Thread: Dragon impressions

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  1. #1 Dragon impressions 
    Senior Member Rob Anderson's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
    I'm going to continuously update this thread with info regarding the RED Dragon sensor and our experiences with it.

    RED Dragon #15 (carbon fiber) received by Blackwood Cinema. The carbon fiber ships in the standard EPIC-M carrying case. First impression, immediately upon removing the body from the case, is how much lesser weighted than the Epic-X it really is. One pound (453.3 grams) absolutely makes a difference. It is noticeably lighter and ever so slightly [magnesium PL mount] front heavy. Beautifully constructed. Having spent a lot of time in and around race cars, I can definitely say the quality of the carbon fiber is top-notch. All of the standard M3 hex screws are in the same places (albeit they're uniquely red for the CF models). Both the front and top fans are the 2.0 upgrades. Front of camera has "DRAGON 6K" marking beneath lens mount and "RED" in relief and "DRAGON" inlaid-recessed, flanking the SSD mount.

    Sturdy and well-constructed, just like the full body Epic-X but now with one hell of a good looking carbon fiber jacket.

    Bonus: March 15th is my birthday (Ides) and I've always had a special affinity for the number. Nice to have #00015 on the bottom. As the carbon fibers are 'M' models, I'll have to see if that means I finally get a thread on the 'EPIC-M OWNERS' board.

    I assume RED made their own red-colored M5 body screws. I was recently on a shoot where the DP brought his own Epic and he had red screws from a popular after-market supplier and one was broken off below the crown (screw post permanently lodged into his SSD module). His fault for over-torquing the screw but I also suggest caution against using anything other than warranty'able RED bolts and parts.

    After a quick run of tests with the lone Ultra Prime I had on hand, I was able to get 6K FF 1/2 resolution playback with an nVidia Titan GPU on a Mac Pro (2012 12-core with 128 GB RAM and Quad-SSD RAID 0). Surprisingly great performance. For just $1k and to have something compatible with both Mac (as of Mavericks) and PC, this will give Scarlet and indie productions a fast leg up on handling their RED footage. If the RED Rocket is just out of your range, RED did a huge favor by implementing GPU support and even with Dragon 6K footage at 1/2 resolution, you're still getting a lot of bang for your buck.

    You don't need to waste any extra money buying a TITAN card from an after-market supplier or so-called "Mac Video Hack". Thanks to a major boost in the arm by Apple and the introduction of Mavericks OS X, all you need is the off-the-shelf TITAN or TITAN SuperClocked. Plug and play. Use the standard Apple motherboard power leads with a 6-pin to 8-pin cable converter. PC users... A lot less work and a lot more bang.

    However, I was itching for a little heavy-lifting extra help. 1/2 resolution is nice but after becoming accustomed to working with 5K Epic footage across 5 RED Rockets (JMR BlueStore PCIe Expansion System), I wasn't about to step down. After a quick call to RED, I arranged to pickup my pre-ordered RED ROCKET-X. Now we're cooking with fire.

    A few hours after pickup, the RED ROCKET-X took the place of a 16x PCIe lane previously occupied by a JMR expansion board. Running with both the Titan GPU and the ROCKET-X, I am blown away. We're slicing and grading 6K FF footage, with alchemy enabled, as if it was 720p. The RED ROCKET-X is every bit the Dragon devouring monster RED has suggested. In fact, I was so overly impressed by the result, I'm thinking the true performance of this thing has been understated. RED's being modest. The ROCKET-X is awesome. The companion purchase discount is a definite green light. The ROCKET-X should be considered a must-have with any Dragon purchase and Producers have got to start asking for one on set.

    The claim is the ROCKET-X performs somewhere around 5x that of the current RED ROCKET. I believe that claim. And while a $1k Titan GPU is going to give you excellent bang for the bucket, if you're in the business of producing RED projects, you're an editor, you're VFX/post, DIT, or any of a handful of other folks that work with R3Ds day in and out, spare yourself and indulge. The ROCKET-X is the definitive RED camera companion.

    With that said, Apple and partners have got to get to work on TB2 expansion chassis. I know mLogic has demonstrated one, but those things have got to come sooner than later if the new Mac Pro is going to have a top-tier relevance in this Dragonized-world.

