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RED ONE MX Camera (a working review)

This page is new for 2013

FOR SALE: RED One MX body, monitor, lenses and accessories

RED One MX, Epic, Scarlet, Arri Alexa, Sony F65, F3, Cannon C330, D5MK11, GH2 etc, etc:

Click here to go to our latest Behind-the-Scenes working review update

Just some of the cameras that many digital film makers talk about; however, while keeping abreast of what is going on, I find it’s getting to the point where it can become quite a distraction. It’s easy to give yourself a headache researching the latest products when all you want to do is get on with it. With shooting scheduled for a feature at the latter part of the year – 2012, and after much ado, I decided to buy into the RED One MX system including a set of RED Pro Primes. At the end of filming we may sell everything off or, then again, we may not. With the recent influx of excellent condition RED kits for sale… it just made sense.

The following review is really for anyone else pondering these same issues and, with production starting in November 2012 (film website behind the scenes live soon), we did extensive tests with camera, lenses, filters, keying, editing and grading.

Note: Studio Scotland's RED One MX body, monitor, lenses and numerous accessories are now available for purchase. For the complete March 2014 pricelist click here.

RED ONE MX Camera
  RED Camera fitted with mattbox.

RED One Introduction:

When the first RED camera was introduced it caused quite a stir and rightly so. It played a big part in changing the film industry in more ways than one. As a company, Studio Scotland was working on a number of feature projects at the time and the RED One was on the purchase list but as time went on, and our commercial commitments changed, our need for this type of camera was no longer a requirement. We knew however, that we would be back at some point in the future with the added benefit of returning to a system that would have moved from beta testing to, hopefully, a stable platform.

Briefly, and in general, the American produced RED ONE MX (Mysterium X) is a 4.5K digital cinema camera that can be configured with a range of accessories for a variety of digital film applications. It takes standard PL mount cine lenses and, via adapters, can also be married to Nikon / Canon and B4 mount lenses. The MX is the upgrade chip version of the original M (4k) model. Red has gone onto develop two other models, notably the 5K RED Epic, the 4.5K RED Scarlet and the 6K RED Dragon sensor upgrade.

Is the RED ONE MX now replaced by Scarlet & Epic?

The quick answer would be no, however; much depends on your own needs and future requirements. The last software release utilising RedColour 3 has been a welcome update. The R1MX remains a highly capable camera and in the right hands will produce high detail raw data for stunning images. Certainly the Epic and Scarlet have many advantages for the film maker and, while the R1MX can be stripped down utilizing CF or SSD cards, it does lend itself to a more paced approach. Having said that, using an Easy Rig Cinema 3 to take the weight enables easier hand held options (although some folks don’t like them) and if you look at the behind the scenes of "Gamer", with Gerard Butler, you will see just how flexible the R1MX can be!

What about purchasing a RED One used?

The beginning of 2012 began a flurry of sales of the R1M & MX models, complete with all kinds of accessories, with some asking prices dropping way below their worth. I’m not sure what actually happened. It was if there was a knee jerk reaction amongst certain RED owners, much to the disapproval of the RED community. Either way, if you are in the market for a cinematic camera system, there really couldn’t be a better time to check out the used RED market. Certainly, there are many rental houses and private individuals selling complete RED One outfits and bargains are definitely to be had. However, before jumping too quickly into a purchase, it should be noted that there are quite a few things to consider. Having spent a good deal of time researching this I have passed on my own comments below.

Note: With all the marketing hype surrounding camera equipment these days, it needs to be understood that 4K professional film projects are not cheap to produce and there are many factors involved in the complete end to end of such productions. It’s a bit like buying a boat; having shelved out all your pennies to purchase the craft, you then find you can’t afford to fill the fuel tanks let alone the accessories that help navigate safely.

