The VMI Guide to RED M-X
The RED ONE is the latest phenomenon to hit the UK film and HD industry.
It promises a tape-less 4K resolution and 35mm depth of field with cinematographic images at a low cost but the practical side to these claims need a little clarification, as is often the case, the devil is in the detail!
The truth is that this is a stunning camera when used in the right hands but things to bear in mind when considering the RED:
- The camera is large and heavy and although very similar to a 35mm unit in size and weight, is far less portable than an equivalent HD Camcorder, such as the Sony HDW-F900R. This means that set-ups are likely to be a bit slower than using a conventional HD Camcorder
- The post-production workflow can be a bit clunky and certainly requires a lot of computer rendering which is VERY time-consuming prior to editing – especially if you are shooting in 4K image format – this is not so bad if you edit using only the HD proxy files but posting in 4K is PAINFUL!
- Although the RED One body is relatively inexpensive, the accessories certainly are not. Coupled with the fact that the rental charges reflect the cost of the lenses which form the majority of the rental cost, then expect the full production package rental charges not to be any cheaper than shooting conventional HD. There are cheap RED deals to be had but expect the camera packages to be incomplete and the lenses to be of an inferior standard. 35mm lenses are expensive and Cooke S4 and Zeiss UltraPrime lenses are standard fare, which are reassuringly expensive to buy and hire. Although low cost PL-mount lenses are available to buy from RED, the mechanics and optics are cheap and DoPs do not like using them.
- The camera shoots in a 4K-image size but does so by shooting through a Beyer filter – this means a perforated screen with holes for the Red, Green and Blue pixels, which lowers the effective resolution captured. 4K resolution is still very good and compares very favourably with full-resolution HD images but is not as dramatic a difference as one might expect – at least not yet anyway!
- There are many other manufacturers' accessories which are greatly superior to the standard ones made by RED including, suitable break-out boxes, cheese plates, viewfinder brackets and levelling arms plus various powering options etc. A fully custom-accessorised RED camera is a lot more ergonomically easier to use for your crew!
- You have a choice of capture to either 320GB hard drives (around 3 hrs of 4K material each) or 8/16GB cards (around 4 minutes of 4K material per 8GB card).
- The camera does not like being moved and is susceptible to occasionally dropping frames in a way that conventional HD Camcorders do not! You will not know that a frame has been dropped until the images are played back after the shoot and it is recommended that all images are played back as soon as possible to ensure a successful image capture. To guard against this, VMI recommend the use of shock-mounted drive cradles, such as the Element Technica system, which holds and protects the hard drives from adverse vibration and shock.
- The RED One camera is first and foremost a computer rather than a camera. It has only 1 x 12V input and if power is interrupted (for example when changing a battery), then it takes approximately 3-4 minutes to reboot the camera – very annoying!
The obvious solution is to provide a dual power input with auto-switchover function but the RED batteries are not 'intelligent' batteries, which permit this function without potentially sending damaging power surges to the camera. A solution is offered by Anton Bauer, which provide an intelligent dual battery clip, which allows a hot-swap of batteries to avoid powering the camera down whilst changing batteries. A pair of Anton Bauer Dionic 90 batteries is a convenient complement allowing a battery performance of around 3 hours of a full RED system.
- An alternative to this is to use large stand-alone 'intelligent' batteries, also made by Anton Bauer or Cine Power International which power the RED camera system for approximately 4 hours.
- On a positive note, the camera is sensitive to shooting in low light and shoots with around 10 stops of latitude using a new Mysterium CMOS sensor.
- The RED camera is modular and all handles, bars and peripherals can be bolted on or taken off as and when required or moved to a more convenient position. This makes the operation of the camera very versatile and the body can be trimmed-down to suit the application when required.
- Also, a shallow depth of field is assured because the RED One shoots using the 1” Mysterium sensor which is the same size as a 35mm negative. Another issue with shooting with a narrow depth of field is that you will require a first-class focus puller as focussing in these conditions is far less forgiving than shooting with 2/3” CCD camcorders.
