“Calling Charlie” – Even the Scarlet-X can make movies!

by planetmitch8 Comments

Yes, the Scarlet-X can make a movie! Shocking I know, right? HAHA

Friend of planet5D Josh Negrin sent us his latest short “Calling Charlie” and gave us a good bit of details about the Scarlet-x, how he's moved from HDSLRs, workflow etc… please scroll all the way to the end for all the juicy bits.

Screen grab from Calling Charlie (click for larger)

Calling Charlie

What Josh said:

A few months ago, I'm standing in my elevator and I hear a ringing sound. Naturally, I check my phone (maybe I inadvertently downloaded and set a new ringtone, that I don't know about) but that wasn't the source of the ring. I look down and the ring is coming from my elevator's emergency call box. It rang once, twice, three times. The thought of answering it crossed my mind, but what would I say? The ground floor was finally reached, and I stepped out as the call box continued to ring. Though I didn't answer the ringing call box, I thought “there's a film in here somewhere.”

Two weeks later I'm writing “Calling Charlie” with my longtime pal, Michael Clark. He's made a couple of short films, that I'm a fan of, in the same genre of what I wanted to do with “Calling Charlie.” He was a perfect fit to direct this movie. I've been wanting to tackle something in the vein of a 1960's twilight zone episode for a while and this became that project for me. Even the music that our composer, Ken Jacobsen, brilliantly created for this film has that vibe to it. I'm really excited for everyone to see this film. As always, we had a blast making it.

Let's dive into the the technical stuff though, shall we? Our director of photography, Joseph Hendrickson, shot “Calling Charlie” in 4K on the Red Scarlet-X using Canon Lenses. Coming from a 5D, I can assure you that operating the Scarlet is just as intuitive and I'll even get into the ease of the workflow in bit. For the elevator sequences, I rented a Tokina 11-16mm lens that stops down to f2.8. I love that lens, it's nice and sharp, and we needed it to get the super wide angle shots that the story called for. The Scarlet-X, btw, has a 1.6 crop factor (when shooting 4K), so even though I own and love my Canon 17-40mm f4 L, it simply couldn't give us a wide enough angle for that enclosed of a space. Knowing that we were shooting RAW, I let Joseph know that there was no reason to white balance. An idea that seems ludicrous at first, but I'll get to that shortly. Shooting RAW lets you shoot fast, dial in the exposure and go. We also shot the sound straight to the camera thereby removing the need to sync later. That was pretty sweet. The inputs on the front of the RED Scarlet-X are 1/8″ and there isn't currently (as of writing this article) phantom power. However, if you have a shotgun mic that's battery powered and a xlr to 1/8″ adapter, you can get really clean sound, right to the camera.

Poster for "Calling Charlie"

We power our camera with A.B. mount batteries that tend to last a couple hours each. Also, when we want to go super lightweight with the rig, we use the Red Volt batteries, that slide into the side handle. Those last about 35 minutes each. We have two 64GB cards and each one holds about 30 minutes of RAW 4k footage. Once one is full, we pop it out, put it into the RED Mag Reader and dump the footage to a laptop via firewire 800, and that takes about 20 minutes to unload.

Now, with the post, this is where I can hopefully give people an insight or two. Firstly, let me say that the post on a RED project is not any harder than working with anything else, and dare I say, if anything it's easier. With my last film “Borrowed” I used Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 all the way through and really enjoyed that. It was as simple as dragging and dropping the RAW footage from your drive, into a timeline and you're off and running, editing the native 4K raw file as if it were HDV footage. But, like many of you reading this, I'm a final cut pro guy. Final Cut Pro 7, let me make that clear. So how does one get RED footage into a fcp timeline? Simple, log and transfer. Red recently released a free download on their site for FCP 7 users to allow them to bring in Epic and Scarlet footage (with sound, I might add) via Log and Transfer. Once you tell log and transfer where your footage is, you have all of your typical log and transfer options, and then you are able to import the footage. FCP puts a quicktime wrapper around your footage (It brings your footage in at 2k so that your system isn't being overtaxed by a 4K edit). Like anything else from log and transfer, it automatically puts the footage in your bin window and you're ready to edit, render free. So that my director could see all of the dailies, I took the new quicktimes that FCP made (they're put into your capture scratch folder, btw) and used MPEG Streamclip to transcode web H264 files. I zipped those up, and dropped them into my dropbox for him to download and make his selects. If you didn't know already, giving the director access to all of the dailies will make your life easier as an editor, just make sure the clip names stay the same so your notes match.