1: M or MX? – While the RED One M (M was the first sensor model) was the first chip release, and as long as the firmware has been updated (free download from RED website support), this model is a highly capable camera and can be sent into RED Service for an MX upgrade (firmware downloads available from website), although this is quite costly (approx $5,000.00 at 2012). Ideally, purchasing the MX upgrade model is definitely more desirable as it will also be more sellable should you wish to do so after your project.

2: Confirming Camera Details – Powering the camera up (approx 60 second boot time) will show on the monitor what chip is installed – you will see a big "X" if it has the latest MX Chip. Pushing in the "Clear Button" and depressing the "Centre Toggle" on the back of the camera, you can find out "Hours" of Use, the "Firmware Version" and the "PIN Number" (required to download firmware from the RED support website). The serial number is on the bottom of the camera and should be checked against the “stolen register” on the RED website and others.

It should be noted that a camera with over a thousand hours means nothing as the only moving part is the fan which, over time, can get noisy and may need replacing.

3: Accessories – The cameras can be sold with a variety of accessories and it is here that you really need to make sure that you get what you need or you will find your camera budget increasing greatly. For most applications you will be looking for a monitor (5" or 7" – 7" is very nice to work with) and / or an EVF (Viewfinder) complete with cables (cables approx $200 + each! – if you can, double up for backup). Hard drives (no longer made) are excellent for those needing long recording times although care needs to be exercised where excessive vibration or movement exists – dropped frames can be a problem. A camera that comes with a CF module or SSD module (left side of camera) is most desirable for a camera on the move – however, useable SSD modules are expensive. You will need rails / rods and fixing plates for the camera so that a battery and / or hard drive housing can be attached as well as grips for hand holding, carrying and for attaching a Matte box – you will need a 19mm to 15mm adapter to accommodate 15mm box or Follow Focus attachments. You will require V-Lock batteries and a charger; Red’s batteries tend not to get the best reviews in the world and some people prefer to use other makes such as IDX (see our test below). A mains supply unit is very welcome for those long shoots where electrical supply and camera movement is not an issue. Like all high quality cameras, power drain must be taken into consideration. Make sure that you get all the necessary cables to connect up devices such as the adapters needed for the mini audio and SDI connectors. A handy unit is the SDI breakout box which fits over the mini sockets to enable industry standard BNC connections. While there are many accessories, those listed are the usual items.

4: Lenses – The R1MX is of course a cinematic camera and, as such, comes with a PL mount for the mounting of cinematic PL mount lenses. High quality lenses are, of course, expensive and, for many on a budget, you can either hire them for a job or you can opt for using Nikon / Canon or similar glass via a proprietary mount available from RED. While there are pros and cons regarding lens types and methods used, it usually comes down to budgets and personal choice.

RED developed their own lens brand in the form of the RED Pro Prime and Zoom collection and these high quality lenses are very good value for money. The main complaints tend to be about the weight and lack of lens markings. While these points may be valid for some, there is no doubt that they are excellent value and can rival, and even better, lenses much greater in price.

5: Editing – Shooting 4K raw data requires a lot of grunt and if you are serious about production then you need to think about getting a RED Rocket graphics card for real-time playback and greatly accelerated transcoding times, particularly slo-mo footage shot at 120fps.

You will also need to download REDCINE-X (also Pro Beta version available). This free software is where you will transcode the .R3D files (the proprietary raw file format used) into your file format of choice to be transferred to your NLE editing software. REDCINE-X also allows you to colour correct clips as well as small colour grading options (Pro-X does much more). Of course, if you desire high end grading then you would export your clips into your software of choice but you need to watch for your computer freezing or locking up if your complete through-workflow is not up to the task.

6: Manuals – As with most things, reading the free downloadable manuals will pay dividends and help you make informed choices. A casual look on some forums can lead you to believe that there are all kinds of issues and stumbling blocks involved, particularly as there is so much old information on the web; but I have to say that most of the issues that get raised are down to individuals not understanding even the basics of what the manuals clearly outline. Production at this level is complex, yet with patience and a methodical approach, most will be able to learn.

