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Red One - a review from a jobbing DP.


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#1 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 03:54 PM

So..

I've now used the Red One with build 17 and build 18 quite a few times on both commercials and music videos, big and small. I've shot with it in both Los Angeles and London.

What I like about the Red is its friendly user interface and the clear way everything is labelled and displayed in film terms, not ENG-style crap like the Sony's insist on. It also looks pretty sturdy and by all accounts seems so too.

Unfortunately a nice interface does not a camera make.

First of all - image quality. Irrespective of resolution, the Red does not produce very nice images. It's something about the clippy whites that screams video a mile away. And no matter how much you protect for the highlights, they'll come bite you at some point. Just look at Che - all the shots in the jungle show really ugly clipped highlights in the dappled lighter bits. Check out the trailer. It's almost worse than on most other cameras.

In other parts of Che, fires blow unrecoverably out in daylight - that's some accomplishment. Nothing you can do, even if you had an armada of fill lights, is ever gonna get you out of that one. Well, you could underexpose of course, but that gives you low signal to noise ratio and - tata - grain. And the reality of shooting explosions is also that you don't exactly know how bright the flames are gonna get, so you need a camera that can handle hightlights. This is where film excels and destroys all video formats. But we've been to the moon, people, why can't this be sorted out? Simply don't get it.

On another project I shot a shot of a woman hanging up her white washing on an exterior. The director wanted to bring it down slightly - white linen clipped. Nothing there. We had to leave it as it was. Same with the curtains on the exterior.

And the other day I was in a studio with tungsten lights. I gelled them full CTB as I know the Red likes daylight. All of a sudden massive color shifts were taking place - the lead singer was yellow, then green and finally purple in her face. Apparently they can't handle ND filters somehow. We had to special order and send out some IR filters and the whole production had to shut down for hours. First I've ever heard of IR filters in my life - and if it's that bloody sensitive it should be a part of the standard kit, I think.

It also overheated and needed to be cooled down with a fan intermittently.

Handheld looks crap with the rolling shutter. In fact, pretty much any faster motion looks weird.

So from being quite positive the first times I've used it, it's now come to the point where I try to avoid it if I can. I try to push for the D21 or the Phantom if there's any room in the budget. They both look great compared to the Red. I wouldn't mind the IR stuff and all that, but what really puts a damper on it for me is that it just doesn't look very good. Can't put my finger on it, but i suspect it's the clippiness and "no information" highlights. I can't say I've seen one film or project that's looked good shot with it.

I am rooting for the Red, however. I just love that it's kicking the poop out of Sony and that it's a real grassroots kind of camera that's changing the industry. But they're gonna have to come up with some solutions to these problems, or people will go elsewhere.
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#2 Bobby Shore

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 04:29 PM

So..

I've now used the Red One with build 17 and build 18 quite a few times on both commercials and music videos, big and small. I've shot with it in both Los Angeles and London.

What I like about the Red is its friendly user interface and the clear way everything is labelled and displayed in film terms, not ENG-style crap like the Sony's insist on. It also looks pretty sturdy and by all accounts seems so too.

Unfortunately a nice interface does not a camera make.

First of all - image quality. Irrespective of resolution, the Red does not produce very nice images. It's something about the clippy whites that screams video a mile away. And no matter how much you protect for the highlights, they'll come bite you at some point. Just look at Che - all the shots in the jungle show really ugly clipped highlights in the dappled lighter bits. Check out the trailer. It's almost worse than on most other cameras.

In other parts of Che, fires blow unrecoverably out in daylight - that's some accomplishment. Nothing you can do, even if you had an armada of fill lights, is ever gonna get you out of that one. Well, you could underexpose of course, but that gives you low signal to noise ratio and - tata - grain. And the reality of shooting explosions is also that you don't exactly know how bright the flames are gonna get, so you need a camera that can handle hightlights. This is where film excels and destroys all video formats. But we've been to the moon, people, why can't this be sorted out? Simply don't get it.

On another project I shot a shot of a woman hanging up her white washing on an exterior. The director wanted to bring it down slightly - white linen clipped. Nothing there. We had to leave it as it was. Same with the curtains on the exterior.

