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The cheap RED aesthetic.


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#1 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 07:10 AM

Bluntly, I have given it as many chances as I can, having viewed movies made with it on big screens, seen many different tests and having shot a feature with it as well, I just can not get past this disappointing result that I feel when, in general but not always, viewing footage from this camera.

The point of my post is to ask for others' opinions on how to best avoid whatever it might be that enables this cheap or video-ish feel that I find difficult to escape from much of the time. If you love this brand and it can do no evil in your eyes, that's fine and you can (please?) skip this crazy post.

I just saw another trailer for a movie that screams RED to me, even in a low-rez online version, and just had to finally ask for opinions in public. Being asked to use it again on something coming up soon (where S16 would fit perfectly but isn't an option) is adding to my reason.
http://trailers.appl...valhallarising/

Maybe it is too much to ask for but this thread would be more helpful if posts were from people who have used the camera on paying shoots and understands where I'm coming from. Did you find certain post/CC tips that helped in some way? Use some filters that you liked? Smoke any shots? Certain lenses help a little?

Just wondering what helped you so I can put it in the ammo-box of things to test out. I felt 'General Discussion' fits this post best and may help it from becoming a fan-fest but, if I'm wrong....
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#2 Karel Bata

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 08:33 AM

You are aware of the films listed here? http://www.red.com/shot_on_red/

So you hate the look of the RED? And when you see a bad trailer you know immediately it must have been shot on the RED..? I did a quick Google and found:

VALHALLA RISING (Le guerrier silencieux)
Director : Nicolas Winding Refn
Producers : Johnny Andersen, Bo Ehrhardt & Henrik Danstrup
Screenwriters : Nicolas Winding Refn & Roy Jacobsen
Country : Denmark & United Kingdom
2009
90 minutes
Format : 35mm. Couleurs. Scope. Dolby SRD
English with French & Arabic subtitles

Just goes to show... something. :lol:


(I guess that means no Christmas present from you this year. :( )

Edited by Karel Bata, 24 June 2010 - 08:34 AM.

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#3 Antti Näyhä

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 08:43 AM

Format : 35mm. Couleurs. Scope. Dolby SRD

That's the screening copy (print) format.

Valhalla Rising was shot on the Red One, and the digital origination was quite obvious from the 35mm screening that I saw. I had no problem with that per se, but the very artificial-looking digital grading did make me wince several times.
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#4 Karel Bata

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 09:13 AM

Oh. :(

And there was I wondering if that aesthetic was beginning to take over...

Vincent, my sincerest apologies.
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#5 Tom Lowe

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 11:01 AM

Does this cheapness apply to Mysterium, or Mysterium X, or both?

I will agree that no one has really used the Red One well in a feature, as of yet. Not that I have seen, anyway. But it's just a matter of time. The camera is perfectly capable, especially the MX.
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#6 Matti Poutanen

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 12:24 PM

I saw Valhalla Rising on a 35mm print too and agree that the main issue with the look of the film is the heavy handed grade. There were some especially crude grades in the part where they are on a boat in the mist: some very questionable power windows hovering over the actors´ faces as if it was decided later on that there wasn´t enough exposure in the faces.

Not that that isn´t done all the time: it was just done poorly.

Edited by Matti Poutanen, 24 June 2010 - 12:24 PM.

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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 12:59 PM

I've worked on shows with the red where I felt it was used very well and shows where it was used very, very poorly. It's the same as with any other camera and format except this one is easier to get a hold of cheaply.
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 01:38 PM

My personal experience with Red is, intentionally, very limited, and as such this may not be the sort of answer that Vincent was looking for, but I can't help but point out that Red often isn't actually that cheap. In London, at least one rental house has Red at only £50 (or 12.5%) cheaper than an F900/R, and given the easy ability to record the F900 to a much better and cheaper device than its inbuilt tape deck, that's a no brainer to me. The Red is also going to be somewhat more expensive to build into a kit, even before taking lenses into account - I can put a reasonable broadcast or very good cine style zoom on an F900 for rather less money than the complete set of PL gear (and cumbersome cine style accessories) I'd need to shoot and postproduce Red.