    Special notes:
    • RED ROCKET-X will not work outside of a 16x PCIe lane.
    • The original RED ROCKET will not work with Dragon R3Ds. (As of most recent driver+firmware and seems unlikely to change).

    Build-up time. Spent a little while kitting out the Dragon in my favorite light-weight configuration using the following RED components:
    • 9" Touch Pro monitor
    • Tactical Top Plate 2.0
    • DSMC Tactical Right Z Adapter
    • Sliding Top Handle
    • Mounting Plate (DSMC)
    • LCD/EVF Cable (right-to-right) 7"
    • Swat Rail 100mm
    • Module Adapter
    • Quickplate Module (v-lock)
    The new Quickplate Module is fantastic. No more AC cable to plug into the brain and now you can run and gun with a second v-lock on a belt-clip or drop the cam off on a tripod, plug in, swap batteries, disconnect AC and keep shooting. I strongly prefer this because I have an all v-lock workflow. Lights, cameras, monitors, you name it. Everything is v-lock. I prefer to not mess with maintaining a set of REDVOLTS and the Quickplate Module solves the only drawback I had. Plus it's clean, streamlined, and snaps to the body. The extra Aux power ports are a bonus and I put those to use on a Paralinx wireless unit as-well-as various follow focus receivers.

    I'm also a big fan of the Pro I/O. Thanks to the module system, you can easily toss the Pro I/O to save weight with just two quarter twists of a torx screw. Amazing.

    The 9" Touch Pro is another must-have. If you're still shooting with a 5", you're missing out. We now have two of the 9" Touch Pros and throwing both of them onto an Epic/Dragon (via the Pro I/O) is awesome. I haven't been shooting as long as many of you and for me, having the 9" to make sure I'm grabbing focus has been instrumental in getting my work buttoned down.

    This is the camera in profile with what I call my run-and-gun configuration:

    Losing the Pro I/O module saves a few pounds. But if I'm on sticks or mounts, it's always on for me. The second monitor input (while still leaving HDMI open for my wireless Paralinx module), plus the audio inputs and additional power, jam, and sync ports make the Pro I/O a very good module.

    I've become a huge fan of the RED quick mount/release system. We use Miller 100mm and 150mm fluid head mounts on Arrow (carbon fiber) sticks, Miller high-hat, mitchell mounts, RED Gunner shoulders, 19mm rails with matte boxes and follow focus, etc etc. We even have an R90 that we use surprisingly often.

    Nothing is faster on set and we've come to rely on the RED Universal Quick Release System.

    We are currently in the process of custom-building our own components built off of the RED Universal Quick Release mounts...

    Loaded up and ready to rock for another afternoon of testing. Nikon lens testing time. Although mass-produced and built for still photography, the Nikon 'G-series' of lenses have seriously impressed me. They're fast, cheap, light, and easy to handle. The RED Nikon mount fully supports them and the electronics and motors allow for software tricks like touch focus and dialing in racks. It may be passé to talk about this in the 'pro' world and I get shit for it all the time, but I don't care. Nikons are great and RED did a fantastic job making them really fun to use with the Epic and now the Dragon. Plus, using them forces better focus discipline.

    We've got the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm macro, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and 65mm macro. All wonderful lenses with the 50mm and 85mm being absolutely superb. (I shot a fashion film called TIME PIECE on Nikon, among others.)

    Plus we have mounts for PL (titanium, magnesium, and motion), Leica, and Canon. We have each type of mount for every Epic and Dragon body we own. Whatever glass you want to use, we're game. Pick a flavor.

    We tested all of our Nikons and of course the primes covered full frame without vignetting.

    In addition to the Nikons, we also tested a full set of ARRI Ultra Primes (gorgeous) and Schneider Xenar III's. I have a set of Xenon primes on pre-order and will post results once I've shot with those.

    Shot on Nikon 85mm 2.2 86fps 6K at 200 ISO:

    Yep. The Dragon is pretty fucking incredible.

    Last edited by Rob Anderson; 11-24-2013 at 09:36 AM.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Rob Anderson's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
    Started this thread to keep a running log of early experiences with the Dragon. Hope you guys enjoy this and find it useful. I'll keep it updated over the next week or two.