And the other day I was in a studio with tungsten lights. I gelled them full CTB as I know the Red likes daylight. All of a sudden massive color shifts were taking place - the lead singer was yellow, then green and finally purple in her face. Apparently they can't handle ND filters somehow. We had to special order and send out some IR filters and the whole production had to shut down for hours. First I've ever heard of IR filters in my life - and if it's that bloody sensitive it should be a part of the standard kit, I think.

It also overheated and needed to be cooled down with a fan intermittently.

Handheld looks crap with the rolling shutter. In fact, pretty much any faster motion looks weird.

So from being quite positive the first times I've used it, it's now come to the point where I try to avoid it if I can. I try to push for the D21 or the Phantom if there's any room in the budget. They both look great compared to the Red. I wouldn't mind the IR stuff and all that, but what really puts a damper on it for me is that it just doesn't look very good. Can't put my finger on it, but i suspect it's the clippiness and "no information" highlights. I can't say I've seen one film or project that's looked good shot with it.

I am rooting for the Red, however. I just love that it's kicking the poop out of Sony and that it's a real grassroots kind of camera that's changing the industry. But they're gonna have to come up with some solutions to these problems, or people will go elsewhere.


Thanks for the post Adam,

It;s definitely interesting to hear other shooter's opinions on the RED, and I think that a lot of your take on the camera comes from a really valid place (especially the Sony poop). But, for my money, I think the RED is pretty bad ass...

I don't have a ton of experience on it, one feature, but it was such a nice change from all the other HD show's I had done... even with only a couple hours of testing, I was able to figure out a pretty good system for metering and would really only use the viewfinder/monitor for color and framing reference. I was able to take the tests to a 2K lustre suite, so I felt comfortable with the process when I finally got to set. I have to say though, it's the closest I've felt to shooting film with an HD cam...

What color space were you monitoring in? I've read a ton about using Rec 709 to help protect the highlights, but I thought it looked too video-like and preferred the REDspace (even though it was a bit lower con). Anyways, I found the latitude pretty amazing, sometimes doing day int. poop with hotspots 5-6 stops over and still holding detail. Granted, most of the other HD show's I've shot were with either the HDX 900 (which can;t handle highlights for poop) or the F-900 (which still falls apart at the shoulder)

The look of the feature was complete 70's style, strong influence from Klute and Network, so alot of dark, top lit scenes underexposed by a stop (even more) sometimes... The post house treated the show like film as well, we only shot onto cards and delivered them to the lab every day to receive DVD dailies the next morning. Having been able to set some looks with the colorist before hand (and test the work flow with the metadata dialed in camera on the day), the dailies came back looking pretty good. Again, just my take on it, but it was a pretty refreshing change from the HD shows I was used to...

I'm pretty sold on the camera (haven't used the Phantom or D21 yet), and look forward to shooting with it again... though not as much as 35mm.

Bobby Shore
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 06:05 PM

The look of the feature was complete 70's style, strong influence from Klute and Network, so alot of dark, top lit scenes underexposed by a stop (even more) sometimes... The post house treated the show like film as well, we only shot onto cards and delivered them to the lab every day to receive DVD dailies the next morning. Having been able to set some looks with the colorist before hand (and test the work flow with the metadata dialed in camera on the day), the dailies came back looking pretty good. Again, just my take on it, but it was a pretty refreshing change from the HD shows I was used to...


Thanks, Bobby.

I think in the circumstances you were in with controlled light and slight underexposure, is the best way to shoot with the Red. That's when I've gotten the best results with it as well. But on any exteriors unless it's pretty even or overcast the Red is very tricky to use without having a ton of fill light and evening out stuff. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a cheap HD camera if you need 5x 18K's for fill light.

It'd be interesting to see if the old Varicon could help the Red behave better on exteriors? Has anyone tried?
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#4 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 07:41 PM

First of all - image quality. Irrespective of resolution, the Red does not produce very nice images. It's something about the clippy whites that screams video a mile away. And no matter how much you protect for the highlights, they'll come bite you at some point. Just look at Che - all the shots in the jungle show really ugly clipped highlights in the dappled lighter bits. Check out the trailer. It's almost worse than on most other cameras.

