“Borrowed” – what’s it like moving from an HDSLR to the RED Scarlet-X?

by planetmitch17 Comments

In this post, friend of planet5D Josh Negrin tells us about how he's moving to the RED Scarlet-X after being involved with HDSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Below, you'll find the short called “Borrowed” and then a couple of screenshots and then a good writeup from Josh.


“Borrowed”

A before and after color correction frame grab… click for full size!

frame grab from the movie (before color correction)

frame grab from the movie (before color correction)

frame grab from the movie (after color correction in REDCINE-X)

frame grab from the movie (after color correction in REDCINE-X)

Josh's notes

Coming from shooting for three years with a 5D Mark II, which I still own and love, the RED Scarlet, and it's RAW shooting capabilities, is a breath of fresh air. My business partner, Joseph Hendrickson (who is also the director of photography on many films that I direct) and I bought a RED Scarlet together for the purposes of working on bigger projects and capturing a 4k image for our own films.

We collaborated on what “Borrowed” would fundamentally be and decided to tell a story about experiencing some of life's delicacies for the first time. Briefly, as not to “try” and sound deep, this paralleled our own experience in shooting on the RED. Here, you have two experienced camera guys/filmmakers working with a new tool, and getting to experience making a movie as if it were the first time again.

With an idea, an actress (Amanda Rau) and our shiny (well actually not shiny, because it has a matte finish) new camera, Joe and I took to the canyons of Malibu, CA. I'll be honest when I say we both only slightly had any idea what we were doing with the camera. Our RED Scarlet operates off of a touch lcd screen. Being a 5D shooter, I've grown accustomed to my dials for f-stop, shutter, and iso control. With the RED, as we have it configured, all of those exposure settings are done via a touchscreen. We learned very quickly that we were going to need to buy a hood for our lcd. I had a towel that we threw over us, so that we could see the lcd, but have you ever stood with your face less than three inches away from your cinematographer, under a towel, to watch an lcd? We're good mates, so we made it funny.

Josh Negrin testing the Red Scarlet-X

Josh Negrin testing the Red Scarlet-X

When we were shooting we noticed that the image was, in fact, very flat. We fumbled around the RED's menu and were able to up the saturation and contrast and get an image that was more pleasing to look at as we were shooting. We didn't have any camera glitches, that I can recall, and setups didn't take any longer than if we were shooting with a 5D. We shot all canon lenses. We “borrowed,” (see what I did there, hehe) a friend's Canon 100mm macro lens, and shooting with that blew me away. I still don't understand how we were at f32 and getting a super shallow depth of field. We also shot with a Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AF, a Canon Normal EF 50mm f/1.8 II (yep the cheap one), a Canon 85mm f/1.8, and a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L. We didn't know how to use the auto focus, but fumbling around we found out how to punch in on the image to check focus. We powered the camera using A.B. batteries and the AB mount from viewfactor.

I've never been much of a camera manual reader, but I did myself a favor and read through the RED Scarlet manual, before day two. Oh, and I also ordered us an LCD Hood (Hoodman 5.6″ Monitor Hood for RED Cameras, which fits the 5 inch touchscreen perfectly). In the manual, I found that the top button, on the side of the lcd, will let you punch into the image, and a simple auto focus setting will allow you to either press the front record button down half way to get focus or by simply touching and holding on screen where you want the focus.

With the newly gained knowledge and the lcd hood, day two of shooting went off without a hitch.

The post: I wasn't sure what to do here. I'm a final cut pro fanatic, and earn a living using it. At the time, (this has since changed I believe) but you couldn't just drag the .r3d (the file type the RED shoots) into a final cut pro timeline. Many hours of transcoding to a format that works in final cut was going to be needed. Around this time a competition was announced on the Reduser.net forums, seeking a film that we had pretty much set out to make. The only thing was, it needed to be edited in Adobe Premiere Pro. I researched what would be the best system for editing in Adobe and ultimately decided to get a new mac pro and put in an NVidia card that isn't technically supported by Apple, yet. The GTX580. With some trickery and magic (read: help from various forums and sources) I got the GTX580 up and going in OS 10.7 Lion. This card allows me to drag a .r3d straight from the RED camera, into the timeline, and play it back (in 4k) in realtime. I set up premiere pro to use all the quick keys that I've learn to love in final cut and ventured off into the cutting of this film. Once I had my cuts in the timeline, I started to color time. First, I figured out how to open the camera raw settings, of each clip, and threw away the saturation and contrast that we added while shooting. This brought me back to a nice, flat, raw, image. I first tried magic bullet looks. I often use this program in final cut to color time, and since I had it installed in premiere, I thought “why not?” It worked, but I couldn't help to think that I could do better. So, I started researching how the hell to use REDCINE-X, which is RED's own free program. REDCINE-X offered tons more coloring options than I found in Adobe Premiere's camera raw color settings. I exported an xml from Adobe Premiere, imported the xml into REDCINE-X and poof, all of my cuts from Adobe were in a timeline in REDCINE-X. I did my color correction in REDCINE-X (note: when you shoot raw you no longer have to worry about matching colors from shot to shot, only exposure. Simply because the white balance isn't baked in) exported Apple Pro Res 4:4:4 and sent those files back to Adobe Premiere.