7: Buyer Beware? – In general, the camera is built like a tank and the only moving part inside is the fan (If it gets noisy it needs replacing). Clearly, common sense should prevail; a camera system that has had a lot of “hire usage” may suffer cosmetic blemishes, worn threads and the usual wear and tear. It should be safe to say that hire firms will keep their equipment regularly serviced and firmware up to date, while owner operators range from those who do very little work and treat their gear well to those who give their equipment hard use and a hard time.

8: Servicing / Repair – Depending on your location, servicing or repair is definitely something you need to consider so find out where your nearest service centre is and give them a call to see what’s available. In the UK, the service centre is based in Pinewood Studios. Please note that servicing / repairs can be costly.

 

RED One MX – First impressions:

There’s no doubt about it, the RED One MX is built like a tank and it feels very solid in your hands. There is no need to be concerned about cheap plastic fittings and fragile components which are all to common on a range of professional cameras. The R1MX is no lightweight and if it’s going to be tricked out with accessories you need a decent tripod and a fluid head that will cope.

Building the camera up is really very simple and there are various ways to configure the accessories depending on the shooting method employed and, once built, could easily be left that way; it’s all down to individual requirements. We fitted the Element Technica (RED accessories supplier) SDI breakout box (BNC connectors) over the mini gold connectors on the right side of the camera body. I personally like to work with industry standard connectors that are hardy in construction. The mini gold connectors can get bent through hard use.

The menu system is easy to navigate once you get used to it and using the RED 7” monitor mounted on the camera is very nice, much nicer and more convenient than our Sony LMD 9050 monitor. The display can be configured for individual preferences. One of the biggest complaints regarding the camera is the boot-up time which works out around 60 seconds. While instantaneous start up is always nice (very much needed for documentary and reality work) I personally have no problem with this, as our RED has been purchased for specific projects that have a more manageable and paced production flow.

At the end of the day, it’s a computer and, as such, needs to be treated with respect if you want it to treat you well in return. Adhering to the operating manual instructions and using the correct accessories should keep the need for troubleshooting to a minimum. Okay, let’s look at things in a little more detail…

 

Red One and Setting Up:

As with any piece of complex kit the operating manual should be read and re-read (These are PDF downloads available from the RED website). Using the onboard 7" RED monitor we went through the manual page by page checking all the settings in the menus. It takes a while but highly recommended. Do read the section on “Black Shading”. Back focus should be checked.

Audio should be checked for both – Line, MIC and Headphone operations on all 4 channels. Please note that the audio menu buttons must be configured correctly and chosen / highlighted properly so as to avoid audio anomalies, we thought we had some channel issues but turned out to be we were not highlighting the buttons properly.

Frame rate settings are listed in the manual and it’s important to make sure you understand these. Most people work in both RED Code 36 & 42 at 4k, while 120 fps slow-mo requires 2k setting. Note that lenses will double in focal length at 2K resolution.

 

Red One Power Consumption:

As with all high end camera equipment, high battery draw is something you expect. As already mentioned, some people do not like the RED V-Lock batteries and one criticism has been the poor fitting of the V-Lock mechanism when attaching the RED Brick to the V-Lock plate, so it’s always a good policy to make sure that they are seated properly. Personally we have no problems with ours, they lock perfectly.

However, we have found that you do need to make sure they are properly locked on the V-Lock mount if used on other products such as a Sony field monitor or Coolights LED panel. We find that the battery can become disengaged if vigorously handled. The battery will give you 90mins recording time and requires 3 hours to fully charge. Testing a RED brick on one of our Coolights LED600 panels lasted 3 hours (an IDX 7 lasts one hour). The battery charger comes with a power supply so that it can be used to power the camera, although it will not charge the batteries at the same time (some do not work with the MX upgrade – they will cut-off as mentioned in the operating manual). There is also an AC adapter which I would definitely recommend if you are going to have power available. It may also be prudent to purchase a spare… just in case.

Of course, what really sucks the power are the attachments (if required) such as EVF, Monitor and Hard Drive (These can overload the RED battery charger unit – best to use the RED mains supply).

