The Gear Factory, the kit hire division of The Post Factory Group, has received what it claims is the first Red Epic-M in the UK (outside of Panavision and Red Europe) and although the camera is still in development, it sees great potential for high-end use.
“This is the handmade version of the Epic which Red are issuing in limited numbers to people with a history of working with them”, said its CTO, James Milner-Smyth. “We were very early in on the original Red cameras so we were head of the line again on the new ones”.
A key feature of the camera is its ability to shoot 5K Redcode raw images at up to 120 frames per second. At lower resolutions it should eventually run even higher.
“Our clients have always loved the slo-mo features of the original Red camera, but it came at the price of using a smaller portion of the sensor and so a lower resolution. 5k slo-mo is fantastically detailed and keeps its sharpness and the ability to punch in when downconverting to HD,” he said.
“Not all features are enabled yet, and the firmware is still in development so we will be cautious about what projects these cameras will work on for now.” Its first projects have been luxury brand shoots for clients such as Burberry and French champagne label AMB.
Solid state storage
It records to solid-state drives (SSDs). “Spinning disk hard drives allowed for hours of filming on the Red One but could be problematic in situations where there was loud noise or vibration. CF memory cards were far more reliable, but with smaller record lengths. The SSDs are a huge improvement and allow higher capacity with reliable recording and faster offloading.”
The Epic-M is significantly smaller than the Red One making it easier to integrate into lighter 3D rigs. It is already being used for the 3D movies: The Amazing Spiderman and The Hobbit, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, which Peter Jackson is shooting in New Zealand. James Cameron, who is preparing for Avatar 2, has apparently ordered 50 Epic-M cameras. Its size also makes it more suitable for use on a Steadicam.
High Dynamic Range
Another improvement on the original Red is a high-dynamic-range mode (HDRx) that captures images at different exposures. These can be selectively re-combined in post to show more in the shadows while protecting details in highlights. “We are doing our own testing now to see how best to use this and how well the merging can be done. But at first sight it looks useful for tricky shooting situations where the cinematographer does not have as much control over the lighting as they’d like.”
To cope with the Epic-M, it has had to upgrade the data handling of its post division, as 96fps at 5K full frame resolution means "we have been seeing clients shooting around 2TB of data on a typical day. So, offload systems, drives, networks - everything needs to be as fast as possible. But we are far better off for finishing tools than we were three years ago. Already DaVinci Resolve, our grading system of choice has been updated to support the Epic footage and with Red Rocket cards we have real-time playback and grading from raw images. This is really the best workflow for Red material.”
The Post Factory is a London-based post-production company specialising in Digital Cinema workflows and has supported features such as The Social Network. Its Gear Factory division hires out Digital Cinema camera equipment and has supplied such films such as The Social Network and Pirates of the Caribbean 4.
By David Fox