In other parts of Che, fires blow unrecoverably out in daylight - that's some accomplishment. Nothing you can do, even if you had an armada of fill lights, is ever gonna get you out of that one. Well, you could underexpose of course, but that gives you low signal to noise ratio and - tata - grain. And the reality of shooting explosions is also that you don't exactly know how bright the flames are gonna get, so you need a camera that can handle hightlights. This is where film excels and destroys all video formats. But we've been to the moon, people, why can't this be sorted out? Simply don't get it.


First, Che was shot on somewhere between build 1 and 4 I believe. There have been huge image quality gains since then. In fact, my tests from going to build 16 from 15 showed much less noise in the image. Second, the trailer for Che looks like total crap. It is some of the most plastic looking RED footage I have ever seen. However, people who have actually seen it in the theater said that it looked 100 times better than the trailer.

On another project I shot a shot of a woman hanging up her white washing on an exterior. The director wanted to bring it down slightly - white linen clipped. Nothing there. We had to leave it as it was. Same with the curtains on the exterior.


Uhh, why did you over expose it in the first place? False color mode tells you exactly what's at what exposure in your frame (and what's clipped), so you don't go into post guessing at what you've got to work with.

And the other day I was in a studio with tungsten lights. I gelled them full CTB as I know the Red likes daylight. All of a sudden massive color shifts were taking place - the lead singer was yellow, then green and finally purple in her face. Apparently they can't handle ND filters somehow. We had to special order and send out some IR filters and the whole production had to shut down for hours. First I've ever heard of IR filters in my life - and if it's that bloody sensitive it should be a part of the standard kit, I think.


You didn't spend any time researching the problems you might have with the RED? I mean, the IR issue has been fairly well documented on both Reduser and here. Did you have more than .9 ND on the camera btw? I've had one issue with funky colors, but that had to do with 2ft tungsten kinos. Put a little magenta gel on it and it looked great.

It also overheated and needed to be cooled down with a fan intermittently.


Are you talking about the internal fans coming on or did you have to put a fan on it? How were you shooting? Inside or outside in the sun? I've used my RED outside in the sun plenty and had no issues with the camera overheating (although, I haven't used it in over 95 degree weather)

Handheld looks crap with the rolling shutter. In fact, pretty much any faster motion looks weird.


What are you talking about? I know there are rolling shutter issues, but I've only ever seen it when you are doing a whip pan out of a borne movie. Most handheld use will never see any rolling shutter issues. Heck, ask Geoff Boyle from the CML list. He just did an entire movie handheld I believe and the rolling shutter was NOT one of his issues with the camera.

So from being quite positive the first times I've used it, it's now come to the point where I try to avoid it if I can. I try to push for the D21 or the Phantom if there's any room in the budget. They both look great compared to the Red. I wouldn't mind the IR stuff and all that, but what really puts a damper on it for me is that it just doesn't look very good. Can't put my finger on it, but i suspect it's the clippiness and "no information" highlights. I can't say I've seen one film or project that's looked good shot with it.


I hate to tell you, but the D21 and the Phantom are still going to have the issue of clipped highlights. Once it's clipped, it's gone. To be honest, it sounds like you didn't do your research about the RED before you used it. If you don't know how to properly use a tool, why do you think you'd get the best possible results out of it? No, the RED doesn't have as much DR as film, but it's also cheaper to shoot with and provides for a faster on set workflow. But, you've got to know how to use it correctly.

Matthew
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 08:16 PM

First of all - image quality. Irrespective of resolution, the Red does not produce very nice images.

clipped

First I've ever heard of IR filters in my life - and if it's that bloody sensitive it should be a part of the standard kit, I think.

Handheld looks crap with the rolling shutter. In fact, pretty much any faster motion looks weird.


Ain't I been sayin' it?

