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Is Red all it was cracked up to be?


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#1 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 10:47 AM

I remember years back people were trashing Red left and right as complete garbage and not at all what they were claiming it was. Now that it's been out in the wild for years, how is it? I see there are an awful lot of feature films using the platform in some capacity.


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#2 Dan Muchnik

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 11:29 AM

The major complaints on the red one had to do with the fact that it takes an exorbitant amount of time to power up (over a minute). That menus are convoluted (they are. Switching framerates is a pain, but it's all there). And that it suffers from overheating and dropped frames (though over the course of half a dozen shoots I've DPed with the camera, I have not yet run into this issue, even running continuously for 2-3 hours. I'm sure others could shed more light on this camera, but when it comes down to it, you have a very competent 4k cine camera with 14 stops of dynamic range distributed as you wish between shadows and highlights depending on how you rate the ISO, and a very reasonable connectivity interface. Actually, my biggest complaint is that it's too damn heavy. A full day with a RED One on the shoulder will surely and sorely be felt. It's as heavy as a 35mm camera. I've use the epic only once, and can't comment on it yet.


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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 11:36 AM

Early RED Ones had a lot of teething troubles, and gradually acquired a reputation amongst producers for being unreliable. This wasn't helped by RED's policy of releasing beta versions of firmware that didn't work properly. The early color science was not pretty either. The MX was a huge improvement, and the Epic was another step forward. The RED Dragon is a perfectly fine professional camera, although not without its quirks.

 

RED lost ground to other manufacturers because of reliability issues, and problems with sourcing sensors for the Epic. By the time they sorted out those issues, the market had largely moved over to ARRI and Sony. These days their market is mostly owner operators, and the low budget indie movie crowd, although they do have a few high profile users, like David Fincher and Peter Jackson.


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#4 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 11:49 AM

The biggest problem with RED that I see is related to the camera body being heavily accessory driven, the color science being a bit whack (more towards green) and the fact they use highly compressed files as their master. The concept is spot on and initially, there was nothing on the market LIKE the RED when it came out. So as a rental on a bigger film, the RED worked great because you could afford to accessorize properly and fix all the problems in post. On smaller projects or people who wish to own equipment, the RED just doesn't make much sense. The camera simply requires too many aftermarket accessories to make viable, doubling the expense in some cases. Plus for post production, the camera is a nightmare. Many editing software programs are able to read .r3d files, but not at full resolution and not in realtime, multi-layer editing. RED files take such a long time to transcode, most labs have render farms just to deal with RED files.

Personally, I think the RED revolution is over. When the Blackmagic URSA mini finally hits the showrooms and rental houses, I think we'll see a shift. Arri and Sony have already pulled a lot of business away from RED, and in my opinion, the URSA Mini will pull another huge group of people as well.

It's unfortunate because RED really started the digital cinema movement, but they kept releasing new and better cameras, pissing off their clientele to the point where a lot of people simply don't use them anymore because they're bitter. I've personally never been a fan, even during the initial release of the RED one, I saw the issues in the black, I saw the compression artifacts and post production problems as being a deal-killer. RED is a lot better today, they've fixed MOST of their issues, but not all of them.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 11:49 AM

Red was ahead of the crowd and the curve in the beginning - the firmware updates to cameras that are so ubiquitous today seemed unusual back in the beginning of the Red One, and file-based recording of 4K footage was also fairly new back then when the high end cameras were recording onto HDCAM-SR tape. You have to remember the market at the time, when the big digital shows were shooting on cameras that cost over $100,000 and recorded HD to tape, some of which were still using 2/3" prism-block designs.  Everyone knew that the future was 4K single-sensor 35mm cameras recording data files, but Red was the one to make the work at a level that independent filmmakers could afford.  There were others in that realm, Dalsa with their huge uncompressed 4K files that needed a data recorder the size of a mini-fridge, the SI-2K which did record compressed raw data, but in 2K with a smaller sensor, and then there were 35mm sensor cameras like the Genesis and F35, but recording HD to tape.  Red was a big step towards getting where we are today.

