It seems that among photographers there are two types: those can be preoccupied with gear, and those that could care less and just concentrate on making images with what they have.
My experience with computers and technology has forever condemned me to the first group, among those filmmakers always interested in technology and where it is taking us.
So last week when I found myself in Texas with Philip Bloom at the Masters in Motion filmmaking seminar shooting footage with the Red Epic, it was just what I needed to soothe my craving for technology. Bloom is incredibly helpful and informative. In fact, I owe my start in HDSLR to Bloom’s Learn Canon 5D Mark II Cinematography course from F-Stop Academy. It made all the difference.
Just days before this event Canon brought out their C300 and Red brought out their Scarlet. Being a HDSLR filmmaker I was interested in this opportunity to get up close and personal with the Red to better understand the opportunities it offers to the filmmaker. For an in-depth analysis you really need to read Bloom’s post on To Buy a Scarlet or Not to Buy. He certainly offers a more comprehensive analysis than I can, but I do have some basic takeaways that I think bear repeating.
Why go to the considerable expense to move to 4k? Well, there are some valid reasons, but first let’s look at 2 negatives, then 2 positives:
-1. Delivery. Where are you going to show it? All TV is HD (except those low life standard def channels which should be outlawed in the US), and computers have no real way of displaying 4k video. Last week in Austin at the seminar we saw tons of HD videos on the 60 foot screen and I have to tell you, HD holds up extremely well. In fact much of the footage you see on the big screen is actually 2k. Very few people know that the big budget 3D films are all shown with 2k resolution. All of my work is done for TV or for the Internet, so 4k can be overkill.
-2. Horsepower. A big drawback with 4k for me is the extra time and horsepower it takes to process the footage once you acquire it. Battery life is negligible on the Epic, storage for the massive files created is expensive. 4k footage is 4x bigger than 2k and everything takes longer. Then you have to have a storage solution for the long term. You will need a big RAID and a place to store files once your RAID is filled up. However, the cost for disk storage will soon come down again and this will be less of a factor.
+1. Real Estate. There is plenty of discussion out there about HD vs 4k, but one thing that 4k comes in handy for is HD zooming. I used this technique on the 4k time lapse footage in my Monument Valley film. I was able to pan and tilt and move all over the 4k image– very, very handy. That would be great in many cases as you don’t need to have an extra take for closeups. With 4k you just don’t even worry about it, you can zoom in later in post and it holds up great. Wedding videographers can extract a single frame from their 4k footage and give prints to the bride. The high resolution of moving images obviates the need for Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment for the still photographer. However, you could get sloppy if you shot everything on the Red Epic as you can zoom in at any time.
+2. Beauty. And let’s face it, the images coming out of the Red are just plain gorgeous. I think that single factor may outweigh most of the negatives. We watched Philip Bloom’s Bangin’ n Clangin’: The Redneck Hippie, on the big screen in Austin. Even though we were watching in HD, the footage is beautiful. In 4k it would be unreal.
So there you have it from my perspective, as limited as it is. Two quick negatives, and two quick positives. After you weigh everything, do the positives outweigh the negatives? It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I’m a believer that you need to let your clients demand what you purchase. The Red may be good for Hobbits, but certainly not for Hobbiests.
I do have to tell you that actually shooting with the Red Epic is easier than the 5D, not harder. Way easier. The touch screen navigation is great. The Red has a whole lot going for it, but it can be a little bit finicky from time to time. If you want to be an early adopter and have a backup plan for when your Red fails, then this could very well be the camera for you.