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Red and Documentary Work


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#1 Matt Irwin

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 08:36 PM

Hi,

I've just been approached about shooting a documentary on the Red. My information regarding the production is limited as of now (meeting is tomorrow), but I was hoping someone here might be able to share some experiences with doc work and the Red. I do know that my choice in cameras is non-negotioable, and given the rate I was offered along with some other cues, I will probably not have an assistant.

The Red is not exactly the first camera that springs to mind when I think about documentary / verite-style shooting - in fact it's toward the bottom of the list, but that's not to say it can't be done. I imagine a backpack full of batteries and drives will be in my near future.

Am I correct in thinking that I can use super 16 lenses in 2k window mode? I would like to push for either that or switching to a b4 mount. Carrying a selection of short zooms or a prime set in the field for 4k would be murder, let alone the other issues that go along with that...

I've got to figure out a decent configuration for balanced handheld shooting-- something that I can put on shoulder all day if need be. No doubt that the smaller s16 or b4 zooms will help...

Any tips and experiences would be very helpful.

Thanks,
Matt
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#2 John Brawley

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 10:39 PM

Hi,

I've just been approached about shooting a documentary on the Red. My information regarding the production is limited as of now (meeting is tomorrow), but I was hoping someone here might be able to share some experiences with doc work and the Red. I do know that my choice in cameras is non-negotioable, and given the rate I was offered along with some other cues, I will probably not have an assistant.

The Red is not exactly the first camera that springs to mind when I think about documentary / verite-style shooting - in fact it's toward the bottom of the list, but that's not to say it can't be done. I imagine a backpack full of batteries and drives will be in my near future.

Am I correct in thinking that I can use super 16 lenses in 2k window mode? I would like to push for either that or switching to a b4 mount. Carrying a selection of short zooms or a prime set in the field for 4k would be murder, let alone the other issues that go along with that...

I've got to figure out a decent configuration for balanced handheld shooting-- something that I can put on shoulder all day if need be. No doubt that the smaller s16 or b4 zooms will help...

Any tips and experiences would be very helpful.

Thanks,
Matt


Why shoot on RED if you're only shooting 2k ? You'd be much better off shooting on a 2/3 HD format wouldn't you ? RED @2K looks about the same as 720P and you've thrown away the 35mm DOF look so why punish yourself with one of the most unfriendly observational doco cameras around ?

Is this RED solely because you or the production own a RED ??

Yes you can use Super 16 lenses in 2k Mode. Do some tests though. Im pretty sure you'll be disappointed in the picture quality, especially if you shoot out against a good HD camera, not to mention the more practical elements which you already seem aware of.

I couldn't imagine anything worse than having a RED on my shoulder all day. I recently used the element technica hand held rig, and although it was very good, it's still unwieldily. And it doesn't suit doco style operation if you're pulling your own focus for example. The camera still sits to high on the shoulder for my liking.

*edit. Actually i just remembered i shot a TV comedy pilot over 4 days that was all handheld. It wasn't easy and I was handing off to the grips and focus puller whenever I could. I tried an easy rig for a day and although that helps a little with the endurance, you're still *carrying* all that weight in some way or another. Plus i didn't like the *whippiness* it created in my hand held moves. Maybe that improves with practice, but i ditched it after trying it for a day.

jb
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#3 Joe Taylor

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 10:58 PM

I am currently shooting a documentary about the Amish. As far as the images go, at the end of the day, that is what I am most concerned with. However, there producers are rightfully concerned about the time constraints we have with the Amish. Therefore, the boot-up time for this camera, about 90 seconds, seems like FOREVER when the crew and a few very stern elders are sitting in deathly still kitchen. At days end, when we screen our footage on a 30" Cinema Display, there are nothing but smiles.
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 10:58 PM

It's possible but I think it would be foolish to shoot 2k with the red rather than use another more suited HD camera such as an F900, XDCamHD, or an HDX-900. I also think you would NEED an assistant. The red is a pain in the ass sometimes. It can be finicky and it is power hungry and footage needs to be offloaded regularly to ensure against losing any. You could do it yourself but it would force the days to be pretty light and the schedule to lengthen.
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#5 Matt Irwin

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:40 AM

Thanks for the replies. I had a feeling the responses would be along these lines, and rightfully so.