I objected to the thing for a very long time on the basis that it was being promoted in a way I disapproved of. At that point I kept my mouth shut about its prowess as a camera because I had no idea, although I had distinct suspicions once I found out the provenance of the CCD. Only now, having seen the thing used, can I unhesitatingly confirm that it really isn't that clever as an imaging device. I mean, what d'you want? It's seventeen grand. It's cheap. It's a vague variation on an IBM still camera sensor being overdriven like crazy and it reacts as such. It has astonishing price to performance ratio, but that doesn't mean it's actually any good. Of course it isn't as good as a camera costing twelve times as much. D'uh.

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#6 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 08:53 PM

Ain't I been sayin' it?

I objected to the thing for a very long time on the basis that it was being promoted in a way I disapproved of. At that point I kept my mouth shut about its prowess as a camera because I had no idea, although I had distinct suspicions once I found out the provenance of the CCD. Only now, having seen the thing used, can I unhesitatingly confirm that it really isn't that clever as an imaging device. I mean, what d'you want? It's seventeen grand. It's cheap. It's a vague variation on an IBM still camera sensor being overdriven like crazy and it reacts as such. It has astonishing price to performance ratio, but that doesn't mean it's actually any good. Of course it isn't as good as a camera costing twelve times as much. D'uh.


You know Phil, I don't recall you saying that you had shot a project on the RED yet... How can you tell exactly what it can and can not do unless you actually test it?

Matthew
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 09:03 PM

... I had distinct suspicions once I found out the provenance of the CCD. ...


Isn't it CMOS?



-- J.S.
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#8 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 09:04 PM

Shocking that this thread is going to turn into a mess, which of course is normal for any thread regarding the RED.

From my experience both Adam and Phil's points (as are many of the criticisms of the camera) are accurate, and are being presented fairly reasonably in this thread.

Of course Matthew is being completely objective:
Posted Image
This is what we find on the first page of his site.
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 09:50 PM

Isn't it CMOS?


Yes, my bad.

No I haven't shot a project on it and nor would I ever choose to, for all the reasons Adam cites.

P
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#10 Mike Williamson

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 10:12 PM

Hey Adam, thanks for posting the review. Taking a look at the upcoming offerings from Red (28K medium format sensor, etc.), I was a little disappointed that there's more focus on increasing resolution rather than improving some of the things you're talking about. Specifically, it would be nice to see a less compressed data stream that maintained more color information and improved dynamic range. I'd rather see them improve on an S35mm sized chip with 4K resolution than put a bunch of money into gigantic sensors that will have minimal use in theatrical filmmaking.

Having said that, I haven't had a chance to shoot anything with the camera yet (though I've gaffed a handful of shorts that have used it and shot some quick tests back around build 15), so I'm curious to give it a try. I'd love to be pleasantly surprised by it, as people have mentioned, you can't beat the price.
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#11 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 10:18 PM

It's RED fanboys vs Red naysayers all over again . . .

for the freaking Nth time!!!!


Aww, just take a deep breath and drink your choice of Kool Aid flavor.
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#12 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:16 PM

Shocking that this thread is going to turn into a mess, which of course is normal for any thread regarding the RED.
From my experience both Adam and Phil's points (as are many of the criticisms of the camera) are accurate, and are being presented fairly reasonably in this thread.
Of course Matthew is being completely objective:
This is what we find on the first page of his site.


I'm not saying that there are not problems with the RED, but I don't feel like Adam knew how to get everything out of the camera that he could (the fact that he didn't know about the IR issue is one of the things that communicates that to me.)

If I went to your web page and saw that you rent film cameras, would that make you completely objective? I am just speaking from the perspective of someone who knows the camera very well, know hows to get the best out of it, and has been making a living off of it for the past 8 months.

What I object to is people making it sound like the RED looks worse than an HVX200. In all the projects I've shot over the last 8 months I've had zero issues with skew. Yes, I still have equal lighting out more than I would film, but far less than I would have to with a Varicam. Even then, I've been able to pull a decent amount of information out of the highlight--but I also know how much I can under expose before I make the bottom end too noisy.