I'm not going to offer an opinion on the pictures other than to agree with Vincent's appraisal that it looks a bit plasticky, more so than an F900 in my view. The original sensor was frankly crap, the new one seems much better, but what it certainly isn't is in any way cheap. The killer feature (perhaps the only feature) of Red is the low cost, but the strange thing is, actually the cost isn't really that low.

P

PS - edit - I should point out that the same place charges £150/day for a 7D, which I think makes it even clearer that rental and purchase prices have never been so loosely related.
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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 02:45 PM

Does this cheapness apply to Mysterium, or Mysterium X, or both?

I will agree that no one has really used the Red One well in a feature, as of yet. Not that I have seen, anyway. But it's just a matter of time. The camera is perfectly capable, especially the MX.


I have to say that I thought the two films that David Mullen shot for the polish brothers were looking exceptionally good. Sadly at least one of those never saw the light of day.

Also Stephen Murphy has done exceptional things with the red.

HOWEVER much else I have seen shot on this camera looked suprisingly bad. District 9 intentionally so I suspect, as I think they wanted a high res video news footage look.

Not sure what to think about it all really.

I'm curious about it however, because the plumetting price of red ones makes me wonder if they could become a good cheap option for chroma key?

*shrug*

love

Freya
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#10 Rob Vogt

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 03:23 PM

Alright Vince... I agree with your assessment. Although on much of the short form stuff I've seen the RED has looked quite nice. I think people think to take the edge off the plasticy feel they tend to use Diff filters and they often go overboard with it. The trend as of late is to use Glimmer Glass with it. I find that its actually nicer to use older Cooke panchros, to take the edge off than with diff filters at all. Also, at least on the RED, maybe not the MX, the blue channel is pretty weak and using the 80A/80Ds do help. A lot of the artificial feel also has much to do with the post facility. People using smoke/flame/lustre and davinci I don't feel are ideally set up for handling the footage although they would never admit this-not because of the file size, but rather the nature of the chip. I think you'll find better results with someone using a Scratch setup. Work with them in Prepro like you would with a F35 or Genesis and create some LUTs for the post house, for some reason people tend skip this step when on the RED.
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#11 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 03:54 PM

Does this cheapness apply to Mysterium, or Mysterium X, or both?

I will agree that no one has really used the Red One well in a feature, as of yet. Not that I have seen, anyway. But it's just a matter of time. The camera is perfectly capable, especially the MX.


Is that a loaded question Tom? ;) I appreciate what you are working on and completely understand why you are using the tools that you are, for that type of project, and I look forward to seeing it.

Honestly though, would you be be so quick to use these things if you were shooting a narrative, dramatic feature? When people talk about not seeing a feature shot well with one yet, it reinforces what I'm getting at; why use something (on a drama, for example) that you have to fight every time you push that button?

I don't think what I'm getting at has much to do with some sensor, no matter how refined or how many "K's" it has. We all know that there is more going on within a given media than just range and resolution so no need to talk about that further. I'm talking about an issue that the more technical types don't like to discuss because it can't really be answered on paper, and is mostly subjective, which is why these posts usually fail to help anyone I guess.

Regardless of anyone's point, it has to be acknowledged that the majority of top-tier directors and cinematographers avoid these cameras, for now, for real reasons that lay outside the more emotional and marketing influenced ones owners embrace.

I feel like what some energetic chef may go through when walking into a new restaurant to work when he finds out that all the meat he will be working with that day comes from the freezer. He takes out that frozen meat and does what he can with it but in the back of his head he knows he can't go but so far. I was just hoping for some opinions on how to store and thaw that might help reduce the taste problem that I find such a turn-off. Seasoning tricks? Best freezing temp? New thawing techniques? A unique marinade perhaps?!
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#12 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 03:55 PM

Cheap pictures from a cheap camera. :P

Seriously now, I have seen some good RED images, admittedly not very often, mostly from David Mullen, Anthony Dodd Mantle and a (very) few others. I am yet to see RED footage shot by Stephen Williams'.

