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RED Cameras Resolution and Frame Size (updated)

To figure out your crop factor for transcode output, you need to first understand the resolution that your footage was shot in.

Before we get into crop factor math we need to understand what frame size we are starting from.

For reference here is a list of currently supported resolutions for RED's cameras

RED Resolutions
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Promise Pegasus R6 - A first look

While I'm generally quite happy with the capability of our On Set Lab there are times when something with a much smaller footprint would be a better fit.

One of the many advantages of Epic-M is it's compact form factor and it would be great to have a smaller but still capable playback, offload, and render station based on a laptop cpu that didn't require MovieTruck to transport.

The new Thunderbolt technology holds promise here (pun intended) and this week we took delivery of the fist Thunderbolt raid array to come to market, the Promise Pegasus R6 12TB edition.

My first impression was at $1999.00 it was less expensive than I'd anticipated. Similar SAS based raids from reputable manufactures run about twice that, so while pleased with the price point, I had some concerns about build quality.

Those concerns were justified. The build quality of the unit is "meh", not cheap computer case rivets and plastic trays like the lowest end products, but nothing approaching the rock solid build quality of Caldigit or Sans Digital .

The Good News

- It Works With ExpressCard

There has been some concern / FUD that the Thunderbolt port can't be used concurrently in conjunction with an ExpressCard/34 e-sata adapter.

Not true.

Currently my preferred adapter is the new SeriTek/6G 2-port e-sata model from Firmtek, but I can verify that the Sonnet Tempo Sata Pro model also works. Both units will connect to the e-sata interface of RED's RED Station products, in this case the RED Station REDMAG 1.8" that we use to offload footage from our REDOne MX and Epic-M cameras.

- It's Fast

The default configuration is a Raid 5 array across six disks. After initializing the raid and offloading a couple of ~70GB magazines AJA's System Test reported read numbers close to 600 MB/s and write numbers just under 700 MB/s.

R6TBRaid


The key take away here is speed, there hasn't been a technology that allowed a laptop access to anything near this speed before, and it is a real game changer.

While disk speed is just one component of a well designed DIT or edit station, it's more important than most people realize and in this area, the R6 really delivers.

- It's Quiet

I don't own a sound meter, but suffice it to say that while not dead silent you won't notice it running, which is more than I can say for most raid enclosures.

- It's Dead Simple

The unit comes pre-configured as a raid 5 array, which is going to be the right choice for most people, and the user interface is straight forward. You won't need much of an understanding of the underlying technology to get it up and running. The simplicity of the interface however doesn't limit the usefulness of the R6, as there is full control over raid levels and migration for those who need that capability.

R6UIsm

The Not So Good News

It Uses Consumer Level Drives


Given the price point I wasn't particularly surprised to see it populated with consumer grade Hitachi drives instead of enterprise level drives that are specifically designed for raid utilization.

R6Drives

This isn't a show stopper, and it certainly held down price, but it makes more sense to me to use real raid level hardware. I've already ordered an additional spare from NewEgg to cover a drive failure.

Not Initialized

On a move to save time and therefore money the unit shows up configured as raid 5 but with the raid uninitialized. This means you need to set aside a big chunk of time, in my case better than 12 hours to initialize the raid before it's ready for use. I get it, yes it saves time and money, but it also means that the chance of Promise catching and resolving infant mortality issues on drives in the raid is lower, and given the choice to use consumer drives, that's not such a good thing.

No Cable

Really? Seriously? Yes I understand that these cables are $50.00 retail but still I think it's unconscionable that a Thunderbolt cable isn't included.

Build Quality

While not particularly important if this is going to set under a desk, if you are planning to utilize it in a mobile production environment, you are going to need to pamper this thing a bit.

The Cutting Edge Cuts

Thunderbolt is in its infancy as a technology, and this is a first generation product. While I've been able to offload footage successfully from a RED Station connected via the ExpressCard 34 slot using R3D Data Manager to the R6, it hasn't been without issue, and further testing and use it require before I'd want to bet a production on it.

I've seen a marked increase in system hangs mostly with the Finder becoming unresponsive that requires forcing a reboot to resolve. I can't specifically blame Thunderbolt or the R6 for this as I just don't have enough information to make such a statement. Right now with a pre-release camera, early firmware, new SSD media, and both the ExpressCard slot and the Thunderbolt port being used concurrently there are way too many factors to point fingers just yet, but they call this the cutting edge for a reason.