Hey Adam, thanks for posting the review. Taking a look at the upcoming offerings from Red (28K medium format sensor, etc.), I was a little disappointed that there's more focus on increasing resolution rather than improving some of the things you're talking about. Specifically, it would be nice to see a less compressed data stream that maintained more color information and improved dynamic range. I'd rather see them improve on an S35mm sized chip with 4K resolution than put a bunch of money into gigantic sensors that will have minimal use in theatrical filmmaking.


I'm guessing that you didn't look at the specs of the new cameras. From the Scarlett up to the the 617 (28k RED), the data rates have been widened--drastically. Heck, going from the 4k RED, to the 5k Epic-X, the data rate has been widened 6.94 times (36 for R1 vs 250 for Epic-X). The Epic is supposed to have another stop of DR and the FF Epic is supposed to have two more stops of DR than the RED. Not to mention that by taking something like a 9k image and scaling it down to 2k, you should have less noise. That means you should be able to under expose more, bring it up in post, and then scale down to 2k with less noise. I know this is true because stuff I've shot at 4k, 1600 ISO on the RED under tungsten light scaled down to SD (480P) looks almost totally noiseless.

I will admit that the D21, Viper, & Genesis have more dynamic range than the RED. It's not tons more stops though (not like the difference between an HDV and film). I prefer the creamier image of the RED over those cameras--especially the genesis. However, I don't really see the point in shooting with those cameras over film (unless you really like the digital workflow on set.) Once you factor in rental price and the massive amount of data storage needed for those cameras, you probably could shoot film for cheaper, or very close to the same price. It seems crazy to me to shoot digital unless you can save money! I see many productions (all types) under $200,000 that are loving the RED because they can keep the film look for much less money. Instead of stock, development, and telecine costs, they have been putting the saved money into more crew, better lenses, and better talent.

BTW, I would just like to know what program Adam was looking at his footage. If he was using the proxies, then no wonder he thinks there's no data in the highlights. They look like they have about 5 stops of DR.

Matthew
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#13 Keith Walters

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 01:16 AM

Shocking that this thread is going to turn into a mess, which of course is normal for any thread regarding the RED.

Well ... if it's normal, why are you shocked?
If you want to avoid nasty shocks there's always Reduser. :P

I'm afraid this is just the CineAlta/Genesis etc story all over again.
Too many people get overheated championing a camera that they haven't used or seen in action (or at all), and then getting excessively defensive when it becomes obvious they've just been regurgitating manufacturers' hot air. (Or they wouldn't know their ass from a blocked drainpipe and it's beginning to show :rolleyes: ).

On the basis of seeing a single TV movie on SD DVD, I can report that the RED would appear to be far from being a useless camera, but it obviously requires great skill to get the best out of it. Skill which unfortunately is not so likely to be characteristic of crews on TV movie projects.
Which applies to just about any cheaper format that people try to make do the work of a more expensive format. Same ol' same ol'

And...
Earth to Fanboys:
Unless you can persuade Tim Tyler to set up a: "Cameras that Fanboys are Currently Starching their Shorts Over but Which Don't Actually Exist Yet" folder, kindly take your evangelising about what is effectively vapourware to somewhere where it will be appreciated, if such a forum exists.
Thank you.
(Note: The above is not directed at any person in particular).
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#14 DJ Joofa

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:38 AM

Unless you can persuade Tim Tyler to set up a: "Cameras that Fanboys are Currently Starching their Shorts Over but Which Don't Actually Exist Yet" folder, kindly take your evangelising about what is effectively vapourware to somewhere where it will be appreciated, if such a forum exists.


Unfortunately the didactic contribution of online forums is not being properly appreciated in the comment above. There is always an opportunity to learn even from fan boy sites if well-meaning and knowledgeable contributors are present. Before, I discovered RedUser and Cinematography.com websites last year I thought I knew most things about digital cameras; after all I have taken courses in filmmaking for a long time, make short movies, have been for several years and still develop high end specialized cameras by my own bare hands everyday, and even acted in a major Hollywood movie :lol:. However, I realized there were holes in my understanding of some issues in digital camera and cinema and took that as a learning opportunity to overcome it and am very grateful to such sites in furthering my knowledge.

