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RED Optical Viewfinder


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 05:40 AM

RED have just announced that they are developing some sort of optical viewfinder for the upcoming Epic and Scarlet cameras. I'd imagine this would be based on a standard spinning mirror system similar to the ones fitted to Arri cameras.

I'm sort of curious as to how important an optical viewfinder really is the overall scheme of things, particularly since in July last year Jim Jannard said: "We haven't had one request for an optical finder in the last year and a half."

http://reduser.net/f...mp;postcount=20

There are a lot of people who clearly have never used an optical viewfinder and so they don't understand why anybody would want such a contrivance.

One ironic thing is that a significant advantage of an optical viewfinder is you can set up shots without needing to power up the camera. This would be great for RED with its savage power consumption, but as far as I can tell, it won't be getting one. The Epic and Scarlet are presumably going to be far less power hungry, so it will be less of an issue with them!

It sounds bizarre I know, but they should also consider some sort of HD video tap camera, similar to what is fitted to a film camera. That way you would still have something to feed to the Video Village so they can at least see what is going on, with only modest power consumption. After all, lots of people are still perfectly happy with VHS playback from film camera video taps!

I also wonder what makes the things so expensive. I've heard that the ones used in the new Arri cameras are based on a commercial hard disk motor assembly, with the reflex mirror actually made from a silicon wafer of the type used for making microchips, cut in half. Apparently these are quite cheap compared to a getting a glass precision mirror assembly made, and are actually made to closer tolerances. Hard disk motors also have to be made to unbelievably tight tolerances; it always amazes me that they can turn them out so cheap.

Well, it amazes me that they can turn them out at all...

Edited by Keith Walters, 15 September 2009 - 05:42 AM.

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#2 John Sprung

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 01:22 PM

The other option is a pellicle mirror -- no moving parts, and a whole bunch cheaper to make. It does cost you some light, though.

Personally, I'd much rather operate using a good electronic finder. You can put it wherever it's comfortable, and work with both eyes open. Those ergonomic advantages really add up at the end of a long day.





-- J.S.
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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 12:11 AM

The other option is a pellicle mirror -- no moving parts, and a whole bunch cheaper to make. It does cost you some light, though.

Personally, I'd much rather operate using a good electronic finder. You can put it wherever it's comfortable, and work with both eyes open. Those ergonomic advantages really add up at the end of a long day.
-- J.S.

If you have 1920 x 1080 or less live video output, well of course you'd rather monitor off a proper screen, and such screens are available.

But there is no such option for either 35mm film or the RED. For all practical purposes 4K monitors don't exist at all, and neither does 4K video assist for film cameras. And in any event, the RED doesn't produce a proper "4K" live output anyway.

But I don't know what all the arguing is about over on reduser; there's nothing to stop anyone using video monitoring if that's what they prefer.

I'm more interested in the reason for the change of heart regarding optical monitoring.
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#4 John Sprung

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 01:16 PM

I'm more interested in the reason for the change of heart regarding optical monitoring.


Yeah, that is interesting. Either way, it'll be expensive to manufacture because of the mechanical precision required. They'd do better to work on getting more dynamic range and a stronger blue primary.





-- J.S.
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 02:00 PM

I get the feeling that the developement started after Arri announced an optical viewfinder at IBC
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#6 Keith Walters

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 06:57 PM

Yeah, that is interesting. Either way, it'll be expensive to manufacture because of the mechanical precision required. They'd do better to work on getting more dynamic range and a stronger blue primary.

-- J.S.

I sort of expected it was going to be some sort of radically new cost-breakthrough design based on a servo feedback system like they use for high-powered lasers. In those, they don't have to worry overmuch about tolerances because the device is designed to do all its adjustments on the fly, automatically.

They could have a very thin mirror with a piezoelectric backing that could be dynamically deformed to compensate for vibration and focus errors, which is exactly what is done with CD and DVD players, except in that case it's done by mounting the laser assembly in a floating electromagnetic coil assembly.

A commercial DVD or CD laser assembly could be bounced off the edge of the mirror, and its existing onboard quadrant photocell assembly used to detect vibrational and focus errors, which could then be used to control the compensating voltage fed to the piezoelectric plate.

But no, it just sounds like they're using an old-fashioned (and expensive) fixed mirror assembly with all its requirements for precision adjustment and maintenance.

Of course the bolt-on module the Epic system REALLY needs is one that can take both 16 and 35mm film and be software switchable between 4,3,2 and 1 perf operation. I don't really know how that would be achieved, but hey, I can't solve all their problems for them :P :)

Edited by Keith Walters, 17 September 2009 - 06:59 PM.

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#7 Mike Williamson

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 07:50 PM

Personally, I'd much rather operate using a good electronic finder. You can put it wherever it's comfortable, and work with both eyes open. Those ergonomic advantages really add up at the end of a long day.


While a movable electronic viewfinder is great for operating as you point out, if I'm shooting and operating I would greatly prefer to have an optical viewfinder to look through. Maybe it's because I started shooting film, but I haven't used an electronic finder yet where I get the feedback on my lighting that I do from an optical one. Obviously electronic finders have there place, but it would be a great to have the option of using an optical finder with the upcoming Reds.
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#8 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 01:39 AM

Personally, I'd much rather operate using a good electronic finder. You can put it wherever it's comfortable, and work with both eyes open. Those ergonomic advantages really add up at the end of a long day.