 

But now there is a lot of competition, some from above and some from below.


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 11:56 AM

Compression was the only way to make 4K raw recording practical when the Red One came out -- you saw how Dalsa struggled partly because they took the high road with uncompressed 4K data.   Even today, I bet more people are shooting on compressed formats like ProRes and XAVC than are shooting uncompressed raw.

 

As for accessories, every camera on a movie set today is buried under cables, onboard monitors and other add-ons -- half the time you can't see the camera body anymore under all of that.

 

But I agree that a weak link in the Red Epic design was that the additional modules were designed after-the-fact rather than as part of an original modular system.  I think from the start, it should have been designed as a two-piece unit with all the additional video and power outputs and other common accessories in the second half of the body, easily removable for when you want the basic smaller unit.


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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 02:35 PM

The biggest problem with RED that I see is related to the camera body being heavily accessory driven, the color science being a bit whack (more towards green) and the fact they use highly compressed files as their master. The concept is spot on and initially, there was nothing on the market LIKE the RED when it came out. So as a rental on a bigger film, the RED worked great because you could afford to accessorize properly and fix all the problems in post. On smaller projects or people who wish to own equipment, the RED just doesn't make much sense. The camera simply requires too many aftermarket accessories to make viable, doubling the expense in some cases. Plus for post production, the camera is a nightmare. Many editing software programs are able to read .r3d files, but not at full resolution and not in realtime, multi-layer editing. RED files take such a long time to transcode, most labs have render farms just to deal with RED files.

 

 

I don't think Render farms would help with Red footage as the software isn't set up for distributed computing of that type. They might have been able to assign different files to different computers tho. The big speed up thing was a special co-processor pci card called the red rocket. I think it cost about $5000 or something and could enable you to transcode in real time or something like that.

 

These days Red Cine X is able to use off the shelf GPU cards to speed things up.

Also premiere  is now able to handle native .r3d files at full res on a well specced machine.

So the situation has greatly improved.


Edited by Freya Black, 11 August 2015 - 02:35 PM.

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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 03:59 PM

I don't think red ever was all that is was cracked to be, nor will it be. It inhabits an odd state, in my mind, of the "me toos," those who shout loudly about their accomplishments, yet really don't have much to show for it. Of course we use them-- I use them a lot-- because Red does a lot of marketing and people know the name, but I often feel the reds are a bit like modern ford mustangs, they may look "cool," and "pretty" and will certainly get you where you need to go, but at the same time, they aren't really a sports car, just a basic sedan with some design elements. (obviously I don't mean things like a mustand Cobra here).

 

That said; up till now they are kind of necessary as a small and high resolution system which works great in many applications where you need to worry about size/weight or when you need 5K (or 6 now).

 

I also never remember ANY red having 14 stops Dynamic Range in any real world situation, least of all the Red Ones.


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 04:07 PM

I've always felt that they initially promoted themselves on the basis of a specification that could not be achieved in the time in which they proposed to achieve it and I think this feeling was vindicated. I was cautious at the time not to predict that the camera would simply be bad, but I think it was subsequently shown to be pretty bad in ways that could reasonably have been predicted by anyone with basic knowledge of the subject. I don't think that the sensitivity, noise performance, colorimetry or reliability of the early cameras was reasonable. I think it was built to be saleable, not to be any good.

 

My feeling is that Red actually delivered more or less what they'd originally planned, that is, something that was a reasonable camera less a few interesting features like uncompressed output, with the MX sensor. I don't think the problem has been with the equipment, at least not for some time. The problem, as far as I can see, is the attitude. All companies naturally try to sell themselves and that's normal behaviour, but I think that the degree to which Red did it was far enough out of the ordinary to be completely morally bankrupt. Any success they have enjoyed, in my view, is undeserved. 

 

The Red Rocket, as I understand it, is a rebranding of a standard JPEG-2000 decoder board. This is odd, considering Red have always hotly rejected any claim that "redcode" is just JPEG-2000.