My take is that, in addition to what Rob alludes to, and echoing what Freya hints at, a lot of RED DPs are not very well versed or experienced on film and it shows more often than not. The RED is ultimately just another tool. How it is used is by particular individuals is another matter, totally independent from the actual camera technology itself, however limited it may be, which in the case of RED, it is. RED RAW? Give me a break . . . :rolleyes:
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#13 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 03:59 PM

Ah, nice Rob, thanks. The older Cookes, among others, was on my list actually.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 05:05 PM

It's hard to separate the camera from the production, and often Red shows have lower budgets than 35mm shows -- I'm sure an M-X Red One in the hands of a great DP on a well-funded feature is going to produce some nice results, and I don't think it would be a struggle either.

But right now, all your examples in theaters ("Winter's Bone", "Cyrus", etc.) were shot on the older Red sensor, and were made on smaller budgets. I'm sure "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" is going to look pretty good, with Wolski behind an M-X Red One (or two actually, being 3D...)

I would keep an open mind about it because the camera and post workflow has improved dramatically in the past two years, so the movies that have benefitted the most won't be seen in theaters for another year probably.
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 05:58 PM

A lot of what makes a movie look cheap or expensive depends on -- of all things -- the budget.

A cohesive look requires good production design, and most important, the money to implement it. When you have enough in the budget for that, chances are you also have enough to move up to an Arri, Genesis, or F-35. Or maybe even film.

When the picture wraps, the cast and crew go away and cash their checks. The expensive rentals all go back to the vendors. There's nothing left from all the money you put in front of the camera but the images you recorded. So, wise producers and production companies choose to preserve their investment by means that are proportional to its value.




-- J.S.
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#16 Keith Walters

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 10:14 PM

I have to say I pretty much agree with everyone here :rolleyes:

No, seriously, to a certain extent you're all correct; the RED is something of a Curate's egg.
But is that the pre-first-100-recall RED, later production RED, MX RED or, eventually Epic. (And why wassn't the Epic called the RED Two?!)

Thus far I've only ever seen two (2) TV series that were shot on the RED One, both were perfectly competent productions, neither was particularly inspiring.

And the next person who trots out that totally threadbare rent-a-quote line, that : "The RED's (sometimes sh!thouse) image quality perfectly suited the atmosphere of the film, I'm afraid I'm going to ... well ... wish very hard that they would develop a particularly painful abscess on a particularly sensitive portion of their anatomy.

Can anybody show me anything from the RED that even approaches the picture quality of say, Desperate Housewives, or even My Name is Earl for God's sake? That's the thing about film, (and to a certain extent, quality HD cameras,) you can sort of dial up any level of direness of inspirational cheeriness you like.

And of course I have no doubt at all that cameras from the Janes H Jannard Camera Corp have been vastly improved over the past three years. Which then begs the question: "How could they be possibly be any better than what all the Kool-Aid drinkers and the slack handful of other noted luminaries were braying about 2-3 years ago?:

You can't get better than absolute perfection, surely....
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#17 kevin peterson

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 11:49 PM

You are aware of the films listed here? http://www.red.com/shot_on_red/

So you hate the look of the RED? And when you see a bad trailer you know immediately it must have been shot on the RED..? I did a quick Google and found:

VALHALLA RISING (Le guerrier silencieux)
Director : Nicolas Winding Refn
Producers : Johnny Andersen, Bo Ehrhardt & Henrik Danstrup
Screenwriters : Nicolas Winding Refn & Roy Jacobsen
Country : Denmark & United Kingdom
2009
90 minutes
Format : 35mm. Couleurs. Scope. Dolby SRD
English with French & Arabic subtitles

Just goes to show... something. :lol:


(I guess that means no Christmas present from you this year. :( )


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#18 Paul Korver

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 04:42 AM

Hi Vincent,
Interesting post. I look at both film and RED originated content that comes through Cinelicious all day long. I have to agree I can usually spot RED footage right way.

