Thread: Red Cameras: A new buyers look

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  1. #1 Red Cameras: A new buyers look 
    Hi all,

    First time poster, excited to join this community. First off apologies if this has been talked on, if so point me in the right direction and ignore this post.

    I am looking at dipping my toes into the Red world with my first purchase (Gemini DSMC2) and have had mixed opinions from those who I have been working with in film, TV and commercials before.

    My main questions is around the lack of positivity from Colourists about working with Red footage. I guess my question is, why do colourists not like grading on Red as much as they do with Arri and Venice?

    I have had some amazing feed back from a colour grading Facebook group, explaining it genuinely comes down to lack of skill from the operator with under exposing or messing up the image. But the colourists I have spoken to, do not work on indie work but more larger scale commercials etc.

    Is it just preference or is there a skill to grading red that requires more time?

    Thanks I’m advance!
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  2. #2  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Newcombe View Post
    My main questions is around the lack of positivity from Colourists about working with Red footage. I guess my question is, why do colourists not like grading on Red as much as they do with Arri and Venice?
    I've worked with Red material in final color for almost 15 years now. In fact, I did the very first Red project we ever got in at Technicolor/Hollywood, in the fall of 2007.

    My subjective opinion as a colorist: I thought the material from Red camera looked really terrible for about the first 2-3 years the camera was out, particularly the Red One. I also think the original Red Camera lenses were terrible. You can make an argument that DPs didn't know how to light effectively for Red (particularly for color temperature and exposure), that post didn't have the tools to debayer the material, and that we didn't understand enough in color in terms of getting into the Raw material and pull out the best possible pictures. But we all learned over time.

    Having said that... from Red Helium on over the last five years, I think the cameras have looked absolutely amazing. Some of the best images from features and TV have been shot on Red. I do know non-technical producers who'll say, "the moment they choose Alexa, everybody relaxes." So there is a degree of confidence on major-budget shows with Alexa. If I'm asked, "hey, camera do you like for post?", I'll say, "you know, it's possible to shoot great pictures on Red, on Alexa, or Sony Venice... it's really more a question of the cinematographer's skill and preference." We've done tons of projects on all three in the last few years, and they've all gone fine.
    marc wielage, csi • colorist/post consultant • daVinci Resolve Certified Trainer
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member Karim D. Ghantous's Avatar
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    I am coming from the opposite end: I am thinking about buying a Scarlet MX - a camera coming close to ten years old. The reason is that I want experience with an actual cinema camera without spending too much. It looks fantastic and quite film like. There's nothing to not love about it.

    So I can't answer the main question that you're asking, but I think some colorists, directors and DPs have very weird views on these things. Perhaps because Red RAW is actually RAW, as opposed to ProRes out of an Alexa, which is basically a turnkey camera. They don't like actually having to put in some thought to the process, IMHO. I couldn't imagine using anything other than a Red if I were a DP, although of course I am not a DP. But all of what I have seen tells me that Red is the winning ticket.
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    As Marc states there were some funky looking films early on but also he's right it comes down mostly to cinematography and post skills and his experience speaks truth. Later there were some fine looking films shot on MX, some nominated for Academy award cinematography and even at that level it still can be very subjective of course.

    But yes you may have more of a learning curve with RED RAW no matter which Red cam you chose. As far as your purchase goes, it really comes down to how deep your pockets are. If they are, then go with the latest Red, Arri or Sony you can afford but if you can't and go big without the clientele or business plan in place it can be a big problem as we've seen on here and elsewhere many times. It always seems to come down to whether you're an independent doing your own thing or someone banking on it as a business investment in which case you usually have to invest in the latest and greatest.

    Nothing wrong with the early cams for getting to know RED and they can still produce great results.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Christoffer Glans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Newcombe View Post
    H
    My main questions is around the lack of positivity from Colourists about working with Red footage. I guess my question is, why do colourists not like grading on Red as much as they do with Arri and Venice?
    Because people, in general, get stuck in what they are used to. Arri was famously easy to grade from the get-go and never underestimate laziness. We could attribute some to the better color science of Arri cameras, but a professional colorist should have no problem with R3D material.

    Then again, there are A LOT of people shooting Red who aren't close to being good cinematographers. Arri cameras are so widely used by the biggest and most experienced cinematographers around that the frequency of good material is higher with those cameras. The vast amount of bad cinematographers or sometimes people who aren't even cinematographers who think "point and shoot" is enough with an expensive camera to get good images, shoot Red.

    It's become somewhat of an iPhone vs Android thing here. Or PC vs Macs. While PC or Androids often have a lot more horsepower in their tech, iPhones and Macs are much more standardized and user-friendly. They are much more focused on letting you don't think about the tools you use and focus on the work you do. The same goes for Arri vs Red. Arri is the Mac in this equation and "it just works" (insert meme). Red on the other hand can deliver much greater power for less cost, but it doesn't "just work". There are a few more things to think about while shooting and post-workflow is a key component and essential in order to reach quality.