 

RED Hard Drive / CF Card / SSD Card:

RED Hard Drives are no longer made but can be bought used in 320GB and 640GB models. 4K Raw files are large and, while hard drives have their short comings, useable data space is not one of them. These really are an excellent and cheap way to record lengthy filming sessions (for important projects – off-load every 10–20 minutes of footage for safety). As with any hard drive they don’t like to be moved about too much and are also susceptible to vibration. We actually experienced these problems with JVC’s first foray into the HD market with the GYHD101 and Focus Hard Drive attached (The RED set up is much superior). Once again, it’s all about using the right tools for the job.

CF cards must be the proprietary RED type if you want to avoid problems. To use these high speed cards you need a CF module which replaces the branded side panel on the camera. As with all CF cards, care needs to be taken when inserting so as not to damage the contact pins. CF cards come in 8 & 16GB sizes. A 16GB card will hold 8 mins of 4K footage. While the cards will fill very quickly, this method is perfect for handheld work or where vibration is an issue. RED warns that you are best to also use a RED CF Station card reader to transfer the data to your computer. Finding one used is not easy as people tend to hang onto them and one new will cost you approx £180.00 + VAT from Pinewood (RED UK supplier).

SSD cards are once again a RED product and require an SSD module that replaces the same branded panel plate. They also require a RED specific reader (RED SSD Station) to transfer the data to a drive or computer. Please note that you require a stable mains supply to the CF & SSD readers to avoid possible data corruption.

Note: It is not wise to try and completely fill up any of the media capture solutions – allowing a margin of up to 40% free space should keep you clear of possible data recording issues.

As with all media, they require "Formatting" before use in a camera and "Un-mounting" before removal from camera or computer. Data corruption at 4k must be guarded against and having a tight professional methodology will help to protect this from happening. Data Corruption can usually be sourced back to a weak link in the workflow and human error; not always… but very often. There is a "Dropped Frame" feature displayed on the monitor and should this record one, then filming must stop immediately and the media offloaded and re-formatted. It is imperative to check for lost work through data corruption.

 

Data Storage / Management:

Without a doubt, this is something that cannot be ignored and needs to be budgeted for. Data storage / management is determined by many factors; the needs of the "one-off" film maker and that of a busy production studio are clearly very different. What is important is a robust system that is fit for purpose and if you intend to keep producing film projects then a system that can grow with your needs is the best way forward. Whatever you do, 3 copies of the source material is standard practice; ignore this at your peril. We have personally experienced two brand new G-Raid drives fail, one right after the other, whereby all data was unrecoverable. Thankfully we had one last back-up. You have been warned!!!

It is advisable to use a proprietary programme that will make multiple copies of your data to drives out-with the main computer and check each file on completion. A popular software option is “R3D Data Manager” which is easy and quick to use and will certainly give peace of mind on a large project.

RED LCD Monitor / EVF / Focusing:

On the rear of the camera there is a menu display screen but it’s a little small to work with and so the optional 5" or 7" LCD display monitor, designed for the camera, (use either or both LCD monitor/EVF depending on shooting style) enables you to see all menu features and technical displays very easily. The display is a well made and robust HD LCD monitor and very good for menu navigation, exposure check and focus assist to name but a few things.

The EVF is BIG and quite heavy. The unit has various features including three user assigned buttons and the ability to choose a range of menu options via a rotating dial. Once again, it’s about shooting style and the type of project in hand. I personally like to use both EVF and LCD display when faced with varying shooting conditions. It should be noted that attaching the unit to the camera, like most of all the other RED fittings, is not cheap.

Focusing is always an issue with cameras that can capture high resolution images, however, RED has a number of methods that an individual can employ. The zoom-in feature allows for pretty quick assessment of focus. You can also attach a large HD monitor (preferably 20"+ in size) via the SDI link and have someone monitor the focus. Of course, another timeless method is to measure off the distance scale from your lens; this requires accurate back-focus. At the end of the day, most employ some or all of these methods and it’s a case of doing what suits each individual. Whatever the method, focusing for 4K large screen projected projects is absolutely critical, particularly when using wide open apertures.

