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In the first post of this series, I talked about the RED camera and the effect it may have on the landscape of independent film. Having just worked on a short film with two RED cameras, I thought it would good to provide a set report on how well the camera held up to production needs.
The first thing I noticed when I saw the camera on set was how small it really was. This camera is indeed small enough to hold in one hand. Even after the DP (director of photography) mounted the lens and all the accessories on it, the camera was still very light and manageable to the delight of our Steadicam operator.
The images we got looked amazing on the small field monitors that we had. We were able to achieve very shallow depth of field with the lenses that we had rented. The camera had a monitor and viewfinder and this production had a wireless video tap monitor so that the director could watch the scene from another room. The size and weight of the camera allowed us to change setups reasonably quickly.
Now for the bad news. The 8 GB compact flash cards only held 4 minutes of footage. That meant that we were constantly breaking to switch out memory cards. Luckily, we had 10 cards so we always had storage media to shoot on. Still, we had to break to swap media far too often and lost a lot of valuable production time because of it.
Our convoluted production workflow went something like this. Once we finished filling a 8 GB memory card, we switched it out with a new, blank card. The footage from the first card was then transferred through a compact flash card reader onto an external hard drive with an Apple Mac Pro.
Then the footage was copied to two more external hard drives before the card was wiped clean for use again. Many times we would finish shooting a CF card before we could finish dumping a previous one so it was good that we had many CF cards on site.
Later in the shoot, when the 2nd RED camera arrived on the set, we were introduced to the RED RAID drive that is attached on top of the camera.
The RAID drive was great because the hard drive held far more than just 8 GB of data meaning that we could shoot for longer periods of time without having to switch out media. But the RAID, we soon learned, came with its own set of problems.
One of the largest complaints that we had shooting with the RED camera, besides the inconvenient and complicated work flow, was that the damn camera kept overheating. We were very lucky to have two RED cameras on set because that way we could keep shooting when our main ‘A’ camera overheated. When the cameras overheated, that camera was out until it cooled down meaning that without the second camera we would have been shut down several times during our production day. The RAID drive made matters worse as the heat from the drive made the camera overheat faster than the camera using the CF cards.
All things considered, the RED camera had a lot of features that the DP and the production team liked, particularly its light weight and quality of the image. However, the over heating problem and the 4 minute shooting limit when shooting on CF cards are serious issues that make this camera less than ideal for most independent productions where time is money and money is scarce.Buy the Moose a cup of coffee.