 

Phil


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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 06:57 PM

Regardless of how the company and it's fans have conducted themselves, the cameras have come a long way from the early Red One days. I think we all have stories of how bad and unreliable those cameras could be. The current model MX sensor-based Epic/Scarlet as well as Dragon sensor-based Epic/Scarlet are fine, usable, and industry standard tools.

Red have significantly shifted the landscape on what we expect from a new camera in terms of specs, performance, pricing, and marketing. It's been a crazy decade of camera development, that's for sure. It seems like they are making a push now to break out of the owner-op market and compete with Arri for a bigger slice of the big budget rental market with their new Weapon line of cameras. I am interested to see how that will play out.
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#11 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 07:45 PM

I don't think Render farms would help with Red footage as the software isn't set up for distributed computing of that type.


I know a few of the local labs have render farms for REDCODE because they get so much material that needs to be transcoded immediately and the hardware cards DO help, but even with realtime decoding, it's still too slow.

It's unfortunate RED have made a proprietary version of JPEG2000 because in the end, JPEG is an open source/Open GL compatible codec that works really well. Maybe not as "pretty" as Pro Res in terms of it's packaging, but still works well. To this day it depresses me we're still discussing proprietary codecs at all and RED is the only company unwilling to let people see behind the vail of secrecy.
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#12 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 08:31 PM

 It seems like they are making a push now to break out of the owner-op market and compete with Arri for a bigger slice of the big budget rental market with their new Weapon line of cameras. I am interested to see how that will play out.

Unfortunately for them, they have years of bad blood with producers to overcome, no matter how good their current cameras are. Also, the fact they have called their latest camera 'Weapon' shows that they are still more concerned with impressing teenage fanboys than Hollywood producers.


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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 August 2015 - 08:45 PM

I look forward to trying the Dragon Weapon, particularly the VistaVision 8K version.
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 12 August 2015 - 04:31 AM

The Red Rocket, as I understand it, is a rebranding of a standard JPEG-2000 decoder board. This is odd, considering Red have always hotly rejected any claim that "redcode" is just JPEG-2000.

 

Phil

 

Sounds possible! Is it an off the shelf board or a custom board with standard chipsets?

You wouldn't know what board it might be?

 

It would explain a lot if you were right as some people were upset that rocket decodes weren't quite as nice as software decodes.

 

Freya


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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 04:48 AM

The hardware is visibly identical to a DVS Atomix LT, but they may have done custom firmware. Note that there have been SDI and DVI/HDMI versions of this for ages.

 

videocardreference_dvs_atomix_lt.png

 

R_RROCKET.png?v=1414194820

 

P


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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 09:46 AM

A lot of the talk of "Custom Firmware" on Red is urban myths.

It's just a matter of being in the whitelist in my experience.

 

Freya


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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 10:04 AM

I wasn't particularly aware of any rumours of custom firmware, I was just speculating. It's entirely possible it's untouched.

 

P


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#18 Freya Black

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Posted 22 August 2015 - 05:04 AM

I wasn't particularly aware of any rumours of custom firmware, I was just speculating. It's entirely possible it's untouched.

 

P

 

Sorry yeah, it's a weird meme with Red followers that this that or the other doesn't work because of the "custom firmware" whereas it's usually just because it isn't in the whitelist. So I was just making a general comment on the custom firmware thing rather than implying you meant something specific in that context.

 

In this case you could be right about there being custom firmware to make it more specific to Red's version of JPEG2000 or then again maybe their implementation isn't all that different.

 

Thanks for the photos BTW. Definitely appears to be the same board.

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 22 August 2015 - 05:07 AM.

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#19 Keith Walters

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 09:36 PM

Here: From the man himself:

 

http://www.cinematog...620#entry221746


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#20 bill h. hendrickson

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Posted 14 October 2015 - 06:49 PM

haha who complains about accessories.. I hope you realize you need accessories for every camera. compared to Arri reds are cheaper.  They have come a long way since red one. Why would people be mad they keep releasing cameras thats what companies do are people mad that apple releases an iPhone every year? Or canon releases cameras more often then any one. should they not release improvements .  If you know what our doing and make money from cameras new cameras don't scare those types of people it makes them more money. 


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