Having a computer system on set is critical for expensive or one-off shoots and we use a MAC 8 core fitted with RED graphics card and RED player (free download from Red) which enables us to check scenes at 100% very quickly.

Attaching the Red Rock focus puller rail adapter to the RED One Camera.
Attaching the Red Rock focus puller rail adapter to the RED One Camera.

RedRock FF & Red One Camera:

When fitting a Follow Focus designed for 15mm rails onto the 19" rails of a RED One you will need an adapter. Seen here in the pictures is the Redrock Micro 15-19mm adapter for the Redrock Follow Focus 2 unit. When using RED Pro Prime lenses there is not a great deal of clearance under the lens, something that may need to be considered depending on lens choice. There are other methods of attachment but you do need to be careful that all the various attachments do not foul each other. If you live outside of the USA, delivery for these items can take some time.

Redrock Focus Puller with Whip as attached to the RED One camera.
Redrock Focus Puller with Whip as attached to the RED One camera closeup.

RED One In The Field and Image Quality:

There are a few well written blogs on the various aspects of resolution, dynamic range, colour space and so on. What I don’t want to do is repeat the same sort of information here. As for technical lens tests on the RPPs, once again, I’ll leave that to others. At the end of the day, I either like the look or I don’t.

As mentioned before, the RED is heavy and requires a sturdy tripod and grip equipment. We had a wheeled flight case designed so that our RED system could be safely stored yet easily accessed and moved around.

For those who come from a film background (be it motion or stills), dealing with the RED One will come naturally. As long as the scene in question is correctly lit for the required look, paying attention to areas of under and over exposure and / or the nature of colours, reflectance and absorption of light, the requirement for Infra-Red filtration on ND filters over 0.6 density, a high quality RAW file will be the result. With a high quality RAW file in the can you can confidently go ahead and grade your footage.

The Dynamic range of the RED One MX is NOT as wide as the Arri Alexa or the Sony F65 so, to get similar results, you need to pay more attention to your lighting. However, with the 4.5K sensor, what you do have is lots of resolution and that is great for pulling tricks at the edit stage. Being able to track footage as if the scenes were a dolly or crane move is a nice touch. Punch-Ins are possible but care should be taken depending on scene. Reframing and motion tracking are all great tools.

The image is clean (not to be confused with software sharpened video images) and I like that because it means I can soften it any way I like through the use of filters or lens choice. For some scenes such as panoramic landscapes of cluttered cities and thick forests, I like as much detail as I can get, the R1MX does that. I do prefer to use a range of softening filters for film projects.

The MX sensor does not like tungsten lighting (noise) and if you shoot with it then you need to gel for daylight. Skin tones can tend to have a slight magenta tint if you are not careful, however, with the correct application of make up and lighting control this can be overcome.

There’s not much more to say really, the RED One MX is a very capable tool. The grading process is a whole different ballpark. While a correctly exposed Raw file will have a lot of latitude to have fun with, it’s also the place where many mistakes are made in the hands of those not used to image manipulation. Thankfully, the RAW file remains the same as any corrections or manipulations are non destructive.

We will put some short tests up in due course.

R1MX stripped down to bare essentials, right side.
R1MX stripped down to bare essentials, left side.

THE R1MX Stripped Down:

Can the R1MX be stripped down? Yes. Starting with the body only and using either CF or SSD cards and the camera connected to a mains cable (if possible), a handle fitted on top or one rail (need a rail base plate) and a handle grip + lens + EFV or monitor (using lightweight hood), a towel over your shoulder and you have a manageable package. Take a look behind the scenes of "Gamer", with Gerard Butler, to see the RED being used "Run N Gun" and great tracking shots with the cameraman skillfully using a skateboard.