Don't get me wrong, in NO WAY would it be my choice to use a Red for this type of shoot-- production does own a Red package and is intent on using it. I would much prefer a normal 2/3" HD camera that fits perfectly on my shoulder like I'm used to. I'll have a good idea about how much I can push to change after the initial meeting.

I've planned on pushing for both an assistant and a different camera. If it turns out they want 35mm DOF, I'll have limited bargaining room for the camera in this case. And if that's the deal then my back might tell me to look for work elsewhere. ;)
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#6 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:11 PM

Thanks for the replies. I had a feeling the responses would be along these lines, and rightfully so.

Don't get me wrong, in NO WAY would it be my choice to use a Red for this type of shoot-- production does own a Red package and is intent on using it. I would much prefer a normal 2/3" HD camera that fits perfectly on my shoulder like I'm used to. I'll have a good idea about how much I can push to change after the initial meeting.

I've planned on pushing for both an assistant and a different camera. If it turns out they want 35mm DOF, I'll have limited bargaining room for the camera in this case. And if that's the deal then my back might tell me to look for work elsewhere. ;)


Yeah, there's no reason to shoot on the RED (I believe) if you are only going to shoot 2k on it. Maybe the producers don't understand that the camera doesn't scale down the full FOV to 2k...?

My suggestion is getting the Angenieux 15-40 and 28-76. Then if you need something longer, get two small prime lenses a 135mm and 200mm. Another option that might be much better is going to nikon lenses. Most zooms are very light and if you don't need to rack focus very much, then you should be fine. Even if you do rack, just zoom out a few mm's and then fix the breathing in post--you've got plenty of resolution to spare.

Also, refuse to do the job unless they buy one of these (http://www.elementte...s/view.php?p=29). You'll find that while the RED would be a few lbs more than say a Varicam, it will more comfortable pad because it adjusts to the angle of your shoulder.

It is a little frustrating getting people to understand that the RED isn't a do all camera (not that any motion picture camera is.)

Matthew
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#7 Hunter Hampton

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:33 PM

I know of people who have tried it, I just wonder why someone would put themself through the anguish of using a camera like Red for "real-time" doc work. Boot-up time, power-consumption, recording times, workflow, weight and balance all make me cringe for doing a doc on the Red- The camera works for narrative but you would have really have to compromise when trying to shoot a doc with it. I would suggest something like a tape-based varicam.
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#8 Nick Gardner

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:45 PM

Hi Guys,

I have shot docs on the Red at 4k, but I had an assistant, and a compact zoom. Shooting hand held with the Red is very comparable to shooting on an arri SR -If it is set up the same way. Long Valley Equipment makes a LWS so that you can use the red with 60mm spaced AKS without a base plate. The flat bottom of the camera is just like an SR. Use compact flash cards instead of drives. You get the same amount of time on a 16gig card as you would on a 400' mag. The only real drawback is no fast small zoom exists that I know of, so you are in prime world for available light interiors.

On shooting 2k - I think the Red is comparable to an HDX900 or Varicam in 2k mode. Plus, you have much more room to manipulate the footage in post than you would in the DVCPROHD codec. Also, Red in 2k can shoot up to 120FPS, which the F900, HDX900, and Varicam will not do. The Red footage does not suffer from the compression artifacts and banding that the DVCPROHD footage does. Also, you don't need S-16 lenses, 16mm lenses work fine for 2k. If your final output is TV (HD), 2k is fine.

Do some tests, you may be surprised.

Cheers,

Nick Gardner
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:45 PM

I would avoid shooting 2K on the RED if you can, except for select slow-motion shots.

You could split the difference and shoot 3K, that may be a good compromise... though your wider S16 lenses probably won't cover that.

Also, what are you going to do if you start filling-up hard drives all day, without an assistant? Are you hoping on having enough so you can do the downloading at night?
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:45 PM

I am currently shooting a documentary about the Amish. As far as the images go, at the end of the day, that is what I am most concerned with. However, there producers are rightfully concerned about the time constraints we have with the Amish. Therefore, the boot-up time for this camera, about 90 seconds, seems like FOREVER when the crew and a few very stern elders are sitting in deathly still kitchen. At days end, when we screen our footage on a 30" Cinema Display, there are nothing but smiles.