- Lastly, the system is capable of shooting in slow-motion of up to 120fps, although the size of the images reduces with the increase in frame rate. For example, at 120fps, the image size reduces to 2K image size – in contrast, Varicam only shoots 60fps at 1280x720
The VMI RED One shooting kit contains:
- RED One camera body
- RED 5.6" LCD
- RED Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
- Element Technica EVF bracket with eyepiece extension and levelling arm
- 2 x 320GB RED RAID Drives (approximately 3hrs of 4K material each) fitted with Element Technica shock-mounted drive cradles
- 4 x 8GB RED Compact Flash (CF) cards (approximately 4 mins 4K material each)
- 5 x Anton Bauer Dionic 90 batteries complete with dual hot-swap battery plates
- Anton Bauer 4 way charger
- ARRI 19mm base plate
- Element Technica breakout box
- Element Technica top cheese plate with RED 19mm rod supports
- RED Bottom Plate
- RED Shoulder dovetail with twin handles
- RED top mount, handle
- 19mm Rod system
There are many options to accompany this kit including various matte boxes, HD monitors, wireless lens control system and film lenses made by Carl Zeiss, Cooke and Angenieux.
Native RED Workflow
The RED workflow is very unusual and breaks all traditional moulds.
The RED ONE camera generates QuickTime reference movies that point to 4K (or 2K) full resolution REDCODE™ RAW (.R3D) files. This allows for immediate editing of camera source footage when using the latest version of Final Cut Pro.
- Ensure that you have upgraded to FCP version 6.0.2, running under Mac OSX 10.4.11 (Tiger) Then download and install the REDCODE™ RAW codec from www.red.com/support (Intel based Macs only currently) Final Cut Pro 6.0.2 with the REDCODE™ RAW codec installed will support RT playback and editing provided you have sufficient hardware resources.
- Transfer the entire contents of your RED-FLASH CF card or RED-DRIVE to another drive for editing (RAID storage is recommended for best performance)
- Import the desired QuickTime reference movies into a new FCP project. You can use either the 2K or 1K sized reference movies. On a MacBook Pro laptop, we recommend the use of 1K size movies.
- Select the ProRes HQ 1080p easy set-up in FCP to render files and create an online quality, HD rendered media for finishing.
Note: Log and Transfer functionality will be supported in the near future. This will allow advanced ingest of RED footage into FCP including transcoding to ProRes.
2K or 4K DI Finish
Export your EDL from Final Cut Pro into Assimilate Scratch, and match the EDL to the original 4K (or 2K) REDCODE™ RAW media. Then render out DPX or TIFF files in Log, Linear or REC709 colour space for final match-back, colour grading and finish. (Choice of colour space is dependent on final deliverables)
Use REDCINE or RED ALERT! (free software downloads available: www.red.com/support ) to export DPX or Tiff files at 2K or 4K, and then match that media to your EDL for grading and finishing in any DI software / hardware package that supports 2K and / or 4K DPX or Tiff files.
Note: XML linking support from Final Cut Pro projects will be supported in the near future. This feature will create "flash to flash" pull lists of each take, which can then be brought into DI finishing systems.
AVID Editorial Workflow
A number of pathways exist for Avid editorial as well.
REDCINE generates DNX HD QuickTime movies that can be imported into Avid systems that support the DNX codec and generate the MXF wrapped media required for Avid editorial.
Using Scratch, equipped with an NVIDIA Graphics card with HD-SDI output, or an Apple computer with FCP 6.0.2, REDCODE™ RAW codec and an AJA Kona 3 card, you can create a real-time high quality proxy layoff to HD videotape at either 1080p or 720p. Then ingest into Avid in a traditional fashion for offline editing. By using an Avid ALE file, you can track and link the tape time code to the camera's original time code of the REDCODE™ RAW files for match back capabilities.
Editors familiar with tape or data-based footage from telecine, and then prepping those files for Avid editorial using linked time code and/or edge code techniques to match to the time code on tape will be comfortable working with RED footage in much the same way.
VMI December 08
Post-production documents taken from the RED website