Conversely, if you are out in the field and the camera needs built up, while shoulder mounting this beast for short periods is of course possible (you need a nice pad on your shoulder), the use of something like an EasyRig Cinema 3 will make life so much easier as it will take all the weight all day.

Exposure / Colour Grading:

Capturing raw data allows for maximum digital information that can then be manipulated in post production. In essence, the RED One (and similar cameras) is designed to capture a digital negative and the job of post production (the digital lab) is to develop the negative. Every effort should be made to expose for a high quality digital negative through the correct handling of highlights and shadow areas. The R1MX has a very helpful exposure aid where you can monitor over and under exposure values in the form of both a colour histogram and level indicators. Another very useful feature is the false colour aid which is assigned by default to both the EVF and LCD monitor buttons – you can visually see areas of underexposure turn purple and areas of overexposure turn red. As with all these tools, it requires interpretation and experience. However, once understood, it is a very welcome aid.

As with all things, do your own tests, in particular, those that cover a range of scenes that your particular project will encounter. A good tradesman knows his tools and understands the environment he uses them in. Testing builds confidence.

IRND Filters and Others:

Probably, the most important set of filters required is a good range of Neutral Density filters, preferably with built-in Infra-Red features to avoid mattebox stacking and filter reflections. Tests clearly show that as you apply ND filters over 0.6 they have the effect of a magenta tint which in turn causes blacks to look red / brown. At ND 1.8 the IR contamination is horrendous. If this contamination is not corrected at the camera, you will have a hard time in post production and you will regret it. After much research I leaned towards a set of Schneider Platinum Series IRND’s (they do add a slight green tint which is much easier to correct than magenta), however, after months on a waiting list (manufacturing issues?), in desperation I decided on a set of Pancro Hot Mirror IRND’s. I initially avoided these filters due to some complaints regarding ghosting/reflection issues. However, to date we have not experienced any problems and are very happy with them. One thing I will say about the Pancro’s, there is no colour shift whatsoever when using them. Other popular manufacturers are Tiffen, Formatt and Rosco, every filter set has its pros and cons.

If you are using Cine lenses then you should use 4x5.6 filters and not 4x4 filters. The smaller filters will cause vignette problems and colour variation on wide lenses as well as those that are stopped down.

EFX filters such as softeners and graduated colour filters are all down to individual preference and what may be required in a given scene. With RED Cine-X Pro, colour tints and softening can be applied in a non destructive way which is very useful. However, Softeners / Fogs and Mists create so many beautiful highlights which is impossible or impractical to re-create in post. Colour tints are best avoided as this can easily be added at the grading stage although, once again, testing will help make informed choices. Various graduates and vignette filters can be applied by utilizing Photoshop.

The RED image is very clean and for film projects I personally prefer to soften that image. When using filters such as Classic Diffusion or Pro Mist, one method is to use a ½ grade filter on close-ups (particularly women), a ¼ on medium shots, an 1/8 on wider shots and, perhaps, no filtration on wide vista scenes that require good detail. As filters are expensive and may only be used for one particular job. Hiring is a popular way of being able to experiment. Remember not to use any diffusion when shooting chromakey.

Chromakey – Green Screen or Blue Screen?

Due to the blue channel limitation on the RED One, Green Screen is best suited for use with the RED MX cameras, being lit with daylight corrected lamps. As with any Chromakey shoot, attention to detail is important for a good key. Remember not to shoot wide open or use diffusion filters as soft edges are always difficult to key. For maximum detail I personally shoot RED Code 42 at 4K.

During shotgun/tree bark explosion tests we had to use Blue screen within a forest location and shooting at 2k RedCode 28 as we were using a 120 frame rate to slow down the footage. To help with keying I also prefer to increase shutter speed to help sharpen edges and reduce keying contamination. The results were very good, the exploding pieces of bark showed no signs of blue key contaminant. However I would like to add that I much prefer shooting 4k Redcode 42 and down converting to 2k as you can definitely see the quality difference on a large screen.

