When people hear that I’m a cinematographer or that I write for a cinematography-based magazine, one of the inevitable questions is, What do you think of the RED camera?
The truth is that I’ve never used it, and for the foreseeable future I don’t plan to.
When Oakley founder and RED mastermind Jim Jannard first started talking up the camera in 2006 it seemed like the buzz was mostly geared towards low-end independent filmmakers. The hook was that for about $35,000USD the Average Joe/Jane Indie could shoot a movie in better-than-HD quality. This was supposed to represent a fraction of the cost of what it would take to shoot using a top of the line HD camera.
I called bullshit on what was essentially vaporware until last year when people actually started using the camera. The RED, with its buggy firmware, massive storage requirements, and a cumbersome postproduction workflow speaks for itself. The other day I heard a story where vibrations in the ground caused one RED to start skipping frames. You just don’t hear that kind of talk about any of the prosumer cameras that cost a third of the RED.
Know then, that what follows is my hands-off opinion.
For all the positives the camera brings, RED’s negative aspects far outpace its actual usefulness to Average Joe/Jane Indie who at best will end up with his or her film on DVD or Teh Interweb, and not at the Cinerama Dome (unlike Joe Carnahan, Steven Soderbergh, Brian Taylor/Mark Nevaldine, etc.). On that note, so far there have been few professional filmmakers with the patience to support an expensive and experimental 2K/4K workflow, so I can’t imagine many ultra-low budget projects wasting their time and money in a similiar fashion.
Now Brick and The Brothers Bloom director Rian Johnson has gotten his hands all over the RED* and is offering up some straight talk about the technical realities of the RED ONE digital cinema camera.
His verdict? Scope this:
The RED camera does not do what it claims. Which is not to say it’s a bad product, or that it doesn’t have its place – in terms of quality it’s a good alternative to things like Varicam and HDV. But it does not hold a candle to regularly used high-end HD, let alone film. And we’re going to tell you why.
What follows is one of the best and most complete assessments of RED I’ve ever laid eyes on. The article tells you everything you need to know about the camera and then some. I’m not going to steal anyone’s thunder, so interested parties should head on over to Rian’s site.
Thanks to Casey Moore for the heads up.
*I know there’s a dumb pun here, but I just couldn’t.