David... I just saw Winters Bone and loved the story & acting but found it over graded and the horrible clipping very distracting. I'm not sure if you can chalk clipping up to bad production value. We've also recently been able to work on some MX footage on a few commercials. Maybe a bit more latitude but still feels sort of plastic-y. I'll look forward to checking out what you do with the MX sensor.

I'd also like to say that RED isn't much cheaper than film. Vince... have you're producer call us if it's a price issue why they can't shoot S16mm. We just did the DI on an indy feature where the DP and director wanted to shoot S16mm and the producers wanted RED. We were able to come up with a scan-once workflow (finish looking "dailies" from Spirit to ProRes 4444 - edit dailies, conform-free, file-based finish touch-up w/output to SR for festivals). This workflow brought the cost down from a traditional film DI and they were able to convince the producers to shoot film... Anamorphic S16mm which is rare and looks really cool (SR3, Panavision lenses).

Best,

Paul
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#19 Freya Black

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 09:22 AM

It's hard to separate the camera from the production, and often Red shows have lower budgets than 35mm shows -- I'm sure an M-X Red One in the hands of a great DP on a well-funded feature is going to produce some nice results, and I don't think it would be a struggle either.

But right now, all your examples in theaters ("Winter's Bone", "Cyrus", etc.) were shot on the older Red sensor, and were made on smaller budgets. I'm sure "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" is going to look pretty good, with Wolski behind an M-X Red One (or two actually, being 3D...)

I would keep an open mind about it because the camera and post workflow has improved dramatically in the past two years, so the movies that have benefitted the most won't be seen in theaters for another year probably.


I think it's definitely the case that Red cameras tend to be used on productions that can't afford to shoot film and probably which are making other severe production compromises too. It's a case of getting things done in spite of things.

I havn't seen Winters Bone at all but I've seen bits of Cyrus and had no idea it was shot on the Red. To be honest, I also think that Cyrus doesn't look as good as the puffy chair despite the fact the latter was shot on a HVX or something. That surprises me a little. It doesn't look really bad and you can see people are trying hard with the cinematography but there's something not right about it to my eye. I felt the look didn't suit the story that well to be honest.

I don't know if it's something inherant in the camera or the choices people are making but I notice that a lot of the films I see have a tendency towards being sort of brownish. It's like the camera seems to reproduce brown really well. The films that have looked the best seemed to really embrace this and make it a part of things. I could be talking nonsense here as I've not seen enough Red one stuff to be able to have a representative sample but it seems that way. It seems to me like the ideal colours for a Red One film might be green and brown tho.

Nobody tends to think about video cameras in terms of looks like they do with film stocks but I really think each video camera has its own look and the smart thing to do is to play to the strengths of each one and consider the look of each one in relation to what you are doing.

It's a good point about what model of Red camera. Strictly speaking the MX upgraded cameras aren't really the same camera anymore are they? I mean it reminds me of the story of the old broom. They should start calling the MX cameras the Red Two! I think that the Red One will soon be very rapidly heading towards extinction.

Obviously the Red very much has its own niche in terms of production which is great as it's another tool to help to get things done.

love

Freya
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#20 Freya Black

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 09:39 AM

I don't know if it's something inherant in the camera or the choices people are making but I notice that a lot of the films I see have a tendency towards being sort of brownish. It's like the camera seems to reproduce brown really well. The films that have looked the best seemed to really embrace this and make it a part of things. I could be talking nonsense here as I've not seen enough Red one stuff to be able to have a representative sample but it seems that way. It seems to me like the ideal colours for a Red One film might be green and brown tho.



Sorry if this is a bit confusing. I'm talking about red one originated movies here when I talk about "films". Sorry, too much on my mind at the same time!
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