RED Pro Prime 35mm lens
  RED Pro Prime 300mm lens

RED Pro Prime Lenses:

PL Cine glass is notoriously expensive and one reason why most people hire them or revert to using an adapter to allow the use of stills camera lenses such as Nikon or Canon. While individuals successfully use a range of 35mm stills lenses and 16mm cine lenses, RED developed the PL mount cine RPP and Zoom lens set. From 18mm through to 300mm, the primes are very good glass and, while heavy and lacking in distance markings at the lower end of the scale, they are tremendous value for money. With an average T stop of 1.8, they are very useable in lower light conditions and are very clean / sharp. Edge definition is very good across the aperture setting. We have one of the early RPP 300mm lenses (T2.8) and I would say that, while it’s still sharp, it is a tad softer than the others in the range. Some people have raised small points regarding the feel of the Iris and focus controls but I personally have no issues with them. You do need a good follow focus and, if you are using a motorized unit , make sure it is suitable as a cheap unit could likely fail with a lot of use.

I did read one review that disliked the clean sharp image from the RPPs and, while I would agree that the image for a feature often benefits from a softer lens (but not always), clearly you have the best of both worlds. If you need a sharp panoramic scene you’ve got it. Want it a bit softer? Use a filter. Of course, for visual effects work (RED cameras being a popular choice for many blockbuster features) the combination of 4.5k resolution and sharp / clean glass is beneficial.

The zooms are 17mm – 50mm and 18mm – 85mm (RED has a habit of changing things so best to check the site for latest products). At present, we don’t own any zooms so I can’t personally comment on them other than to say that those who do own them have good things to say.

4 Channel – 24bit Audio:

The MX version has the Audio B upgrade board and this is, once again, desirable, particularly if you will be recording audio to camera. The RED One MX supports 24 bit audio with 4 channels requiring mini XLR connectors / adaptor. A unit converting the mini XLR outputs to industry standard XLRs is available but it’s not something I feel is necessary.

The audio options within the menu can be a little confusing at first so it’s important to make sure that all settings are correctly highlighted and chosen (Read the manual). While the RED camera is quite capable of capturing decent audio for corporate and documentary work, for a feature it’s always best to do double sound. Our preferred method is to record the primary audio signal through a mixer to a separate recorder and, where applicable, send the secondary signal from the mixer to the camera for a scratch track. For ambient audio, where time is pressing, we also use the camera’s on-board audio recorder with a choice of mics such as a Senn 416 or a Rode NTG-2.

A point worth mentioning is that the headphone return does sound a bit below par (bit of an echo) and while it’s quite adequate to make sure everything is working most soundmen don’t like it.

Porta Brace carry-on camera bag
  RED MX Camera sits atop its dedicated flight case.

RED One and Flight Case Transportation:

While the RED One comes in its own 1650 Peli case (RED Branding) which is fine for shipping, it’s certainly not ideal for continuous working. For our needs, the camera is generally built-up for most shooting scenarios and we decided to make life easier by purchasing a 700x400x400 wheeled flight case fitted with custom foam liners to accommodate a fully built up R1MX and various accessories. This enables the complete camera system to be moved from one location to the next without time consuming camera break-down / re-builds. It also stops various (expensive) cables from being consistently man-handled. Anyone thinking of doing the same needs to pay attention to the type of foam used, particularly that which separates the camera body and the floor of the flight case (vibration transmission issues). A dedicated foam centre will be able to give advice but we would suggest closed cell foam for the base preferably 2" thick. After a short while you will be amazed at the depression the camera rig will produce in the foam.

With the camera broken down into a "bare essentials" package including lens, it fits easily into a Porta-Brace camera bag designed for 2/3” broadcast camcorders.

RED Rocket & Cine-X / Editing:

Do you need a RED Rocket graphics card? That is up to you. 4K Raw files require a lot of processing power to playback real-time (you can set the "debayer" playback in RED Cine-X to suit your processor but the footage will look poor at lower settings) and you will need to transcode the RAW .R3D files into the codec of choice – for Mac users this is usually an Apple ProRes 4444 codec and, depending on how much footage you have, could take you days!

