Tag Archives: Red Camera

My Date With Epic

Epic in my living room.

A long time ago I decided that I was going to buy a true cinema camera.  I wanted to graduate into the world of big boy equipment, and I wanted an education. This was before the Red Epic was ever announced and I didn’t know at that time what I wanted. I talked to my bank about a business loan, and they told me how to qualify. It took me two years. In that time the Epic came into existence and my dear friend Alex Hanawalt (already a Red One owner) and I decided to be partners. We finally got our Epic brain a few months ago and it was hugely anticlimactic. We had no battery mount and no side handle, so the camera had to be plugged into the wall. We didn’t have the small metal riser you need to make it compatible with our Arri Matte Box, so it was naked on the tripod. It didn’t have any handles so you couldn’t really hold it. It was then that I began to understand why people have been choosing the Arri Alexa. Aside from the fact that the Alexa made it’s way into circulation way before the Epic, DP’s will tell you how much they love the Alexa’s image quality, which is legitimately fantastic. On the other hand I’ve also heard a fuzzy sounding argument about how the Alexa’s resolution is similar to Red’s. I’m not convinced about this one.

Arri Alexa on the left, Epic with touchscreen attached and on the right.

I’ve shot a couple jobs with the Alexa and it’s great. What I like most about it is that it handles like a camera and looks like a camera as soon as you get it. The form factor is familiar and functional which has a huge impact on one’s ability to emotionally connect with the device. I was not able to connect with my Epic brain as it sat there, so tiny, so spare, so square, with it’s sad little plug running into the wall. Then came the day that we put the Epic onto the Mantis handheld rig. Look at my huge smile.

Epic on the Mantis. No lens but I don't care. Finally, this is what a rig should feel like.

The camera didn’t even have a lens on it that day, but it was a major bonding moment for me, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve spent the last few years with cameras on my shoulder, cameras against my hip, and cameras dangling at my side between takes. I relish the heavy presence of a camera in my hands. It must be what a soldier feels like with his gun. It is comfort and power. Having gone through the awkward configuration process the Epic, I’m truly feeling at one with this machine. I’m prepping for a job so I had the rig at home today, which is a rare treat. I spent the afternoon filming things outside my window, walking the length of my apartment with the camera in my hands, filming the furniture, filming the coffee maker, filming myself. The rig felt solid and substantial in my hands, and between shots I hauled it around by an elegant leather handle we got from Wooden Camera. Accessories like this make the Epic so satisfying, but they are also the reason for the sharp learning curve. There’s no manual out there telling you what the best top  handle is.  So you read message boards, peruse websites, then take a gamble. It’s time consuming and expensive. But having come through the other side I’m finally falling in love. When I was a kid, I slept in my first soccer uniform the night I got it. You think behavior like that doesn’t last a lifetime?

Mad Men Emmys Commercial: My RAW Epiphany

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This is a technical post is for a narrow band of director/operator dudes and ladies like me who toil every day with prosumer cameras, trying to elevate the look of their work so there is no “sumer” left in the viewer’s mind, only “pro.”

I got to shoot this spot with a Red camera on the Mad Men set, and this was the first time that I really understood the power of working with the RAW format. When setting a look on the morning of this shoot, I balanced the camera to 5600K. This homogenized everything, giving it distinctly yellow/gold patina. It was a strong choice which added to the vintage feel. We shot the spot and everyone watching on the monitor was fine with it. When I got back to New York our editor Chris Tartaro and I looked at the footage in Red Cine X. We had the option to completely undo my color temperature choice from the shoot, and look at the same footage as if I had shot it at a more neutral 3200K.
Soon as we did that, I realized 2 things: 1) When a production designer and scenic artists have put a lot of work into something, the palette they choose should be allowed to speak for itself 2) The reason I have developed this tendency towards giving the entire scene an (occasionally over the top) unifying color bias in camera is because 70% of the time I am shooting in ad hoc locations that we don’t have the time or budget to repaint entirely. This technique has been valuable for me, but as I work on better and better sets I need to back off on this.

The RAW thing. Mad Men taught me to appreciate it.

Photo by Michael Yarish