    Next up on my slate are two personal projects that should make the Dragon really shine. Animals, water, dancers, big drops, and maybe an explosion or two. I think you'll like the result... First one films later today.

    Thanks to everyone at RED for building such a wicked system. In particular but in no particular order we'd like to thank: Jarred, Clark, Colin, Nick, Jennifer, Brian, Brent, Michael, and McClain. You guys are amazing. Jim: THANK YOU. And also thanks to Phil and Jeff for all of the invaluable information you guys shared leading up to us falling head-long into this wonderful rabbit hole.

    A lot of people are asking questions about the RED ROCKET-X and how it relates to the Dragon, Dragon vs. the Epic, and RED ROCKET-X vs. ROCKET.

    As I mentioned before, the 'original' RED ROCKET is not compatible with Dragon footage, even if shot at 5K or under. You will see a warning popup in REDCINE regarding this incompatibility and the app will switch to software rendering mode. I have no idea if this will change in the future, but for now I'd assume the RED ROCKET (original) is incompatible with anything shot on Dragon. This may or may not be a big deal to you. Personally speaking, there are some 10's of thousands of RED Epics and RED Ones in the world today. I think the Rocket has a perfectly relevant place and will continue to be a valuable piece of hardware. However, the RED ROCKET-X simply blows away the ROCKET in every other possible measurement, I'm gladly kissing mine goodbye. (We will keep one in a breakout box for DIT work or dailies rendering for Epic shoots.)

    ROCKET-X is longer than the ROCKET and requires a bit of wrangling to squeeze into a Mac Pro. It's obviously designed to fit, but you'll need to bump and slant things to get situated. The ROCKET-X comes with a PCIe 6-pin to dual 6-pin splitter so that you can power your graphics card and the ROCKET-X with one lead.

    As I mentioned earlier, I have a TITAN and a RED ROCKET-X both installed into a 2012 Mac Pro. First I have the #2 PCIe power cable coming out of the Mac Pro motherboard (mini 6-pin) connected to a 6-pin to 8-pin conversion cable. This is then plugged directly into the TITAN card.

    Next, I removed the original mini 6-pin to 6-pin cable from the Mac Pro motherboard PCIe power slot #1 and replaced it with the RED ROCKET-X included mini 6-pin to dual 6-pin cable. I connected the first 6-pin lead to the TITAN and the second to the RED ROCKET-X.

    When the RED ROCKET-X is running, it's fan-noisy. Not overbearing by any stretch, but it is significantly louder than a TITAN and clearly audible. I'd call it loud. After inactivity, it quiets down to a sleep state and the fan appears to turn off or at least low-idle.

    To give you some idea as to how much better rendering times are with a ROCKET-X, I pulled a 4 GB test file shot 6K FF on the RED Dragon.

    I did not balance or grade this footage. The R3D exists on a single SSD. REDCINE-X Build 21.3 Beta

    First I rendered to a 444 4K UHD quicktime WITHOUT the TITAN and the RED ROCKET-X enabled.

    SOFTWARE RENDER ONLY (444 4K UHD): 41 minutes 24 seconds

    Second, I rendered with the TITAN-only enabled.

    TITAN GPU ONLY (444 4K UHD): 2 minutes 31 seconds

    Third, I rendered with the RED ROCKET-X enabled, only.

    RED ROCKET-X (444 4K UHD): 2 minutes 3 seconds

    Last, I rendered with both the TITAN and the RED ROCKET-X enabled.

    TITAN GPU AND RED ROCKET-X (444 4K UHD): 1 minute 16 seconds

    Without GPU or ROCKET-X acceleration, the 4K UHD render took 2484 seconds. With GPU it took 151 seconds. With the RR-X only it took 123 seconds. With GPU and RED ROCKET-X both 76 seconds.

    Conclusion: RED ROCKET-X acceleration with a TITAN GPU on a 2012 Mac Pro (12-core w/ 128 GB RAM) rendering to/from an SSD is 33x faster than software alone and when paired with a TITAN GPU, you can double the performance of the RR-X. Pretty damn impressive.

    Note that RED has said they are working on enabling multi-GPU rendering in REDCINE-X. No telling when that's coming or what kind of result you're going to get with it, but for the time being, the best way to double-down on your performance is to pair a TITAN with an RR-X. And with the Titan priced at $1k, that's not a bad deal at all.