-- J.S.


I don't know about anyone else but EVFs wear my eye out very quickly, in particular the RED EVF makes me snowblind.
Lots of advantages but I don't find them comfortable.
Am I alone in that I'll still put my hand over the VF when I lift my eye away?
What I'd like to see is an Optical finder with a digital overlay of scopes/histograms etc. that can be turned on and off. Something similar to Arri glow.
I would miss expanded focus check though...
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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 03:27 AM

While a movable electronic viewfinder is great for operating as you point out, if I'm shooting and operating I would greatly prefer to have an optical viewfinder to look through. Maybe it's because I started shooting film, but I haven't used an electronic finder yet where I get the feedback on my lighting that I do from an optical one.


Although they're B&W, a correctly set up CRT V/F without the peaking turned up high usually gives a good idea of the lighting and they can be the only output that you can view the shadow detail without light pollution. Sometimes the colour version is almost a disappointment compared to the B & W movie version. The downside is that they're not great for checking focus in HD during the shot.

It surprising how often the CRT V/F isn't correctly set up.
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#10 Emmanuel Lariviere

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:57 AM

Yeah, that is interesting. Either way, it'll be expensive to manufacture because of the mechanical precision required. They'd do better to work on getting more dynamic range and a stronger blue primary.





-- J.S.


I'm pretty sure they would go to a third party for the viewfinder, like Dalsa went to p+s technik. Red will do what they do, the sensor and redcode, and another company will take care of the optical viewfinder. If they go through with it, I'm sure they will give customers the option to go optical or electronic, they will not force it on anyone.
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#11 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 12:21 PM

If you have 1920 x 1080 or less live video output, well of course you'd rather monitor off a proper screen, and such screens are available.

But there is no such option for either 35mm film or the RED.


You mean there is not 1080 video tap for 35mm film cameras?

http://www.arri.de/n....html?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=184&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1930&cHash=b2b383f5b0

4K probably not yet, but 1080 video taps do exist.
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#12 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 01:58 PM

You mean there is not 1080 video tap for 35mm film cameras?

http://www.arri.de/n....html?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=184&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1930&cHash=b2b383f5b0

4K probably not yet, but 1080 video taps do exist.



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#13 Kar Wai Ng

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 03:04 PM

I hope they incorporate a rear gel filter slot for NDs to pair with their OVF design. With the Epic rated at 800ISO natively, any outdoor shooting is going to require massive amounts of ND, which is going to make operating from an optical viewfinder very difficult with heavy ND on the lens.
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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 03:21 PM

Am I alone in that I'll still put my hand over the VF when I lift my eye away?


I'm thinking in terms of those flat panel ones that you don't have to press your eye against. They're like the old BNC parallax finder, only better, since you can put them anywhere. The whole press your eye against it thing started with the Arriflexes in 1938, and didn't become widely used until the 1950's. It's time for that idea to go away again.




-- J.S.
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 03:31 PM

I hope they incorporate a rear gel filter slot for NDs to pair with their OVF design. With the Epic rated at 800ISO natively, any outdoor shooting is going to require massive amounts of ND, which is going to make operating from an optical viewfinder very difficult with heavy ND on the lens.


So you want to put ND in front of the chip but behind the mirror, where the OLPF has to be.... That brings to mind another interesting problem. Their OLPF sits quite far from the focal plane. That gives them another hoop to jump through in finding room for a mirror. A lot of PL lenses are designed to just barely clear film camera mirrors, which don't have to leave room for an OLPF.




-- J.S.
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#16 Mike Williamson

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:26 PM

Although they're B&W, a correctly set up CRT V/F without the peaking turned up high usually gives a good idea of the lighting and they can be the only output that you can view the shadow detail without light pollution.


I think it's how I started out, but electronic viewfinders just don't do it for me. While you're right that they can give you the same amount of information as a well set up and shaded monitor, I also don't light from monitors most of the time. I usually light standing next to or in front of the camera, looking through an optical viewfinder being my second choice. It's a habit that was reinforced by one of my teachers, I feel like you see details that are easier to miss on a monitor.
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#17 Keith Walters

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:50 PM

You mean there is not 1080 video tap for 35mm film cameras?

http://www.arri.de/n....html?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=184&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1930&cHash=b2b383f5b0

4K probably not yet, but 1080 video taps do exist.

The output may be formatted onto a 1920 x 1080 pixel grid, but I seriously doubt the camera chip itself has a resolution anything like that.
Not to say that it wouldn't be an improvement over existing SD taps, but I still doubt anyone would want to try focussing off it.
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#18 Stephen Williams

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 06:09 PM

I get the feeling that the developement started after Arri announced an optical viewfinder at IBC


I now understand that RED will only offer the OVF if they can get 25 firm orders.
I don't know how they expect to get those 25 orders, as they are not accepting orders for the new line of cameras.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 06:29 PM

Well, one advantage to an optical viewfinder is that you can line up a shot without turning on the camera.
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#20 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 06:36 PM

I mentioned that before somewhere, perhaps here, or Scarletuser, I don't recall, and no one seemed to want to hear it. If I had the money for 1 OVF, let alone the camera system to go with it, or 25 OVFs, I'd put the damned order down. I hate looking at a monitor all day.
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