Saturday, April 28, 2012

Test Driving the Red Epic & Ultra-HD

Post contributed by Stuart Hohl -

Ultra High Definition Video is an emerging format of video that takes pixels to a much larger level than traditional digital HD. Formats such as 4K, 5K and 8K (still in development) may have up to 16 times the number of pixels as traditional 1080p. It is a format that is slowly starting to catch on with only a few companies stepping up the creation of cameras that can shoot at those resolutions.
  One of these companies is Red Cinema Digital Camera Company (colloquially known as Red). Red has had several Cameras out that can shoot in these formats but with different levels of performance. The Red Scarlet-X can only get 12 frames per second at 5k, but the older Red-Epic and Red-One can reach higher fps at 5K resolution. These cameras were recently used for the upcoming blockbuster “The Hobbit,” but the University of Tennessee used a Red Epic to shoot their Vols' Baseball and Softball TV spots.
  One issue with these cameras is the sheer amount of data that these cameras can produce, particularly at the Ultra HD levels. For the 30 second Baseball spot Athletics Broadcasting shot over 500 GB of Footage. A shoot can get very expensive very quickly when shooting in Ultra High Definition because of the money you have to put into storage systems. One of the things the industry will have to do is to bring data storage up to speed with data creation.
   UT Athletics Broadcasting was shooting with 64 GB cards and could get only about 30 minutes of footage onto each one. That means that you need multiple expensive cards and a storage system to get the footage off of them so you can reuse them. One quick fix for some productions has been to write it directly to hard drives, but that can be extremely cumbersome for some shoots and very expensive. That’s just a stopgap until new storage methods are developed to make shooting at such a high resolution and/or frame rate convenient.
   Why shoot UHD, if it requires so much storage space? It is for the quality of the image. You can look at a camera like the Canon 7d, which has been a favorite of many young and freelance filmmakers. The Canon 7d shoots with a highly compressed 4:2:0 h264 codec, 1080p, with approximately 8 stops of dynamic range. A camera like a Red can shoot with various degrees of compression (or in some cases uncompressed), 5k resolution, with 13+ stops of dynamic range. You get more to work with and you have the raw, uncompressed footage to work with. However, there is a massive difference in price. For most filmmakers (especially amateurs) the Canon 7d is more than enough to get the picture they need (for around $3,000 for the camera and appropriate lenses). However for production companies and the like a Red camera can cost $25,000 and lenses can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously, it’s not for everyone.
  Film has been the traditional  quality standard of Hollywood for some time now. As we move into a digital age, film is finally being challenged by new digital systems that can match the quality and versatility of film that photographers and filmmakers have enjoyed for 100 years. It will be interesting to see if storage systems can advance an keep up to make it cost effective for even smaller productions. Director Peter Jackson talks about his experience with Red UHD cameras and 3-D in this clip. At 4:30 in the video there is a quick and simple explanation of 1080p versus 4k and 5k. Definitely check that out and even watch the entire video because it’s very interesting.

Sources -

BJB - edited for style. 

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