The Red Rocket card is necessary for the professional production studio and its mounting in a computer must be in accordance with the user manual (very important!). There are various software downloads required to get all up and running and these are available free of charge from the RED website.

Generally speaking the workflow is as follows: Capture footage onto Drive or Card in accordance with the frame rate and setting desired > Un-mount media > Utilizing a stable power supply, mount onto the desk top via FW800 / USB > Rename file folders in accordance with any file naming / clapper information protocol you are implementing (do not rename actual .r3d files) > Using R3D Manager, copy onto 3 drives (two should be out with the computer to reduce heat issues and disaster through a motherboard failure issue) > Open RED Cine X (pro) and import .R3D files. For quick viewing you can use Red Player (free download from Red), we use this for quick examination of scenes as well as viewing at 100% to check areas focus.

Sony PDW-700 XDCAM HD422 & RED One Footage 1080p and 2k Intercut:

The PDW-700 XDCAMHD 422 Camera is an excellent shoulder mounted 2/3" chipped camera recording 50mbps data with 11 stops dynamic range. The camera head can be used with a third party capture device to increase the data rate.

Our tests did not come as a surprise, the RED One is the clear winner in every aspect, however there is no doubt that footage from a PDW-700 could easily be intercut with Red footage at 2K output in certain circumstances. On the basis that a high quality finish (not overly graded) is required and the completed project is for television, then close-up XDCAM422 clips can be easily intercut. Certainly as you would expect if you move to larger screens (cinema) and 4k output then that becomes a different story. For scenes that are a bit more gritty or where you would not expect such high detail then once again XDCAMHD422 will do a good job.

RED One Issues:

As cameras go, it’s very well built and a solid piece of engineering. It’s been around for a few years now and has a long list of award winning projects to its credit. As long as the camera is up to date with its firmware and does not require servicing or repair and the operation manual has been followed along with proper use of accessories, there should be no reason for any issues. Can things go wrong? Of course they can, but human error is often not far away in regard to some issues that get raised.

The RED One is a camera system that requires a methodical approach and every individual will have there own way of setting up and operating, and that’s really the beauty of this system. It’s customizable to suit your personal needs / requirements. Cables are expensive and some people have complained that they don’t last. Certainly on handling they do look well made but, as with any cable, it’s always prudent to treat them well (no unnecessary twisting and straining). The camera needs to be kept cool and it’s a good idea, if filming for long sessions with no audio, to set the Fan to "Hot" and / or you can use a cooler bag and rest it on the top of the camera body. This is actually a very wise precaution if shooting outdoors in the heat. There’s some good "behind the scenes" stills of Che where you can see two R1MX’s complete with ice packs sitting on them.

RED – The Company:

Unfortunately, RED has taken quite a bit of flak from various individuals over the years and there are forums where the very mention of the name RED causes a bad reaction. When the company first began I watched with great interest and understood that what was being proposed was going to be a journey. For my company and our production requirements, that was not something we could buy into but we watched nevertheless with interest and I admire people who have the courage to take the risk and do something new. We now own an R1MX system, we have purchased a number of products from RED and, to date, we have had very good service.

The RED website is a lot better than it used to be and has many instructional films which are very helpful. Of course, the REDUser.net community forum is sited as the place to go for questions and answers and, while there are answers to many topics from individuals who are very generous with their time and experience, unfortunately, there can be a deal of noise and trying to get meaningful information can be a long and arduous search.

Summary:

We begin filming at the end of the year and, once the feature is completed, I will be in a position to comment on our experiences. Certainly, I am grateful to Jim Jannard and the team at RED who have made this possible.

Today, there are so many choices for the film maker working at different budgetary levels; it’s about finding what’s right for you and your project. Once found, pour all your energy into the content of your production.

 

Stewart Menelaws (Director of Photography)
www.studioscotland.tv