Digital Studio catches up with director of photography Stuart Gosling who hails the Red One camera as the best piece of kit that the production world has seen in a long time.
This is the new sensation in the camera world; it has managed to ruffle the feathers of some of the big brand camera manufacturers and has brought a smile to the lips of many cinematographers.
For under US $18,000, the Red One camera brings a whole new dimension to the world of digital acquisition with its 4K resolution - an achievement that gives it an edge over even the very high-end High Definition cameras that cost more than ten times its price and cannot deliver the same resolution or the same high quality.
Director of photography Stuart Gosling will endorse that. As a cameraman who has always extolled the virtues of 35mm and done several of the United Kingdom's most prestigious music videos, Gosling had the chance to tinker with the Red One on five different jobs, and his verdict - "Fantastic!"
"We initially did a short film and then, a small commercial," says Gosling.
"They were very minor, experimental kind of jobs. Most of my work is usually big budget, music videos based primarily out of London. I mentioned the Red to Cynthia Lole, at Universal Records in London, who has often hired me to do the big 35mm kind of shoots. I told her that if she ever had a low budget project, where they needed to shoot on tape or HD and still get the kind of glossy look that 35mm can provide, we should shoot on the Red."
The opportunity came soon enough when Lole only had a small budget of US $50,000 to shoot for the solo debut of Jazz artist Jonathan Ansell, an ex-G4 singer'.
Gosling was called in to shoot on the Red One camera.
"It was the perfect time. This was in December. I had already shot a couple of things with the Red so I was comfortable with it and knew I could deliver the goods. It was a very fast day and I treated the camera just as I would a 35mm camera. My lighting and exposure and composition methods were exactly the same, and as usual I relied mainly on my instincts to move quickly and not shoot multiple takes," he explains.
"What makes the Red One special is that it gives you the depth of field (dof) and the perspective that 35mm can give you. This is something that we have always strived for, when we shoot digitally. What determines the dof is the size of the sensor. Even on most high-end HD cameras, the size of the sensor is about the size of your thumbnail as opposed to the Red One's sensor, which is as large as one of the 35mm frames. This makes all the difference to the dof and the quality of the footage," explains Gosling.
Additionally, the Red One camera can capture images in 4k - a feat that no HD camera has been able to boast so far.
As a result, even Hollywood has picked up on it.
Peter Jackson's latest movie Crossing The Line, for instance, was shot on Red prototypes.
The Red One captures images in 4K, 3K and 2K resolutions with frame rates from 1-75 frames per second depending on the resolution selected. All it does is act like a scanner and record raw data.
It captures very high images in a data file and after that, the end user can manipulate it to their taste. This completely digital acquisition pipeline produces beautiful, clean images that can be used in every production from feature and Indie films, advertising/commercials and marketing to HD broadcast and HD digital signage/display.
To change to HD or SD formats, one merely has to downconvert the images. Any existing P/L mount S16mm or 35mm lens can be used with this camera.
The Red One has been designed to support all current HDTV and Digital Cinema distribution master standards, from which an NTSC or PAL standard definition version can be obtained via standard down conversion techniques.
This does not mean that the Red One does not have any issues.
As a new camera, it tends to overheat and crash but Gosling dismisses this as teething bugs that will resolve themselves soon.
"The Red is essentially a computer; a PC stuck in a small box but there's new software that keeps coming up weekly."
There are difficulties with there not being enough crew that knows how to use it and that can be a bit of a strain. But anyone who knows how to operate video cameras and film can easily learn to use this in one day.
It's pretty uncomplicated and doesn't come with any special effects or anything," explains Gosling.
The Red One camera is the brainchild of Jim Jaddard, a millionaire cameraman and the founder of Oakley sunglasses, who used to buy literally every type of camera in the world.
While he appreciated the joys of using film cameras that have remained pretty unchanged for the last 100 years, where people use the same film and the same concept, he began to get frustrated with digital cameras.
Manufacturers were not just releasing digital cameras rapidly into the market but they were often making them backwards incompatible subtly to ensure continuous profits.
"HD camera manufacturers would produce cameras and in the next generation, they'd make a different battery or a different cable making the cameras incompatible with the previous generation. These were clearly designed to make money and the format wars simply made life difficult for end users," explains Gosling.
Jaddard, therefore, decided to design a camera that would use the same principles as a film camera and never go out of date. In keeping with that philosophy, the Red One camera locks into existing 35mm equipment.
"It uses the same lenses, the same matte box and same equipment as 35mm. It merely replaces the methodology of the film magazine and he made it cheap because he didn't want to make a profit from it. He designed it because of his love for film and he's gone a very good job of it," explains Gosling.
"The controversy around Red lies in the fact that it has now exposed other camera manufacturers who are selling their high end HD cameras for as much as $150,000 and $200,000 while they deliver nowhere near the quality of this $17,000 camera. The Genesis D20, for instance, costs $200,000 and is nowhere as good as this one," explains Gosling.
In fact, Red Digital Cinema company has gone one step forward by recalling several of its first units to fit new bodies and card holders on them.
"Many people send their cameras back and get new things done to them. They ask you to send in your camera and they fit new stuff for you free of charge," explains Gosling. "They also send you an email to update your software every three weeks."
But the uniqueness of the Red One camera has also posed problems at the editing table as the camera records to files rather than tape, and it has its own file system.
"This is where it is really complicated because there is no definitive path for post production at this stage for the Red camera. However, it works very well with Final Cut Pro and there is also free software called Red Cine that does everything you need. It's all there but as it's still very new; people are still figuring out how to put the various pieces together. Eventually, people will figure out how to do it," explains Gosling.
At the time of going to press, Stuart Gosling was in Australia shooting a music video for Vanessa Amorossi.
"This camera is perfect for the job. We have been working for a month in Sydney with a big team of people who all need instant access to the data. Having all the data in such high resolution means that everyone has them immediately after the shoot and post flow stays in the digital realm. If we shot on film we would constantly be going back to the analogue world, where most operations take time and money."
Clearly, it clearly looks like the camera has a Red future.