Summary

Would I buy it again, yes. But I have the need right now for a more compact solution so that I can get out there with my Epic and not have to take the truck along. It's hard to be inconspicuous with a full production vehicle on site. Given that the Epic doesn't do on camera playback right now, it's even more important to have a mobile way to review footage, so for me it's a good fit.

If you don't have a pressing need, I'd advise that you wait a bit and evaluate products that are on the way from other manufacturers to see if they might be a better fit. That way you'll also benefit from the maturation of both the products and drivers that will take place in the coming months.

On balance Thunderbolt holds a great deal of promise, and I'm eagerly awaiting Sonnets PCIe enclosures to allow for Rocket use in a more mobile platform as a Rocket plus fast storage make for a pretty compelling mobile solution... if the technology delivers on it's promise.

So far it's looking pretty good.

Steve

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Why spending $17,000.00 in SSD Media was a good idea

I thought long and hard about what to do with Uroboros's RED One MX once our Epic arrives.

It's a great camera, it does nearly everything i want it to do, and given it uses the same senor technology as the Epic, it makes the an excellent B camera.

But there are some things that I don't like about the RED One. It's big and heavy like a traditional 35mm camera. Also because our primary media has been the RED Raids, we've had to be careful of handling the camera in some situations. We invested in ISO mounts to mitigate the problem of dropped frames when the camera needed to move aggressively or was in an environment where there was a lot of low frequency vibration, say at a concert or on a balcony or bridge. This hasn't been a huge issue, because for any project that didn't require takes of longer than about eight minutes, we could use CF cards.

But the drives, and particularly the drive cables were are only real failure point I've experienced while shooting the camera.

Separate from that issue, long experience has taught me that it's a very good thing to be at the front on the line for all things RED. RED does world class engineering and I think it's fair to say that their work has served as a catalyst to revolutionize high high end cinematography. When it comes to timely delivery of that technology however, RED doesn't get great marks. I won't belabor that here but suffice it to say that we ordered a significant amount of media for our Epic well in advance of the camera's arrival.

Given that the upgrade for the RED One to enable SSD media was only $1,500.00 it was an easy choice to add that capability to the camera as we'd decided to keep our MX.

What I wasn't prepared for was how much of a difference it makes in the day to day shooting of the camera. The RED One body really isn't all that heavy, it's all the gak and cables that get added to the camera. by eliminating the drive and drive cable and the mounting hardware for the drives, the camera has a much more manageable footprint, and it weighs quite a bit less. It also removes the issue regarding camera movement and vibration aforementioned.

But there is another really key advantage to the SSD upgrade that is particularly valuable for larger or multi-camera projects. The offload speed of the RED RAID's is constrained by the bus speed of the Firewire 800 port, the fastest port available on the raids. This is a real problem for long form or event shooting when many cameras are involved. Me and my Red Alliance partner Chris Layhe had a five camera RED shoot of Swan Lake that ran three hours plus With only ~80 MB/s offload speed, it just wasn't possible to backup all the footage at the end of the night or compete transcodes.

When using SSD media with the RED Station an e-sata interface can be used, and offload speeds can be essentially tripled. The interface is not longer the choke point, it's the speed of the media.

This enables backup, transcode and playback far faster than is possible when using drives.

On balance while seventeen grand is a LOT of money for media, I think the SSD upgrade is second only to the MX chip upgrade when it comes to wise investments on the RED One platform. The combination make it a far more capable camera and keep it at the forefront of digital cinematography.

Pair that with the added convenience of using identical media for both Epic and MX cameras on set, and you've got a real winner.

Here at Uroboros we are now exclusively shooting SSD media, because ease and speed on set make everybody's production days better.

Steve

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Client Monitors and how to create a look in REDCINE-X and transfer it to camera

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about how to manage color on the client monitor.

On most shoots, we output directly from the camera via HD-SDI to our Panasonic 1710. The Panasonic 17" series is the most standard monitor on set worldwide, and therefore most clients are familiar with it, saving time and effort in setting expectations.

