RED Scarlet-X – test short film

January 3rd, 2012 Jump to Comment Section 2

I might be mistaken but I believe this is the first short shot on a RED Scarlet-X.

We shot this on the same day as the car chase test. It started out as an acted scene test to put the new RED Scarlet-X into real life, shooting intense, on-set conditions, but in the 3 hours we had it turned into a small short film.
Hence there are several mistakes in it which we were not able to flat out because daylight was gone.

In the following I will describe how the Scarlet performed under these conditions, what worked, what didn’t work. I’ll call this a field report:

(HQ screenshots at the bottom)

Shooting RAW
The whole thing was an improvisation session that started right there on set. I took the story further and twisted things around until it worked. What you see in the film is mostly coming from one single take, but some shots are taken from a different take earlier in the day when lighting conditions were different. It was no problem whatsoever to match these shots later in DaVinci resolve. That’s why I was very happy I had shot this on a camera that gave me RAW. What came out of the Scarlet-X was very pleasing.

While handling big RAW files is also a disadvantage there’s the added benefit that the cameraman can be more focused on the scene and less so on technical boundaries he quickly faces on less generous cameras such as an HDSLR or Canon EOS C300 for that matter. As you can see HDSLR can be good teacher, I know, slightly wrong color temperature can get you in big trouble, underexposing because the monitor was too bright and the CF goes to the trash. HDSLR is the new reversal stock film.

Data Storage
And here’s the not so enjoyable part about RAW. We had 2x 64GB SSD’s, the RED station, a Macbook Pro 13″, 2 LaCie d2‘s, and all that hooked up to a voltage converter in a car. It all ran fine, but since I shot like all the time my DIT Dave received the cards much quicker than the computer could handle them. Via firewire 800 a 64GB card took almost 30 minutes to be dropped onto a disk (internal/external same). We ended up not having an additional backup on the second disk.
In a situation where you’re shooting slower this setup might work, but otherwise there’s no way around eSata. 64GB took 5 minutes via eSata to a Desktop machine.

The Handheld Rig
If you’ve followed this blog recently you know that I’ve been struggling to get a good handheld setup for this camera. Handheld rigs in general are a weird topic, there are so many out there and I have tried lots of them, but until this day I found that only very few really deliver what I expect.

The Scarlet-X (and Epic) have a very short body, much like an HDSLR and unlike conventional film cameras which are rather long thus doubling as counterweight at the back. So if you don’t have a shoulder rig that brings the camera really far back, the whole weight will be at the front. This is not good, you (or I) want the weight to be balanced. Companies, please make a balanced shoulder rig for the Scarlet.

My solution wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t perfectly balanced either, it was difficult to keep steady while walking. I put the Scarlet on a Wooden Camera 15mm adapter, then on a bridgeplate (in reverse, and way past the security pin), this was put on a Vocas shoulder adapter which led to the Vocas shoulder pad (it’s too short and will not work for a balanced Scarlet). I had two small rods in front, with a Vocas handle on the right (which was too short for me btw. The longer handles are better when the camera gets heavier) and a Denz handle that provided some distance on the left. I had an Arri MFF-1 on there which can be tilted down to pull focus on my own. I realize EF lenses work pretty good for that because of their short focus throw. The Mmonitor was a TvLogic, on a Wooden Camera EVF mount with a DIY adapter. Unfortunately I didn’t receive any of the promised EVFs I intended to test. The lack of an EVF made it very hard to judge focus, always go for EVF on handheld, most of all outside. I used a Canon EF L 24-70mm f2.8 lens.

We didn’t have any problems to run the camera all the time with 4 batteries and 2 chargers. You might say 30 minutes isn’t much for a battery to last, but the fact that the whole setup is so lightweight and still does 4K made me feel like “wow, the camera is still running”.

Weather and Stability
It was pretty cold, we had ice, snow and salt on the camera. The camera handled this as it is expected from any professional video camera. The camera is sealed in most of the areas, on top there’s a large grill, this is where the excess heat comes out. Of course stuff can go in there and you shouldn’t pour water in, but I was told this is also sealed from the electronics. There were no errors or faults on the camera, all went fine.

Michael our sound technician is coming from a professional field of work, on my request he only used a very simple and inexpensive setup for this test. He came with a Zoom H4n and a mic on a boom. I’m guessing the mic was unaffordable though. I love the sound he recorded. We also tried to install 2 lavalier mics on the actors and wanted to connect the receivers on the camera. The Scarlet-X has two mini 3.5″ jacks at the front. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a signal into the Scarlet. We tried this for 30 minutes but then gave up. I admit we didn’t read the manual on that topic before. If it works it’s definitely not easy to get it to work.

Image Quality
Please check out the screenshots from the HD version of the film on the left. The fact that the 4K RAW files are 4 times as large allows for a lot of flexibility in post. I applied some image stabilization on the walking shots.

Please check out my video review of the Scarlet-X.


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