Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam

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RED digital cinema camera workshop

I got to go to a nice workshop hosted by IFP North today, which was a lot about a demonstration of the RED One Digital Cinema camera.

Quite simply, this is an amazing piece of technology. It's an incredibly well-thought-out design that kind of defines a new workflow... or moves a serious workflow to the digital age.

The camera itself captures raw image data at 12 bits per color per pixel (i.e. 36 bits per pixel). Any corrections that you do in camera like exposure, color balance, and the like are written as separate metadata linked files: what this means is that your original "digital negative" is untouched, so when you go into final color correction, you have all of the exposure latitude available to you right from the beginning.

From a practical standpoint, this means that you have to pay attention to your lighting in a way that you never have before (unless you've shot on film). You need to light for the exposure, not the image in the viewfinder. Yes, it is more challenging, but the results are a thing of beauty that are an order of magnitude or two above shooting with Darthcam. Then again, the cost is an order of magnitude or two above Darthcam as well, so I'm well-founded in my faith.

Right side view of the RED One digital cinema camera in full configuration. As shown, it's probably $30-40k or more, not including the lens. Never mind the puddles of drool all around the camera.
The lens is a PL-mount 15-85mm T2.8 zoom lens, designed for a 35mm motion picture camera. It costs $400.00 a day to rent. You can probably pick up a good used one for less than $40k.

The left side of the camera. The round red button is record/stop, the two below it are configurable. You can't really see the viewfinder here, but it's a thing of beauty, and has its own set of configurable controls.
Note the nifty rail mount system both on the top and bottom of the camera.

A bit better picture of the lens. The yellow markings are the focus distance in feet, the white numbers just behind that represent the focal length of the zoom (I believe). The far back numbers are the T-stop (similar to F-stop, but exactly calibrated).
The camera has a variable ISO rating, but its sweet spot is the equivalent of 320 ASA. It can shoot 24p at 4k resolution (that's 4096 pixels wide x 2160 high) at more than 11 stops of exposure latitude. In film equivalents, that's a super-35mm frame.

Close up of the rack focus mechanism. The focus knob turns at pretty much a 1:1 ratio to the small gear against the lens barrel.

Mattebox detail: three slots, the frontmost is a 4x4, back two are 5x5. Note mounts for french flags and seal around lens. The whole unit mounts on the 15cm rail system and swings away independent of the lens.

Front view of camera/mattebox. This is pretty much what you see when you're an actor.

Detail of the upper rail clamp system.

Rear view from slightly underneath. CF card slot on the far left, holds 16GB high-speed cards, about 11 minutes of footage at highest 4k resolution. That's pretty much the equivalent of a 1000-foot mag of 35mm film.

Rear view from slightly above. The brick on the back is the battery, on the side is a 320G hard drive that holds 160 min. of 4k best-res footage. I had to actually touch my ear to the hard droive case to hear it running. It does get warm.

Kind of an aside: this is a baby pin mount for an LCD screen. The monitors they had were Panasonic 720P HD monitors. I took this pic because it's a rather ingenious solution to the problem of mounting a monitor so it can be flipped upside down, which is often necessary when shooting with a 35mm DOF adapter.

Okay, I'm not going to be buying one of these cameras in the near future, much as I would like to. Cost aside, I'd really need to migrate my editing system to a Mac Pro that's been souped up quite a bit (Final Cut Pro has RED support built in), and I quite simply can't justify the cost. This is a professional tool, and I am not a professional filmmaker, at least at this point. But it was hella fun to see, and it was nice learning how a lot of HD footage is cut on systems that can't handle streaming 4k footage (they use lower-res proxies).

It was an afternoon well-spent. I got a lot of information, and was able to hold my own in discussions on a professional camera and postproduction level. I am so very not displeased.
Tags: camera, filmmaking, toys

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