Just thought I'd post some observations so far in my experience working with the REDs. I'm a director who's worked with the REDs a fair amount. I have a background in photography and, in that space, made the jump to RAW four years ago. The RED has been a natural transition.
I work with a few other people that have formed a rental house (Inspired Cinema) operating in Vancouver. Jim van Dijk, a top-flight steadicam op in town, and I were among the first to catch the RED wave here...
Vancouver is a working film town, the world's third largest film production centre, and mostly focused on service (although that is changing). We're the new kid, focusing exclusively on the REDs. We have many bodies and sets of lenses (Cooke, Zeiss, Angenieux) and accessories suited to professional film & cinema crews. We can service multiple shows at a time, and we've done every kind, from features to docs to PSAs & music videos. I myself directed the first 4K shoot in Africa in January, shooting on the RED in Rwanda with Jesse Rosten as DOP.
I spend my days on set with the crews that use our cameras, sometimes as a tech, sometimes as part of the crew, sometimes as the director. Here's some of what I've found from my experiences:
Seeing the footage quickly puts this camera in another class. In the spring Digital Film Central hosted monthly Beer & Pixel events, putting up RED footage on their Baselight 2K grading suite, doing side-by-sides with 35mm stocks and competing cameras. The footage says it all... crisp, rich, detailed, clean, with lots of dynamic range. And because of it the reception here has been incredible.
Our first big show was Sanctuary, for the SciFi network. As far as we know, Sanctuary is the first network TV show to go to camera on the RED One. We worked with Anthem Visual FX to set up a pipeline, including an on-set data cart that transfers footage, makes tape backups, and renders files for post; and a renderfarm for VFX and online.
The DP is well-known, respected name who has been shooting film his whole career. The RED is the first digital camera he's been willing to jump to from film. He loves it... He's become a true believer, and not from drinking the Kool-Aid but by working with it every day of a 90-day shoot. I know he lurks around here now and again so if he's changed his mind he can say so himself :)
I work day-in and day-out with these cameras. I know them very well, the personalities of each build, what goes wrong, what doesn't, when to panic and when to not...
80% of the time, problems are because the system is new, and a few key menus could be better laid out. They eventually become second nature... but for First ACs, when your primary job is with hardware, actors and focus marks, the delineation between System->Project->Configure->Framerate and Sensor->Varispeed->Framerate can get fuzzy... leading to messy situations.
That said, we've not had a camera problem delay production - a high vote for a new system.
The camera has been through everything you can think of - up on a Techno, steadicam, green-screen, studio, location, SFX, rain, hot & humid near the equator... and every day it's turning out fantastic looking images.
Some of the little, practical stuff:
The EVF is very good. The lack of a heater here in rainy, cold Vancouver is a problem at times... and some film operators still prefer an optical finder... but as far as EVFs go it's stellar.
It's a very power-hungry camera. Very. Power hungry. Very. We've developed some solutions but needless to say most of our existing power systems went out the window. This took some innovation on our part because of how many accessories get used with the camera... On most of our shoots, the RED ends up looking like a camera with its guts on the outside - cables, accessory boxes, antennae, FIZ units, monitors, EVFs, all bolted on every which way.
The RED accessories for the most part have gone by the wayside. Their tolerances to start were quite low, and the decision to use 19mm didn't fit our 15mm world. The Element Technica 15mm stuff is excellent, and it is now standard kit (including the EVF mount) on our camera bodies.
One thing I admire about the camera is it always talks to you if things aren't as they should be. It may be disconcerting at first, but a big red X saying it can't record is much better than a false sense of security. Not that his happens often... maybe once in a thousand shots.
Focus pullers mostly don't use the 5.6" monitor. It's got good resolution but poor contrast, making it handy as a framing guide but not entirely useful for assistance in focusing. It's light weight means it often ends up on the camera alongside the EVF and a panasonic 8.4"
None of the built-in focus or exposure tools get used because of the lack of dedicated monitoring paths for each output. I have a feeling the focus tools might get used quite a bit by 1st ACs coming from the HD world if this was changed.
DPs so far have tended to expose the way they always have - either with a monitor, or a light meter. They're not hovering by the camera, so the waveform and histogram aren't that useful to them. It's taken some time to educate DPs on how to work with RED, exposing it properly in particular. I'm excited about REDSpace and REDFlex being able to smooth out the vagaries of RAW in a Rec709 world on set, and matching looks throughout the post pipeline.
As far as post... I won't go into detail (this is getting way too long!) but I can say that it works... the biggest issue is that there are almost too many options! We're full-service: we don't just rent a camera and say "Have fun!"; we walk DPs, Producers & Post Supervisors through the myriad of questions about look management, exposure, post flow, and all the little bits and pieces. We've done everything from building custom data carts to building a rolling render farm to process footage for QC and editing... building out what each show needs for transfering, backup, and rendering.
Out of this experience we are now setting up some new services that I'll maybe post about soon... sort of paving the Red Road in post where right now it's "4x4 required". I'm very excited for the SDK to be released and for the RED ecosystem to grow in the post world as it has with on-set accessories...
If I could wish for anything beyond what Build 16 is already offering us (and the SDK promises), it would be R3D support directly in Quicktime, some revisions to the menu system, dedicated settings for each monitor path, and for RED to allow us to set up a service centre in Vancouver. It is a huge cost to us in lost revenue, FedEx & brokerage, and reputation to have to send a body down for simple problems like a blown RS-232 port.
It would also be good for RED to hire someone who's an experienced first assistant to work on their accessories and cabling. We've been able to work things out on our end but an experienced voice from the business end of mounting clock-its and power boxes and FIZ units is going to benefit the whole RED community... especially for the Epic :)
Now that Build 16 is out with REDspace, I would like to see RED release more 101-type training materials so that we have somewhere to send post supers, producers and DPs who are first time working with the RED. This helps them feel more in the know and have a good footing to come talk to us.
All-in, the RED One camera is an incredible image system. It has a couple quirks, but it is reliable. And the imagery is unbeatable. On most shows, after about a week and a half it starts to settle in like any other body, and the attention moves off the camera and on to making pictures... In this town, that's the highest form of compliment.
Thanks to Jim & the team... looking forward to making many great pictures thanks to the doors your tools have opened.