Enter the Dragon. Shooting with a 6K RED EPIC

Posted by | August 24, 2016 | Blog, Video Production | No Comments

Recently we were supplied with a RED Epic with a 6K Dragon sensor on board. For anyone involved in video, you’d know just how special this gear is. Exactly as you’d expect, we were like a bunch of children playing with it and running around outside filming anything in sight to then review the footage in Red Cine-X. All we saw was an incredible leap in what we thought was possible when it comes to video. When my RED rep asked me what it was like, the only explanation that I could give was that it felt more like working with digital stills from our DSLR’s rather than video. Being no strangers to working with 4K RAW footage, we just thought it’d be a fair bit better than that, what we saw instead was a monumental leap, rather than the simple step we expected.

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Before we go any further, there’s a reason that we appreciate this technology so much. To further explain, you’ve got to step back in time 25 years. I vividly remember my first introduction to video, when my parents purchased a Sony Handycam in the early 90’s and I would make stop motion films with toys. I thought it was the best thing ever. From there, I graduated to shooting with the super high-tech Panasonic S-VHS equipment and learnt to edit on an S-VHS suite. I knew at the time that this was what I wanted to do, but being rejected from film school on the basis of my written application at the age of 17 put a dent in those plans. Not knowing any better at the time, I assumed that dream was over and pursued a totally different direction.


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As things would have it, I found my way back through digital camera’s and my Canon 5DII in particular that allowed me to jump straight back in to filming. Watching the evolution of camera equipment over that time, with the shift from tape to digital and the creation of cinema cameras that no longer cost hundreds of thousands of dollars has been an incredible thing to see and something that we feel fortunate to be able to access, as quality gear used to be well out of reach.

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The ease and simplicity of the Canon setup made it a logical step to add filming back on still photography assignments and rapidly became a large part of the projects. Finding the limits of the H.264 file produced by the Canon and watching the file degrade as you pushed it in Resolve was really what started the discussions of making a serious upgrade. Having pushed the Canon as far it would go with additions like Magic Lantern, we knew there was nothing left. As we have worked with a range of gear, we debated endlessly the next step. Knowing that we were committed to going past the point of no return, we doubled down and invested in a RED. The process of ordering this level of gear doesn’t just see them rolling off a production line to fill the orders. There is a wait as the build and testing is done with a level of care that you rarely see anymore and for that level of attention to detail, I’m happy to wait.

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With a massive project engaged for the Australian launch of Disney’s Aladdin – The Musical, the Epic arrived a week before the commencement of the project and would give us a great chance to run it thought it’s paces. The first observations were that we’re not in Kansas anymore. It’s easier to think of the RED as a high powered PC rather than a video camera. You have to let it power up and come up to operating temperature before jumping in and it’s not what you’d consider light. It’s a hefty bit of gear once all rigged up. Our first impressions of the footage we shot outside our building in West End were shock as we saw just how much detail is packed into each frame. Shooting at full blast, the Epic is producing a 6144 x 3160p frame. The numbers can quickly start to lose context, so take a look at the representation below that shows a 6k frame vs a 1080p frame…

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From our initial testing, here is a 6K frame taken straight from the camera. You can see the detail in the image straight away.

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And to further demonstrate how much information is in each file, here is a 100% crop.

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Working the footage in Red Cine-X, you can see how we quickly draw parallels to working with RAW stills, the panel down the right will have a whole lot of controls any photographer will quickly recognise.

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However, it was on the job where the RED shone through. The sheer quality of the image produced is why these have become such a popular choice and more than anything solidified our choice. To finally put one through it’s paces removed any doubt and has left us more excited than ever as we await the arrival of our DMSC2 RED.

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We certainly acknowledge that we’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of us as we work to extract every ounce out of this equipment, but it’s a journey that we’re excited to be on.

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