for small screen productions and it can sometimes be easier to bypass the on-board record function using RED codec and RED post production route if you are shooting for TV or even the internet!

If this applies to you, then do consider that the Ki pro mini external recorder shoots onto Compact Flash cards and will record a high end HD at very high qualities.  As with the RED, the quality recorded is adjustable and you can set the external recorders to shoot from 50Mb/s up to 220Mb/second in 10 bit 4:2:2!.

In English, this means that you can record up to 300fps and immediately play back the material from the camera and record onto an external recorder with no rendering; then insert this media into Final Cut Pro for immediate use with no rendering - very easy!  The 'usable proxy' setting allows the camera output to be recorded and include such metadata information such as the clip name and timecode for later online conversion and de-bayerning if you want to.

It is important to mention that if you use the above approach for high speed, then since the Ki Pro does not support high speed, then the high speed material would be laid off as a regular 24 or 25fps slowed down recording and that you will lose the metadata from the RED camera, so this will only be useful if the proxy file is the final version used in post.  The advantage though is that it greatly simpifies post production for you.

Since most non linear editing tools do not support 4k or 5k material, you may need to transcoded using the RED cine-x software in software.  This is a free of charge process (software free for download) but can be extremely time consuming, taking around 8 times of real time.  The alternative is to use the RED Rocket card which allows real-time transcoding and permits playback these cards in full 4k.  If you import the media into a Mac and don't have access to a RED Rocket card, then full 4K or 5K media will not play smoothly and without stuttering without time-consuming rendering.  If you do not do this, you have the capability to play back at 1/8 of the resolution without a RED Rocket card or rendering.

 

Canon or PL Mount

The RED Scarlet is marketed to compete with low-cost Super-35 cameras such as the Canon C300 and has the option of being supplied equipped with a Canon EOS lens mount, to allow it to be used with low cost DSLR zoom and prime lenses.  This combination works extremely well and will allow a new generation of film makers to shoot RED at a budget level previously not possible.

Ironically, the Canon C300 which is developed from a stills camera, does not presently shoot autofocus in video-mode when fitted with EOS autofocus lenses, whereas the RED Scarlet has an operable autofocus mode if fitted with an EOS mount and Canon EOS DSLR lenses!

This works surprisingly well, although it does hunt sometimes but can be very handy for the single person shooter in a quick moving interview documentary environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Gerard Botha, VMI’s Head of Cameras points out that, actually the more cost effective SCARLET is ideal as a main acquisition camera on a project with the EPIC able to perform perfectly in that role but equally well as in a more specialised environment because of its excellent slow motion capabilities.

Tom Turley, VMI's RED expert summarises the EPIC vs. SCARLET debate in one sentence: "The Scarlet is essentially a data-rate handicapped Epic..."

In essence the differences are:

If you don’t need slow motion, then shoot on Scarlet at 4K.
If you shoot 2 cameras, then consider SCARLET-EPIC  combination for the maximum flexibility.
If you are shooting for documentary production, then SCARLET coupled with a KiPro recorder is a viable high end consideration.

However you look at it, the RED SCARLET shoots beautiful 4K images at a very cost effective rate and the RED EPIC shoots great slow motion!

VMI April 2012

 

Join the discussion

No comments yet. Be first!
Feel free to leave your comments below. If you have an account with us, please log in.
 
 
 

VMI are proud sponsors of:

The British Society of Cinematographers The Guild of Television Cameramen The Guild of British Camera Technicians The Association of Camera Operators ASPEC - Association of Studio and Production Equipment Companies Cinematography Mailing List Xhire - Anri fraud network