    I think that when things get put together, colorists who want to do the least amount of work, who are used to Arri and don't want to change, cinematographers or amateurs being a larger part of Red users compared to Arri users, the workflow knowledge bar of Red cameras, it starts to paint a clear picture of things.

    Personally, I don't see any difference between R3D and Arri workflows. Shit in, shit out. At least not when I control the entire chain of shooting. I've worked so much with Red material that the ease of Arri material just balances up and they are equal in my opinion. I prefer Arri's color science, but it's often just semantics and irrelevant nuances. What is important is what was shot and how, if that's shit, then there's shit out.
    "Using any digital cinema camera today is like sending your 35mm rolls to a standard lab. -Using a Red is like owning a dark room."
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Steve Sherrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karim D. Ghantous View Post
    I am coming from the opposite end: I am thinking about buying a Scarlet MX - a camera coming close to ten years old. The reason is that I want experience with an actual cinema camera without spending too much. It looks fantastic and quite film like. There's nothing to not love about it.

    So I can't answer the main question that you're asking, but I think some colorists, directors and DPs have very weird views on these things. Perhaps because Red RAW is actually RAW, as opposed to ProRes out of an Alexa, which is basically a turnkey camera. They don't like actually having to put in some thought to the process, IMHO. I couldn't imagine using anything other than a Red if I were a DP, although of course I am not a DP. But all of what I have seen tells me that Red is the winning ticket.
    Karim, are you saying Arri Alexa doesn’t shoot RAW? I mean they’ve been offering uncompressed RAW since 2010 and compressed RAW for a couple of years. Yes, they offer ProRes too, but RAW is what most feature films choose.
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  7. #7  
    I'm sure it's just me, but I STILL love the look of the shots we got out of our now-departed RED Ones (original and MX). What's more impressive to me is that I had ZERO idea how to do anything when we bought them. All we made sure we did was "ETTR," which, when it was first mentioned to me, I had zero idea what it meant.

    In support of Marc, however, I will never forget what he told me years ago when I asked if it were possible for me to do color and make it look professional. He strongly encouraged me to do it myself because, as he noted, "if I charge you $10,000 for a color job, you're going to get a $10,000 color job, but you can spend as much time as you want." It turned out to be the best advice I was given that year.

    Now, I'm not saying that I'm a master colorist or anything. . . far from it, actually. . . but I sure love the looks I get when I'm working with my footie.

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  8. #8  
    Moderator Phil Holland's Avatar
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    Master Colorist here. *kidding*, somewhat.

    Personal take and professional take, but mostly how I think things unfolded with some of the current stage. And I'll likely write too many words, but this is my take nonetheless.


    Mysterium-X was when I jumped into RED as an owner and that was after working with the footage from the RED One and Epic for a hot minute. At the time there weren't a lot of people who could handle the workflow, no GPU acceleration at the start of this adventure! Beyond that there was a pretty broad spectrum of figuring things out on how to make it look good. Oddly something not exclusive to RED, but also the early ARRI Alexa days too, mostly related to filtration and IR Contamination while also figuring the cameras out.

    For a while I was making good money fixing "bad footage" from a variety of studios when things got a bit extreme. Woefully underexposed or massive color casts that needed to be solved on a color correction side of things. Not fun, but revealed that digital cinema was going to be a bumpy ride for a minute. Still doing post house fixer work today btw when things get a bit too wild. Nightmares you can't possibly imagine when it comes to strange material from a bunch of cameras.

    By the time Dragon came out the whole party changed. Big fan of the sensor, the color, the dynamic range, and general image quality overall. Much better protection against IR related chaos and other badies. That was a long time ago now and clearly there's been thousands of productions shot on RED.

    RAW workflow has been a bad duo of words for some post houses, especially early on. ARRI had a chunky data rate comparative to smaller post houses capabilities or post houses who haven't cross the bridge into modern workflows for higher end productions. Similarly RED was also facing workflow related stuff before GPU acceleration and GPU decode improvements. ARRI, before RED had it integrated into camera, did have the ProRes workflow as an option and it became extremely popular, alluding to a growing field of often Mac driven post houses, making the workflow somewhat easy to digest both on a hardware and mental side of things. There's the additional headache that higher resolution and/or RAW workflows as people were coming to terms on transcoding, oh you can scale down the footage, etc. back when GPU support was somewhat of a staggered thing.

    This came at an interesting time as it was squarely in the zone when the entertainment industry was undergoing expansive growth.

    Outside of the RAW workflow consideration, data footprint is also how we got here. In the ARRI camp, ProRes represented a way to keep the data footprint lower and still get acceptable quality. RED interestingly has it's variable compression ratio RAW format which also allowed for this and that's been some of the tug of war in terms of feature set and mindset when it comes to all of this.

    Oddly the only time I have shot ARRI ProRes was for a buddy's band's music video in the last decade and overall. Anything else I've shot has been REDCODE RAW, ARRIRAW, OCN.