Let me get this straight, you're going to, technically, cause them to sin by photographing them, and on top of that, you're going to use possibly the most technological, electrical (ergo most sinful) camera to do it? :P

Back down to Earth for a moment, I have to say that I'd recommend the lightest camera possible as well. Push as hard as you can. Explain to them how much they are going to compromise the final product with the weight and missed shots, etc.

I'd say this makes just slightly more sense than shooting the 10 o'clock news on IMAX.
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#11 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 05:53 PM

If it turns out they want 35mm DOF, I'll have limited bargaining room for the camera in this case.

???
If the plan is to shoot in 2K windowed mode, you aren't going to have 35mm DOF.
All the windowed mode effectively does is mask off all but a 2/3"-sensor-sized area in the middle of of the Mysterium.
Which , being Bayer-Masked, won't give the same resolution as an HD 3-Chip solution.
The only real advantage is that with the RED you can use cheap 16mm film lenses, instead of the dodgy zoom that most lower-end Video cameras come with.
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#12 Evan Winter

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 06:20 PM

I just finished shooting a music video for Sony that was shot on Red and I would strongly strongly strongly recommend getting a Red competent first AC. Really, I'm not sure that you can effectively be a one-man camera crew with the Red.

Evan W.
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#13 Matt Irwin

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 06:54 PM

OK, well things seems to make a little more sense now...

This doc is associated with a narrative feature that was produced by the same company and shot on the Red. What we are shooting does involve some handheld, but it is largely comprised of interviews on sticks, other solid shots, and interestingly: pickups for the feature. So we're shooting 4K to match that footage, and the documentary stuff will also stay in 4K.

I'll be able to work out a configuration for handheld during prep-- it seems they have a relationship with a "nameless" rental house that's giving us a bunch of AKS. Not sure if the Element Technica rig is there, but i'll try to get my hands on it.
Nick- those SR style rods look great for runaround work - I imagine with a battery on the back and a short zoom, the balance is similar to an SR??

I'll probably be carrying two short zooms and a telephoto prime-- will be evaluating lenses next week.
I'm also able to bring an assistant to handle downloading and gear wrangling.

Now that most of the facts are in, this seems to have quickly gone from "WTF" to "could be worse!"

Thank you all for the excellent info! I'll make sure to post about the final outfit and how it worked.

Cheers,
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#14 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 09:42 PM

I just finished shooting a music video for Sony that was shot on Red and I would strongly strongly strongly recommend getting a Red competent first AC. Really, I'm not sure that you can effectively be a one-man camera crew with the Red.

Evan W.

A Sony music video?
On a RED?!!

Hmph. So much for certain people's barstool theorizing.... :lol:

Just to be clear, I know perfectly well that the various divisions of Sony are completely independent entities, with total freedom as to what format their products are shot on. For example, hardly any of Columbia (Sony) movies were shot using Sony's video cameras, they were and still are virtually 100% 35mm film.
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#15 Evan Winter

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 01:48 AM

The separate departments thing is exactly right although the slight irony wasn't lost on me. :)

Evan W.
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#16 Robert Niessner

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 03:15 AM

Matt, I strongly advice you to have your assistant testing the workflow beforehand and put some thoughts into media management and backup solutions. You know - Murphy's laws always strike you most when you don't expect it.
A laptop with two external raid-1 drives will be a good, mobile solution. I tend also to burn some extra blurays of the raw data for an additional backup with an optical media.
It's also helpful to have some thoughts into folder structure for the footage, it will make your live easier. Have a look at the free software clipfinder which makes working with raw a breeze.
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#17 Matt Irwin

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 02:04 PM

Hi Robert,

Rest assured we will be using exactly the setup you described- MacBookPro w/ redundant RAIDs. Bluray is a good idea though!
That Clipfinder program looks useful- thanks for that. We'll give it a try during prep with the workflow tests already planned.

Cheers,
Matt
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#18 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 06:32 AM

definitely have an AC with you, and make sure your ac get's a prep day with the package, since every package is different.
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#19 Thomas James

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 05:05 PM

Some people who do documentaries end up delivering in the 720p format at 60 frames per second.
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#20 Peter Moretti

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:30 AM

It's possible but I think it would be foolish to shoot 2k with the red rather than use another more suited HD camera such as an F900, XDCamHD, or an HDX-900. ...


Is an F900 really suitable for documentaries? Digital cinema and broadcast, but a documentary? The camera is pretty big.
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