It's important that your client understands that one of the great advantage of shooting raw, arguably the greatest advantage of the camera, is the level of flexibility that raw files provide to dial in the final color and overall look of the piece. The way I describe it is to say that the monitor out is a really great monitor tap, with a preliminary LUT applied. It's a general approximation of the final output, and while it should be "directionally correct" it's a big mistake to spend a lot of time on set trying to dial in the final look of the project.

The reality is that ambient light, and the colors inherent in the environment make it impossible to do any serious color evaluation on set. Get the performance, get a solid exposure, and the images are going to look great.

Occasionally you are going to find yourself with a client that just gets stuck on this issue. They commonly come from a video background where painting in the camera and in camera adjustments to match multiple cameras was common, and where there was far less latitude in exposure and color space, and their experience has taught them to dial things in as close as possible to the final look on set to protect themselves.

While completely understandable, it's just plain madness to have talent and crew standing around while you dial in color on the camera.

If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest one of two approaches. The first involves a little sleight of hand, and will be a harder sell to more experienced directors. (but frankly the more experienced directors understand RED pretty well at this point.)

Rather that use a standard monitor like the Panasonic, output via HDMI to a cheap 24" computer monitor, and tell them they will be better able to evaluate performance and framing on the larger screen, both of which happen to be true. As long as you know you are nailing exposure, you can also accurately tell your client that color space is different, and so they shouldn't be concerned about the color balance as they are going to able to have huge leeway to make adjustments in post.

This strategy works even better if you can have a DIT station with a Rocket on set, placed in a more light controlled environment where more critical evaluation can take place. This is a far better way to evaluate your work than relying on the camera monitor path.

Now if you find yourself in the situation where you just can't sell that approach and you have to output something that is pretty close to final output, you can take the second path, namely to create a look in REDCINE-X and export it to the camera.

I'm not a huge fan of this approach, but it's a good option to have when needed.

This turns out to be a little tricky due to some very specific constraints required by the camera for the media that it will save looks to. Check out my blog article "How to format a SD card for RED One looks transfer" for detailed instruction for what is required.

The other thing to remember is that at present all looks have to be in REDColor Color Space and REDgamma Gamma Space. No other color space or Gamma space are supported for looks transfer at this time.

Once you've prepared your media, the rest is pretty straight forward. Shoot a quick clip, open it in REDCINE-X and use the Look Control features to dial in the desired look. Once that's done go the File menu and select "Save current look to camera" and save your look the SD card, and you are good to go.

You can then upload the look to the camera via the SD card reader, and the Video menu. There is no way to output a look to SD card from the camera, but frankly that not really an issue, and all clips coming off the camera capture all the meta-data that is used to define the in camera look you have created, so you have ready access to that data and can create a Look Preset in REDCINE-X from your clip.
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How to format a SD card for RED One looks transfer

1.) Insert a SD card with a capacity that is one gigabyte or less into the card reader connected to your Macintosh.

2.) Open Disk Utility.

3.) Select the SD card from the Volume List in the left hand column of the Disk Utility window. (red)

4.) Select the Partition tab in the main Disk Utility window.

5.) Set the Volume Scheme section of the Disk Utility window: (blue)

  • Set the Volume Scheme: popup menu to “1 Partition”
  • Select the Options... button under the Volume Scheme and set the radio button to “Master Boot Record” and click the “OK” button.

6.) In the Volume Information section: (green)

- Set the Name text field to “LOOKS”
- Set the Format popup menu to “MS-DOS (FAT)

Looks-help

7.) Double check that the SD card is selected. You are about to format the media selected in the volume list. If you format your boot drive by mistake, it will suck... a lot.

8.) Click the “Apply” button.

9.) Click the “Partition” button when the confirmation dialog box comes up.

10.) Double click the SD card, titled “LOOKS” in the finder.

11.) Create a new folder at the root level (first level) of the “LOOKS” SD card and name it “PROFILES”

Your RED One will now be able to save or mount look files from the SD card.
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Spring Cleaning

Our new website is almost complete, and it was time to migrate the last of the content over.

Many of my previous blog posts were spent detailing the ever-changing landscape that is high end digital cinema.

So much has changed, and many of the previous concerns about noise at low light levels in the blue channel, stability of early RED software builds etc., is just no longer an issue. Further every article regarding workflow was so out of date to now be rendered as a poor guide to present practices.

I've only moved over content that is still accurate and relevant, and I'll try to do a better job of posting regularly.

All the best,

Steve
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