    But let's chat about now. We now extremely powerful GPUs. So much so that many don't think much about things like RED Rocket's anymore because acceleration, decode, encode, has all advanced greatly. If you dig through the forum you can see that moment where I was literally doing final grades in hotel rooms with powerful notebook computers. RAW workflow aren't exactly the hardest thing to deal with nowadays. It's more of how fast do you want to go and what workflow do you want?


    Leaving that tech journey behind us now for all of those who cam up through the cuts, knicks, and scratches; let's chat about the footage.

    RED is very gradable and salvageable when footage is shot poorly. Oddly when I test cameras about once or twice a year when I'm doing this +5/-5 stop situations and mentally saying to myself "jeebus I can't imagine anybody doing this", sure enough once in a blue moon people are pegged hard bouncing that football off the clipping or crushing post. Overall the REDCODE RAW SDK is in anything that supports RED footage and nicely integrated. Full RAW controls and RED also provides an underused tool in my opinion for free called REDCINE-X Pro, really nice to whack out first light corrections, save the RMD, and get to work in your post software of choice for some projects.

    Like all cameras, if you shoot well you can push that color putty a lot. You've got a lot of dynamic range as well as color information in each frame to tap into.


    One last note. I think we're also in a time of flux when it comes to workflows overall. Some houses have made LogC their entire workflow world, or building around ACES, or jumping into IPP2, or stuck in Cineon land. A good post house and colorist should not be scared of any of those workflows in my opinion. Especially now. Decent tools are far, far too readily accessible. In the mess of this is HDR which the vast majority of the industry isn't mastering for, though a bunch of us are and unlocking various workflows as standards were/are developing has been the most recent wild west.

    From there this is really one of those things there where it's not really the chef's tools, but more about which chef is in the kitchen when it comes to expecting a tasty colorful dish.


    Ending side note. In the late 2000s it took about 15-30 seconds to "ingest" a frame of REDCODE RAW into a typical film studio's workflow via a single box. i.e. converting it to a 16-bit DPX, TIF, EXR, or RLL. Oddly not too far off from film scanning times before they improved also in that decade. This was before any sort of support was around. In 2021 I can export 8K in beyond realtime from many applications with readily available hardware. Basically starting from a point of dragging footage behind you on an unpaved road and then advancing to flying footage in the sky. Whole different ballgame.
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  9. #9  
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    I think what people call the look of a RED sensor (i.e the Mysterium or MX look) was mostly tied to where the color science software was at that particular time the sensor was released.

    Run 10+ year old MX footage with the older color science through the newer IPP2 color science and that same footage looks like it was shot with a different (upgraded) camera.

    There's a tendency to tie the evolution of RED strictly to the advancements made to the various sensors.
    While there were definitely great strides made from the original Mysterium to Dragon and beyond, there were also considerable advancements in gamma and color that seemed to be more software driven with the various updates in RED color science.

    One of the top strengths of REDCODE compared to other RAW codecs is that ability to reprocess old footage via software based color, gamma, and debayer advancements that resulted in images that felt like a complete camera hardware upgrade.

    I'm not sure if anyone else in the industry has been able to provide that same experience.

    Outside of harder core RED shooters and those that closely follow these advancements, I don't think most people realize this when discussing RED footage.

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  10. #10  
    Senior Member PatrickWebb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Newcombe View Post
    ... I have had some amazing feed back from a colour grading Facebook group, explaining it genuinely comes down to lack of skill from the operator with under exposing or messing up the image. But the colourists I have spoken to, do not work on indie work but more larger scale commercials etc.

    Thanks I’m advance!
    Firstly, welcome !

    I have been working on the MX sensor for a while now and I shoot and grade all of my work. There are always things to understand about what the cameras can and cannot do. That also goes for the systems you're editing the R3D's from. I work with a colour calibrated monitor (along with 2 other monitors ~ 3 in total) when grading and that helps me greatly work on grading the footage. I feel that the R3D files from my MX sensors, anywhere from 10:1 to 3:1 compression has massive latitude and colour depth to work with. You can push and pull a lot and the codec can handle most situations. As long as you expose correctly to your scene and shoot with intent, you generally have a great image to work with ~ generally speaking.

    You might have to ask yourself what are you looking to produce and how much cash do you have set aside for this investment. You might also look at a second hand system with a full kit attached to it and play around with that to see if you like it. If you, for example, buy a Scarlet-W with accessories, that can be a good start if you are dipping your toes in and you wont break the bank. If you feel, then, like you need the lower light capabilities of the Gemini, then you can always upgrade / swap out the brain (or sensor, if I am not mistaken, if there is an upgrade path ~ not sure about that, though!). There, you can learn the ecosystem. I know that the sensors are different, however, you get the taste for the IPP2 R3D workflow for under USD10k (looking at the trend of second hand SW's on the market).

    I think you will be positively surprised.

    I hope that helps somewhat?

    Cheers
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