Once you have your finished edit, it's time to have some fun with the RAW. Simply export out an XML of your timeline from fcp and import it into Red's free program, REDCINE-X PRO. Like magic, REDCINE will relink the files you were editing in FCP to the RAW files that you shot. So, what you have now in REDCINE-X is your FCP timeline, but in 4K raw. You can now do all of your color correction (or at least your first pass) in REDCINE-X. Take a look at the images that I've provided regarding the white balance in REDCINE-X. Basically, because it's raw, you can pick the white balance later and this is an easy process. There's an eyedropper tool that sits right next to the white balance dial, select that and select something white in the frame. Boom, white balance done. I can't tell you how many times I've been in post on a multi camera (or even a single camera shoot) and the white balance doesn't match from one shot to the next. The problem with that is it's baked in to the image and now you have to eyeball it, when coloring, to match. With RAW you don't have to worry about shots not matching in terms of color (because the white balance is simply meta data), and I love that.

Pre-White Balance

RedCine-X window showing white balance tool

RedCine-X window showing white balance tool

Post, one click-WhiteBalance

Post, one click-White Balance

Continue to make your way through your timeline in REDCINE-X, adjusting exposure, changing white balance where needed, setting curves, etc. and then when it's all finished, you can export each clip in your timeline individually (there's a setting in the export window for this) to apple pro res and even create a new xml for FCP to make sure that everything re-imports back into FCP without issue. If you want to master in 4K, then make sure you're exporting 4K apple pro res files from REDCine-X. Also, I want to stop for a second and say that the REDCINE-X isn't absolutely necessary if you don't want to use it. The best analogy I can give here would be to anyone who shoots RAW stills. When you shoot a still camera you can shoot RAW and JPEG and if you want to move fast just edit the JPEG, and never even look at the RAW. If you want more control over your image, then you would edit using the RAW. The same principal applies with RAW video. You're perfectly capable of coloring your video in FCP, if you want to go that route. However if you want more control, move your timeline over to REDCINE-X.

Although my monitors only go up to 2K, and my friends like to bust my chops with “why shoot 4K, if you don't have a 4k monitor or won't see it in 4k” I can tell you there is a substantial difference in quality from something shot in 2K and exported out in 2K to something shot in 4K and exported out in 2K. There's just more detail there. I wish I could describe it better, but there's something about seeing that high of a resolution, running at 24 frames per second, that is really pleasing. If there was anything in particular here that I didn't cover or something you'd like to know more about, you're more than welcome to ask me via twitter @joshnegrin.


(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. Interesting premise… but unfortunately, is a an example of the importance of finding great actors outside of the writers/producers. Sure, make movies and do what you love, but do it well. Shooting on RED does not a good film make.

    Hopefully it’s a lesson learned… put as much effort into finding talent as you finding a camera.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more, Jordan. I thought the lead actor crushed that role. So many dynamic moments to hit, sometimes even in the same scene. I’d be curious to hear or see what you consider great acting. They could have upped their production value a little more and shot in some better looking locations, but I really enjoyed this. It’s nice to see someone online not be afraid to slow things down a little bit, and tell a story.

    1. Good example of trolling for views. Also the video is a great example of high ISO noise and poor stabilization. I’ve a 600D and 60D. Love them both. I would never say that they are in the same class as a Red Scarlett X . point __

  3. Cool short. I thought the acting pulled it off. First comment is right about the camera. Red does not make a good film but I thought this was a very good film. I won’t comment on the 60D. Thanks for sharing

  4. Scarlet..???.. Isn’t this PLANET 5D….

    Spending money on Scarlet does not
    leave anything for production design. So you
    get a scene with a doctor taking place outside
    a gas station. A 5D would have done just
    as good a job on this movie. Why
    pay $15-20 grand for Scarlet. when there is no
    money to made in short films.

    But this film has interesting parts. Nice job.

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