Crossing The Line Between Film And Video

by Andy Cochrane on December 10, 2007 · 5 comments

in Short Film,Uncategorized



If you are even the slightest bit interested in making your own films, then you must be aware of the now-released Red One camera. It’s the latest sensation that’s sweeping the nation, and the pictures it takes are certainly pretty. It has some issues that can create extra work in post, like the fact that it uses a rolling shutter and its not true 4K, but overall it seems to be one sweet little camera. I can’t wait to get my grubby mittens all over one and shoot something, but for now I’ll just sit back and let the pros do it- Peter Jackson, Steven Soderbergh, and several others are already using it for feature films and TV productions, with some crazy-promising results so far. Click the links to go watch trailers and see what I am talking about, especially the Peter Jackson trailer. At $17k to start (lenses, recording media, viewfinder etc. are all extra), the Red One is bringing a whole new level of professional grade equipment down to an affordable level for everyone. If you own or have used one of these baddies, let us know your thoughts on it, I’m very curious to hear more personal use stories. Hopefully I’ll have some of my own sooner than later.

But I also want to say one thing about the drooling fanboyism that this camera has churned up all over the internets. This is just a tool, it will not make anyone a better filmmaker. I have run into countless “indie filmmakers” here in LA that don’t know their asses from a wide shot, yet are insistent on shooting on film, regardless of whether or not they have the money, or in some cases, a story to tell. The tools and the medium can certainly help to tell a story, but at the very core is good filmmaking, and I personally believe that good storytelling is the only thing that matters at all. A good storyteller can make an amazing film on a $100 used hi8 camera with dirty heads. To me, some of the Red’s biggest fans seem to care more about the technology than about using it. Horse->cart, story->camera.

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  • Adam B.

    Just thought I’d stick in my quick comment about it.
    I’m a film student in Ohio and was fortunate enough to lend my services to a independent film crew that was shooting in my area. And yes, they were shooting it on the Red camera (there were actually two on set, two out of twenty-five actually out and about, so I was told).
    It was awesome. I came in as a skeptic, and have left a believer :)
    The footage I have seen floored me – being that it’s digital, the shots in the dark and shadows all looked spectacular. Which was fine, because the film is a suspense/thriller and much of the important action takes place in dark places.
    If you want to know anything else, I can tell you a little. The film’s website doesn’t have any of the footage from the Red up there yet, only some test shots all put into a “teaser” trailer, which in all truth, looks extremely sub-par. I’ll let you know when they get the real footage up.
    The film will be showing either at the Toledo Film Festival, or at Sundance, not the upcoming one, but the next.

  • Andy Cochrane

    any additional insight you have on using this camera would be very welcome, such as the upsides/downsides over other digital cinema systems or film, if you’ve used them. i do not have any first hand experience with it myself, but i have seen and used the andromeda (note the interesting terms of use in the forums) and have definitely loved its potential since day one. tools are tools though, and as of now i have not needed a camera this high end. that said, i’d love to hear more about your experiences with it, especially your thoughts on the red one workflow- how does it end up working on a real set and where is there room for improvement?

  • Adam B.

    Well, as for workflow, I remembered seeing a website that pretty well explained the same things we all experienced (and I have no idea how to create hyperlinks through text or anything so…..) check this out:
    My experience with digital previously has been limited. I have been brought up to truly appreciate film from my dad who is a photographer, and thus for the longest time, have scorned digital for its inability to match the feel of film (I’m also learning to work in the film medium in school). This is why I came in not expecting much from the Red, but now I see that digital is nearing the realm where digital v. film will be less and less distinguishing.
    I know there was concern that the camera’s hard drive or inner-electronics might overheat. I guess that other Red users initially had problems where the hard drive would overheat, thus turning their HDs into nothing but a very expensive paperweight. I know that the company is working very hard to fix all these little problems, and it should not be surprising – newer, faster, smaller, higher quality; anytime technology combines all these things, there’s always the issue of how to keep the electronics cooled.
    I had several opportunities to talk with the director. He’s been using film cameras up to this point, and after seeing what the Red can do, he told me he’s never going back to film.
    Sorry that I can’t really do any direct comparison myself between the Red and other digital cameras. I don’t have the experience to justify trying to make any comparison.
    And you’re right – tools are tools, definitely. The Red is nice, but still a hefty hunk of change. My hope is that it does very well, and becomes a new standard in digital filmmaking, and that the company is able to make a more basic, less powerful core version that is more in the 5,000 – 10,000 range.
    Looking forward to seeing “Wanted” and looking at what the Red looks like on the silver screen, as well as seeing how it does at the box office.

  • Andy Cochrane

    since i don’t really have the need for one, i haven’t been paying much attention to the red in detail (there is too much to know and learn right now, and it changes so fast that i try to only learn what i need right now- otherwise i’ll fill my brain w/useless info that will be obsolete by the time i actually need it).

    i had not heard about the red hard drive overheating issue- i know that a lot of these new high end digital cinema cameras are having similar issues, especially when it comes to the heat causing back-focus issues due to metal changing shape enough to affect lens alignment as it heats up during use. i also have been burned lightly (first degree) on the heat sink on the top of an HD camera, something that really surprised me when it happened. i am sure that as time passes they will get a handle on this.

    as for a low end red, that’s their plan. red was founded by oakley glasses founder jim jannard, and his stated goal is for the red line of cameras to go from a sub $100 sunglass mounted system all the way up to the red one and beyond. they want to make a product line wherein you can buy one camera or component, and it will work with all the others above and below it- allowing small companies or individuals to slowly scale their camera system over time. this includes making the sensor chip itself replaceable, which means that there will someday be a consumer dv res version of the red one that you can upgrade piece by piece to 4k or way higher. i cannot express how happy this mentality makes me for the future of our chosen industry. imagine that your first home movie camera is the same camera (with major upgrades) that you shoot your first feature on. i hope it comes true.

  • Adam B.

    That’s so awesome to hear, thank you for that!
    They’re not forgetting about us little people :)

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