For the competition, it's very clear that films submitted can't have any sync sound or dialogue. I knew I wanted a synthesized worldly score so when I pitched the composer, Noah Potter, what I wanted he asked “why not incorporate sound design into the score.” Genius idea.

Other than the last three shots, there are no visual effects in the film. No removing of electrical wires or towers, no sky replacements, what you see is exactly what we shot. When Tommy Lira Jr., the visual effects artist, and I spoke about what the end should be he suggested something organic to match the rest of the piece. Genius idea.

I had an awesome team working with me on this and Amanda Rau was quite the trooper for what I asked of her.

Enjoy “Borrowed” and let me know what you think.

Thank you,
Josh Negrin
Director

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


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Comments

  1. Trevor

    I would have preferred a little less saturation but you did say you were playing around with the camera.

    Nice job anyway, Josh.

  2. Josh Negrin

    The h264 definitely gave me more saturation than my final pro res 4:4:4 output.

  3. KWas

    much prefer original ungraded image. In the graded image the whites are blowing out and losing detail, and it’s too saturated which is making it look very videoy, skin tone not nice, losing subtlety. Looks more filmic before the grade. Good job though, enjoy the camera!

    1. Josh Negrin

      interesting KWas. Saturation aside, isn’t the ungraded footage about a half stop to a full stop underexposed? If you were color timing how would you adjust that without losing the clouds?

      thanks,
      josh

  4. Jeff Morgan

    Nice work! Fantastic entry for the contest. It’s similar in structure to what I hope to do, if I get my model / etc lined up in time! Nice write up, too!

  5. Karl

    I only have one question: how did you manage to buy the Scarlet? How long did it take to ship from when you placed the deposit? I’ve been meaning to get one but haven’t found any information regarding shipping…

  6. KahL

    As far as the color grading was concerned, I didn’t see anything really wrong with it. Maybe the point where she was looking upward at the end, the highlights on her face were blown a little bit. But, I’ve seen so many styles of grading, including those shot on film that blow out highlights as well.

    As far as the film itself, well….I’m not sure what I’m supposed to see here. It’s a blonde girl, running around, looking pretty…? Can’t really see a story in this, unless this is a camera test of some sort maybe. Then at the end, light gets yanked out of her. Is this supposed to be an extraterrestrial possession returning?

    Beyond being shot on the Red- and not to be a jerk- but this didn’t seem very good to me. But, that’s just me.

    1. Author
      planetMitch

      Yes, KahL I think you have it right… hence the title “borrowed” – thru out the story she seems to be investigating senses, things, that she’s never seen before… then the light comes etc.

      It isn’t a perfect movie, but it was something I enjoyed and I appreciated the BTS info from Josh.

  7. Austin

    I agree, if you saturate the orignal picture it will give the whole film a slight video/filmic look but I think it works well here.

    Also you don’t need to worry about exposure too much, just shoot at 800 iso and that will give you the maximum flexibility in post because the iso isn’t burned in either, you can change it in post but obviously you want to start in the middle so you can go up or down with sexy results.

    Also I come from a HDSLR background as well and wrote up my own experience with the RED but not with the Scarlet but rather the big brother, EPIC.

    artofthestory.com/?p=658

  8. Billyboy

    I saw this a few days ago, and have watched it several times. Great job! It’s funny, I really liked the saturation versus a lot of new Scarlet examples having a lot of saturation and contrast graded out. It doesn’t scream video to me; I think it really serves the story well. I’m going to hazard a guess that the part KahL felt was blown out was intentionally done to illustrate the “aliens” coming down, and not a “mistake”. Overall I thought this was an excellent example, and a great illustration of the dynamic range capabilities of the Scarlet.

  9. Shane

    A perfect reminder why content is always more important than what you shot it on.

  10. Josh Negrin

    Thanks Jeff, Thanks Billy, thanks Shane. I agree, content is always more important. I once read from a well respected cinematographer that you could shoot on toilet paper, and as long as the story was compelling, the audience would watch it. LOL David, no. I do often underestimate the sensuality element that a woman can or will bring to a role, though.

  11. Luke

    I have to say, I think you could get almost as good images with a 5d. Just sayin’.

  12. Josh Negrin

    for the web, Luke, you’re probably right. But man, oh man, the detail on what the RED brings is quite amazing. The 5D Mark III resolves 1080p well, but the mark II couldn’t have captured (for web distribution) what we got out there on the RED.

  13. Antonio

    hi,

    also got my Scarlet some time back. You can edit native 4K in Premiere Pro 5.5, Redcine Pro and Premiere talk to each other, so anything you tweak in Redcine you can update to Premiere. Whether using Audition, After Effects you don’t need to ever export anything. To output, Media encoder works much faster than Redcine Pro and has an incredible amount of outputting options. I am sooo pleased I can work without ever needeing to trasncode until the final output. I find myself doing a first basic grade on Redcine Pro if I have a train/plane trip after a shoot. I too thought DSLRs were great until I tried the Scarlet and man, has life changed!…

  14. L.A. Dolkart

    Nice work, specially for a first try!
    I see no problem with the saturation it is perfect the way it is.
    Saturation is neither owned by film or video so don’t undestand that argument.
    I find the saturation and high contrast a beautiful daytime look.
    A look should be chosen on a per project basis to help best convey the story.
    Or otherwise your just followong trends !
    Nice, editing with sweetly timed well done VFX.
    Good is good, irrelevant of the details used in the process :)

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