Is Red One, and more importantly the new products from Red vapour ware? Though, I personally think that Red has put itself in a difficult position of overpromising, and so any hint of under-delivering can hurt its reputation, that has not hampered me from sifting through the information available from Red online resources to develop a better understanding of how an advanced digital camera should be developed.

Can Red be improved so that it is no-longer a "vapour ware"? Certainly, as I personally don't think that the best approaches were taken in its development, and some "run of the mill" type stuff in camera production has also made its way into this camera that is being touted as "industry changing." However, that shall not impede in appreciating what Red's intentions are and what can be accomplished.
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#15 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 04:08 AM

I shot a feature last year with the RED, but had none of the problems that Adam encountered. Aside from some issues with the ergonomics, I was very happy with the camera. It does seem that reports about its performance vary wildly from build to build, and from camera to camera, as if RED have a few issues with QC that they haven't ironed out yet.

I still prefer the D21 if I can get it, but the RED is not far behind.
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#16 Keith Walters

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 05:22 AM

Is Red One, and more importantly the new products from Red vapour ware?


Red One, no. Not now at any rate.
But what other "new products?" Have you seen one yet? An actual camera, not a computer generated image?

Some of the proposed new cameras are certainly do-able, nobody has said otherwise, but heated discussions about performance should wait until actual hardware exists.

The complaint, as many here will agree, is people arguing, sometimes violently, about the performance and impact on the industry of products that do not yet exist.

Thousands of Red Ones now exist it's true, but they are not the Red Ones that fanboys were getting excited about 2-3 years ago, nor have they had the industry impact that they were "going" to have.
There is a vast difference between "we expect/hope the camera will..." and "the camera will...".

If you cannot appreciate the difference between these two concepts, you will not be taken seriously by "serious" people. ("Serious" by the way, and contrary to what the average fanboy seems to think, does not mean "humourless," it means more that a person will continue to strive for excellence, even at times when it stops being fun any more....)

The reason the above statement was included was that this started out as a perfectly matter-of-fact discussion about one member's first-hand experience of using the RED in a real-world situation. In no time at all somebody started bringing the Scarlet etc into the discussion, which would be completely irrelevant even if it was a working, commercially available product, and is even more completely irrelevant since it is not.

I wish Steven Sodebergh would post something here:-)
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#17 Keith Walters

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 05:35 AM

. It does seem that reports about it's performance vary wildly from build to build, and from camera to camera, as if RED have a few issues with QC that they haven't ironed out yet.

I think you've hit the nail on the head there.
For some time I have suspected that they are trying to fix what are actually hardware problems or parameter spreads of critical parts with software modifications.
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#18 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 05:35 AM

But, you've got to know how to use it correctly.

Matthew


Matthew, Adam is one of the most prolific music promo guy's here in the UK, if I go down my local gym its more than likely I'll see one of his video's playing on an LCD above the free weights! And as the Red is very much the music promo camera of the day, so i'm sure he has approached it intelligently, with the right information and has had plenty of opportunity do so.

Regards,
Andy
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#19 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 06:06 AM

Doing my best to look at this from a purely objective standpoint, two things concern me.

- You'd have thought, if the thing was bulging with that much resolution, you'd be able to significantly underexpose to hold highlights because the noise would be so small. This doesn't seem to be the case; one harbours the sneaking suspicion that the sensor is, in itself, pretty noisy.

- It's cheap to buy, but not cheap to rent. It costs about as much as an F900 in the UK, and make no mistake - the F900 is a vastly and gigantically superior camera, obviates irksome data wrangling concerns, and can use much cheaper lenses than those which ought to do Red justice.

So what the hell.

P
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#20 Serge Teulon

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 07:35 AM

And...
Earth to Fanboys:
Unless you can persuade Tim Tyler to set up a: "Cameras that Fanboys are Currently Starching their Shorts Over but Which Don't Actually Exist Yet" folder, kindly take your evangelising about what is effectively vapourware to somewhere where it will be appreciated, if such a forum exists.
Thank you.


If there is anything good that comes out of these boring Red debates.....its the comedy! :lol:

Tim....any chance?
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