    For everyone else concerned with the price of the RED ROCKET-X, RED has always maintained the RR/RR-X's are for commercial work where the price of a card is not a significant factor for the production. They're not aiming these things at indie shooters or owner/ops on a tight budget. And for you guys in that segment (a lot of Scarlet owners, soon to be Dragon DP's and many more, I'm sure) the GPU rendering addition to REDCINE-X is a damn good gift.

    Here are render times with all of the above, plus TITAN + RED ROCKET-X burning through 422 (HQ) dailies, 444 1080p friendlies, and 444 4K UHD deliverables.

    SOFTWARE RENDER ONLY (444 4K UHD): 41 minutes 24 seconds
    TITAN GPU ONLY (444 4K UHD): 2 minutes 31 seconds
    RED ROCKET-X (444 4K UHD): 2 minutes 3 seconds
    TITAN GPU AND RED ROCKET-X (444 4K UHD): 1 minute 16 seconds
    TITAN GPU AND RED ROCKET-X (444 1080p):
    1 minute 12 seconds
    TITAN GPU AND RED ROCKET-X (422 HQ 1080p):
    57 seconds

    4 GB R3D 6K FF down to a 422 (HQ) 1080p, 444 1080p, and 444 4K UHD in 3 minutes and 3 seconds... Damn I love RED.

    Sharing one of the many projects I've been working on lately.

    Shot with friend and performer Dave Locke on a Cyr Wheel, with the Dragon. Used mixed lighting, mixed frames, mixed ISO, and more. Bought "DJ lights" for $100 and generally abused the Dragon sensor as much as I could. Overcranked, RC 18:1, kept ISO low, room dark, lots of atmospheric effects to screw with light and... You name it.

    A majority of this footage was shot and transcoded to web at 250 ISO and 24-86 fps. Thanks to the workflow I outlined above (and the RED ROCKET-X in particular), I was able to shoot, offload, quick grade, edit, and transcode to web all on the same night.

    Music by David Bowie. One man crew (Me). Performer Dave Locke. Equipment Blackwood Cinema.

    Thanks for watching.

    Screen grabs from another personal project. Edit coming soon.

    If you'd like to download a sample R3D from this shoot, here you go:

    I finished the grade on the ROPE shoot. Here's a screen cap:


    Come on over or bring us out to your production. We're Blackwood Cinema, Las Vegas. Production, services, workflow, rentals, and DIT like you wouldn't believe. Thanks!
    Last edited by Rob Anderson; 12-04-2013 at 08:22 AM.
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member Dominik Muench's Avatar
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    May 2008
    Gold Coast - Australia

    How you can have the patience and willpower of writing all this, so nicely formatted and color coded and taking all these pictures with a dragon on your desk.....I would have organised myself an IV so I wont have to eat and drink, grabbed a trunk full of V locks and would be out shooting 24/7 for the next couple of weeks lol

    thanks for keeping us up to date. cant wait to see some footage.
    Dr. Dominik Münch D.O.C.A
    Filmmaker & Cinematographer
    Epic-W "Lucy"
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member Mikael Lubtchansky's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    Congrats Rob ! Nice set of toys you have there !
    I'm shooting in Dallas this week with 2 Scarlets but if I travel again to US soon and visit Las Vegas I'd sure love to pop in and say hello !

    keep us posted with your Dragon experience !

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  5. #5  
    Senior Member luigivaltulini's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
    Switzerland- LUGANO
    NICE NICE ROB , thanks.

    Carbon is a beast :)
    Grading Suite Davinci Resolve, Rental RED Digital camera.

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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Matthew Scott's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
    Melbourne, Australia
    Yeah man, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Enjoying :)
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  7. #7  
    Everything looks terrific including your Nikkor lens set!
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Zeb B's Avatar
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    Sep 2011
    In The Moment
    Cool! What is the best posted Dragon footage to date? Are the Carbon owners under an NDA that prevents them from uploading raw footage?
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2011
    Are the CF dragons still using Redcode3, rg3 or are they shipping with new color science?

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  10. #10  
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    Very nice writeup man!
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